Saturday, January 2, 2016

VGR Max Payne 3

First they took his wife and daughter. Then they took his life, career and only chance at another life. Now they finally took his hair!

Well, at least they gave him a cool beard!

VGR: Max Payne 3
From Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive
Played on Xbox 360
Also available on PS3 & PC

Type Third person/Cover shooter/Action game
Year 2012

I had a lot of anticipation when this game was announced!

Here we have the first Max Payne game entirely developed by Rockstar Studios, and not by Remedy Entertainment anymore.

After 20th Century Fox's awful attempt at a live action Max Payne film in 2008 with Mark Wahlberg, chances of a new game seemed pretty slim.

But we finally got a third game, released in 2012 with home consoles in mind, contrary to the original Max Payne games, with a PC port following quickly behind.

Original plans for another Max Payne had been stuck in developed since as early as 2009. But with the original writer for the series Sam Lake and Remedy moving onto new projects at Microsoft, with Alan Wake, the series landed in the new hands. The original team actually gave some feedback to Rockstar during development, but they wouldn't be having any creative influence on the direction of things.

Max Payne 3 sees the return of a Max who has now completely ditched his former life as a detective after the murder of his wife, daughter, and the late Mona Sax. He is now working security for some rich people in Brazil...

Our story begins some time after the first ending of Max Payne 2. But it does seem to completely ruin the good happy ending that game gave to Max.

Well, the story is completely deconstructed, kind of like in the original Max Payne. It's hard to make any sense of it at first since it keeps jumping back and forth around different points in the timeline. But it's a bit more complicated this time since this jumps both around his prior life as an ex-dead beat drunk cop in NYC and at different times after moving to São Paulo in Brazil.

To escape from the memories from his past life, Max decided to take a job as private security for these rich people, the wealthy Rodrigo Branco and his family. 

During his stay in Brazil Max uncovers this huge conspiracy after this family, threatening the entire São Paulo.

Before that Max was spending most of his time in the US with alcohol and his addition to painkillers (in a fun twist on the original games). This old friend got him a new job he finally reluctantly accepted after he ran into problems with a local street gang. 

In Brazil Max gets tangled in a tale of death and betrayal. When Max's protecting this wealthy family he can also be found drinking constantly at parties, nightclubs, etc. while protecting their rich spoiled brats. 

When this commando raids the place for what appears to be a ransom, Max uncovers a conspiracy even the local police seems on it. Max slowly realize he was always just designed to be the perfect fall guy for some illicit activities...

And this was as simple and streamlined I could make sound the plot. Actually it's a bit messier and it jumps around one time to many in my eyes.

Gameplay in Max Payne 3 doesn't seem that far from the previous two episodes, but it's actually completely different (and if you're not very used to Rockstar games it might take you a little time getting used to their unique control schemes).

At first glance the game appears to be just another 3rd person shooter. like the original games, but this was coming off more recent TPS like RE4 and specifically after games like Gears of War introduced cover shooter. It's not the same arcade approach anymore but more of a longer slow-burn shooter which require a lot more patience and thought. The controls and cover system are similar to Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption's. 

Since the game was made for consoles, they added a lot of consoles specific details you didn't find in older PC shooters. Not only the cover system but also an auto-aim (which you can deactivate in the options), the bullet time is still around but it's mostly helpful for careful aiming than room cleaning like in the previous titles and easier to come by. It's better to use it sporadically. The lives don't entirely regenerate up to a point, but they're easier to fill back up whenever you get good kills (and painkillers).

There's a few new ideas I do like. There's a few time slowing-scenes you get from time to time, like getting the last standing enemy. Which helps knowing when a scene's cleared. And when you get a critical hit you can often instant-kill your foe to get back up. 

Jumping around in slow-mo still works great, and there's a thing I like when you try to get up from the ground too.

You can take the Max out of Max Payne, but you can't take the pain out of Max. Err...

Max Payne is once more voiced by the great James McCaffrey. In fact they even modeled his face after McCaffrey this time! Which gives Max a completely different face! It's not just a case of technology changing over the decade but he looks like a completely separate people each game! I kinda miss Sam Lake's face from the original (actor Timothy Gibbs was nice way to update the model and still keep some resemblances too). At least it's nice they're using the same guy for both the voice and the face.

Since this marked not only the first Max Payne game in a really long time but also the first one entirely made by Rockstar, they wanted to really differentiate it from the previous games. We find a new Max not only older but the entire tone and style of the game was made completely different voluntary. For Max the evolution comes natural, he's been reduced to nothing, double-crossed, etc. He's now more cynic. I mean, even more cynic.

Graphically, the game is actually quite stunning. Even compared to some current "next gen" releases, the game is quite impressive! They made a great job! The team was helped with some great research they did when they actually went to São Paulo for the game. They captured footage, looked for some locations, and it really hows in the design of the game.

