Max Payne 3: Gorgeous, Gritty, And Dumb

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The Gorgeous

Max Payne 3 is a beautiful game. A lot of titles strive to minimize the difference between cutscenes and in-game footage; MP3 nails this by using exactly the same engine for both modes. The HUD is unobtrusive enough that you'll find yourself trying to control the movie bits, or not realizing for a second that you're back in command.

The Stunning Gloom -
This is easily the best-looking DX11 game we've ever seen, and the DX9 graphics are very nearly as good. The performance hit for activating DX11, at least on higher-end hardware, is minimal. The visual difference between the two is subtle but consistent; DX11 uses more HDR (High Dynamic Range) lighting and shadows are more realistic. In the images below, DX9 is on the left, DX11 on the right.

DX9 Rendering (Left) and DX11 Rendering (Right) - Images captured on NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580

Here's a good example of the difference. The plants in the background are dark almost to the point of being muddy in DX9. The DX11 version is softly lit and much more realistic.

DX9 Rendering (Left) and DX11 Rendering (Right) - Images captured on NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580

Check the shadows on the planter, on the suits of the two gentlemen, and around the door to see the difference between the APIs. DX9 uses hard shadows and strict light/dark regions; DX11 blends and blurs the light to create more natural patterns.

Bullet Time Returns (Hurrah!) -
The major thematic element of Max Payne that does return in MP3 is "bullet time."  Players can slow the movement of the external world to a crawl by pressing a button, giving Max time to pull otherwise impossible feats of accuracy or movement. The original Max Payne was the first game to implement this feature after The Matrix showed it on the silver screen, and it's still a lot of fun. As in the original game, it can be critical to survival.

Early on, it looks as though Max Payne 3 is set to evolve into a Mafia-style 3rd-person shooter with a far better back story. Unfortunately, that's where design elements start colliding...

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