Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ten Best of 2012: Max Payne 3

It can be tremulous when a developer takes over a game series midway through. Such is the case with Max Payne 3. Originally scheduled to release in 2009, six years after Max Payne 2, the sequel was wrought through development hell until the first trailer hit in 2011. The final product, though, is a terrific example of what happens when Rockstar not only focuses their energy into a tightly knit, linear shooter, but also when a development studio takes the reigns and puts their mark on a franchise.

Max Payne 3 doesn’t take place in New York City. It’s not dark, there are no rainy back alleys, and it’s not bitter cold. Instead, Rockstar took the opportunity to run with their own ideas of what Max Payne should be, while still harking back to the games that made the series.

Many might be put off by its lack of an overly dark noir setting, as I said earlier this year, Max Payne 3 is different kind of noire; murder under the sun rather than corruption in the dark city. Its narrative is heavy, depressing, and tells the tale the world’s worst bodyguard in, what feels like to me, classic Max Payne fashion.

Besides being the best game optimized for PC I’ve played, Max Payne 3 has the best and tightest shooting mechanics in any Rockstar game. It brought a level of challenge, even on normal, not felt in most first-person shooters. When you die, it’s not because of an enemy who shot you off-screen or by some fault of physics, it’s because of your own mistakes and you felt it. If they could find a way to implement the preciseness of the controls from Max Payne 3, and the hand-to-hand combat from Sleeping Dogs in an open-world game, say Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar would be the king of the open-world game in my book.

All of this is topped off by an amazing soundtrack by noise-rock band Health. Rockstar has always paid attention to music in their games, but rather than go the traditional route of a classical soundtrack, they hired Health to compose the entire soundtrack. It’s heavy, full of sweat and tears, and weighs on you as you wade through São Paulo, Brazil. Tracks like Max: Panama have a vibe similar to that of Drive, while Combat Drugs feels like its only missing instrument is the sound of gunfire. The entire game leads up to an airport shootout sequence with the Tears blaring in the background.

That moment is one matched by few games this year. Watching it unfold doesn’t resonate the same way as playing through it does, but this moment alone makes Max Payne 3 one of my top games of the year.

1 comment:

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