The long-awaited Max Payne 3 hits PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles on May 15th, and after years of anticipation that day is finally almost here. The gritty, tarnished character marked by a film noire-esque backdrop returns with his signature time-bullet technique and third-person action, but in an entirely new setting. After waiting nearly nine years, will the new title live up to the persona that has shaped the Max Payne franchise thus far?

The self-titled game's protagonist has suffered insurmountable hardships, and this is evident in the way the story plays out. Max Payne 3 is overall a brilliant, darkly-engrossing third outing for one of video game's most troubled characters, writes Daniel Krupa of IGN. The gameplay itself is said to be pretty impressive, with realistic physics and attention to detail, separated by cut scenes that can sometimes be interpreted as intrusive. However, this is secondary to the plot.

It's not that 'Max Payne 3's' gameplay is substandard--far from it--but it's always firmly in the service of its overarching narrative, Krupa also writes.

But for those gamers that allow themselves to be immersed in cut scenes and dialogue, the cinematic sequences can enhance the vengeful action that ensues. Rather than taking place in New York City like its predecessor, Max Payne 3 brings our disgruntled antihero to the streets of Sao Paulo, where he works as a private security guard for wealthy businessman Rodrigo Branco. When his wife is abducted under Payne's watch, Payne is swallowed by a pit of drama larger than he could have imagined.

Just as Rockstar Games has demonstrated in the past, Max Payne 3 comes complete with high production value and tight gameplay. One staple combat feature is the last-enemy camera, which is activated once a player has killed the last opponent in an area. Gamers are given the chance to slow down time and fire bullet after bullet at their defeated enemy.

I'm not ashamed to admit it; it's devilishly fun and doesn't get old throughout the course of the entire campaign, writes Jeff Bakalar of CNet.

Bakalar also notes that for those who have been longtime fans of the franchise since its inception, there isn't much difference in the games general feel.

Series veterans may not notice much in the way of innovation, he writes. It's been nearly nine years since the last Payne game, but aside from a few tricks here and there, this is mostly the same experience.

As far as the level of difficulty goes, Max Payne 3 is said to be enough of a challenge but also fair. With multiple checkpoint locations, players won't find themselves repeating much of the same material to clear a goal, according to CNet. Team Deathmatch in the multiplayer mode could be compared to the Call of Duty franchise, and contains new additions such as a target heat map that signifies players as to where on their body they have been struck.

But of course, the overarching question is what does it take to get a game like Max Payne 3executed successfully? Is it about impeccable gameplay or an engaging plot that is as addictive as Payne's painkillers? An ideal world would include both. But Destructoid's Allistair Pinsof makes an interesting point that can communicate how these two elements can intertwine.

Developers shouldn't be inspired by the mechanic of player activated slow-motion, he writes. Instead, they should focus on the effect framing a player's actions can have on combat. 'God of War' and 'Uncharted' achieve the same impact by presenting wide cinematic angles during platform segments.

Max Payne originally debuted in 2001 with its sequel premiering in 2003. If you haven't already seen it, check out the trailer for the upcoming third installment which hits stores tomorrow on May 15th.

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