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Max Payne 3 review: Slick, bloody, beautiful... but not without its flaws

Rockstar's reinvention rated...

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But as enjoyable as the gunplay can be, the game is way too long. The action is incredibly one-note, and isn't rich or nuanced enough to justify the 10-12 hour running time. We don't mind a long game, but only if there's enough variety to keep us engaged. A few hours before the end, fatigue sets in, and you feel as if you're going through the motions. It's also punishingly difficult, and you'll often die suddenly and without warning. In the final levels, we had to set the game to easy. It was no longer challenging; just utterly merciless, and - as a result - not much fun.

TIME TO DIE

Environment interaction would have made the action more dynamic. There are a few examples of this - dropping buses on enemies' heads in a garage, shooting out the ceiling above an enemy to drop an air conditioner on his head - but mostly, it's just straight-up shooting. Visually, the level of detail in every locale is insane, and the world looks authentic and lived-in, but this only barely masks the fact that, from a gameplay standpoint, it's little more than a series of static movie sets.

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Oddly, despite the game's bold change of setting and atmosphere, it's the New York flashback levels that offer some of the most entertaining set-pieces. A shootout in a graveyard swarming with angry mafia goons is tight and fast-paced; a chase across the rooftops of Hoboken is a thrill, with blind corners and close-quarters gunfights. There are some superb scenes in Brazil too, of course. A battle through a police station towards the end recalls The Terminator, and a skirmish in a plush, glass-filled office is an explosion of scenery-shredding destruction.

Why so serious, though? Remedy's Max Payne games were moody and hard-boiled, sure, but there was a surreal edge, and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. Max's tortured film noir metaphors were intentionally overwrought, and there were moments of brilliant insanity, like the trip through the Address Unknown amusement park. Rockstar's Max has none of this. They've stripped away all the subversive humour, and it has very little charm as a result. The first two games had hints of the supernatural and the mythic, and a dreamlike apocalyptic tone; all gone in favour of a straight tale of revenge and conspiracy.

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Multiplayer is excellent. In Max Payne 3's world, rival factions are battling it out in Brazil, including ramshackle gangs and heavily armoured military police units. This war rages around Max in the single-player story, but in multiplayer, you get to experience it first-hand. There are the usual standard modes like team deathmatch, but it's Payne Killer and Gang Wars that really stand out.

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