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Game of the month, May 2012

Winner: Max Payne 3

Read the Max Payne 3 review.

Nine years and several iterations later (seriously, remember that rumored plot involving Max going to snowy Moscow to take on the Russian mob?), Max Payne 3 has graced us with its presence. And despite the departure of original developer Remedy and enough cooks to spoil the broth (a sizable number of Rockstar studios, spanning across the coasts of North America and elsewhere), the sequel is utterly amazing.

Rockstar's decision to shift Max from angry antihero to drunken pill-popping loser does wonders for pushing an even grittier narrative than in past games. The attention to locales provides a look at São Paolo from its high rises and wealthy playgrounds to the grimy favelas and gives a sense of a city that can chew up and spit out anyone, including a washed-up ex-cop. Plus, its gameplay weds the classic slow-mo gunplay with contemporary updates, such as super-smart AI and cover that dissolves under a hail of bullets. Max is back, and if a hail of bullets don’t take him down, the whiskey and hydrocodone will.

Runner-up: Diablo III

Read the Diablo III review.

As worthy a successor to the Diablo throne as we could have hoped, Diablo III is every bit as addictive as its progenitor. Blizzard managed to keep the style in-tact while still making abundant changes to the formula, improving the pacing and the gameplay to create a distinctly Diablo experience that falls more in line with what is expected of a 2012 release. Only time will tell if this sequel will have the longevity of its forbearer, but either way we’re planning on spending at least a few hundred hours clicking, killing, looting, and repeating the process over and over again.

Editor's Note: Though Gravity Rush was one of the most critically acclaimed games we reviewed in May, you won't be able to pick it up until June outside Japan. Look for it in consideration next month!

9 comments

  • yasmarc - June 1, 2012 9:30 a.m.

    Glad to see this. Been sinking in hours to Max Payne 3 almost every night since it came out. Amazing game and the attention to detail on every level, person and item is outstanding (seriously you can watch bullets flatten against body armor, his sweat soaks through his shirt, enemies react to exactly where they are shot).
  • ultimatepunchrod - May 31, 2012 5:45 p.m.

    I was really expecting it to be Diablo. Way to surprise me Gdar.
  • BladedFalcon - May 31, 2012 4:55 p.m.

    Yeah Max Payne! Hell of a game. Has a few minor issues, but other than that, easily the best third person shooter of this generation after Vanquish for me.
  • SGTCOOL - May 31, 2012 5:47 p.m.

    Always glad to see some Vanquish love! Max Payne 3 is some of Rockstar's best work in my opinion, even if some seem to think they're an overrated developer for whatever reason. Their games are so ahead of the competition on a technical level, not to mention the storytelling. Damn. I don't buy two copies of the same game all that often, but it looks like tonight it's time to play it for the third time but on pc.
  • MarcTheCreator - May 31, 2012 9:12 p.m.

    I think they are way overrated (R*) but I love me some Max Payne.
  • Divine Paladin - June 1, 2012 9:17 a.m.

    I don't see how they're overrated as a developer. They consistently develop some of the highest rated games of all time without selling out and with relatively few mediocre titles in their portfolio. As a PUBLISHER, however, they're overrated (see: Hype for LA Noire, Disappointment in LA Noire), since everybody assumes they also develop every game they publish.
  • Rub3z - June 2, 2012 9:55 p.m.

    You know I had to make a reply to you on this one. I'm not entirely sure if I could possibly compare Vanquish and Max Payne. On the mechanics and production side, they are similar... attention to detail, slow-mo bullet-time mechanic, hardcore sensibilities... but... gah... my mind is twisting inside out trying to make sense of which could deservedly be better than the other. On the Vanquish side, as I've been so eager to point out before, there is just so, so much awesome dripping out of every bit of the game, and so many eye-blazingly beautiful explosions... and on the Max Payne 3 side, there is so much awesome in just about everything else... from the tone to Max's voice-over monologues to the presentation and insanely polished experience of filling so many heads with holes before you can even hit the ground... and I love that you can approach a piano at some points in the game and play it, complete with Max's own reminiscing about the tune that he's looking for. At first I imagined that there would be some arbitrary achievement or something attached to this... finding and playing the pianos in the game... but lo, there wasn't, and the moment late in the game when you happen upon a piano and watch as Max plays out of it that melodic tune he'd been searching for, is kind of a perfect cinematic moment that, to me, signifies most of what the game is all about... it certainly didn't need to be there, and many players, I'm sure, may not have even noticed or cared for it... but it was. Everything, from the bullet-cam, to the last man standing, to the final kill cam, to the way each bullet knocks about your enemies in realistic ways, to all of the little details in all the levels and rooms and vistas that would soon be turned to war zones... was there. It was glorious. As for where you stand, Falcon, that's fine... I just love both games, honestly. I'd say the best 3PS of this generation could be handed jointly to both of them, or either of them as the case goes.
  • BladedFalcon - June 3, 2012 6:21 a.m.

    Yeah, you actually bring some very good points. And to be fair, it IS a bit hard to compare them because what they excel in are very different areas. I mainly did the comparison because both are third person shooters. And I agree with what you say about MP3, it has some brilliant cinematic moments and details, the piano indeed being some of such things, and I mean, on the whole, it has a much better story, better characters, better atmosphere, and the animations are just bar none the best I've seen in such a game. I just consider Vanquish the better third person shooter because, gameplay-wise? it's just the better game. I mean, to me, Vanquish so far represents the pinnacle of third person shooting, and how it worked best. The game allows you to take cover and encourages it in many situations, but it never allows you to turtle in it or over rely on it, in order to really excel, you HAVE to go out of cover and take chances. In Max Payne 3, yeah, this also happens a bit, not not enough, and in a lot of cases, more so in higher difficulties, you HAVE to rely on cover a lot, specially if you want to use bullet time, because the way to fill the bar is to kill people in normal speed... and the only way to do that with safety is from cover. What I'm trying to say, Is that I consider that vanquish married perfectly the idea of both moving and shooting, and taking cover. The game's action always felt fast paced and furious and badass, and even if the core gameplay was always the same, it felt more varied due to the enemy variety, bosses and the kind of setpieces they put you in. Max Payne 3 has a beautiful presentation, and what it does, it does excellently, but the gameplay frankly feels more one note. It's a really good note, mind you, and that's why I call it second best in the genre. But I do believe Vanquish takes the cake, gameplay-wise.
  • BladedFalcon - June 3, 2012 6:27 a.m.

    Oh! and one other quick addition. Pacing. Overall, I feel that Vanquish was perfectly paced in the sense that you never felt like the single player campaign felt stale or too long, or made you go "Ugh, this stage is going for forever." It showed you what it wanted to showed you, and it never added any filler. Max Payne 3 is well paced story-wise, but not as well paced gameplay-wise in some places. There were definitely a couple stages that felt unnecessarily long. (The favela, police station stages, mainly.) So in my eyes, that also hurts the overall enjoyment of it as well.

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