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When you think of a Rockstar game you think of sex, violence and open worlds. In some ways Max Payne 3 is more of the same, but at the same time this is a very different experience.
We play the same character as the previous games, but now Payne is a drunk, broken man. He's grief stricken over the murder of his wife and daughter and doesn't see a way forward. This fractured hero story line is unusual but doesn't distract Rockstar from, at the same time, delivering a game that is just as much about the shooting.
The game's 14 chapters promise to offer plenty of iconic encounters involving everything from hostage rescue, bus station escape, shoot outs and even a jail break. This is all delivered through a control system that is both effective and simple. The sometimes controversial auto-aim does enough to help you target without feeling like you are ever on autopilot. Attaching and leaving cover is just as well executed with a simple button press enabling all sorts of creative uses of the environment.
This wouldn't be a Max Payne game without bullet time, so of course this features heavily. Along with shoot-dodge this delivers a style of fantasy combat that also feels rooted in time and space.
Unlike The Wire, Payne's mid-life predicament is never allowed to truly trouble him.
Some may find it odd that Max Payne 3 is a linear game. But actually I like this more than the distractions of Grand Theft Auto's open world. Here things feel more consistent and more directed -- good on both counts.
Where Max Payne 3 falls short of the cinematic experiences that other commentators have suggested it eclipses, is in its handling of the themes of loss and hopelessness. Unlike shows like The Wire, Payne's mid-life predicament of being stuck between an uncomfortable past and uncertain future is never allowed to truly trouble him.
Rockstar's greatest strength is also their weakness. Payne revels in his reckless approach a little too much. The game feels over enamoured by its pulp fiction style so that it never manages to deliver what could have been an emotional knockout blow to the player. Instead we are treated to a thoroughly entertaining roller coaster ride, one that ticks all the right boxes for the Rockstar faithful.
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