After ten years of toying with what once seemed impossible, Max Payne 3 features Bullet Time in multiplayer. Perhaps more impressively, it works really well. Technically, it isn't rocket science ' when a player activates the series' iconic slow-mo, anyone who can see them will be caught in it too. Break the line of sight or kill the person using it and you'll return to the land of standard speed.
There's a tendency to panic when things shudder to a crawl unexpectedly, but thankfully there's a safety indicator. If the edge of the screen turns blue, it's being used by an ally in eyeshot. See a tint of red rimming the screen, and you'd better start diving sideways sharpish. Most of the time, it's the shoot-dodge move that triggers it ' spending half a bar of Adrenaline to buy a few seconds of bullet-ballet.
Adrenaline is easily earned by doing all sorts of standard shooter stuff, but dodging too often isn't always wise. Jump straight into a brick wall, and you'll watch your character react appropriately. Aside from leaving yourself open to a conversation between your face and their shotgun, shootdodging isn't always the best way you can use your Adrenaline. In addition to an equipment loadout, each custom class can select a 'burst'. The diversity of these game-changing perks is what makes Max Payne 3 feel really interesting, letting you change the flow of the game without spawning an army of dogs and helicopters.
Friend and foe aren't black and white ' watch your back.
The Trigger Happy burst isn't far off the usual fare, letting you spawn progressively better bits of equipment. One bar of Adrenaline gets you armourpiercing ammo, with two you earn a machinegun, and the full three bars nets a tasty grenade launcher. While perfect for the needs of bread-and-butter gunners, I instead fell in love with something very different. The Sneaky burst is an instant favourite, allowing you to temporarily imitate an enemy soldier in progressively more convincing ways. Bullet Time lets you slow time for longer and without diving, whilst Intuition offers increasingly strong intel. Use three bars of Adrenaline at once, and your team will be able to see silhouettes of the enemy across the map ' a tactical advantage that would undeniably give Tom Clancy a semi. My favourite of the bunch so far is Paranoia, a burst that makes it harder to identify friend from foe when used with one Adrenaline bar, but gets substantially more fruity when notched up to three. In addition to turning all the names on their screen red, a fully charged Paranoia burst will tempt the enemy team with cash prizes for betrayal; shoot a friend in the back of the head and you can walk away with some extra. Decide you'd rather stay true to your team and you'd better hope that their moral compass points the same way.
There were only five bursts to play with so far, but the final game promises around 16. With all the shoot-dodging and bursts being triggered, Max Payne 3's multiplayer quickly gets hectic. Gunfights are mostly conducted in mid-air, which leads to some stunning showdown moments. I leap over crates with suicidal abandon and introduce myself through the medium of broken glass. High ground and windows would usually only provide sniping spots and vision, but the approach in Max Payne 3 is usually quite different. Spot a man skulking close to the wall beneath your window and it's hard to resist the temptation to hurl your body over their head, peppering their shoulders with a spray of hot lead.
That Dead Island trailer sort of stole Dave's thunder.
Straight-up deathmatch is available, but Max Payne 3 seems likely to appeal more to fans of objective-based games. Tying together different game modes with a couple of pieces of narrative string, Gang Wars is likely to be the heart of the multiplayer. The Docks map I played always began with a game type in which we had to seize guns, but the outcome of this match saw the rest pan out differently. The chain of events in one Docks game saw the other team trying to assassinate our best performing player, with their character introduced as the 'leader' of our gang in the match's comic-style intro.
Gang Wars borrows story aspects and characters from the singleplayer campaign, creating branching narratives that usually get wrapped up after five or six rounds. Once you get to each map's finale, your team's performance in earlier rounds will affect your handicap for the team deathmatch showdown.
With 16 players leaping around and taking advantage of sneaky tactics, Max Payne 3's multiplayer feels delightfully bonkers. The cover system works pretty well, but the handling and shooting don't feel as snappy as some of the best thirdperson shooters. I'll need to try more bursts before forming concrete opinions, but slow-mo shootouts are definitely more fun with friends. As proven by the tireless research of Dr John Woo, horizontal gunfights are much cooler than those that make excessive use of legs.
Preview by Matt Lees.