Max Payne 3

June 11th, 2012

Dragon’s Dogma has turned up and that’s looking very, very much like my cup of time-sink, so it looks like Max Payne 3 will remain uncompleted, at least for the time being, and I can’t say I’m all that sorry.  I can remember the first game pretty distinctly, from way back when, and it sticks in the mind as being innovative both in its slowed-down bullet-timey gameplay and the appealling gritty world-weariness of its wisecracking central-character’s voiceover.  I didn’t play the second one, but number three doesn’t really seem to have added a huge amount to the formula, and it’s a formula that intervening years of much slowed-down bullet-timey gameplay and gritty world-weariness in video games has rendered a lot less interesting.

Max himself is older, more beaten down, more alcoholic and world-weary than ever, a washed up, clueless ex-cop hired to protect rich folk in Sao Paolo, and that all works pretty nicely, especially as things spiral downwards and he gets more and more dishevelled, beat up, scarred, bearded, shaven-headed, and craply dressed.  Cut scenes and dialogue are neat if a little heavy handed and pleased with their own split-screen stylishness.  Backdrops are rendered with a lot of loving detail, the plot moves quite neatly between the past and the present.  But for a great deal of the time it’s just so mindlessly violent.  A lot of games are, of course, but boy, there’s just something about the way the waves of enemies brainlessly swarm at you and you just blaze brainlessly away at them and they splurt blood and fall over, then get up, then fall over, then get up.  Badda badda badda splatter splatter splatter, twitch, crawl, badda badda badda, guy falls screaming off a building on fire, grizzled wisecrack voiceover, next wave, that leaves you feeling kind of empty and upset with yourself.  Like eating a whole meal of mars bars.  Do I need to play more of this?  Is it fun?  At the end of each wave of brainless enemies you are given the charming option to slow down time to a crawl and watch the last hapless thug’s flopping body be ripped to mincemeat by all the ammunition in the world.  God knows, I’ve a high tolerance for violence, but is this really adding anything to the experience?  No.  No it isn’t.  When I’m finding something cheap and tasteless you know it’s got to be CHEAP and TASTELESS in big ass capitals.

And given this is basically a hell-for-leather action game the action seems a little, I don’t know the word, fudgey, messy, imprecise?  The mechanics are basically duck and cover but Max doesn’t interact very smoothly with his environment, or flip between cover, or even aim from cover very effectively a la something like Uncharted.  Often you’ll have an enemy in cover somewhere out of sight, and you’re in cover, and you know the only way to get to them is to laboriously get up and lumber over to the next bit of cover, getting shot all the way.  You can dive slow-motionly to the side, but once you get there you’re lying down, and even if you’re behind cover, you have to cumbersomely stand up then squat behind it, usually exposing yourself to the attentions of an entire well-armed street gang.  Sometimes you’ll leap crazily into a firefight, blaze away and come through without a scratch.  Other times you’ll pop up from cover for a carefully planned instant, be riddled with lead and die.  Still other times the total reverse is true.  The whole thing just feels rather clumsy and random.  Perhaps that speaks to the truth of a firefight in a collapsing skyscraper with a gang of Mexican paramilitaries, but it doesn’t necessarily make for a rewarding gaming experience…

Posted in games by Joe Abercrombie on June 11th, 2012.

13 comments so far

  • DepressedRat says:

    I totally agree about the covering system, pretty frustrating; also the gameplay is old and repetitive, it doesn’t add nothing to the genre and the brand, with the exception of weapon management (two 1-hand weapons and one 2-hand always carried in the free hand was pretty). The plot is just a shade of the first 2 chapters, but hey that’s what happend when you take a nice brand from a nice software house and make it mainstream. Still is max payne and I enjoyed it. I wonder if you played Alan Wake from Remedy, that’s a cool game and the main character reminded me a lot about you, give it a try i you have spare time.

  • JamesM says:

    Sounds like a case of some great mechanics that Rockstar just didn’t know how to apply in an interesting way. Uncharted can have quite repetitive and boring combat when you’re not in the midst of a big set piece or something too — but Naughty Dog were smart enough to employ A LOT of them while also changing the pace up with a lot of story segments, puzzles (albiet piss easy ones) and platforming.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    It was extremely annoying though the way that whenever a cut scene happened (which was often) he’d switch from rifle to single handgun, and then you’d have to laboriously switch back to rifle after the cutscene ended, often under fire from the get go.

