Friday, May 18, 2012

Where are my painkillers?

Hey look, I am playing a current game! A game that came out this week even, and it's a game that I actually wanted to play and did not end up on the list because it had an interesting name or because I saw a picture of it in a magazine once! Cool!

So why am I in such a bad mood?

Max Payne 2 is, to put it mildly, a masterpiece. The first game was good, of course, but the second hit at the intersection of traditional shooter design and new technology, creating a game that looked better than anything else available and played just as well if not better. This was also right near the height of my affair with PC gaming, and I had the time and the discretionary funds to build a worthy rig, so I was able to play Max Payne 2 the way God intended: on a small monitor at high resolution, with head phones, controlled with a mouse and keyboard.


You heard me. Max Payne 2 is a PC title, born and bred, designed for the finest of all ways to control virtual violence: WASD on the left and a mouse on the right. The control scheme allowed Max to fly through the air in glorious slow motion, killing five or six other men before he even hit the ground. There was no cover system, Max laughs at cover. He takes a few painkillers and throws himself into harms way because the player controlling him could draw a bead on the bad guys quickly and accurately.

Mona Sax doesn't hurt, either.

Max gets his
I was excited last night while watching the first disc install. Max Payne, again, after so many years! The same intro music played, a melancholy series of chords followed by images of Max drinking heavily, and it was 2003 again. The comic scenes were gone, but the story cut scenes were just as overly dramatic and angsty as ever.

Then I had to shoot things.

Max Payne 3 is a PC game, and I respect Rockstar for keeping it that way. I am not playing it on a PC, and my tried and true mouse and keyboard have been replaced by clumsy thumbs on a chunky controller. A controller makes aiming with accuracy while moving next to impossible, and Rockstar knew this, so they have included a very forgiving auto aim feature: pull the left trigger while in bullet time and Max automatically aims at the chest of the closest guy. Pull it again and he moves to the next. This works for a while, though it isn't at all satisfying, and later you run into guys wearing a tanks worth of body armor that you need to shoot in the head. Good luck with that, especially when most encounters take place at a much greater distance than they used to.

Rockstar has leveraged some significant technology here, and just like Remedy did with the second game Max Payne 3 looks really, really good when compared to other games in its generation. But in their rush to use what is new and shiny they have lost the feel of the old games. In Max Payne 2 encounters were close up an brutal, partly because they were more fun that way and partly because (I assume) that is what the game engine would let them do. These restrictions are gone now, and Rockstar is free to create gigantic areas that look amazing but have enemies that start so far away that they are difficult to see much less take aim at and kill. The balance between technology and the game itself is gone; Max Payne 3 feels like a tech demo.

And don't even get me started about there being a cover system. Max doesn't use cover, he kills people. Max isn't that skinny douchebag from Uncharted or that beefy douchebag from Gears of War, he's mother fucking Max Payne. He slows done time itself at will using only whiskey and his limitless ennui for power.

I am beside myself with disappointment. It also pains me to say that running out and spending $Texas on a new computer would not fix all if it. Yes, I would be able to control Max the way the a game without auto-refilling health demands (Rockstar got that right, that God), but it still would not 'feel' right. Too much time has passed, too many other games have used bullet time, and too many tropes of current shooters have been included to appease people who may not even know who Max Payne is or why he is so depressed.

Max Payne 2 was the right game at the right time. It may have been the first 'modern' shooter. Max Payne 3 is none of that.

PS: Fuck you, Microsoft, for not letting developers include mouse and keyboard controls on your console.

No comments:

Post a Comment