In: Articles by Nick "Alsop Live" Dinicola7 Apr 2012
It certainly plays like Max Payne 2. You earn bullet time by killing guys, and you earn more for special goals like head shots.
You have a button that makes Max jump in bullet time, and one that just enters bullet time without jumping. The distinction is important: Jumping adds a slight delay, since Max has to get into the air before he can start shooting, but it also allow him to move faster in bullet time. You can shoot at any angle while in the air. Spin as much as you want, but Max never looks like a carnival contortionist, he always looks natural.
There is a cover system, However, that does not mean that this is, specifically, a third-person cover-based shooter. Rather it’s because this is 2012 and everyone expects third-person shooters to have a cover system. It’s nice to be able to hide, especially when you’re fighting multiple guys, but you won’t get anything done from behind a wall. And your enemies will not wait for you to pop out. They’ll come at you if you stay hidden too long.
The demo was genuinely challenging. There’s no regenerating health, so if you’re going to surprise a bunch of guys you better know what you’re doing. I died multiple times, but the good checkpointing ensured I always restarted at the beginning of the current fight.
Managing your bullet time is integral to surviving: Slowing down time gives you opportunity to react to what’s around you, and playing at normal speed means things can happen so fast they quickly get out of control. Bullet time is a means of staying in control, of staying aware of what’s around you.
When you do lose that last bit of health, you won’t die immediately if you have pain pills. If you’ve got a stash of them, you’ll instead fall to the ground and go into the “Last Man Standing” mode, giving you one last chance to kill the guy who got that final shot on you. If you succeed, you’ll be revived. If not, you’re done for. Because this uses up your pain pills, it’s not something you can rely on. It’s more of an automatic warning: “You have health but you didn’t use it, so we’ll use it for you.” It’s a nice addition of accessibility that doesn’t equal simplicity: The game’s not easier, it’s just fairer.
The killcam has been upgraded, as well. In previous games, you got a nice cinematic look at your final kill. In Max Payne 3, you remain in control during these cut scenes. The camera cuts away to focus on the bad guy as he dies, and if you hold down the trigger of a machine gun you’ll keep firing at him and watch the corpse get riddled with bullets like something out a Quentin Tarantino exploitation flick.
This is where Max Payne 3 diverges from its predecessors. Stylistically, it’s not so much classic noir as much as it is action noir. It’s very reminiscent of movies like Man on Fire. During some cut scenes important dialogue appears as text on screen. There’s no graphic novel cut scenes, but in some cases you’ll get to see the same scene from two different angles at the same time, like something out of 24 or … Man on Fire. As if to emphasize this tonal departure for the series, the story takes Max out of New York and drops him in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This change of setting doesn’t feel forced, as it makes sense that Max is tracking down a friend’s wife who was kidnapped. (Nice little detail: The bad guys in Sao Paulo speak Portuguese, and the subtitles aren’t translated to English. It’s a typical Rockstar touch — keeping that language barrier intact — and it makes the world feel more foreign and threatening.)
Max Payne 3 is a traditional Max Payne game, mechanically, but stylistically it’s very much its own thing.