R.I.P., Max Payne. Brokestar and its console fan base killed one of the most iconic characters in video game history.
For starters, Rockstar finally got around to creating advanced PC graphics for one of their games. It looks like they learned something after GTA 4 after all.
This time we get DX 11 tesselation, ambient occlusion (advanced sun rays), FXAA, MSAA, Anisotropic filtering as well as texture, shader, shadow, reflection and water quality tweaks. Needless to say this game has some heavy PC requirements. I was able to get 30 FPS with my powerful rig, but as soon as I turned down the multisampling anti-aliasing from 8x to 4x I got around 50-60 FPS throughout the rest of the game. Some jumpy shadows and halo around certain objects were also fixed. There are much more sharp edges and corners to be seen now. There will be certain areas in the game where you will see objects just appearing out of thing air. I thought the RAGE engine used only pre-rendered graphics? but whatever. We still get static hair on characters, near-lifeless facial expressions, sluggish control of the character when running or when attempting to make exact sharp turns (even though it's slightly better in the PC version). There is this half a second heavy and cumbersome delay every time you move your character about, just like in GTA and RDR. I remember how flawlessly I was able to move the character in the first two games.
All in all, I got much more satisfaction in the gun fights this time around. You will be able to save much more ammo and be able to pull off perfect head shots pretty easily without going berserk at the controller. I was able to kill 5 guys in the first slow-mo fall in the dance club whilst I was only able to kill 2 on the PS3 version. It feels good to be able to compare controls like that. I strongly recommend turning off all aim assist in this game (There are 3 different aim assists actually.) as well as the music for maximum immersion.
Here are some other things that I have noticed. When you die at a checkpoint and you start over, you get to play with your full health even though you're supposed to be wounded. No more manual saves for us PC gamers. So you can thank Rockstar for when you get stuck in am awful area where you die over and over again. I also haven't noticed the first time around that you can actually go prone in this game. Sometimes its helpful but it takes you a long time to lie down and get up, so you will feel pretty exposed.
anyways back to the regular review/rant:
Remedy sold its soul and now its turning in its grave. Oh wait, they are still around! I wonder how they feel after letting Take-Two/Rockstar make the third installment. I mean what were they thinking? ok so Max crosses some people back home (finally); then get recruited by an old police academy buddy to go work in Brazil. How exciting. I also like how you protect the girl because Max Payne doesn't like seeing girls get hit; moments later you can actually shoot the girl with no consequences. This thing has GTA written all over it.
I really wonder whose bright idea at Rockstar it was to make Max Payne bald and place him in Brazil. When I first saw the screenshots back a couple of years ago I actually, in all honesty, thought it was a joke. I thought that Rockstar was just fooling around with some pre-production ideas.
Let's start off with a little history lesson.
The first game introduced the bullet time feature. This feature revolutionized third person shooters. Since then, many games copied the mechanics. Dead to Rights, F.E.A.R., Call of Juarez, Strangehold, Red Dead Redemption, Sniper Elite, Vanquish, Wanted. What started off as a style mechanic slowly evolved into assist mechanic, aim assist that is. The first and second games did not rely on protracted gun fights with cover; it was mostly about short encounters with a handful of enemies, so the gun fights were all about your reflexes. (more on that later).
Imagine a heavily scripted and narrative-driven GTA 4 plus a little bit of Red Dead Redemption touch. Congrats, you have just imagined Max Payne 3 (minus car theft). Same engine was used in GTA 4 and RDR.
Gone is the dark NY noire. Gone are the days when Max Payne 1,2 came out on PC FIRST and was rated higher than the console counter-parts. Gone are the characters from the first two games. Gone is the isolation that you felt in the first two games (now you will have back up nearby quite often). Gone are the derelict New York city alleys, gone is the comic-book narrative. In fact, the feeling you got from playing the first two games was that there WAS no world outside of New York at all. Here you get about 40 minutes of gameplay in New Jersey with the old Payne Jacket, the snow falling and the mobsters shooting you, (flashback to the good old days), but that's as close to NY as you will get in the game. I mean why couldn't they continue with the NY/NJ timeline? The mafia boss could be the villain and Max could easily continue running around NY and NJ. Ironically, the two flashbacks were the best parts of the game for me.
