The single player portion of the game had some concerns made for being placed in sunny and colourful Brazil, no more snowy gritty concrete dark jungle. I say it works, I mean we are picking up what’s left of mr Payne ten years after. Story-wise we are served some half-assed facts and new bits of his presumed life and old contacts reappearing. Well, it is not something that would have made for the Oscar’s but with the work done in most games these days – it makes at least some sense and you give RockStar B+ for effort. It would have been great if their effort when it comes to the story hadn’t been plagued by the need to justify that they are working on Max Payne and have to stop the game every five minutes to kick you into another dialogue or drunken monologue. The problem is the cut-scenes – and some portions of the game-play.
The game plays like this – all the time: Starting with flashing and creepy graphic styles with stuttering and words being highlighted graphically from Max’s monologues. This works in Marilyn Manson videos, on MTV, real life when you are sick – in games – you don’t want to be sick – you get it that Max is sick – al-right? People are talking in the background and Max answers sometimes and more MTV effects. You are lead to an action point and after three or four minutes intro – you are then released into shooting down some targets – they die and hopefully you don’t empty your stash of painkillers. The shooting lasts a few minutes – you are ready to storm on – but no – more cut scenes comes into effect – you get loss of your preferred weapons and your sight – you are guided to shooting gallery 2,3,4 or however long the sequence is – your sights gone, your weapons switched this time – you are inches away from enemies – all who know where you are – and action.
Once in a while that’s OK – but it is all the bloody time. I have the scroll wheel for switching weapon setup (1 handed, dual wield or 2 handed guns like AK’s, shotguns etc). Oh, and if you like the AK47 – don’t go into duel wielding since then the 2 handed AK will be dropped to the floor and Max will draw his other guns. I can’t really care to tell you how many times this killed me in tight situations. Really frustrating.
But I got over it, using the 1, 2, 3 and 4 keys to select guns with. The cut scenes leaving you with other guns and sight off? It got better after the patch since the sluggish aim got better – but they break the gaming rhythm to play the story. The story is fine – but not stellar so I would have preferred much more game time. The above little fit about the switching weapons, I have stopped using the scroll wheel in my game – this is really not ideal since as a PC gamer – I tend to have a similar set-up for all my shooting games, RPG games etc. – I don’t want to get stuck trying to remember the key bindings every time and in my opinion – that is something game developers should really start looking into more seriously in the future. Not try to reinvent too much when it comes to controls – make them work and feel right.
Another problem with cut scenes shooting galleries is that the game feels really really like a linear shooter. You are following a red line that doesn’t let you deviate much and since your partner or some other low life good for nothing dude is around to stress you into the right area – you are also feeling like Max has a noose-ring that you are being yanked around with. Now, neither Max Payne 1 or 2 where the choices of freedom – but this feels really too tight at sometimes. Some parts of the game is however really good – especially the NY maps – they feel like old times and have been done with great care and the cemetery is the bomb!
The movement of Max is painful as usually – he dives and shoot dodges in slow mo etc – but the free sight and movement isn’t really working all that nice. It is easy to lose your aim simply since the little white dot gets lost in all the now so bright colours – something the original games didn’t have as such a problem. The various setups for aiming isn’t helping much. You can have the white dot getting red on target – you can have a mode which gives you certain “precision” sight for certain weapons or you can have white dot all the time. Would have been nice to be able to adjust a bit more, like size and colour, or why not even add a cross or something?
When you do get to do some fighting and running around a bit more “freely” the game is really fun – but it is far too seldom. You can no longer jump, but you can roll and you can sort of climb/vault obstacles. Being controls that are triggered by extra keys shows that this is something from the consoles, on a PC you are used to roll when you run and hit crouch quickly or double taps the crouch while moving, or crouching and jumping at the same time. This and having certain other aspects like vault, shoot-dodge and slow-mo means you have an awful lot of keys just to control Max’s movements – something you otherwise wouldn’t have. This make the game a bit of a pain to control fluently – and this comes all to clear when you are trying some of the more crammed levels with many enemies and you activate the wrong key or something – you are in most instances so far off you have to restart.
