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I am, by my own admission, a compulsive gamer. If I'm playing something, and it tells me that its developers hid 200 random doodads all over the place, I know at some point that I'm going to have to poke around until I find every one of them.
It happened in Assassin's Creed, it happened in Alan Wake, and it happened in L.A. Noire (which is especially ridiculous, because its golden film reels are the most random doodads of them all). My collector lust is infamous among my friends, and I can't do much but shake my head at the amount of time I spend picking up imaginary crap. Damn it, it happened in Infamous, too! And, for that matter, Infamous 2.
It almost happened in Max Payne 3, but then Max saved me.
As you John McClane your way through Max's blood-soaked South American getaway, you can examine clues in the form of newspaper clippings, family photos, and dead people. Each of these things tells Max a little more about what's going on, and while they're never really out of the way in this aggressively linear game, some of them require you to step a bit off the path (as in, onto the shoulder; you never really leave the road).
Even with Max Payne 3's very limited range of exploration, I started to fear that I would get so obsessed with finding every little shred of information that I would spend more time doing that than I would diving towards guys in slow-motion and occasionally pulling out a second gun in mid-air so I could fire into a second group of guys off to the right after making an improbable turn and all the while I'm on my couch going, "Nghaaaaaaa…."
You know, the awesome shit that you get to do all the time.
Just when I had resigned myself to repeating my cycle of map-scouring, Max's internal monologue reached out of my TV and slapped me in the face.
I was checking every corner of an office that had seen better days for a clue, and Max said, "I can't just stand around. Gotta keep going."
I blinked. A video game character in 2012 was telling me not to explore.
That's weird, right? Don't most modern developers bandy words like "player choice," "freedom," and "exploration" around like shuttlecocks at the World Badminton Finals? Didn't Rockstar Vancouver help develop this game? They're the ones who asked me to track down 75 rubber bands in Bully. EFFING RUBBER BANDS.
But, no: In this game, by this people, the main character was telling me to get on with it. If I find clues now, I find them, but I have Max's permission to go ahead and keep playing the game.
It's not like those bad guys are going to shoot themselves in slow motion, is it?