After the main chain of events had seen us reach the end of five matches, the final outcome affected the set-up for the finale. Much like the Eliminator in TV's Gladiators, success in earlier rounds buys you a slight head-start for the final showdown, but still leaves things open to a last-minute comeback. The scenario we played revolved around trying to seize control of the city's docks for gun running, but we're interested to see how the others will pan out. With four adaptive scenarios planned for each of the game's maps, there's plenty of scope for interesting variety - particularly when it comes to creating a cool sense of hierarchy within each team.
Having previously given it a once-over in single-player, the additions to the Bus Depot map aren't too tough to spot. Access to higher ground is the first obvious improvement, adding all manner of ladders and boxes to strategically scale. Rather than abusing high ground for cheeky camping antics, it's more common to fi nd yourself relying on surprise. Spotting a foe hugging the wall below your window feels like the perfect invitation for some impromptu shoot-dodging: leaping down from above with a semi-auto surprise.
When you aren't too busy leaping through windows, the advantages of height are mostly driven by flanking. While most online shooters favour easy-access empty doorways, Max Payne 3's use of swinging doors makes it far easier to defend buildings from the ground: simply point something nasty at the entrance to the room, and empty your clip every time the hinges threaten to move. Sneak up to higher ground, however, and it's often easier to catch enemies by surprise. Even when you can't find an alternate route in, it pays to pay attention to the nature of your surroundings: skylight windows and a well-placed flashbang open up a variety of exciting shotgun based opportunities.
Straight-up gunplay will see you through most fights, but that's just a taster of the power up your sleeve. In contrast to Call of Duty's pick 'n' mix perks, Max Payne 3's 'Bursts' provide an impressive array of tricks to play around with. There are due to be about 16 different Bursts to choose from in the full game, but the ones we've had a chance to try so far gave us a decent feel for the overall flavour. Apparently inspired by narrative themes ripped straight from the main game, our favourite Bursts so far rely on deception and betrayal. Triggering the Sneaky burst allows you to temporarily trick enemies into thinking you're on their team. It's a trick that proves to be invaluable when pinned down in a building: exit through the back and circle around to the front, and your attackers will often be fooled into thinking you're there to help them flush the enemy out. You head into the building first, we've got your back...
For a less direct but equally satisfying dose of double-crossing, Paranoia makes it difficult for the enemy to tell friend from foe - and at higher levels even offers bounties for any players tempted enough to murder one of their team in exchange for a quick and dirty cash reward. In order to take advantage of these skills you'll need to build up a cache of Adrenaline by killing, looting bodies and generally getting involved in the action. More Adrenaline means more potent boosts, but it's tough to fill up the three-stage meter and easy to drain it. Shootdodging takes up half a bar in exchange for the slo-mo, so think carefully about when you choose to use it.
Match up Bursts with the right kind of gear, and suddenly everything clicks into place. Heavy armour dents your movement, speed and stamina, but focus on deception and it isn't such a problem: why sprint into a hail of bullets when you can slowly walk straight towards them with poor intentions and a fully-loaded shotgun?
Online Tactics Weight plays a major factor in Max Payne 3's pacing, with the speediest weight class restricted to the absolute minimum. Go nuts on gear and you'll move like a tank, while twin-pistol mavericks will nip around much more quickly. Providing you play it right and use Bursts well, both have clear and immediate advantages.