Max Payne 3


18 cert, Rockstar, Xbox 360 (also PS3, PC) ****

Playing Max Payne 3, a dour, stylish third-person shooter, one thinks of both Payne and Rockstar’s public images. Payne has had his name tarnished by an unloved Mark Wahlberg film. And Rockstar has an undeserved reputation for bratty, controversy- baiting titles, when in fact its recent crop have been sad stories of broken men: the remorseful cowboy of Red Dead Redemption, the conflicted detective of LA Noire, and now the return of Payne, the washed-up cop.

This time, the New Yorker is working in private security for one of the richest families in Brazil’s Sao Paulo (“Baghdad with g-strings”). When a tycoon’s trophy wife is kidnapped, Payne goes on a one-man mission to get her back. This leads him down a rabbit hole of violence, squalor, double-crosses and conspiracy.

Although set in sunnier climes than previous editions, the key franchise elements remain. Again, it’s a thrilling, violent third-person shooter with a generous dollop of bullet time. There’s also some sleuthing, as Payne observes clues to the bigger story, but you can play the game through without picking up a single clue.

Max Payne 3 is even more cinematic than its two predecessors. The gravelly, amusing voiceover is here again, the story is compelling, and the locations are appropriately gaudy, from posh offices to slums, condemned buildings and strip clubs.

Because Payne is addicted to painkillers and alcohol, the perspective changes slightly – colours drain and change, and the virtual camera goes in and out of focus. Every shoot-out ends with a dramatic, slow-motion demise. The multiplayer is not bad, but feels like an afterthought.

This game is all about Payne. Self-deprecating and vulnerable , Max is a perfect antihero; a man who “wouldn’t know right from wrong if one of them was helping the poor and another was banging my sister”.