Welcome to Casual Fridays, where we kick back, relax and take off our pants. In Typing About Games (TAG), two of the Piki Geek staff face off in a no-holds-bar chat conversation. Beliefs are challenged, points are exclaimed, hype is harnessed, and video games are dissected like insects. Enjoy a look into the discussions that plague the Piki Geek chat day after day.
This week, not EVERYONE was playing Diablo III. Staff writer Jeroen Amin and reviews editor Zach Martin compare notes on that other third installment to a cherished franchise that saw release on Tuesday – Max Payne 3.
Jeroen: Okay, we both beat Max Payne 3 last night. Immediate thoughts. Go.
Zach: Great game. Not particularly noir, but it otherwise feels like a perfect fit as the third installment in the franchise. More importantly, I think there’s a lot that other modern shooters can learn from it.
Jeroen: I’m very impressed they kept the gameplay feeling just like Max Payne while modernizing it slightly. The implementation of the cover system is, quite frankly, genius. It’s not the crutch it is in other third person shooters
Zach: I was just going to say so myself!
Jeroen: It literally is just a place to get some quick break from being shot in the face. Quite literally. Enemies always seem to kill you with a headshot.
Zach: And besides, in Max Payne 1 and 2, you spend a lot of time hiding behind things anyway. Now there’s just an actual mechanic that governs it. But yes, enemies are quite accurate and quick on the draw as well. In fact, I found them to be pretty intelligent and formidable in general.
Jeroen: The AI in the game was phenomenal. It reminded me a lot like FEAR, actually. They reacted to you aiming at them, would distract you while others flanked and never let you rest for long.
Zach: Yeah, I can definitely see the similarities in that regard. They just react the way enemies SHOULD react – responding to your presence and your tactics accordingly.
Jeroen: They were merciless too. You actually died very quickly out of cover and they never stopped firing at you. It made the game actually challenging. Especially towards the latter parts of the game.
Zach: Yeah, it really did. Especially for me, since I was playing on Hard! Body armor can kiss my ass. Especially the heavily armored enemies with light machine guns.
Jeroen: Screw those guys. They did not die. What kind of riot gear do they have that protects them from that amount of shotgun shells fired at their face?
Zach: Who knows? Every time they showed up, that meant a good 10-15 minutes of dying and retrying for me. Although one time I did get lucky, and was close enough to hit him right in the neck – the one place they have no armor. That was quite satisfying. And the game has a lot of satisfying moments in it, now that I think about it, both scripted and unscripted.
Jeroen: I’m kind of surprised the hit detection is that detailed actually. Most games’ hitboxes go head to torso. The scripted sequences can be a pain, though. They usually force you to use a pistol after they’re done and, sometimes, put you in a really bad position. Like when those LMG guys burst through a door and you can’t do anything about it because the game is making you watch them burst through it in a close-up, so you’re basically caught in the open by a guy who can kill you in a fraction of a second.
Zach: Oh, yeah, no doubt. There’s an element of trial and error there that I am not especially fond of, though it does kind of hearken back to the previous games in the series in that regard. But still, I felt like many of the scripted sequences, such gunning guys down in bullettime while jumping through a building – on a boat, no less – or diving from one moving train car to another, were done quite well. Those scripted bullettime sequences comprised some of my favorite moments of the game.
Jeroen: Rockstar can pull off cinematic just as well as Naughty Dog. I don’t care what anyone says.
Zach: Yeah, and this game proves it. And they did it even more stylishly than Naughty Dog, though I suppose the style is more a matter of personal preference. I just happened to enjoy it. And there are quite a few cutscenes in the game, so it’s a good thing they’re entertaining, stylish, and well acted.
Jeroen: The cutscenes are phenomenal. They feel like a movie.
Zach: A better movie than the actual Max Payne movie!
Jeroen: I’m pretty sure Lords & Ladies was a better movie than the Max Payne movie.
Zach: Can’t argue with you there.
Jeroen: Speaking of, I did miss those little things from the original games. Those little meta moments that told you that the game was screwing with you and not taking itself too seriously at the same time. Also, dream sequences. This game really could have had some.
Zach: To be honest, I’m happy without the dream sequences. If I ever have to tightrope walk a blood trail with a crying baby shattering my eardrums ever again, it’ll be too soon.
Jeroen: That’s the kind of stuff nightmares are made of! Literally and figuratively. Nailed it. But even that TV show in MP2 that recapped what was happening in the game. It was pretty cool. But I think that’s Remedy’s specialty. Alan Wake had those too. Rockstar did make for a much more gritty, if less dark, game. The story was definitely a lot bleaker than the originals.
Zach: Very true. Dan Houser’s writing style is very apparent, for better or worse. Definitely less dark humor than the previous games, though Max’s lines are often amusing anyway.
Jeroen: Usually from bleak cynicism and sarcasm. Houser also put in quite a few more swears and sexual references into Max’s dialogue than ever before, though. I swear that Houser just can’t go for too long without referring to sex or swearing in any of his games.
Zach: Yeah, you know Rockstar.
Jeroen: I know Houser is more what it is. It’s all the more out of place when you consider that this was the first Max Payne game without Mona. And nobody to replace her, either. It’s almost strange having Max without a female equivalent.
Zach: Yeah, it feels more like a solitary adventure, though it isn’t without its damsels in distress. Just no one tough like Mona was.
Jeroen: Mona was a femme fatale, not a damsel. She was pretty much half the reason the originals felt noir, really.
Zach: Yeah, and it does create a noticeable shift in tone for Max Payne 3. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s less good – merely different.
Jeroen: Exactly. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons it’s not noir. Mona created some real melodrama for the story. Without her, it’s just a man on a mission like any crime drama/action movie. I’m hearing a lot of comparisons to Man on Fire, actually.
Zach: Oh yeah, and that’s a pretty accurate assessment. Both feature an alcoholic ex-cop hired to work private security in South America. Things go wrong, your charge is abducted, etc. And like Creasy, Max’s art is death – and he’s about to paint his masterpiece.
Jeroen: You’re talking like you’re from the first two Max Payne games. Quit it. Though I’m pretty sure Max said that in this one… I’m awful at this.
Zach: Actually, I was quoting Christopher Walken’s character from Man on Fire!
Jeroen: That movie came out when I was in diapers, I barely remember it.
Zach: Damned youngins. Wish you could see me shaking my wrinkly fist at you right now.
For more on Max Payne 3, stay tuned for our full review in the coming days, and join our crew, The Piki Geeks, while you’re at it!