The MP part is the SP part done fun. A bit hard to steer your character, as mentioned above, and with a bit too many problems of how the things work and not. It’s a learning curve and the all too apparent flirt with the modern form factor of levels, lock up load outs, weapons and of course the different customisation of your character. Well – I think that the game-play is pretty fun and fast and the few maps are so far action oriented and pretty fun. You also have arcade mode that looks similar to Bulletstorm. You have to finish the chapters on time and getting scored and can compare to others. Fun – if the damn game wasn’t so bad in stopping cheaters. My first run through the first chapter rewarded me a silver medal and something close to 2000 points. Not too shabby, but certainly – could have been a higher score and if you’re excellent I guess you could probably triple my score without too much effort. Guess what the leader had?
So with that – the MP part is fun, until you realize that the matchmaking is a piece of shit, you can easily be paired as a level 5 rookie against a level 42 player with maxed out extra equipment and the sniper rifle that one shots you DEAD. Fun – sure…
Oh, and lets not forget all the cheaters out there. They are legion!
Oh, and if that isn’t enough – I guess that the PC gamer in me is just frustrated that you can’t optimize the setup of your server enough to kick people who have too high PING. Now a lot of players are Michael Jacksoning their way over the game-field and you see three guys running, however one is standing still – no he suddenly appeared ten meters ahead of his two friends – but hey. That fruit-stand won’t talk back to anyone after you shot it right back tot he stone age…
All in all the game is rather fun – but not stellar – it is really fun at the best of times and tedious and a bit boring when at its worst… The MP part is being looked over and RockStar has promised to kick cheaters against cheaters and I think that is a hilarious idea and much more suiting than perma ban you from a game you have paid for. Cheat all you like – but don’t expect to get any friends and now – you can cry cheater as much you like because if you are one – everyone else will hopefully also be… The rest of us may be able to enjoy a game without wall-hacks and cheating for once.
Hopefully patches and add ons will iron out some more of the flaws – but the biggest issue is so much a part of the game.
Cut-scenes – I’m looking evilly at you!
Graphics – 22. The graphics in Max Payne is made really well. Even though some of the character animations and especially hairdo’s look weird, the areas and characters are made really well. for a game coming both on consoles and PC – this is a really nice looking game. The panning our from cut-scenes to your game view are well made and once you hit the Favela – the grittiness and the sunshine is beautifully rendered.
Sound -19 The sound is OK, characters are good, but the overall sound is not impressing, nor is it by any means bad. It just isn’t enough to either intensify or help you much. The sounds and the mechanic behind it could have been more.
Game-play/Story – 19 The game jumps up and down here so a solid score is hard to put. Overall the game is fun, but with too many small hiccups to be great. Small hiccups with too many cuts-cenes, too much of console generation designs and such make the score land under 20. The game could easily have been close to full score – had they just made things a little different.
Controls/Quality – 18 The controls are a bit too unintuitive to be good. There are too many keys for far too small things to make. They should have looked at SpaceMarine and other games to see how to make this more intuitive on the PC. On console it makes sense to have this complicated control scheme where so much is centred on how to move and control Max – but on PC – we are used to more intuitive controls and actions being triggered by using the same key or combinations of keys. The game quality also suffers a bit. The single player bit only crashed once for me – the graphics got into a black and white only scheme after Max succeeded do shoot-dodge through a wall… The multi-player aspects and the cheat-fest that it is now drags down the score as well. Patches can fix much of this – but right now I’m sceptical.
Total score: 78 Max Payne is back and even though it is a turn from comic book style and not so much NY – it is done with care – but sure – it actually feels more like Grand Theft Max. A few more fan based decisions would have made this title so much more. Keeping the comic book style instead of the MTV like cut-scenes (the comic pages could be SKIPPED!) would have been a much more right feel to the IP. In the end – the game is mostly harmed by the too many and unskippable cut-scenes and the poor state of the multi-player part. Once you get to shoot-dodge enemies – you are happy – unfortunately just when you are enjoying yourself – it is time for yet another long cut-scene…