9 years have passed since we last saw Max Payne diving through the air with reckless abandon and a worrying lack of respect for human life. In that time Max has taken a tumble down the slippery slope of alcoholism; and with his ongoing dependence of pain killers, Max is an all together darker character this time around. If Max Payne 2 was the fall of Max Payne, Max Payne 3 is Max hitting the bottom of a very deep hole, whiskey in one hand, gun in the other.
We join Max Payne, who still unable to get over the death of his wife and daughter but still needing to work – if nothing else just to support his drug and alcohol problem – as he flees his life in New Jersey for a “better life” working private security for a wealthy Brazilian family in Sao Paulo. However, thanks in large to Max being drunk, things don’t go to plan and the wife (or trophy wife to more accurately describe her) of one of the family gets kidnapped, Max embarks on a journey full of twists, turns and slow-mo bullets to get her back.
The game and story is filled with great memorable characters including a guy called Rodrigo who is the total antithesis of Max Payne, all of which are voiced brilliantly; and throwing all of these characters together with Max in the party environment of Sao Paulo creates a wonderful contrast which only serves to make Max an even darker character.
Speaking of environments, Rockstar have done a great job of recreating Sao Paulo and the vibrancy that goes with Brazil, really bringing the area alive. As your walking through the favelas, you’ll come across people having a party, kids playing football and an aid worker trying to immunise the poor giving you a real sense of the poverty in some parts of the country (which is the complete opposite of where Max has been working) all adding to the story, setting and character.
All this is good of course as it builds a great connection between you – the player – and the character your playing – Max Payne – However, when I first saw the trailer for Max Payne 3, I was slightly concerned that it had been made too vibrant and Rockstar had taken away from the noir-ness (yes that’s a word I just made up) that made the original Max Payne games so brilliant and was really one of the unique selling points, but I’m happy to say that that is not the case, as MP3 is still as dark as it ever was and still has a noir comic book feel to it, it’s just simply been brought up to date. This is never more clear than in the cut scenes, which keep the comic book/storyboard feel of the original games but is now animated like a more traditional cut scene, only with lines coming across the screen and certain words popping up. This combined with the screen intentionally losing colour and distorting whenever Max takes some painkillers, means that the comic book feel is never too far from your mind and does a great job of hammering home the mental fragility and general brokenness of Max while also tipping it’s proverbial hat to the original 2 games.
I’ve still not even mentioned how the game plays yet and that is probably because that’s where Max Payne 3 starts to fall down. Although there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the gameplay, and it doesn’t really take anything away from the game – because you’ll be having too much fun shooting bad guys in the face – it does feel like your controlling a rock sometimes, this is especially obvious after playing games like Gears of War 3 where popping in and out of cover and just moving around is smooth and easy. Rockstar instead, seemed to have opted for the same control method and movements as they had in the 2 original games which was great 9 years ago but times have changed and so has technology and it just seems very clunky and can more often than not, lead to some untimely deaths. For instance, I kept finding myself being stuck behind pillars and posts and this is never more prominent and annoying then when you go into ‘last man standing’. Last man standing is where you lose all of your health, and, if you’re carrying any painkillers, Max will automatically take some, spin around and aim at the guy who just shot you – all in glorious slow motion – and if you can kill him before you hit the ground, you’ll get back up again with almost full health. But with the controls and gameplay being what they are, I kept finding myself unable to shoot at the enemy due to a pillar being in the way of my aiming and stopping me spinning round, and due to the rather old fashioned check point system, I found myself having to start large sections again. However after a few deaths – and I hate this – the game starts to feel sorry for you and helps you out by first of all, giving you more ammo and then if you carry on dying, it will give you more painkillers and I feel that this really detracts from the game as it just means that it almost requires no skill to make it through a tough section.
As you would expect with Max Payne, the famous bullet time and shoot dodge features make a return and both work pretty well, you fill your adrenaline meter by shooting bad guys, the more adrenaline you have, the longer you can fly through the air in slow motion allowing you to shoot more guys in one go. Like I said, this feature still works well, but I found myself not really using it perhaps as much as I should, mostly because I didn’t need too. As Rockstar have done what everyone else has done since Gears of War and added a cover system which works better than the bullet time system. However enemies are smart and will try and flank you, so you need to be aware of what’s happening around you and make sure you have a backup plan otherwise you’ll end up having another slow mo last man standing death cam which may or may not work.
The single player campaign has a decent story and once you start it, you’ll want to see it through to the end and in fact, it’s a hard game to put down. With seventeen chapters I found it a decent length, it took me around 12 hours to beat, but that did include me dying a lot! And it will take even longer once you ramp up the difficulty as the difficulty spike is huge! If you think you died a lot on normal difficulty, it’s nothing compared to how often you’ll die on hard, but despite that, I found myself enjoying the tougher difficulty as it presented me with a real challenge.
Of course once you have gone through the campaign, you can try out the multiplayer. The multiplayer feels in no way just tacked on there, it’s been thought about and is actually very good. The usual multiplayer modes like team deathmatch and deathmatch are both there, as well as more imaginative modes like Payne killer and gang wars. Multiplayer has the same features as single player , such as bullet time and shoot dodge and work well, however the aiming and hit system can be a bit hit and miss (no pun intended). But hopefully that will be sorted out with a patch. These modes should keep you interested in the game for a long time to come and if you purchase the Rockstar season pass, you’ll be able to get all of the DLC at a reduced cost.
So all in all, Max Payne 3 is a great game and although it’s been modernised, it never loses sight of the original games and certainly has an old school feel to it, and although the controls are not always favourable, the game is still enjoyable. With it’s lengthy single player campaign and great multiplayer modes, Max Payne 3, despite it’s flaws, is a game you will want to play again and again.
Review Score : [starreview tpl=16]
Title : Max Payne 3
Format : XBox 360
Developer : Various Rockstar Studios
Publisher : Rockstar Games
Release Date : Out Now
Rockstar provided SlimGamer.com with a review copy of Max Payne 3