Max Payne 3 review
As I stood in line waiting to pick up Max Payne 3, I noticed that I was surrounded but a ton of poorly dressed ( I was in my hometown of Orlando, after-all, and were not exactly known for our sense of style) fellow gamers around talking about the right-clicking exercise program known as Diablo III. This isn’t to disparage Blizzard’s title, in fact I found myself depressed that my lowly MacBook couldn’t handle the dungeon crawler.
Luckily, being in the mind set was a perfect way to start a night of murder, drug abuse and alcoholism playing Max Payne. After a few sweet-looking John Woo style shootouts, however, any sadness from not killing demons with my right middle finger left as I found myself fully engrossed in Rockstar’s first fray in the Max Payne series.
In Max Payne 3, we find our hero Max a broken man addicted to pills and booze. He has taken a protection job in Sao Paulo, Brazil where he is a bodyguard for the wealthy Bronco family. As par with everything in Max’s life, his job goes to hell and the wife of his employer is taken by armed thugs, starting Max on a journey to save her.
Of course being a Max Payne game, all is not what it seems and Max finds himself in the midst of a dark conspiracy. This plot take him from the jungles of Brazil to a Nightclub to the slums of Sao Paulo. Besides the present day timeline in South America, there are few flashback chapters take us to New Jersey that tells the circumstances that lead to Max leaving the U.S. for Brazil. I thought the different locations added a nice touch of variety that the previous two games lacked.
To me the strength of the Max Payne franchise’s story has always been the personal story of Max. Max Payne 3 doesn’t break this mold as Max’s struggle with his demons is much more interesting than the conspiracy he finds himself in. Rockstar makes it clear through his drinking and drug abuse that Max is hitting rock bottom pretty hard. Because of this, I found myself wrapped up in his “redemption” that he finds in the second act that I forgot about the main story.
Overall I enjoyed the story to this game. I have a weakness to neo-noir storytelling, so I can forgive some of the cliches found in the game from that genre. My only gripe is that the main villains of the game are bland and uninspired. I don’t think enough time was given to explain their motivation behind their extreme actions they take in the game.
Anyone familiar with the gameplay of the previous titles in this series should feel right at home with Max Payne 3. The 3rd person shooting with the Matirx style slow mo bullet time and shoot dodging is back. I experienced the same twisted pleasure from years past when I slow mo dove in to a room, mowing down thugs while watching bullets whiz by my head.
Some new tweaks to the gameplay have been added to enhance the game. These include the last man standing feature which allows you to, if downed by an enemy and you have a painkiller, kill your assailant to come back in the game. There are also setpieces where bullet time is automatically enabled and you have a window to kill as many enemies you can. These include an insane cable ride up three stories and a Dukes of Hazzard style boat jumping section and to me was a bit too ridiculous even for the one man killing machine known as Max Payne to pull off.
Rockstar also added a cover mechanic which as been often criticized by long-time fans of the series. Try would argue that the series was never about the “pop and shoot” style gameplay slows the game. I would say go back and play the precious game and you’ll find yourself awkwardly positioning Max behind a wall to find cover. To me Rockstar just validated a tactic we all used by allowing us to take cover and I’m thankful they did so.
I enjoyed myself as shot my way through seemingly half the Brazilian population in the main story. After playing the story, there is some arcade style modes that assign points to kills and what not; but I can’t say I care for those too much. Not that they aren’t well done, it’s just I have never been much of leaderboards junkie so I ignored this part of the game.
I do however see myself keeping the game disc in my 360 for another reason. The multiplayer was surprisingly fun as many of the same mechanics from the single player campaign make their to the online arenas. I almost dropped my controller in awe the first time another player and I had a shoot dodge standoff. Te game mode as standard fair with deathwatch and team deathmatch with some unique modes such as Payne killer where one player is max Payne and has his abilities until he’s killed by another player who assumes the role. There is also a mode called gang wars where Rockstar tries to give objective based rounds a plot that can change depending on what team wins what round. These game types are unique and I applaud the developers for trying something new, but I still much rather kill dudes in team deathmatch.
There are some flaws with multiplayer, spraying bullets like an asshole while dual wielding seems to work too well and some guns are utterly useless. Leveling also can be a big grind and higher level players seem to have unfair advantages by being able to carry more equipment in to games. Despite these flaws I liked the multiplayer and although it’s not ghost recon ( loving that game right now, review coming soon) I can see myself playing Max Paybe for a but before finally putting it down.
As with all of Rockstar’s titles, Max Payne 3 has excellent production value. The graphics look amazing and for the most part the voice acting is terrific. Max’s gruff voice narrates the story and conveys just how self hating Max has become. Despite the dark and violet tone of the game, there are some darkly funny moments to the game. The are often often social commentary given by Max and I found myself chuckling at some of the things he would say.
The style of the cutscenes ( and their length) will be a point of contention of many gamers. Gone are the graphic novel pages of previous games, and in their stead is a very “man on fire” cinematic style. There is texts of dialgoue appearing on screen, quick picture-in-picture shots, color saturation and other effects in cutscenes that fans of modern films will recognize. At first I found these a but jarring but after a while try grew on my and I ended up being a fan of these new look.
I loved the time I spent in the single player campaign in Max Payne 3, despite some minor flaws. I thought the twist in presentation and style that Rockstar added to the dormant series. I’m some will hate the different takes, but I believe that this is the exact thing the series needed. Much like Mass Effect 3, I found the multiplayer a fun, yet flawed experience. I would highly recommend picking up this long awaited title (if you’re right-clicking fingers are too sore that is.)