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Max Payne 3 is excellent

This game had been on my radar after seeing some very positive retrospectives from several creators that I follow. While I've never played a Max Payne game before, the gameplay of 3 caught my eye immediately for its visual flair and I knew I had to give it a shot. You'll have to let me know if the other Max Payne games are worth going through in the future.

It's rare that I go back for a second playthrough on a game in the same year that I played it, let alone immediately after finishing. But that's just what I ended up doing with Max Payne 3. This game is, for lack of a better word, fucking sick. My first playthrough was positive, but didn't leave too much of an impression. I sat on it for a little while, went back in from the start with the difficulty cranked to hard now that I understood the story and gameplay mechanics, and had a blast.

A lot of things work well for me. I'm so used to rifles in shooters losing their accuracy after just a few rounds, so I was immediately pleased to find that guns in this game have pinpoint accuracy. It gives you a lot of control when you shoot and encourages you to get better at lining up quick headshots, which makes for a satisfying learning curve. Shootdodging, in addition to being completely badass, manages to be balanced by having you consider where you're going to land and any obstacles that you'll collide with, and making Max a sitting duck upon landing, meaning you'll want to either waste every enemy in one dodge, or land near cover. The enemy AI, while not being anything too special, do a good job of not letting you cower in one piece of cover, forcing you to run n' gun more often. It strikes a great balance of having you feel empowered while also being challenging. Technically speaking, this game is a corridor shooter where you do one thing for 8-10 hours, but the core systems are strong enough for you to barely even notice.

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Brazil is a fantastic setting for a game and it adds a lot overall. I can't speak to the authenticity of its portrayal of Sao Paulo (if any Brazilians wanna give some perspective that would be awesome), but I love how the game shows both the wealthy high-rises and stadiums of the city, as well as the poverty-stricken favelas, painting a picture of the real income inequality that happens in Brazil. It's an extremely unique setting that I don't think has been in other notable games, giving it a feel that is grounded yet unpredictable as opposed to familiar locales like NYC or LA.

There are some things that didn't work about that game that do have a detriment on the enjoyment though. The infamous unskipable cutscenes are a drag and don't encourage repeat playthroughs. The Last Stand mechanic is very poorly implemented and seems to only work 75% of the time. If the enemy ducks into a spot where you can't see them, you get to watch helplessly as you plop to the ground with no chance to fight back. I had an enemy right next to me down me, and I wasn't able to shoot him because Max's arms got stuck on the cover I was on, so he couldn't point the gun at the enemy. It's a system that should have been refined more before release, as there's just too much that ends up going wrong with it. Also, the texture quality in this game is pretty poor. I'm not a graphics snob, but if you stop and look at some of these ground and wall textures you'll find they're extremely pixelated and blurry, even on very high settings. You don't notice it when you're blasting through the level like the devs intended, but its not hard to spot if you let off the W key for even a moment. I didn't like the meager collectibles either, the golden guns are boring and clues shouldn't be this hidden thing as they add some flavor to the plot of each level. This doesn't really count as criticism, but I started thinking about this game having something like a Resident Evil 4 mercenaries mode where you get put in an arena and rack up points while trying to survive. I know it has an arcade mode, but the unskipable cutscenes don't make me want to give it a full run. Something like that would be fucking nice. The shooting is good enough to make that work.

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Lastly, gotta shout out the OST. It gets your blood pumping with its heavy drums and droning synths and guitars. It brings this gloomy mood that has a sharp edge to it, which is very characteristic of Max himself. It actually has a lot in common with Doom 2016s OST, where the track builds throughout the level and erupts during combat, and has distinct melodic riffs and heavy industrial instruments, mixed occasionally with Brazilian percussion and rhythms. Health did a fantastic job with this game, and if there is ever a Max Payne 4, I hope they return to do the soundtrack.

Overall, enjoyed Max Payne 3 a lot and I highly recommend it. If you're willing to put up with Rockstars dogshit DRM implementation, this is a well paced shooter that's the perfect length to blow through in a couple sittings. The story is captivating, despite having a few moments that are clunky, and overall the game kinda slaps.

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