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Ben Hornsby Ben Hornsby
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Max Payne 3:' Heads up, I didn't play the multiplayer

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There are giant words all over the screen during every cutscene. In the first hour some rich guy makes a joke about trickle down economics; the screen gets split in half, one piece gets slid over, frozen and black-and-whited, and 'TRICKLE DOWN ECONOMICS' pops up in it while the action continues in the other half. Guy Ritchie is adapting a book all over my screen, and I don't really get it. I guess the punchline is that it's kind of refreshing to see giant words after playing so many games that are obsessed with putting giant numbers all over my TV!

I can think of one other game where giant words all over the screen was a selling point, and it's whatever Splinter Cell game that was. I played that Splinter Cell game splitscreen, sitting on my friend's futon in his cheap apartment and getting sweaty. Not because of the game; it was summer and all he had was one of those great plastic window fans. Well, whatever. My hands never sweat when I'm playing videogames, anyway. Ever. That's a real genetic advantage, right there. I guess that Splinter Cell game was pretty fun. The big words were stupid.

Anyway: I like my big-budget action-movie videogames to be mechanically straightforward and aesthetically confident. Ideally, their stories are dirty and hopeless. 'Max Payne 3' is all the things that I like, so I guess I will go ahead and like it.

Each stage is a jagged little momentum-line, stringing you along. You slingshot yourself around the corners of the level design with your limited bursts of slow-motion bullet-time, and the levels are regularly punctuated with either healing painkillers or cutscenes. I like how the painkillers work, in particular: There is ostensibly a button you can use to heal yourself, but if you let your health run out with a painkiller in tow you'll be instantly put into a bullet-time dive. If you shoot the guy that killed you before time runs out, you'll be revived at the cost of a painkiller. This is particularly useful because when it happens - it's called 'Last Stand,' maybe? - you can kill your assailant with just one bullet, no matter where it hits him.

Every painkiller you have represents another chance to go into slow-motion and kill a guy when you run out of health, guaranteeing you one more lunge in your attempt to stumble to the end of the stage. It gives the game a weird little rhythm. It is fairly pleasant!

What is not pleasant is that lots of times when you shoot guys in their heads it leaves huge crazy holes right in their faces. What is even less pleasant is that the camera likes to zoom right in on this if he's either the last guy in a room or the guy you're killing for a last stand; what's even less pleasant is that during these pseudo-cutscenes you can repeatedly pull your trigger and Max will keep shooting the guy from offscreen.

Why would you do that? As soon as the camera zooms in you know it means that the guy must be dead. You must like watching corpses get shot in videogames! Hey, maybe you like the hot tub sex minigames in every God of War, too. (Maybe that's the whole reason you play every new God of War game: to see the hot tub sex minigame brought to The Next Generation.)

I guess the thing is that it's supposed to be unpleasant. Is Max firing an extra bullet into a guy's head really any worse than curb-stomping in 'Gears of War?' And hey, on the other hand, he totally asked me if I wanted to invert my aim when the game started. Yeah, I do! Thanks! That was polite.

I have a lot of nice things to say about the game's overall structure and story, too. Find me on a sidewalk or something and I'll say them. We can talk about the ways that this game is better than 'Super Mario Galaxy.'

Unless you can think of something more interesting to talk about. Then we can talk about that.

three stars out of four

Ben Hornsby hopes one day that a button to switch shoulders becomes standard in all these dumb cover-centric third-person shooters so he can stop spending five minutes per videogame trying to figure out how to do it.

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