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Have You Played... Max Payne 3?

Father bullet-time

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

The farther time drifts away from the release of Max Payne 3 [official site] the more I appreciate what Rockstar tried to do with it. I hated the idea when it was announced. “Max in Brazil? BALD?!? WITH A BEARD?!?!?!” I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry at a beard before. Games do funny things to the old noggin sponge, don’t they?

But as Alec succinctly pointed out, Max is a man of his time, and that time has passed. Bullet-time, once a stupendously exciting prospect, is now so common in games we barely register it at all, while Remedy’s aping of cinematic styles and tropes is equally well-trodden ground.

Both these things are baked deep into Max’s character, and Rockstar knew they couldn’t change or remove them. So Rockstar took the idea of Max being a man out of place and time, and made it a focus of the game, ditching the snowy and drab streets of New York for sun-soaked and crime-ridden Sao Paolo, and casting Max as a man trying to fit into a society where he sticks out like a NPC thug’s bonce from behind cover.

Looking back, I think this plan was largely successful, while the traditional mechanics of Max Payne blended elegantly with Rockstar’s technical fortitude, particularly its wondrous animation systems. It’s just a shame Rockstar is so reluctant to let you play the damned thing. There are points where you can’t go five steps without triggering a cutscene, and it obliterates the flow of what could have been the best entry in the series. That said, unlike Alec I’d happily play a fourth, provided someone stood over whoever writes Rockstar’s cutscenes while clutching a big wooden ruler.

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Rick Lane

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