Posts Tagged ‘review’

Max Payne is a relic of the past, and he knows it. In the opening moments of Max Payne 3 players see a washed up, burned out shell of a man whose sole purpose in life is to drink and pop pills in an attempt to numb the pain of a life not so well lived. No one expected this joke of a man to ever be brought back from the metaphorical dead, least of all Max himself. While it seemed a bit unusual for Rockstar to resurrect a character who hasn’t been seen for merely a decade save for an awful movie that didn’t exactly help the franchise, I’m glad they did, as the end result is a well-crafted game that deftly mixes the old Max Payne storytelling and mechanics with modern sensibilities.

The clear standout of Max Payne 3 is the script, with some of the sharpest, most darkly humorous writing found in a game. Max narrates the adventure in his traditional noir style, providing a very clear picture of the mental state of a man who’s seen everything in life break the wrong way and who has lived most of his adult life at the end of his rope. The bulk of the story is set in Sao Paolo, a city where Max never thought to find himself, doing a job that he’d never expect. Throughout the course of the plot’s many twists and turns Max provides insightful monologues not only about how things to be going to shit around him, but also the continuous devolution of his own sanity. At several points the game flashes back to Max’s time in New Jersey and his desperate struggle to stay one step ahead of a mob boss who’s out for the former cop’s blood. Throughout it all Rockstar paints a portrait of Max as a fatalistic, cornered man, and someone who is infinitely more dangerous because he’s trapped. Max Payne may be self-sabotaging, but if he goes down you may not want to be in the area, as he’ll be taking a lot of people with him.

Complimenting the emotionally complex script are some humorous lines that are expertly placed to break up tense moments. When Max said that a local special forces unit in Brazil “made the NYPD look like the fucking Hari Krishna” I couldn’t help but grin. There are numerous occasions where otherwise bleak and helpless moments are lightened through a sarcastic quip or darkly funny aside, and all of them further establish Payne as a character who realizes the absurdity of his continued survival against perpetually impossible odds. Max Payne should have died hundreds of times, and no one is more aware of that than the title character himself.

When the talking stops and the bullets start flying Max Payne 3 falters a bit, though it remains impressive overall. Since the franchise basically invented bullet time in video games it’s only reasonable to expect it to come back once again, but at this point it’s more out of nostalgia than as a useful gameplay mechanic. The same goes for finding painkillers as health packs, it’s basically just a throwback to the old days before regenerating health became commonplace. Gunplay feels tight for the most part, and the variety of lock-on features Rockstar provides should make shooting comfortable for nearly all sill levels and player types. There are a few questions about weapon balancing and the amount of punishment enemies can absorb in relation to Max, but I almost never ended up feeling cheated in a shootout.

One aspect I could have done without entirely is the kill cam, which slows down the action whenever Max fells his final enemy in a room and showcases the baddie’s grisly end. Rockstar relishes showing players how impressively they can render entrance and exit wounds while also drawing attention to the spray of blood and bone. Thankfully it’s a feature that can be turned off, because there’s really no reason for it. It’s excessive gore for excessive gore’s sake and honestly nothing more.

I could continue to prattle on about how nice the game looks (which you’d expect from Rockstar) or how immersive the multiplayer is (it’s great, but if you’re not an online shooter type of person you don’t care), but I won’t. Instead I’ll just applaud Max Payne 3 for being a mature, well-crafted game that manages to successfully revive what we all thought to be a franchise that had pretty much run its course. I don’t know where Max goes from here, but if Rockstar is up for making yet another trip into this universe then I’ll definitely be along for the ride.

Broke Gamer Score: 92

Courtesy of Fox

One of the things I was most excited about in starting up this site was reaching beyond just the realm of gaming and offering thoughts on some of my other favorite bits of pop culture as well. I’m borderline obsessed with television, and consequently decided that my very first TV review would be for one of my new favorite shows, New Girl. It seems my decision caused some performance anxiety from the cast of the show though, as last night’s Landlord episode was one of the weaker entries of the series. While there were still a few funny gags and punchy one-liners, the episode itself seemed to tread overly familiar territory and offered a rather wimpy payoff.

The conceit of the episode finds Jess (Zooey Deschannel), the sunny optimist, squaring off against Nick (Jake M. Johnson), sourpuss incarnate. Jess is determined to get some of the apartment’s problems fixed for good by the landlord, while Nick and the rest of the guys warn her to stay far away from the building manager. Perhaps the funniest moment of the entire episode came when Jess slipped up and mentioned that four people were living in an apartment intended for three, and we got to see the guys execute the “Landlord Drill.” The exercise consisted of dumping all of Schmidt’s (Max Greenfield) belongings out the window, including his bed, furniture and beloved chinos. We also got to see Schmidt transform into some sort of vaguely European backpacker named Jimmy as the crew tried to fool Remy the landlord. It was this scene which had me laughing the hardest during the entire half-hour, it’s just too bad things were all downhill from there.

Thanks to Jess’s sunniness Remy agreed to take care of some of the apartment’s issues, which our leading lady took as vindication for her cheerful disposition. Nick was skeptical, arguing that Remy’s pleasantness was directly related to his desire to get in Jess’s pants. And just like that New Girl slipped straight into the waiting arms of one of the biggest sitcom cliches ever.

Throughout the series’ run we’ve seen Nick and Jess playfully spar with one another as his curmudgeonly ways but up against her personality, but up until now the writers have managed to handle it with flair and originality. In the past, whenever Jess has gotten too bubbly Nick has been able to bring her back to earth with a quick line or biting observation, but dragging it out to an entire episode is such a retread of what every other show has done that it was bound to be a letdown. It didn’t help matters that the foil for Jess and Nick’s spar was a sexually frustrated landlord who looked vaguely like Gary Busey.

Surprisingly, the stronger bit of comedy in this week’s episode was tied up in Schmidt’s B-story and his office flirting with his boss. Max Greenfield does a great job as presenting Schmidt as the ultimate poseur, a man who longs for a real connection to women but with no idea how to read their signals or pursue a relationship. He spent the entire episode trying to figure out if his boss’s commands to “sort her files” and “dial her into the Tokyo call” were actual tasks or just euphemisms for dirty, dirty sex. Watching Schmidt fumble his way through the affair was easily the strongest bit of the episode, as was his list of New Year’s Resolutions from 2007 (sample resolution: “Find out where Winston gets his sparkle, then steal it”). I feel like if they had switched the A and B plots this week I’d be talking about what a classic this episode was, instead of what a letdown it turned out to be.

I’m willing to give New Girl as a series a pass for having a bad episode every once in a while, I understand they can’t all be gold. Let’s just hope that Landlord was the only dud in what will turn out to be an otherwise great season. I still can’t recommend this show highly enough for those looking for solid scripted comedy, but if you’re new to the series please don’t start with this episode, because it stunk.

Score: 50 out of 100