Max Payne 3 Review
On the face of it, Max Payne 3 is your average third person shooter. Grizzled protagonist. Exotic location. Hoards of never ending bad guys. Cover, pop, shoot gameplay. Sounds a little bit like everything else, right? Wrong! Max Payne’s newest outing is one of the best shooters of this generation. It takes everything that similar titles do, but builds upon them with fantastic new mechanics and a story that puts other titles to shame.
In case you don’t know, the franchise – beginning on the last generation of consoles – tells the story of Max Payne. A New York city detective whose life spirals out of control after the brutal murder of his wife Michelle, and six month old daughter Rose in a home invasion. Max becomes addicted to painkillers, cheap whiskey and loose women. He leaves New Jersey, and his painful past, to move to Brazil and become the personal guardian of businessman Rodrigo Branco. However, after everything takes a turn for the worse, like most of Max’s life; he winds up in a unfamiliar city, searching for both the truth and his sanity.
You can, in simple terms, compare Max Payne 3 to games like Uncharted 3 or Gears Of War 3. Duck. Cover. Kill. Too many enemies, even more bullets. One linear path created for violence and story. And yes, to be honest, this is what Max Payne is, but the shooting is tight and the learning curve is spot on. The game’s linearity (ie enter, murder, rinse, repeat) works fantastically for the bloodthirsty noir story that’s being told. However, with the introduction of bullet time, shoot dodge and last man standing, Rockstar has turned an ordinary formula into something extraordinary.
Rockstar has turned an ordinary formula into something extraordinary
Bullet time and shoot dodge, some of the staple features left over from Max Payne 1 and 2, allow Max to slow down time in order to dive, duck and weave away from imminent death and to take a few pot shots at the bad guys. Well, when I say pot shots, you will be spending almost all of your time in slow-mo. Thanks to the cover system, combined with his special talents, Rockstar have stripped down Max’s health. Due to the fact that health is non-rechargeable (Shock! Horror!), you will find yourself having a slither of health, no painkillers (Max’s “health packs”) and a slew of enemies to take out. Gracefully gliding in beautiful slow motion through the air with a precise aim is the only way to escape that situation alive. The game naturally builds tension because of this and makes you feel like a serious bad-ass when you pull off an awe inspiring dive. But what if you don’t pull it off? Max can make a last ditch attempt to cheat death by getting the guy that got you, providing that you have a painkiller left.
The animation system is a revelation. No other system stands up to what’s in Max Payne 3. From the way Max moves around the environment, stands up, rolls over. The way he bounces off cover and smashes into walls during misaimed dodges. Max even throws his arms out in order to brace his fall. For the techy nerd that I am, it’s a pure joy to see. With the next Grand Theft Auto waiting in wings, I can’t wait to see what Rockstar do next.
In Max Payne, story and character are key. Honestly, it took me by surprise. Just when you think the story is going one way, it swerves and takes off in the opposite direction. The ‘stranger in a strange land’ storyline has been done a hundred times over, but never before have I felt such tension. Max is wrapped up in a world where he does not belong. Not really knowing what is going on, but still doing what he does best. Killing.
The ‘stranger in a strange land’ storyline has been done a hundred times over, but never before have I felt such tension.
While in most games the protagonists go from angry to slightly less angry via a mini genocide and the occasional witty quip, Max Payne changes throughout the course of the story. Anger, yes, but also regret, sadness, fear, trust, distrust, pity, hate and more. It’s been a long time since a video game’s lead has been so three dimensional. It’s a shame then, that I feel every other character is so flat. Everyone in the game is either overly shady, overly nice or just a bit of a dick. The only exception being Max’s boss Rodrigo, who at one point breaks down and tells all, but he isn’t featured enough for it to matter.
While on a slight down turn, there are a few graphical, audio and technical problems too. I did once manage to stray away from the path the game set for me because a cutscene didn’t trigger. I then preceded to fall off the earth. There were also a couple of situations where music didn’t load properly. However, I have noticed zero pop-in, despite incredible environmental detail and an astonishing draw distance.
Like Red Dead and GTAIV before it, Max Payne 3 features a very robust multiplayer mode that takes place in the same world as the single player – same locations and characters. You can trigger your bullet time here, but in only limited quantities. In addition to it, there’s quite a few surprises in multiplayer in the form of other select abilities, crew wars, wagers and custom loadouts. There are the standard deathmatch and team deathmatch, as well as the story driven gang war mode, although the setup is rather flimsy. You earn money and experience to open up new weapons, clothes and abilities and earn XP to progress up levels. As far as multiplayer goes, it’s very well thought out, and if you’re a fan of the third person shooter, has the possibility to keep you playing for a while.
The real takeaway to all of this is that there are three real driving forces behind wanting to play any game: gameplay, story and multiplayer. Max Payne 3 does each one incredibly well, with facets that are both surprising and unseen in any other game in recent memory. To give it anything less than almost top marks would be fastidious and overly-critical.
Version Tested: Xbox 360 | Price: £39.85 | Buy