I do love how seamlessly cutscenes transition into gameplay, vice-versa and back and forth, with no real loading screen. Another great achievement from Rockstar here!

The main issue I have with the game is that it completely departs from the black/film noir/dark colors feel of the original games for this more generic contemporary colorful world. It helps the game look gorgeous and modern, sure, but it's just not the same anymore! I did like how most levels were set around these completely dereclicts area and destroyed structures though. 

But it also means leaving the "graphic novel/comic book" style for the narrative... for this "digital footage"- style which kinda ruins Max Payne. They abandoned this noir story for this for this Kane & Lynch-style distortion effects. Although they got carried away with it and made it way too over-the-top in this game for my taste. When Max's drinking I suppose it works nicely into the immersion, but in some later parts of the story it made absolutely no sense we still got that much flicker on screen when Max's now completely sober after that many time passed...

A big part of the immersion in the original series was how dark a look at New York we had, giving a life to this seedy take on the city. It's not much different in that aspect as we get to see the worse face of Brazil. I wouldn't want to visit this place (Brazil is a beautiful place by the way, Max just likes to hang out in the worse parts of cities!)

Part of the game seems treated as serious as the original game, but others felt a bit too goofy for Max Payne.

I know that sounds strange for a Max Payne game, but I also find there were way too many enemies. And by this I don't mean too many "gunfights", but just too many enemies. Max Payne might be about shooting people, but here some fights just seemed to drag on and on forever, with huge waves of never-ending foes.

There's a lot of story for this game, no wonder it had to be written by a 3-man team of Dan Houser, Michael Unsworth and Rupert Humphries. But, I dunno... they made too much a departure from the tone and style of the previous Max Payne games. Don't mistake me, it's a great captivating tale, but it's just a completely different "voice" if you will. I think this would have worked much better had it been a different new IP (kind what I also say about Red Dead Redemption too, really).

I loved the little nods to the series such as getting to play the original Max Payne theme song on a piano a couple of times and those inserts TV shows too, although they were pretty rare compated to the first games (if I didn't miss those), but they just felt a bit unrelated to Max's life now. And the recreated snowy streets of New York were nice, but we just didn't get enough of that.

One thing I can say despite the whole change of tone, atmosphere and gameplay, is that at the very least they really nailed Max's lines.

The game wasn't just a fairly long singleplayer campaign, it also came with this huge complex multiplayer mode they put a lot of work into, but I can't really speak much for it since I never really got to try it back when I had Xbox Live, and it's now long gone out of trend, like most online games do. I can only say it seemed to have a fanbase of its own. It allowed for 16-player matches in both co-op and vs. modes using the singleplayer stages.

Like most modern games, it received several DLCs, but just additional stuff for the multiplayer. Most was entirely forgettable, although it did include a fantastic original Max Payne 1 model!

People seemed to love the game, it had a huge success despite all the harsh criticism from the few, and it turned out to be a really huge big seller.

The music was not composed by Kärtsy Hatakka this time anymore, but instead rock band HEALTH who also worked on other Rockstar games such as GTA. They made the entire soundtrack of the game. All I can say is that it's quite different from the usual video game soundtracks. It's not really a proper classic score. It's modern and slick. I wasn't personally a big fan of it, but one thing I can say is that it gave the game a pretty big 

Overall, Max Payne 3 is a gorgeous game to look at, but it has so little to do with the Max Payne series as a whole...

One thing I can say is that it made for a much better Max Payne film than that actual awful "movie adaptation"! The story is great and gritty. The game is cinematic.

I guess anyway who likes these types of modern 3rd person cover shooter games should really Check It Out. It was definitively a lot better than a lot of games out there. But it just didn't feel quite right for the third Max Payne game.

As stunning and diverse as the environments were, with a ton of impressive little details, it just seemed to detract and deviate a bit too much from the actual series. I would have preferred a game that could have offered something different yet tried to stay true to the experience. The gameplay was okay, but enemies could be really tiresome sometimes. I know he was based around his original voice actor, but Max Payne looked more like a bearded Ben Affleck than the actually Max Payne himself, really. And for such a reaaaaally long game I could have made with a few chances of paces in the gameplay, like those nightmare/dream sequences in the original games.

When it's all said and done, the whole thing is a good game, sure, but it's just not Max Payne anymore. Like the recent Die Hard films, it sort of lost the heart of the originals for a more generic action atmosphere.

Speaking of, in the hands of Rockstar the game received as huge a marketing as a Max Payne game ever could. What this means for us is that they even produced a tie-in Max Payne comic book, published through Marvel Comics. It was a fun retelling of both previous original games as well as exploring new story ideas. It was written by Sam Lake, and we'll cover that some other time.
I give it:
2 / 3 Quacks!

No comments:

Post a Comment