I’ve had two quite profound demonstrations this week of how a simple difficulty setting can drastically change your perception of a game. My first was with Fire Emblem; after recalling just how much time I spent raging against the GBA incarnations whenever I lost a character I decided to save myself a lot of bother by turning permadeath off, but this removal of all risk from the equation turned most of the campaign – and especially the end of it – into a braindead steamroller. Fire Emblem just isn’t meant to be played that way, and I gained a new appreciation for just how fundamental that feature is the overall feel and flow of the game. Max Payne 3 has given me the complete opposite experience, however. I dialled the difficulty up to Hard because that tends to be the only way I can get challenge out of these interactive shooting galleries these days, only to have this throw many of the game’s shortcomings into sharp relief. With a more accommodating difficulty setting I probably wouldn’t have noticed; giving me more latitude to make mistakes means the game has more latitude to make mistakes, and I would have breezed through the entire thing and ended up assessing the combat system as “functional” when in fact it’s actually one of the most poorly-designed shooters I’ve ever seen.