Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3

Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Genre: Action 3rd Person Shooter

You expect an unobtainable beauty to be the protagonist in a modern videogame: A Nathan Drake type with sculpted muscles, a full head of hair that’s wavy but not-too-wavy, and a perfect coating of uniform stubble. Max Payne 3 is pretty progressive in the sense that its eponymous lead character is the complete opposite. For big parts of the game he appears to sport a greasy wife-beater around his potbelly and a greasy full beard around most of the rest of him (Except his bald head). Rockstar Vancouver brings the series to the current generation in a few ways.

It remains (at least in terms of box-ticking) a noir tale, with Payne narrating his thoughts and motivations to the audience, but the setting has migrated from the chilling air and cinema-appropriate-rain of New York City to the sun and sweat of South America. It looks to be a jarring, if refreshing, shift from the cool-clean aesthetics of the earlier games.

Max still tends to dive and lunge more than he walks and runs however; the shooter combat aims to feel as much like older titles as it possibly can. By launching himself through the air in a fluid, slow-motion swan-dive the player can avoid gunfire, no matter how diffuse, and take out opponents by swivelling the upper body in deliberate directions. It’s here that new additions are most obvious and most impressive. The direction of fire is in no way limited by the game’s library of animations. No matter Payne’s equipped firearm, his dive trajectory or his body position, he can contort his body to aim at foes in any corner of the arena.

It’s the same euphoria engine from GTA IV and other Rockstar titles that’s responsible for this, and for a general visual sparkle. Max’s bulky frame looks as though it should take real effort to move around, and even more effort to lift off the ground. The graphical engine reflects this; the player heaves and strains with every movement (differently, too, with every gun) and crashes and tumbles into vertical walls after a dive. Max Payne looks in a state of constant physical and emotional fatigue and bruising, which is exactly how a stressed videogame character should feel. Enemies, hopefully, will be equally dynamic, blending animations and the physics system together seamlessly. Rockstar hopes to produce a visceral, violent reward with a close-up shot each time an enemy is dispatched – with no two looking quite the same.

Max Payne 3 has a simple cover system, as well as the ability to depress the left trigger for an over-the-shoulder camera for more precise aiming. Both are quintessential conventions in today’s third person shooters, and seem to be present for comfort more than anything else. The developers make sure to point out that they are ancillary, and the real meat of the combat remains the Hong Kong-action style acrobatic gun-combat. It makes sense too – the parts of trailers that show Max Payne walking look odd – perhaps it’s because he is constantly surrounded by enemies in the open and soaks up magazines full of bullets in his stained cotton singlet.
This article first appeared in Issue 10, 2012.
Posted 12:51am Monday 7th May 2012 by Toby Hills.