It’s been around 9 years since the industry has seen a Max Payne release. What has our favorite gritty, cynical, and self-angst ridden hero been up to since then? You guessed it, drinking himself silly and popping painkillers.
Max Payne reinvigorated the third person shooter genre by infusing it with cinematic action, comic-book style cuts scenes, a strong narrative, and a bullet time feature taken straight from our favorite John Woo films. It looks like history will repeat itself as Max Payne 3 stays true to its roots while telling a compelling story and introducing new game mechanics other developers should think about implementing into their next shooter.
Max Payne 3 adds more realism to gameplay which translates to the amount of weapons you can carry, his movements during combat, and how he reacts to his environment. Max can feel quite sluggish at first but you do get use to it fairly quickly. Max isn’t getting any younger you know.
Max now has quick assess to his weaponry with a Weapon-Wheel that is similar to the one in Red Dead Redemption. He can carry three weapons total, two are single-handed which can be dual-wielded, and one two-handed weapon such as a rifle or shotgun. It’s the little things that matter in Max Payne 3 and the attention to detail on Rockstar’s behalf is very commendable. If you are equipped with a rifle for example, Max will carry it on his side while he is shooting with a pistol, and will cradle it under his arm when he reloads the pistol. The weapons work and feel like their real counterparts, and your enemies react to every individually modeled bullet like they were really shot.
Bullet Time has been upgraded to include a more realistic shoot-dodge and Max will brace for impact when dodging into or over objects and obstacles. A Bullet Cam has also been added that showcases the last kill made in a specific area or wave of enemies. The unlucky guy at the end of your gun will react to every shot being made thanks to the Rage engine physics. It’s quite a guilty pleasure unloading a clip into a goon while he dies in a cinematic fashion.
To escape a trip to the pearly gates, the Last Man Standing feature automatically uses a painkiller if Max is fatally shot, and in Bullet Time can enact revenge against the enemy who pulled the trigger giving you a chance at survival. Who ever thought that a drug problem could one day save your life?
Max can take cover this time around, but the feature is very basic in its approach. You will definitely resort to using cover when the bullets are flying everywhere, and you need time to pick your targets and take a painkiller to make that annoying red go away on your life bar.
The only real “problems” I encountered in Max Payne 3 are the controls do need more fine-tuning than other shooters to play it comfortably. There are a number of reticule, aim assist, and other options that can help you play it according to your own style, but this might intimidate new players. Max Payne can also be a little too agile at times, and you could find yourself having to regain control of his movements while he twists and turns during combat. There are also some glitches in the game, but nothing a patch wouldn’t fix.
The Life of Max Payne
Rockstar Games can definitely tell a good story, and Max Payne 3 is no exception to this rule.
While drinking himself stupid and feeling sorry for himself, Max accepts a job offer from a former police academy colleague named Raul Passos. Circumstance causes Max to take Raul’s proposal and leave New York so he can finally have a break from his old life. He finds himself in São Paulo, Brazil protecting the family industrialist named Rodrigo Branco. Rodrigo’s wife Fabiana is kidnapped by a gang called the Comando Sombra, and it is up to Max to bring her home. Not everything is as it seems on the surface, as Max becomes involved with something bigger and much darker than he ever expected.
Max is such a great character to listen to and his cynical view of the world becomes part of your gameplay. His personality shines brightly in this sequel, his addictions however can become cliche after a while of seeing him punish himself with alcohol and drugs throughout the campaign.
The game is very linear and at times will put you into the next area without you being ready for it. You can search for clues that give your more insight on your task at hand, additional painkillers, and pieces of golden weapons, but don’t take too much time searching for them. Even when the game believes you are taking too much time in an area a reminder becomes part of the narrative as Max will recall why he has to hurry or Raul might just keep bugging to move along. You won’t be too disappointed in the length of the single player campaign, as it should take you about 8-10 hours to complete.
Max Payne 3 is a very dark tale, and gets darker with every level. I enjoyed how the cut scenes flow into gameplay and the overall presentation of the narrative when key words appear on-screen. Just when you think you know what is about to happen next, the unexpected hits you upside the head like the butt of a gun.
Graphically, Max sure did age well
Max Payne 3 is very easy on the eyes with locations that are colorful, sharp, and filled with personality. The environments add to the difficulty because they are created realistic, and I didn’t feel like every level was tailor-made for action shooters. For example, there is a level that finds Max and Raul in a Football Stadium (Soccer to us ignorant Americans). I really had to think about what I could use for cover because objects or walls don’t scream “Get behind me!”
Share your Payne with friends (Multiplayer)
The multiplayer is a great addition to the franchise and doesn’t feel like it was thrown in last-minute. Max Payne 3 has the standard multiplayer modes plus some new ones like Payne Killer, where the first killer and victim in the match take the role of Max and Passos, and Gang Wars which turns a multiplayer match into an event that resembles the single player campaign with shifting objectives and narrative included. Throw in Bursts that grant special abilities and you have a solid multiplayer experience.
The gameplay in the single player translates very well into multiplayer. You can shoot-dodge and use Bullet Time to give you and your teammates an advantage. The variety in character customizations, gear and items, and weapons gives the multiplayer the depth it needs to keep you coming back for more. Flying in the air in slow motion while shooting at your friends feels very new and satisfying once you fine-tune the controls to your liking, and if someone on the other teams kills you too much for your liking, enact a vendetta on them and get revenge.
The Crews you create on the Rockstar Social Club can be used on Grand Theft Auto V and are multiplatform. You gain more XP during a match when you are playing in a crew, so find some friends to run with.
Should You Play This Game?
Yes, especially if you are a fan of the Max Payne franchise.
Max Payne 3 marks the return of the modern noir character created by Rockstar Games in 2001. The franchise left a great first impression on me when it debuted, and Max Payne 3 is like reuniting with an old friend. Playing the game could be compared to riding a bike, but everything about the bike has been upgraded and polished. However, new players to the franchise and the shooter genre might be intimidated by its flexibility and realistic controls.
I’m glad my old friend is back, and brought with him some of the most satisfying gameplay I have experienced this generation.