We go hands on with Max Payne 3

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Earlier today I posted up my hands off impressions with Max Payne 3 but after that short hands off the Xbox controller was handed over to me and I was then thrust into the action after a quick cut scene explaining that our bosses trophy wife had been kidnapped and they wanted $3 million to release her.

The boss is a ludicrously rich real estate mogul, so the $3 million isn’t a major problem. Giving into armed gangs is obviously a worry but his serious son and playboy son help convince him that this is the best plan so I (Max) and Raul offer to hand over the cash.

The stage starts off easily enough with Raul and I entering a stadium by helicopter and waiting in the middle for the gang to arrive so that we can hand over the cash. Shortly the gang noisily arrives and with guns pointing and people screaming we are forced to drop our weapons and hand over the money. As the gang leader leans over to grab the cash a shot rings out and he is thrown back by a high powered sniper rifle.

Next I’m hit in the the shoulder and all hell breaks loose with people running everywhere and shots ringing our across the stadium. Raul makes a break for the change room entrance and we’re off chasing him. However we’ve been hit hard and to show the disorientation the screen jaggles (so is a word) to the side a few times and changes colour as we go. The effect is incredibly effective and buy the time we make it to the end of the passageway I’m in need of a break myself.

But that’s not going to happen as a bad guy comes around the corner and Raul thankfully see’s him and takes him out hand to hand.

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This is a good time to explain the incredible movements of the characters, we’re no longer stuck with the inflated sprite disaster that haunted us in the early 2000’s but now all the characters are captured via motion capture (mocap) which makes the fight scene a hollywood styled exchange.

After that we proceed to a medical room where I find a pile of pain killers and a gun and after fixing myself I have a few moments to try out the controls.

Currently the aiming is set to entirely free aim which is a great change from the auto aim nonsense that consoles normally have. But as my excitement levels started to peak I was kindly told that I can change the aim to soft lock or moron mode if I prefer (hard lock) but while that makes the game a lot easier it does take a lot of the fun out of it in my opinion.

So to aim we swing the left stick around, movement is done via the right stick. Click the right stick in to go into bullet time which is controlled via a bullet time meter. You can top up with great shots and action sequences.

The right trigger is for shooting while aiming down the sights with your left, unless you are dual wielding then both are for firing. Right bumper+direction throws you into a bullet dive mode which puts you into bullet mode for the time you are in the air and left bumper brings up the Red Dead Redemption-styled weapon wheel.

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So all in all it’s a great and simple control scheme… until you find out that click the left stick inputs puts you in crouch mode, holding it in gets you to go prone and while that’s great all on it’s own it’s incredibly annoying when you are in a massive firefight and all of a sudden you are lying down taking a nap while people pile bullets into you. Hopefully the developers fix that before we get to release date.

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So after messing around for a bit we head out and start clearing out rooms of gang members and then come across some exceptionally well armed militia. I’ve got 4 to take out so I click into bullet time, stick 2 slugs into chest of the first guy on my left then spin to the right and headshot the three others… I click out of bullet time feeling pretty awesome about myself until I suddenly get blasted from the left. I thankfully managed to get to cover before dying, shoved some painkillers down my throat and got up again to see where this new guy came from.

It was the same one I downed with 2 slugs to the chest, apparently these militia guys are wearing bullet proof vests which are incredibly effective. Colour me impressed that my bullets were powerful enough to realistically drop the guy but his vest saved his life and allowed him to rise again… that’s going to make this a bit more difficult.

After dispatching him with a headshot I started moving from room to room a bit more carefully trying to find the gang member hiding with my $3 million while trying to figure out who the militia were working with.

I won’t bore you with all the details of the next parts but I’ll just say this, it was awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of going through the rooms and being the biggest bad ass on the planet while leaping in slow motion and destroying anyone who got in my way.

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The next interesting gameplay technique that I experience was when I was in a snipers nest high above the stadium and had to escort Raul to safety via the reticule on my rifle. I’m generally not a fan of escort missions but this one didn’t last to long and being a sniper and taking out 10 or so enemies to protect Raul was a great experience.

