This however has never been true for the franchise. Ever since its inception in the early 2000s the game has sought to mix cliché with originality. The clichéd shoot-em-up element satisfies the gamer who hungers for action whilst the expertly built narrative satisfies the story junkie who prefers to get lost in a web of drama.
More importantly, the clichéd ‘renegade cop with nothing to lose’ premise is done with such apparent irony that it is hard to miss the satirical nature of the game. This was the game’s biggest selling point, it was an unabated exploration of a bygone era in cinema. It wasn’t groundbreaking by any definition and many of the concepts (bullet time) had been stolen from other places, but it was darn good fun and genuinely enthralling satire. The new Max Payne however, developed by Rockstar, seems to have lost this message entirely. It is a game that takes itself very seriously; so serious that it replaces some of the magic.
Set 9 years in the future, Max has wound up in São Paulo working as hired muscle for a rich and powerful family, mentally he’s still a mess and he’s added bourbon to his growing list of addictions. It’s abundantly clear from the outset that this is a man who died some time ago. Typically, Max’s new job isn’t as straightforward as it first appeared and he quickly finds himself in the middle of an unravelling conspiracy that only his brand of gunplay can resolve.
The story is expectedly cinematic, if you pasted together the cut scenes you’d have a gritty daytime housewife drama. It’s in these cut scenes you get an opportunity to study the evolution of Max, all of his classic traits are still there – he’s still a drug addict, he’s still upset about his wife and he still loves talking to himself.
Even with all of the old familiar mannerisms we’ve all grown to love, there’s something distinctly unfamiliar about this game that makes it feel less like a long awaited sequel and more like an intriguing spin off. Nothing exemplifies this more than the change in the gun storage system.
Fans of the genre will remember having the ability to hold every gun in the game at once and being able to flick between dual Uzi’s to a pump action shotgun in a matter of seconds. Now, Max can only hold a few guns and bullets seem to run out quickly. Bullets are so sparse, in fact, that you become reliant on the guns of enemies to feed your frenzy. Having to make a decision about which emptied gun you should discard in exchange for whatever you’ve just found on the floor isn’t in the spirit, nor does it live up to the name, of Payne. This would be less of a problem if the covering system were more adequate, unfortunately expect to find yourself crouched scurrying around a wall trying to ‘stick’ to it.
Outside of the cover system the mechanics are quite good. The bullet time has some nifty new features like ‘bullet view’ and ‘kill shot’, which lets you continue shooting your enemy during the slow motion death camera zoom – note to the wise, enjoy this feature with a shotgun and watch your enemy turn into a cheap rag doll. All of this is possible within a few easy commands of your controller (put your faith in a controller for PC, your wrist will thank you).
Rockstar are usually famed for valuing gameplay and environment size over graphics and, if you’ve played the console version of Max Payne 3, you wouldn’t contest that.
But with the PC version, they’ve turned this stereotype on its head and produced a game that wildly varies in the graphics department depending on the power of your machine. If you’re operating at the higher spectrum of PC gaming the 35gb install is (almost) justified. Utilising DirectX 11, the texture sizes are four times larger than the console release and the multi sample anti-aliasing on effects and shadows smoothes edges nicely. To translate, this is a very attractive game, with the right hardware.
Before the game came out I wasn’t sure how multiplayer would work, I thought they’d have to do something really ingenious to make what is very much a single player game and turn it into hours of multiplayer fun. Well, they did, but with less ingenuity than one might think.
I’m getting bored of writing this and I’m sure readers are sick of hearing it too, but Max Payne 3 multiplayer borrows heavily from Call of Duty, obviously - sigh. As with COD players level up as they progress and can unlock different load outs. The Max Payne twist to the standard multiplayer team Deathmatch is twofold, firstly, bullet time has been incorporated - when you choose to slow time down every other player in your line of sight slows down too, other players on the map however continue at normal speed.
Secondly, there’s a vendetta system, if a player kills you, you can then issue a vendetta against them and get a bonus should you manage to follow through. The vendetta system actually makes it a lot of fun and you’ll find yourself stalking a player for an entire game because he misplaced a grenade.
A common problem with remakes or modern sequels is that they never recreate the same atmosphere or magic. Usually because they’re very much a product of the time - it was the case with Karate Kid, it was the case with Dawn of the Dead, and it’s the case with Max Payne. As with the others, Max Payne 3 is a genuinely good standalone game; it’s just not the Max we remember. Nevertheless, if you can get past that and look at this game objectively without taking a trip down memory lane then this is worth a purchase, especially if you’ve got the hardware to back it up.