    Uncharted has definitely got a little less fresh with each title, but it’s always slick and responsive in the gameplay. Even something like mass effect, which you’d have to say isn’t primarily an action game, feels more spritely than this. For a man with all the crazy action star antics, Max’s movement is a lot more Schwarzenegger than Jack Chan.

  • Timo says:

    Dragon’s Dogma is very good. In an old-school way. It will not hold your hand and tell you where to go next: if the ogre slays your group with one sweep of his club, then boohoo. Wrong place, wrong time. I love that. It’s very satisfying to return to that ogre 10 hours of gameplay later.

    Just get ready to be patient. You can’t teleport all around the gameworld as you like. So big part of the 40-50 hours you’re gonna spend in Gransys will be jogging on the roads and through the forests. It can be very atmospheric, I tell ya. The nights in that game are not beautiful and nocturnal video game nights, but scary mess of dangerous darkness. Whatever is making those heavy footsteps nearby, pray it does not spot you. And just when you think you are safe, chimera charges from the darkness with burning eyes.

    Very good. Spread the message: when someone wants something epic to play after Skyrim, may it be this one, not, say, vacuum-packed odorless Kingdoms of Amalur.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Yeah, I’ve put fair few hours into Dragon’s Dogma already and I like it a lot. Old school roleplaying with loads of minutiae to tinker with. Shades of a more forgiving Dark Souls, shades of the Gothic games, which were deeply flawed but I really liked. As you say, I very much admire its stubborn refusal to do much guiding by the hand or play balancing. Play balancing was the doom of Oblivion, with nothing feeling special or interesting. With Dragon’s Dogma you feel the danger and excitement of those far flung corners of the map…

  • Gary says:

    Yep, I am in the camp that loves Dragon’s Dogma. It’s by no means perfect, but several hours in, I can’t get enough of it. One thing about it that I especially love is he sense of danger, the fact that you could die at any moment. Try being caught out in the middle of nowhere when night falls, your party have low health and the oil in your lamp is starting to running low. It’s that kind of excitement that keeps me enthralled in this game.

    Also the whole Pawn system is genius, a very nice touch! 🙂

  • Gary says:

    Joe, I forgot to ask, what’s the name and class of your main Pawn in Dragons Dogma? Is he/she a good one to look out for in the Rift?

  • Melvaius says:

    Dragons Dogma is pretty cool, it has its flaws, with a little more time and effort it could have bettered skyrim. However the small flaws are outshined by the amazing combat system. Climbing onto a cyclops face and hammering its eye just does not get old. Also as a bit of trivia I have noticed that you can obtain armour sets that very much resemble costumes worn by characters in a manga/anime called Berserk (its a dark violent fantasy manga set in Europeanish fantasy world,think Game of Thrones meets Lovecraft,its pretty good and i’m not a fan of manga or anime). I just thought this was a nice little easter egg.

  • Thaddeus says:

    I’ve also just finished (and reviewed) Dragon’s Dogma.

    I absolutely love the combat, which is both exciting and challenging without becoming frustrating. It’s almost the anti-Skyrim. It lacks the lore and engaging world of Skyrim, but the combat is far better and more difficult.

    That said, I was a bit disappointed with the seeming lack of extra stuff for a New Game Plus. Vagrant Story (which also had a far better translation of ye olde English) was much better in that regard.

  • Brad says:

    Say what you will about the Gears of War series (does anyone in that universe actually have a neck?), but Epic really nailed the 3rd party cover mechanic.

    There’s nothing more infuriating than having trouble with a game, not because it’s difficult but because the controls or camera are fighting you every step of the way. It’s really a cheap padding of difficulty on the part of some developers. I’m looking at you, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West!

  • Tom G says:

    Joe, play Max Payne 2. It is absolutely superb, and better than 1 and 3. Great plot, characters and vOice acting.

  • Jacob says:

    I always tried playing the Max Payne demo when I was younger. I then became quite bored of it back then, so I would quickly switch back to the Jedi Outcast II demo.

    Bullet time neo-noir or dismembering Storm Troopers? Hmmmmm.

  • Tomek says:

    I am completely into Dragon’s Dogma as well, and I will permit myself to take credit for recommending it to you (under KoA blog post) 😛

    In all seriousness, DD is all about a smooth combat, ability to mix and match perks from different classes to find just the style that suits you. I wish there was more story to all that combat. Maybe an idea for you, Joe? Write them a plot!

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