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Max Payne 3: First look makes us feel like an action hero

The house of GTA brings Payne up to date...

If you were to tell Max Payne that time's a healer he'd laugh in your face.

Actually, he'd probably just grimace slightly and grunt into a tub of tablets before chucking a few back. Max Payne is the same grizzled shell of a man we left behind in Remedy's 2003 sequel.

A dead wife, a dead daughter; they're not the kind of wounds that heal, no matter how much time you give them.

We join Max as he arrives home to a shabby New York apartment with old friend Raul Passos. "Why are you living like this?" Passos asks - and he has a point. Payne's domestic set up makes for pretty crappy living standards but then it also allows for some pretty special game environments as well.

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Empty bottles of liquor decorate the tops of tables, shelves and the fridge, the general finish of the walls and ceiling is tattered, in one corner what looks like a bookshelf sits in a pocket of shadow.

A pull-down bed pushed up against the far wall is striped by shafts of dirty orange light shooting from a street lamp outside through slits in the blinds. They bend over the contours of Max's face as he sits on an old couch.

Passos tries to push Max towards an opportunity in private security with a family he currently works for. Finally a bit of luck for old Payne, you might think, but then the job is in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which up until recently is one of the most dangerous, gang-ridden cities in the world. Still, it's not like Max is adverse to a bit of violence.

The man-to-man doesn't last long between the two friends as it's interrupted by a very angry mob boss called Anthony DeMarco who screams and shouts outside Payne's apartment before sending his men to kill our hero.

Turns out Max Payne killed DeMarco's son. We're reliably informed that the kid was a nasty piece of work.

And so gameplay commences as Payne moves towards his door in an attempt to escape DeMarcos encroaching gangster army. They're pretty well kitted out, it seems, because around five or six red lasers suddenly cross the hallway waiting for Payne to show his face.

They fire a few shots as Passos makes a run for it, sending glass splintering all over the hallway floor. It's Max's turn next and, as he rolls into cover more shots are fired completely destroying the partition between windows one and two.

We weren't expecting that. To date, Rockstar Studios had failed to mention the fact that the world of Max Payne 3 is impressively destructible. The brick, wood and wallpaper react in real time to the barrage of bullets, realistically splintering and shredding until there's nothing left. For anyone else it'd be a big blown-up back-of-the-box feature, for Rockstar Studios it's just another addition to a world full of detail.

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And that detail really is everywhere, even behind doors that other games would probably leave locked. A strange occurrence illustrated that point perfectly, when one of Max's fellow residents suddenly left his room spouting some sort of poetry or scripture. He clearly wasn't quite all there and is that an explosive vest under his jacket?

The shaggy, squiffy man sprints off down the hallway to be apprehended by a few more of DeMarco's men before blowing them and much of the corridor's back wall clean away. Yep. Explosive vest.

That added, luxurious detail comes when we duck into the mentalist's abandoned room for a second. It looks like it's been lifted right out of Seven or CSI - basically it's a detective's dream with dozens and dozens of items scattered about the place giving clues as to who this guy was; military paraphernalia, maps, bomb making supplies, clothes hung up about the place. We'd love nothing more than to have absorb every last scrap but the old mob siege is something of a distraction. Maybe later.

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