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Max Payne 3 – The PS3 Attitude Review, part 2: online multiplayer

Submitted by on Monday, 11 June 2012No Comment

In the first part of PS3 Attitude’s Max Payne 3 review, we established that the game’s singleplayer campaign succeeded convincingly in the daunting task of updating the eleven-year-old franchise. With both style and substance, Max Payne 3 defied the odds and made bullet-time shooting feel innovative again, but is the gameplay as effective in online multiplayer?

Let’s be honest; most online multiplayer games are painfully difficult to get into, as newbies usually can’t get a shot in edgeways before they take a bullet to the head from a player who they didn’t even see. Therefore, one of the many things Max Payne 3 should be praised for is that it caters for all types of gamers, whether you’re an online veteran or newcomer.

This is perhaps most obvious when you look at the Soft Lock vs. Free Aim debate that has been raging on the internet since the game’s release. Free Aim is clearly the better choice for hardcore gamers as it allows for a greater sense of control, but Soft Lock is a viable option for new players, as it diminishes the challenge of manually lining up a shot, so its inclusion is welcome.

At first, the only available modes are Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. More modes don’t become accessible until you reach 50 kills, ensuring that players get to grips with the basic gameplay before they tackle any greater challenges. Staggering content in this way is nothing new, but it does mean that you’re constantly provided with new features, which helps keep things fresh.

Two of these unlockable features are Vendettas and Bursts. If you are killed by an opponent twice in a row, you are given the option to start a Vendetta against them; if you kill them, you’ll be rewarded with bonus XP, but if they kill you, they get the extra XP. It’s an interesting concept that works brilliantly, and is especially satisfying when you steal another player’s XP.

Meanwhile, Bursts are the game’s version of perks, adding another element of strategy to online matches. For example, Max Payne’s signature Bullet Time move slows down time for a brief period, while Paranoia makes your opponent’s teammates appear as enemies to them. Effective use of Bursts clearly gives an advantage, but Rockstar has done a great job in ensuring they feel balanced.

After you’ve got your first 50 kills, it’s time to tackle the more involving modes. Gang Wars is played over five rounds of objectives-based gameplay, such as battling for turf or delivering items to the team’s base. This offers not only the greatest variety of gameplay, but also the biggest opportunity to gain XP, so Gang Wars is the go-to mode for players chasing the illusive rank 50.

In Payne Killer mode, two players assume the roles of Max Payne and his ally Passos, as all other players try and take them down. Do so, and you take over the role of whichever character you killed, and attempt to remain alive for as long as you possibly can. It works much more smoothly than you might expect, and is already a favourite among hardcore Max Payne 3 players.

The game’s maps are varied and well-suited to online multiplayer, with any number of cover positions to give you a jump on the enemy. Environments such as the Branco Headquarters and Rooftop of the Moderno nightclub look noticeably inferior to their singleplayer equivalents, but this is to be expected when playing online, and are still perfectly serviceable.

Rockstar Vancouver has really gone all out in offering players a truly massive online multiplayer experience, with narrated matches, dozens of accumulative challenges (Grinds) to complete, Wagers to bet, Crews to join, and Loadouts, Avatars and Titles to customise. With so much to see, do and unlock, the more you put into Max Payne 3, the more you get out of it.

It’s not all perfect though. An undercurrent of lag was present throughout our experience; it’s far from unplayable, but it somehow doesn’t feel quite as smooth as it should do. We also had a few problems with Grinds randomly resetting and overly long load times. These issues are far from insurmountable, but their appearance in the current version of the game is unfortunate.

Don’t let these small issues put you off though, because the gameplay itself is extremely satisfying, and the sheer variety of options means that it never gets old. Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption both show that Rockstar is no stranger to creating fun and innovative online multiplayer components for their games, and Max Payne 3 could just make the hat trick.

The two previous Max Payne games were singleplayer-only affairs, so Rockstar Vancouver was forced to create a multiplayer mode completely from scratch for Max Payne 3. The fruit of their labours is an online component that feels like classic Rockstar, but has enough personality to stand out as its own game, and is sure to keep players busy for months.