First things first. I've never owned a gun or been in ownership of a gun licence. The only gun I've ever fired had the word 'NERF' written on the side. I'm afraid the headline to this article is a shameless grab for your attention. Sorry about that. The idea was to have a headline that said 'Max Payne 3: the most fun I've had with a sniper rifle since <insert name of game with fun sniper rifle section here>' but after at least 2 minutes of hard thinking I came up completely blank. Nothing. Sweet diddly squat. So I went with the gun licence angle instead. That explains that. Let's move on (but please feel free to remind me of any fun sniper rifle sections in the comments).
Above: Max has a sniper rifle. I do not
In a recent visit to Rockstar's London HQ I had some intimate time with Max Payne 3. I played through two of the game's levels - Stadium and Docks. One of my standout moments from those levels was a sniper section. Which is quite surprising. Sniper rifles are regarded as the reserve of silent assassins inexplicably endowed with the seemingly useless skill of being able to not move for days at a time. This sedentary soldiering is entirely at odds with the aerobatic, hyper-kinetic dual-wielding run-and-gun gunplay action that is Max Payne 3. Also, FPS campers that annoy the shit out of everyone use sniper rifles.
So what gives? The joy of sailing through the air with bullet-time engaged and pumping bad dudes full of hot smoking lead is an undeniably joyful experience. It's a fast-paced slow-motion massacre that leaves you with a thumping heart and a pile of elegantly dispatched enemies in your bloody wake. Which is, of course, great. But the frenetic nature is not always conducive to sitting back and admiring the carnage in all its glory. That's where the sniper section comes in. By offering the closest thing to respite the two levels I played had to offer, the sniper-based interruption to the fairly relentless man-slaying afforded me the opportunity to really savour and appreciate the grisly, artful beauty of Max Payne 3's killing.
Above: Notice how Max Payne is not diving through the air while shooting guns and being shot at in this picture
Here's the set-up. With the aid of a sniper rifle, Max has to protect his partner Raul Passos from some not very friendly paramilitary pursuers as he scurries through rows of tiered seats at a soccer stadium. Despite the long-distance enemies and the altogether more composed approach to shooting them dead, this is still an intensely high pressure moment. This was the first time my ears properly registered the quality of the soundtrack above the noise of the game. The suspense running through the whole scene is superbly amplified by some Latino-inspired music that expertly builds tension and creates a real atmosphere of jeopardy.
The soccer stadium sniper section combines two of the game's most awe-inspiring features to powerful effect. They are: 1) the final kill-cam and 2) the rag-doll physics of the Euphoria engine. The former is all about revelling in the brutality of a bullet going about its devastating business in stupidly satisfying slow-motion. The latter is all about revelling in the spectacle of a fatally wounded enemy tumbling down steps with all the grace of an overly imbibed tramp. This compelling one-two combo of morbid entertainment is exactly what the sniper section brings to the party.
You want to see some people falling down steps, right? Well you can see that happening on the next page...