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A Payneful Experience

I am nearly finished with Max Payne 3, and have finally come to admit to myself a difficult truth.

I don’t like this game.

This was a shocker to me, as MP 1 & 2 are games that I consider to be some of the best that the third person shooter genre has to offer. When MP3 was announced, I was initially turned off by the redesign and changes, but I refused to let that stop me from trying it. Rockstar had not hurt me with this series yet and I trusted them.

It was about halfway through the game that the nagging voice in my head (the one that convinces me that three cookies would be better than one, and that those jeans looked like ass on me anyway) started up. I took a break and complained to a friend, but he advised me: push on.

So I did, and what I found was severely lacking.

Screw working as a temp. I'm going back to bodyguarding.

First off, the game play. I don’t know how this ended up so clunky, especially since Rockstar lives and breathes third person shooters. The fourth or fifth time I died because the targeting reticle vanished behind Max’s head I let out a grunt of frustration. How did no one else see this? It happens all the time to me, and I can’t be the only one. Did they simply think that his shaven head was just too damn pretty to move out of the player’s view? (It IS pretty though)

The animations were another point. Standing up, crouching and entering/leaving cover are performed too slowly. The number of times I got shot because Max took too long to move away from a wall was obnoxious.

Not having any visual feedback when you’re being shot was also baffling. How the hell did that happen? I know Max is a bad ass, but I would finish a gunfight and think I had just completely danced through the fight unharmed only to realize my lungs were scattered across the wall behind me.

If only Brazilian Air had pulled Die Hard from their in-flight movie list.

These are small fries though compared to my biggest gripe... how rushed everything felt. I feel that the game design process went something like this:

Visionary - ‘We’re going to make this game so detailed, so beautiful, so jam-packed with hidden items, clues and interactive environments that you’ll need like 30 GB of hard drive space.’

Former EA Employee - ‘That sounds amazing, but you’re forgetting one crucial detail - 80% of the game should have you paired up with a useless NPC who constantly shouts at you to hurry up. Also, it should be utterly inconsistent as to what scenes you need to rush through and which ones will fail you after an unclear amount of time.’

Visionary - ‘You’re an asshole.’

Former EA Employee - ‘Oh, but the other 20% of the time, there should be near constant inner monologue where Max is yelling at the player to keep going.’

Pictured: Max's newest ally. All of them.

Seriously. It’s infuriating. Why would they make a game so detailed and interactive and then constantly force the player to keep moving? Besides the NPCs, just approaching the next scene will trigger a cut scene without warning, throwing you ahead into another fight and stopping you from exploring the previous area. It feels more like Lethal Enforcers than Max Payne.

Also, what is up with the story? Max gets bored, decides to work a shitty bodyguard detail in a violent hell hole, working for clearly evil people. There are no likable or memorable characters either. Everyone is a walking stereotype of one form or another and they all do their very best to annoy the shit out of the player.

This isn't what I picture when I hear Max Payne. When I hear Max Payne, I picture distinctive visual style. I picture Neo-Noir and John Woo’s lovechild. I picture a man torn by the deaths of his family and seeking revenge. I see the deep, intelligent juxtaposition of a New York mob war and Norse mythology. I see a unique graphic novel storytelling style. I see grim humor and self-awareness. I see disturbing, surreal horror. I picture some goddamned color. Not a game that looks like a generic modern warfare shooter with an HD upgrade.


I mean, who looked at the graphic novel portions from MP1 & 2 and said ‘You know what we need instead? Generic cut scenes.’

Maybe I’m jaded and cynical, but this can’t be the best Rockstar can do. This can’t be the same game that garnered such strong critical praise. It feels too much like a run-of-the-mill, generic shoot-em-up. It has only the barest connections to anything prior and the whole game I wondered why they even used Max as their main character. The previous two games weren't afraid to be a little out of the box. It’s sad to see this one use that same box as a comfort blanket.
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About Returner Mikeone of us since 6:25 PM on 01.24.2013

I'm a gamer who's lived in Indiana, Colorado, Hawaii and Japan (having majored in Japanese at Indiana University). Beyond the electronic, I'm a fan of of scuba, fencing, movies, anime and creative writing.

I love all kinds of games, from indie, to foreign, to high profile and experimental. I grew up with the NES, SNES and Genesis, and was always a nut for a good RPG.

I'm currently working on a writing focused interactive fiction with a team online, and assisted in map design and writing for Killing Floor when it was a mod.

I'm hoping to bring an interesting voice to the community and I ask for your feedback, your criticism and your support.