Oh, Max Payne, how we’ve missed you!
That old, grizzled ex-cop is back. And this time, you don’t have to watch his family and friends get killed!
If you’re not familiar with the MP3 series, it’s definitely one to check out. Originally for the PS2 / Xbox, it followed the path of cop and as he was repeatedly set up while his family was subsequently destroyed. This final game takes us into the aftermath of years of self torment and addictions to booze and painkillers that have taken it’s toll. It stays with the main theme of a “film-noir” style of storytelling that gives you a glimpse into the mind of a forced hero with tons of personal demons.
The story line flips us between Brazil and New Jersey to give us a history of where Max is now and how he got there. I found that it really meshed as it wasn’t so much of an “every other episode went to the past”, but an explanation of parts of the story that got him to this point. Being a drunk can have an impact on these things, so it played nicely with how he remembered as you progressed through the main story. Unfortunately, the writers depended a lot on self-deprecation and it did get tiring to hear what a horrible human being that he thought of himself. But it was easy enough to just tune that out after a while.
Without giving away too much info, there are plenty of plot twists. There were a couple that were a given, but quite a few that had caught me by surprise. Although, some of these twists did feel forced and unnecessary, but I think they were written in to keep the game at a decent playable length.
The game played pretty well. I say that hesitantly, as there were some key issues that could have been ironed out. So, let’s start with the good! The bullet time worked well. Hitting the right stick would slow down everything and give you ample time to aim for your enemies. I really enjoyed the feeling it gave me when I dove over a table, guns outstretched in my hands, picking off a half dozen attackers that were charging at me. It was glorious. And the cover system seemed to work really well once I got the hang of it. While this is neither good nor bad, Max seems to be a rather clunky fellow when running around between action sequences.
Now, the bad. In cover, when focusing on one attacker, it worked ok. But say you had shot one guy and there was another behind him. Do you think he would automatically aim at the 2nd guy? No. Max would go back into cover and then pop back up to re-aim. I wasted many a bullets aiming for a guy that had already taken cover because of this. Top this off with the guys that would shoot you through walls and ceilings and it can be a bit frustrating. The next issue is the one I have a huge problem with though. If I make a clean headshot, WHY DOESN’T THE GUY DIE?!?!?! Seriously. It seemed that multiple headshots were needed to put down an aggressor, regardless if they had body armor. I find that unacceptable, and resulted in many FFS’s to be shouted at my TV.
I also want to mention that the reticle for this is just a dot, which has to be aimed precisely on your intended target. I think the game could have benefitted from having a larger circle as the dot would tend to get washed out with the action and scenery.
This is really the part of MP that shined, I think. The levels were pretty standard fare for an action game, but there are a couple things that should be pointed out. When coming up to a part of the storyline, Max would shift seamlessly from player controlled to cut-scene. This worked extremely well. In fact, there were a few times that I didn’t realize it was a cut-scene and was still trying to move Max via controller. There were no load times and the transitions were very well done. The end of an action sequence would also result in a kind of bullet time where you can follow the trajectory of a bullet through your last victim. This was fun the first couple of times, but seemed like it was just a novelty.
There were also a variety of collectible guns in the game, but I didn’t explore them too much to see what the value was. I did notice, as you collected “golden guns” that you would actually get to use them later in the game. But they gave you no distinct advantage for doing so. Although, they could be better integrated in the multiplayer or the arcade, but I haven’t tried those yet.
I give this game about 3.5 hearts. It is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of the series. And it’s a decent story line even if you haven’t played the other two. If nothing else, it’s worth a weekend rental to see a different take on the action game genre. And the noir style of storytelling balances out most of the gameplay issues.