I’m really torn on Max Payn3. Actually, not really torn — 75% of me thinks Max Payne 3 is an incredibly polished effort that pushes the third person shooter in interesting, new directions. 25% of me just wishes the actual core shooting felt more rewarding.
And that’s really the crux of it.
There are moments in Max Payne 3 where I get lost in it, as it moves seamlessly from cut-scene to action, I’ll be in cover, popping off a handful of goons, before launching in glorious bullet time towards the final head shot. The game will then segue into a (mostly) well written noir monologue. The pacing is frantic, furious at times.
And sometimes, sometimes, it almost makes you forget that the core mechanic of Max Payne 3 — the gunplay itself — doesn’t quite mesh together as well as you hoped it would.
The core of Max Payne 3 is hardly terrible — it’s mostly clinical and robust — but at times it feels as though it’s pulling the player in entirely opposing directions.
Those who played Red Dead Redemption, with its soft lock/cover based gunplay will feel at home here — you can fire from cover, click into slow-motion and take more time with your shots, rinse and repeat. In Red Dead Redemption this felt completely adequate — particularly as it was just a subset of a larger experience — but in Max Payne 3 that is the experience, and that can feel a little problematic at times.
Neither of the first two Max Payne games had any sort of cover. Those games provided more of a ‘leap crazily into action and hope for the best’ sort of experience. That was the fun of it — the bullet time provided more accuracy, and it felt incredible to pull off multiple headshots before you had even hit the ground. In Max Payne 3 you can do that — but it doesn’t feel as though that’s how the game was designed to be played.
Default setting in Max Payne 3 is soft lock. This is how Rockstar wants you to play Max Payne 3. I struggled with this, but struggled more when I turned it off. When it was off, the aiming felt difficult, when turned on, I felt as though I didn’t quite have the freedom to, say, shoot the exploding barrel to set off explosions — because my aim was locked onto the enemies.
In addition, I felt as though the cover system itself negated any real need for bullet time. It was perhaps too easy to pop and shoot for cover instead of launching out and popping headshots.
Alright, so that’s the whinging part over.
Because Max Payne’s actual gunplay mechanics are hardly weak enough to override the overall experience it provides. It’s hardly as tight as Gears of War, for example, but the presentation is a step above that game, and any other third person shooter for that matter.
Some criticised the writing of Max Payne 3, but I found it teetered brilliantly on the edge of parody. Max Payne 3 takes itself seriously — don’t get me wrong — but it also feels self aware enough to labour through some of the more wordy lines of dialogue.
Max Payne 3 flows beautifully from set-piece to set-piece, and plays to its strengths wonderfully. You barely have a second to reflect on the relatively weak shooting mechanics before being flung head first into the next gorgeously turgid environment. The last bullet hits the last goon and it’s straight to the monologuing, and the sharp dialogue. Max Payne 3 feels like a wonderfully tailored experience where the shooting is merely a means to an end.
And, for the most part, I was totally fine with that.
What did you guys think?