A little Max Payne, a little Olympics, and a little me being critical, it’s Monday Update!
Max Payne 3 - Readers of this site should know that I adore the Max Payne series, both in mechanical terms and in story. Thus, when they announced (four years ago, I think) that Rockstar had another one in the works, I was pretty elated, although I was also confused. Where could they take the story, really? Everybody had died in the end (excepting the secret ending where Mona lives, spoiler for nine year old games). Then I saw this:
Uh…ok. So Max Payne is now bald. Obviously somebody on staff was watching Breaking Bad, right? I wasn’t familiar with the series then, so I just assumed Payne had gotten a makeover like so many other heroes. So I reserved my judgment; perhaps we’d get something out of left field and interesting. Not knowing what they were going to produce in GTAIV, I had high hopes.
Then GTAIV happened. Establishing what I now call the Rockstar Formula, take an open world, add some gritty crime storyline and cutscenes plagiarized by every bit of the pop culture relating to Scorsese possible, and there is is. For a video game in 2008, it was pretty original; now, I would hope, we all see the problematic nature of the formula. GTA III loved to give the player every tool in the tool box to solve every mission; GTAIV gave you the illusion of the open world and a bunch of useless tasks to go along with it (the bromances being the worst offenders). Although I do plan on finishing GTAIV soon (having gotten it on the Steam sale), Rockstar’s formula now seems derivative and stale – the story based game, though enamoring critics at first, doesn’t hold up in the long term. Really, how many people hold GTAIV in high esteem at this point? Dan Houser has taken over Rockstar’s output, and the style continues.
Clearly, after tons of open world games recycling the same idea, they needed something new. Does Max Payne become another casualty of the Formula? Well, four years later I found out the answer: Yes, and no.
Rockstar carries Remedy’s original blueprint to the letter – you’ve got linear levels, you’ve got bullet time, you’ve got shootdodging. There’s loads of graphically amazing and intense gun battles, each requiring a lot of effort to complete (and may also require many, many tries). Rockstar also ignores the improvements of the second game entirely, but makes the enemies smarter, able to flank and destroy you if you’re not paying attention. You can take two or three bullets at most, and a head shot can and WILL kill you.
If you’re thinking “this sound too hard to run around like the first game”, you’d be correct. Rockstar, in line with just about every third-person shooter in the last five years, has a cover system. The game, rather than allowing you to dive around like a madman, makes you take efficient use of cover, and knowing when to move away. Most cover in the end of the game is destructible as well, making your reflexes and choices all the more relevant. Bullet time, from cover, is used to make headshots and see bullets flying to avoid damage; taking a shot without it can be tantamount to suicide. It’s suitably intense and interesting at the same time.
However, with adopting the earlier system’s difficulty (adding improved AI), things come at a cost. Enemies do not tend to die from anything other than a direct headshot. Some enemies wear helmets and body armor, making them nigh unkillable except with lots of bullets. Even enemies wearing nothing more than t-shirts can take ten bullets, and still get up and kill you. From this perspective, it’s jarring when a guy gets hit by five bullets, falls down, and then kills you when he gets back up because the game doesn’t give you enough visual feedback to tell the difference between a hit and a miss. Let’s say it’s frustrating at the least. The cover system also slows down the game a great deal; it’s more an improvement to GTAIV’s cover-based shooting than anything resembling a high-octane John Woo film like the first two games. Overall, it’s a bit dissapointing to see Max Payne become yet another “same old, same old” shooter, this time with the ability to slow down time.
If you’re wondering why I’m not talking about the plot, which I don’t like…I’ll save that for another time.
The Olympics - They were OK this year. Two things come to mind: the opening/closing ceremony and NBC’s coverage.
Honestly, what was Danny Boyle smoking? I’m guessing white guilt. How much history does Britain have? Thousands of years, millions of interesting personalities, conflicts and triumphs around the globes, the greatest empire on earth, and what do we get on the opening night? A bunch of people dancing to pop songs made in the last fifty years. The closing ceremony did much the same: ignore history, propagate pop culture. Seriously, that’s all that Britain did for the world? Monty Python and a couple lines from Shakespeare’s The Tempest?If there was a nation ever more guilty of its imperialist past, it’s got to be the United Kingdom. They’re so guilty and “inclusive” that they couldn’t bear to represent any of their past for fear of offending anyone…yet they keep an archaic monarchy in place year after year using billions of their own tax dollars.
Phew. You can tell I didn’t like it, obviously.
Still, as far as displays of sports go, the Olympics are always awesome. Its the NBC coverage I don’t like. As I said in Olympic race issues, they’re always pushing an issue. DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE MORE WOMEN THAN MEN ON THE USA OLYMPIC TEAM!? DID YOU ALSO KNOW THAT, GIVEN STATISTICAL WEIGHING, THEY ALSO WON MORE GOLD MEDALS OVERALL (wow, am I surprised)?! FEMINISM HAS SURE ADVANCED FAR, HASN’T IT TOM BROKAW? Ok, I kid. But there’s always a subtle political message going on – otherwise, who would mention how far our society has advanced? That Oscar Pistorius sure made headlines for having bionic legs, but what kind of precedent does that set? It’s never to say “this person’s a great athlete”, but “this represents a chance to throw my commentary on morality into your face”. It’s not fun.
Tom Brokaw’s hour long feature on World War III during Sunday certainly didn’t help; did they really run out of things to cover? This isn’t the History Channel; I can watch this anytime I want, and you’re not THAT important that I must hear it from Brokaw specifically. I only see the Summer Olympics every four years. Surely, we could see some judo, wrestling, or boxing. We won gold medals in all of them (oh yeah, forgot, that’s bad and we Americans don’t like violence or something so none during primetime), so why not?
The little things frustrate me, I guess. If I’m gonna plop myself on a couch for four hours every night, it’d better be worth it – you’d notice this stuff if you watched it like that, night after night.
That’s it for this week! Who even knows what I’m gonna write about this week.