Beneath the cinematic Rockstar gravitas, Max Payne 3 is a somewhat old-fashioned beast. It's a relentless and punishing bullet-chewer with an old school health pack system, and is entirely bereft of today's newfangled rolling XP bonuses and streams of unlocks. Max begins and ends the game with the self-same powers of slo-mo and shoot-dodge, relying on your headshot hunger and a somewhat slow-burning plot to urge you on.
The essential fabric of Max Payne 3 combat is meaty and engaging, and seeing as the game entire relies on aiming and shooting, that's something of a win. You'll dive down the steep steps of a football stadium peppering oncoming armoured goons with Uzi fire, and you'll snipe them as they dash around the roof of a skyscraper nightclub - and it'll all feel rather marvellous. When those kills finish off with bullet-cam and a face wound, or neatly slink into FMV action that's framed with tropes from all the best action movies (a helicopter tumbling overhead from The Rock, Max swimming beneath a burning curtain of oil as Arnie does in True Lies) that satisfaction is doubled down.
There is, however, occasional bullet malaise. Max Payne 3 is a long and punishing game, and is often poorly checkpointed. Even when playing on the normal difficulty level with a soft-lock aim system, there are bottlenecks and moments of extreme frustration as Max dies again and again. Sometimes you'll have to get through an area where you're not so much living on your wits as your Groundhog Day-style recollection of exactly where each enemy will pop out of the scenery. If you're getting killed a little too often the game will drip-feed you extra painkillers, but they'll rarely numb this particular sore spot.
Max's third outing is also missing the eccentricity that Remedy once laced throughout former Paynes. In the last game dream moments and that remarkable non-combat sequence in Mona's funhouse provided natural and fascinating breaks from the action, but the Rockstar blend prefers to concentrate on all-action, all-the-time.
Replacing that very European streak of nonsense, however, is Rockstar's increasingly familiar super-earnest approach to cut-scenes, character and cinematic chicanery. Remarkably, they pull it off. You only realise it halfway through the game, but when realisation dawns it's stirring. They've made Max Payne a person, rather than an action-cipher. Max suddenly feels like less of a self-knowing cliché, and more like the desperate, forgetful and pill-popping alcoholic he truly is.
Another triumph of the game, meanwhile, is the successful integration of bullet-time into multiplayer. The way stockpiled slo-mo juice can be locally unleashed on anyone you have your eyes on, until they dive into cover, is really rather clever – and leads to some almighty conflagrations. There are peaks of hilarity in Max Payne 3 multiplayer, it's certainly the most solid and engaging online game Rockstar have put out, but there's almost always a lot of legwork to be trodden through before you get to the fun stuff.
That's the game in a nutshell, really. It's certainly not without its issues, but it's still the kind of game you'll recommend to all your friends. It's also the closest a console has come to making us feel like an action hero – and for that alone, Max Payne 3 is more than worthy of your itchy trigger fingers.
Virgin Media verdict:
In this version of the classic game you must connect identical tile...Download
Battle Fire, Water, Air and Earth!Download
Search the Mediterranean for Atlantis!Download
Hordes of horrible creatures descend upon your fantasy land. Magic ...Download
Turn words into sweet-sweet honey!Download
Time to dress up your date!Download
Play snooker and improve your game!Download
Help Flubbles catch the apples!Download
These adorable little fur balls are trapped! Use your aim and skill...Download
Hidden Objects in the Ocean.Download