September 4, 2012

Max Payne 3 (Part 1)

It’s back-to-back Rockstar productions this week. After the slow paced, mystery focus of the insanely long L.A. Noire, I was in exactly the right mood to dual wield some shotguns and chuck explosives in slow motion. I quite like Max. He has a blunt sarcastic cynicism that I frankly find hilariously awesome. The game also does not require the player to swap through CDs like one of those slideshow toys you get out of the happy meal pack from McDonalds. And so with an optimistic expectation in mind, I dive into the action packed world of slow motion and explosions. Max Payne 3 is a very short, third person shooter with a heavy emphasis on cover based combat and bullet time mechanics. Developed by Rockstar Studios, it is the third title in the Max Payne series and continues the story of none other than Max Payne, who finds himself knee deep in a plot thick with third-world country targets, conspiracies, and lots of bullets.

There are also quite a bit of chest-high walls that you are expected to hide behind unless you fancy yourself a little bit dead. The magical pills that you carry around can only heal so much, and Max will go through them like a cured diabetic eating M&Ms for the first time in forty years. As with the norm that comes with cover-based combat, ambushes lose any surprise element that they originally had due to the telltale signs of conveniently placed objects that look bullet proof. Although, I will use “bullet proof” in the lightest sense because I guess they don’t make six inch thick concrete like they used to, and it is extremely prone to being shot apart with even the feeblest of spit wads. Indeed, your cover will be demolished before you can take a moment to suck on your thumbs and heal the dozens of bullet holes that now decorate your chest.

It sounds bad but it’s actually quite good for the game to do this. On a general basis, combat that takes place behind walls has a tendency to get quite boring. An action sequence where all you see is tattered concrete and a gun sticking out from behind the debris is not very interesting. Max Payne 3 takes care of this problem by blowing up your cover when it feels like it and forcing you to partake in a mad dash to the next seemingly bullet proof object before your brains fall out of the holes riddling your once intact skull. It creates a nice balance between shooting from behind walls and diving through the air as you shoot grenades out of the sky in bullet time.

Bullet time is basically the ability to operate in slow motion, which opens up a whole new world of dodging projectiles, shooting multiple people at the same time, and insanely awesome cut scene sequences. The Max Payne series for the most part has largely revolved around the use of bullet time. Max without slow motion is like a cake without the cake. Honestly, if this game played in real time, it would probably take thirty minutes. At least half of the game should take place in slow motion, and if it’s not, you’re doing it wrong. Trying to shoot enemies while you are not diving through the air in slow motion is like trying to shoot a ping-pong ball in a dryer on the roughest cycle. Enemies however, will have no problem whatsoever putting a hole in your head before you can do so much as aim your gun in their general direction.

Besides, slow motion makes everything better. Have the urge to jump off a building? Do it in slow motion. Need to eradicate a whole police force while tremors from the exploding C4 toss you around? Do it in slow motion. Find yourself in that sticky situation where your boat is flying in the air and you have to take out some targets before they shoot up the hostage? Do it in slow motion. Need to take some pills? Do it in slow motion as you dive off a burning balcony and unload some shotgun shells into some fools. Need a drink? Do that in slow motion too.

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

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