It’s finally here. The slow-motion manshoot to end all slow-motion manshoots. I’ve had time to play the first few chapters. But does it still have the magic, or has it become a Payne in the arse?

If you groaned at that shit pun, then Max Payne’s probably not for you. I admit to being something of a fan of the first two games (completed them both on PS2 and PC), so I was unusually excited by this game’s impending release.

Not excited enough to actually preorder it. Fuck no – nothing could make me go that far. Except for possibly a new Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts game.

So I unwrapped it and popped it into my Xbox 360. Then I sat around and sighed and twiddled my thumbs for a few minutes while the game installed a forced-update onto my system. Then I choose to play, and off we go…

It’s never a good sign when the first thing a game reminds me of is Kane and Lynch 2. MP3 pulls the same fake-digital-camera footage trick, with horrible bloom, bars of light and varying degrees of image quality. It’s annoying and pointless.



Also, Max… isn’t quite Max any more.

In the intervening years he’s become a self-loathing alcoholic. Max was one of the archetypal one-note action movie characters beforehand – he was the Wronged Man With a Grudge, out to shoot all and sundry, joyous in his uncomplicated nature. Now, like all modern heros he has to cry into his pillow at night. Screw this for characterisation. After an into that goes on for FAR TOO LONG, we get the main menu. I choose SINGLE PLAYER, like the antisocial bastard I am.

There’s a lot of exposition in this game. The comic-book cutscenes are gone, and have been replaced by the kind of acting you’re familiar with from most GTA games. By that I mean everyone says ‘fuck’ like it’s going out of fashion, even Max. Our hero seems to be acting as a bodyguard for some rich old Brazilian chap and his young wife in Sao Paulo. I miss the comic-book panels and knowing faux-noir atmosphere of the previous games. Like GTA4, Rockstar seem to take themselves too seriously these days.

Shit hits the fan, bad guys arrive and I breathe a sigh of relief as after about fifteen minutes I finally get to move Max about. And everything above is faff, at the end of the day. What’s really important is – how does it play?

The answer is – pretty much the same as before, only nigglier. It controls much the same as the last two, with shootdodge and walking ‘bullet time’ modes. But in the Euphoria engine he’s a bit… jittery? Whenever a cutscene ends you find yourself with the crappiest weapon equipped and having to re-equip your shotgun. Enemies also take some serious lead to kill. One baddie in a football shirt took seven rounds to the chest to put down.

But it is undeniably fun. Rockstar have put a lot of effort into making the shootouts cinematic, and it’s shockingly violent in places. Guns are pleasingly punchy and the scenery shatters and fragments like a dream. But although it’s an enjoyable action game, it doesn’t feel like a Max Payne game. At least not yet.

I’ll keep you posted.