To help you choreograph your very own set pieces, you have the game’s ShootDodge mechanic that allows you to fling Max all over the place, during which the game slows down, giving you the chance to pull off some head/body shots with much style. And thanks to the Euphoria physics engine, this looks insanely realistic. When he’s about to land, Max will actually extend one of his hands to break his fall and even when he does hit the floor, it’s not smooth or elegant; it’s hard and sloppy followed by a rather heavy thump because that’s how a 200-plus pound man would land in real life.
Besides ShootDodge, you can just slow time down and gain a slight tactical advantage over the enemy. Plus, riddling a bunch of guys with bullets while glass shatters and wood splinters around them is just plain cool. If you suck at shooters, the game even has a very efficient auto-aim system that gets the job done. However, it becomes a bit of a pain to aim at gas cylinders when there are multiple enemies around. When you’re on the verge of death, the game will automatically slow down (if you have at least one painkiller bottle on you) and if you manage to kill the guy that delivered the fatal shot, you’ll get one last lease on life.
And die you will a lot because, even on normal, the game is pretty challenging. The game encourages you to live dangerously, but it punishes you for being too reckless. It’s imperative to stock up on painkillers because Max’s health will not magically regenerate behind cover. You’ll also have to time your slow mo jumps well because if you don’t have the proper angle, you may find yourself on the receiving end of hot lead. There are times though when the game just feels plain cheap. For example, you clear out a room of people, barely surviving with nothing but a few rounds of ammunition and a sliver of health. You let your guard down momentarily, and suddenly another bunch of guards enter from a random door, killing you immediately. Did they not feel like helping their brethren while I was shooting their brains out, or were they a bit tied up with their crossword puzzles?
As I mentioned before, I really like Max’s positive “shoot first, ask questions later” energy, but does he really have to confront an army armed to the teeth with just a pistol? Instead of allowing players to chose their own paths, Rockstar takes control away from you, funneling you through a cut-scene, only to throw you into the deep end without a paddle, or in this case, without any ammo. Moments like these tend to crop up more often than not during the third act of the game, which I personally felt was quite weak. Why? Because Rockstar unfortunately chose to take the “let’s throw thousands of enemies at the player” approach just to make the end seem more challenging. It sucked the fun out of the game for me, making it nothing but a mechanical grind.
Rocking a beard...and a hawaiin shirt
Still, once you get through an enemy wave, it does feel like an accomplishment, especially since the game really slows down for the last kill, allowing you to adjust the speed of your bullet(s) while pressing the A button. During this time, you’re not just a spectator to the action, but can proceed to pump the unfortunate soul with even more lead. Gruesome, but completely awesome! Between all the relentless on-foot action, the game will also funnel players through certain on-rail segments. Now these are new for the Max Payne franchise, but they are pulled off with such flair and polish that they could stand on par with Uncharted 3.