After that I had to clear out the last sniper from his birdnest and with no more painkillers in hand this was a great time to show off how incredibly difficult this game actually is. After about 8 failed attempts my friendly Rockstar rep helpfully offered to change the aiming to be soft or hard locked to make this a little easier but I had nothing else to do all day and I was going to get through this section even if it killed him.

After about 13-14 attempts I finally took out the sniper at the end of the gauntlet and it has instantly become one of the best gaming memories of my career. There is nothing more satisfying than completing and old school difficult stage in a game… then I noticed I was only playing on medium level and nearly started crying.

Needless to say this game is going to be difficult if you stick to free aim and up the difficulty level but if you just want to enjoy the experience then stick it on soft lock and and easier difficulty.

Next up I was shown a seriously NSFW level that I found out afterwards I wasn’t meant to see as it was for print only, but needless to say it was a lot of fun and I’ll be giving you my feelings on that one after the end of March when that NDA expires…

Then we were magically teleported back to the Docks where the trophy wife as last heard to be held, this gave me some some great close combat experience with shipping containers scattered across the stages and the inclusion or bright red exploding barrels… which weren’t bright… or red. Yes they actually had to be pointed out to me which is once again a nod to how realistic the levels are, gone are the glowing object points and we welcome in realism on a level that we haven’t seen in gaming on a AAA basis.

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If you put some bullets into the yellow gas tank on the back of a pitchfork or in the corner it starts flaming for a bit before exploding in a huge ball of fire. The explosion is as gamey as it has always been but in reality do we ever want that to go away?

Moving forward I quickly realise that these gangsters aren’t protected with body armour which makes taking them out a whole lot easier and then add in some bullet time and the game starts getting a little too easy really. That is until they started lobbing grenades at me making diving around in the open spaces a dangerous game indeed.

I then used the yet to be mention cover button to suck myself into cover behind a concrete wall and started alternating between blind firing to draw them out to targeted cover shooting to take them out. Cover exists in Max Payne 3 but it’s not a must have like Gears of War and you’re not going to be diving from cover to cover but rather using it when and as required.

But while I’m quite happily hiding behind cover something quite unique happened. 2 of the enemies up front peeled off to the left and another two to the right and they started flanking me on both sides with the guys in front still pelting me with bullets forcing me to stay in cover. Eventually I realised I was never going to get out of this alive if I just sat there and so had to pull out an amazing move where I leaped over the concrete wall and dived forward in bullet time, twisting to the left to take those two out before continuing in a full 360 to take out the two on the right. As I landed I hit normal bullet time, stood up and dispatched the rest in front of me.

Realistic? No of course not, Fun? Oh hell yeah, I felt like my testosterone level had been bumped by 1000% and I’m sure Max was now swaggering forward.

To finish of my experience I entered a warehouse in cut scene mode, all cut scenes in Max Payne 3 are rendered in game,  not pre-recorded in engine but rather actually in game so if you entered the room with 2 gun shot wounds to your body and carrying a shotgun the entire cut scene is played out with you carrying that gun and looking that bad. It’s a great effect and something I feel gamers are truly going to appreciate.

So back to the story, I entered this warehouse carrying my Uzi and snuck up behind a pile of gas canisters. As I got close I accidently knocked on over and then all hell broke loose. Max grabbed a hanging chain and shot out the mechanism which then pulled us up through the warehouse, as I started to ascend I clicked on my bullet time and then swung around and took out all the gangsters hanging around on different levels just in time to reach the top walkway and to gracefully exit the warehouse back into real life.

And that was unfortunately the end of my time with Max, those 2 1/2 hours were some of the best gaming hours I’ve had for a long term and I for one am very excited about the upcoming retail version of Max Payne 3.

Now that you’ve read it all why not watch this trailer again which is set in all the stages I played and see if you can spot more in it than before

So do you have any questions about the game that I can possibly help out with, something that wasn’t covered that you want to know about?

 

Last Updated: March 5, 2012

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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