Rockstar's Max Payne 3 will suck up your free time, you will crave it, and there is a good chance you will become an unproductive member of society.
If you — and your loved ones — can live with that, it's a great game and lives up to every bit of the hype surrounding its release.
Developer Rockstar, famous for titles including Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, has a record of putting the right touches on its games, and Payne is no different.
It's a story-driven third- person shooter packed with lots of action, many challenges and more than a dozen guns.
You take on the role of Payne, a fugitive Drug Enforcement Administration agent and former New York Police Department detective whose wife, Michelle, and newborn daughter were killed in connection with a drug case. Max then goes undercover in the mob and eventually becomes a one-man vigilante army, waging a personal war on crime and, in particular, on those criminals responsible for his family's death.
Set eight years after the events of the second title in the series, Max Payne 3 features an older Payne in São Paulo, Brazil, where he is working private security for a rich family.
The game pulls you into the story line rather quickly, weaving in game play with the plot. It's an approach that most games take to teach you how to use the controls. It begins with a bar fight, and the controls are easy to pick up.
Max Payne 3 embraces a run-and-gun style of play. You take cover and shoot your way out from scene to scene. It can be difficult at times, and you have to use some strategy to figure it out.
Payne is not one of those shooters in which you can hide behind a wall to regenerate your health. Your life depends on your ability to shoot your way out of a variety of situations, and if you've taken too many hits, you have to be crafty enough to find painkillers to heal. Sometimes they're in clearly marked first-aid stands; other times, you have to find them on desks or tables.
But the shootouts are some of the best in gaming. The game's "Last Stand" mechanic, a new feature, gives you a grace period to kill an enemy after losing all of your health. If you kill your opponent in the shootout and have some painkillers on you, you get to live. If not, your game ends.
Payne makes use of the Euphoria dynamic animation engine, so shooting and killing enemies looks far more realistic than in any preceding Rockstar game.
Seeing someone get shot in the head and watching his skull shatter in slow motion might not be your thing. If it's not, this game won't work for you. But it's done well as far as graphic images of entry and exit bullet wounds go.
Rockstar has done a good job weaving its cinematic reels into gameplay to keep the story line moving. The graphics are what you come to expect in current-generation games, and the environment takes a beating as much as the characters in the game. Bullets can shatter wood or glass, so it's not wise to take cover behind those things. Ultimately, you have to move quickly to get through.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Payne is that you sometimes have to go quite a ways before the auto-save feature captures your latest accomplishment. Dying midway means you have to start over, but you'll get better as the game goes on.
Overall, Max Payne 3 is one of the best shooters today. It's challenging, and it will keep you motivated to see it through to the end.
Delano R. Massey: (859) 231-1455. Twitter: @heraldleader.