Max Payne isn’t one to stand idly by and admire his surroundings. He’s a man of ACTION and taking a breather to soak up the scenery was never a part of the deal. If you tarry for any amount of time in Max Payne 3, Max is quick to spur you along to the next set piece with a string of increasingly less subtle verbal prods, which is a little weird, given all of the collectibles Rockstar scattered throughout the game. Rooms with buttons that open doors are the best because they go a little something like this:
“There has to be a button around here somewhere to open this door.”
“I think I saw a button back in that office.”
“Push the button in the office to open the door.”
With the exception of Red Dead Redemption, I would not classify myself as a fan of Rockstar-made games, so it was with some trepidation that I approached their Remedy-free revival of one of my favorite franchises from my bygone days as an avid PC gamer. I get bored with the GTA games within a few hours, usually because of their spongy vehicle controls and gunplay. Since Max Payne is a series built soley around its gunplay, you can understand my lack of faith in Rockstar to stick the landing.
Video games evolve. If they didn’t, even the best series would get boring, people would lose interest, sales would trail off, and gaming as we know it would cease to be in a few years. Change is what keeps video games relevant (unless we’re talking about Pokémon), so there’s a part of me that kind of respects Rockstar’s decision to graft cover-based gameplay onto Max Payne’s repertoire of slo-mo acrobatics instead of going the easy route and making another by-the-numbers addition to the franchise. There’s also a part of me that is deeply upset by this decision, as it kind of wrecks what makes Max Payne MAX PAYNE. His shtick has always been diving headlong into a crowd of dudes and making corpses out of the lot of them before his shell casings ever hit the floor.
That DOES NOT WORK in Max Payne 3.
If you jump into a crowd of dudes this time around, you’re going to die, quickly and often. All those new cover opportunities are there for a reason, and if you chose to ignore them, you’ll soon discover how much more fragile Max has become in his old age. I was playing on normal my first time through and all it took was one enemy catching me unawares to wipe out my entire life bar. You round a corner without taking cover and checking the path ahead? You’re going to get shot and you’ll probably die. It’s pretty disappointing. If I were a developer/publisher, the last possible thing I would want to do in a market that’s absolutely brimming with third-person cover-based shooters is downplay the very feature that sets my game apart from the rest of the pack.
While Max Payne 3 is by no means a bad game, in a perfect world it would’ve evolved into a game that revels in the insanity of its main character’s defining characteristic instead of taking the flair down by a few notches and falling into line as the competent-but-unspectacular cover-based third-person shooter we ended up with.
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