Monday, June 4, 2012

Max Payne – Kill Kill ! Faster Faster !

Don't Angry Him

As the end credits of Max Payne 2 fade away to Poets of the Fall’s “Late Goodbye”, Rockstar Games had promised us that Max Payne’s journey into the night will continue. Max Payne­ – that angst ridden cop who in the previous two editions was in search of the ones who had murdered his wife and child, gunning down villains and their goons, mouthing off dialogues that word by word took us deeper into his troubled soul, and took us closer to his world whilst in Max’s body we searched for his vengeance – is back this time as an alcoholic, fat, dumb cop (in his own words) on pills with a knack of being in the wrong party at the wrong time,  and also much capable of spoiling it. The game moves eight years into the future from where Part 2 had ended, Max works as a bodyguard for the rich Branco family in Sao Paulo, Brazil, along with his friend Passos through whom he had gotten the job. How they meet is explained in subsequent chapters as the story shuttles between his troubled past in the snowy moonlit night of New Jersey and through the harrowing present day in sunny Sao Paulo.

The story begins with a bald Max Payne holding a gun over the head of one of the villains, as the flashback takes us to where it all started.  Max comes out all guns blazing but in vain as another damsel in distress, Fabiana, of the wealthy Bronco family is abducted on his watch by the street gang Comando Sobra. His search to get back Fabiana and the other hostages leads him through the seedy underbelly of Sao Paulo. Combating through the mean streets filled with meaner thugs, while berating himself with snark-filled dialogues that have become a trademark of this franchise as much as its edge-of-the seat gameplay, Max goes about solving the mystery only to stumble upon a bigger conspiracy. And this is where the story gets complicated, as you end up losing interest in the narrative hoping for the end to come soon. At the point where the writing lets you down, Rockstar’s solid gameplay comes to the fore and keeps you glued to the action.

He's back, he's bald and this time he's more pissed off.
With every passing chapter comes a new environment with tougher enemies, from the high-rising towers of the city to the poverty stricken Favelas to the thrilling finale at an airport of which even Michael Mann would be proud of, the environments are well-detailed and the action sequences are slick and stylish. Max dives, swings and slides in slow motion during programmed pivotal moments of action in the game, only to leave you agape and wanting to play the sequence once again but with more panache. With smarter and unrelenting enemies who keep coming at you, flanking you when you are taking cover at the same place for a long time, Max Payne 3 not just tests your dexterity with the controller but also tests your strategy on how to take down the bad guys. Back with their patented Shoot-dodge and Bullet-time, the folks at Rockstar make sure that Max kills people with style. With no auto-replenishment of health as seen with other games, it makes the gameplay at times frustrating yet more challenging, and seeking cover while counter firing even more essential. The addition of a box of pills to restore your health with every time you replay the failed scenario helps sustain your interest in the game, giving you a hope of finishing the level even after you are killed many times.

Bending time, one bullet at a time.
With cut scenes galore and split screens with phrases of importance in bold and large when narrated by our hero, Rockstar has tried out a new form of narration moving on from that graphic novel feel we had when playing the previous two installments, to throwing us right in the middle of a high-on-adrenaline Hollywood film. The background score by HEALTH that ranges from fast-paced during mind numbing shootouts at the discos and airports, to haunting and intense during stealth action sequences in the docks and at a cemetery at night captures the mood of the sequence brilliantly and keeps you hooked. James McCaffrey’s trademark voice for the titular hero reflects Max’s self-deprecating humor as easily as that steely never-say-die doggedness which comes out of him when push comes to shove. It lends a personality of its own to the brooding Max Payne, a man on the edge who has got nothing to lose.  

As the game towards the end spirals into a mindless killing spree with the storyline fading away into being almost non-existent, all that keeps you going is the legend of the tortured Max Payne,who wherever he goes keeps on fighting the demons of his past that come in various forms to haunt him. Rockstar after a long wait of nine years have come back with a revamped Max Payne 3, with larger-than-life action setpieces, a snazzy narrative, and a more pissed of hero with a wide range of arsenal to combat an army of more than dozen. It all seems to be worth the wait. Even so, when the story goes on to be too heavier on the eye and longer to bear, all that keeps us pushing Max forward is the core of the franchise that hinges on - Max Payne’s journey to redeem himself whilst enduring Maximum Pain.

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