Now it is time to make way for the dance clubs, mini-skirts, Hawaiian shirts, the ability to kill friendly NPCs with no consequences, the annoying unremarkable uninteresting characters (Rockstar has a hard-on for those); make way for the side kicks, crazy blinding lights (people with epilepsy, BEWARE), the rural slums, sunny outdoors, frequent cut scenes that can't be skipped because the game is loading the new level (there are no loading screens here btw), Portuguese speaking enemies (no English subtitles by the way), the lack of suspense, and don't forget the multiplayer....yeah, the Max Payne franchise desperately needed that one.
And don't even get me started on the cut scenes, there are so many of them. The interrupt the fire fight continuity and decrease the urge to replay the game with guns blazing. The cut scenes also place you in scripted locations even though you were taking cover a second ago. At times, there is a cut scene every 1.5 minutes. Half the time you cannot skip them because that is when the game is apparently still loading. Every, and I repeat, EVERY cut scene is messed up. What I mean by that is that every cut scene has "effects" added to it. These include: blurry/static screen, double vision, various color and hue variations, sepia hue, frequent change of camera angle, blinding flashes, etc. It's frigging nauseating! Rockstar thought that adding too much "style" to these cut scenes would make them look more "cool" I guess. It sucks bad though, your screen can't ever focus on a single thing because everything goes haywire every two seconds. This "style" is even sometimes oozing out in real gameplay, no kidding. I also like how random dialogue words just pop up on the screen during cut scenes. Useless.
I also like how as you progress through the game you get these achievements, like "250 enemies killed" or "you shot 50 enemies in their hands" or "100 enemies killed with pistols", etc. WTF! When did Max Payne turn into a arcade shoot filled with rewards? Seriously, you can't even turn that infantile thing off!
By the way, I didn't know Max could now shoot RPG ROCKETS in mid-air and make them explode with no blast effect whatsoever on the helicopter. I mean seriously? Shooting RPG rockets and then molotovs and grenades with a hand gun? Talk about aim assist.
So Rockstar decided to go with cover, since they are using their RAGE engine again, okay. What sucks though is that you cannot move when shooting while in cover. It's weird because you could do that in RDR.
There are improvements though: Melee attack, the ability to carry only 3 weapons (more realistic than carrying 10), the ability to examine some objects closely (with narration), detailed environments, the physics is worked out, the AI is quite decent (they take cover, throw grenades, flank you and charge you), and the absence of regenerating health is always welcome; also, captain baseball bat boy is back and there are some references to Max's previous achievements.
The firefights are good, there is sufficient destruction and satisfaction of each kill.
Also when you run, you have the ability to roll and pick up ammo, like in Uncharted. However running itself is sluggish and imprecise, just like in any console third person shooter.
As you progress through the game you get too look at "clues" that describe your situation. You can also look for weapons parts to be used in multiplayer I guess. Take that for what its worth.
Also, if you are about to die in a firefight you can get a chance (if you have a pain killer on you) to shoot an enemy in the nick of time and be able to stand up back on your feet.
As you keep playing the story will get more confusing and convoluted. You will easily forget the main characters names. I started skipping cut scenes about 30 minutes after I started playing, just didn't care for them. Looks like Rockstar went in all different directions here, they really could have kept it simple here. Instead we get these flashy situations, flamboyancy, obnoxious characters, typical cliches and tons of varied locations make it look like a linear GTA game. Fighting in the amazon anyone? Max Payne dressing up as a commando?
The campaign is pretty long (by today's standards anyway) but it is only so because 40% of the time you watch cut scenes, like in the last Metal Gear game.
There is also no recoil from certain weapons like UZI and automatic weapons which kinda sucks. I'd also like like Brokestar to explain why we can't throw a single grenade or molotov cocktail in the entire game? my guess is that they completely forgot about that.
As far as the story goes, well, nothing will ever beat the first game in that department. In the first Max Payne it was you against the world: the cops were after you, so was the mafia and the pharmaceutical corporation during the worst storm in history. The third game is a train wreck where you have to save a rich girl... who cares seriously? Moments ago Max was talking about how much he despised the vanity filled rich people. Yet he jumps into the pool with both feet (literally) instantly and keeps risking his own life for them. Then you turn into Sam Fisher/Arnold Schwarzenegger/One-Man Army kind of guy and do some spec ops missions, then you turn into a fearless unstoppable killing machine just looking for trouble. It just doesn't feel like a Max Payne game at least half of the time (boat chase sequence with infinite ammo anyone?) Certain areas the game plays like Kane & Lynch, no kidding. I still say that the franchise spiritually ended back in 2003.
First it was Sam Fisher, now it's Max Payne. Agent 47, you are next on the hit list....