Max Payne 3
Reviewer: Javier Ivan Vargas
Release Date: 05-15-2012
Thu 19 Jul 12
No Payne, No Gain.It's hard to believe that it's been more than eight years since the last Max Payne. Being first announced back in 2004, the game has been delayed numerous times and many thought the title would never see the light of day. But now, Rockstar Vancouver has brought to us the latest installment in the Max Payne saga. It may have taken them a while, but its better late than never.
The series continues with Max Payne deep in rock bottom, trying to start a new life in an attempt to leave the past behind him. The man's breakfast consists of painkillers with a nice cup of whiskey and a few cigarettes just before bed. Max finds new work at Sao Paulo, Brazil thanks to his light-hearted friend Raul Passos. The two work together as private bodyguards protecting the wealthy Rodrigo Branco, along with the rest of his obnoxious family. Little did they know that they set themselves on a course of chaos, making trouble find Max once again, and setting his inner demons loose.
What makes Max Payne's noir narrative unique is its comic book flow and style. Panels split the screen during cutscenes adding drama or emphasis on key moments, and certain lines are displayed momentarily. It sounds cool on paper and it looks even better when you're playing the game, but I only wish theses effects were used more often than they were. The game does have decent pacing with some great flashbacks giving insight to why Max is where he is. Its incredibly cinematic as Max narrates during gameplay and never puts the story at a halt. However, the heart of Max Payne 3 lies in its adrenaline-rush action and bloody-fun gunplay.
Using a variety of weapons including pistols, SMG's, shotguns, and rifles, the game has you clearing out rooms of baddies using Max's time-slowing signature move, Bullet-Time. Bullet-Time makes you a harder target allowing you to get the upper edge on enemies with more precise aim thanks to the game's tight controls. There is a minor issue with trying to get into cover at times as it could be a little clunky. In this mode, you can actually see every bullet whiz through the air and fly past Max as well as seeing blood spurt and bullet shells fly.
While the concept of going into room after room of dispatching gangs does sound like it could wear thin, you have to pay more attention to the action to fully appreciate it. Max takes damage easily (even on the easiest difficulty) and although you can use painkillers to numb his pain, it still encourages you to take each gunfight with a tactical approach, making it suspenseful as much as it is fun. I've actually found blind firing a good use as it can be used to take advantage of their realistic hit reactions. Depending on where you hit them, your foes will actually react to their wounds crying in pain and will sometimes fall to the ground doing so. Shoot an enemy in the leg and they will stumble, giving you enough time to follow it up with a fatal headshot. And when they die, they don't just bounce around like a ragdoll; they will limp and collapse forward realistically, sometimes falling onto or over objects.
This may not be the best looking game out there, but it sure as hell still looks pretty good. While I do miss the streets of New York from previous games, Rockstar did nail the feel of being in Brazil. The visuals are vibrant and colorful for the most part but it can also be contradicting to the game's dark, gritty storytelling. Some character models can look better than others but there is a lot of attention to detail in the environments. Almost everything is destructible and random debris starts filling the air when the bullets start flying. Cover serves as a respite as it chips away with every bullet it takes, forcing you to think quickly on your feet. The best part, however, are the brilliant animations. From running to diving, to limping, there are hundreds upon hundreds of animations working in sync to give character models a very life-like fluidity.
James McCaffery makes a triumphant return as Max Payne giving a solid, gloomy performance as always. Not only are most performances well done, but the dialogue is also astounding especially Max. Almost every line he delivers is depressing, yet poetically mesmerizing. The soundtrack fits the game's moody vibe but it's nothing I would download after playing the game. The cacophony of gunfire is nothing new to us, but there is a lot of ambience going on in the environment be it a loud electronic song playing, or the screams of the innocent.
Now let's talk about the Multiplayer. This is another one of those scenarios where the fan base is skeptical about a single-player heavy franchise getting Multiplayer, but it ends up being a good addition to the game. The multiplayer is reminiscent of Red Dead Redemption but with its own twist. Actually, I find it just as enjoyable as the Single-Player, if not better than. The fact alone that it can integrate Bullet-Time seamlessly during gameplay is impressive enough. Only those in your line of sight will be affected by Bullet-Time, therefore allowing you to use Max's iconic dive on your friends. The maps are smaller (which is a good thing), and its much deeper than past Rockstar Games. There is a leveling up system for not just your character but also your guns. You can customize your avatars, weapons, perks, the whole nine yards.
The MP has you assuming the roles of multiple gang members fighting off in various unique modes like the objective-based Gang Wars, and (my favorite) Payne Killer mode; a mode that allows you to take control of Max or Passos and fight off the rest of the players. Whoever kills Max becomes Max, same with Passos. The catch? As Max and Passos you have a ready supply of adrenaline, deadly weapons, and painkillers. The constant flipping of sides changes the pace of the game and it's an incredibly satisfying mode to play.
Max Payne 3 tells a compelling, non-linear story about a broken man that's trying to forget his past and instead, has trouble find him all over again. While the gameplay may seem a bit narrow, its gritty narrative helps you care for Max as well as feeling his seclusion to a miserable world/life he ultimately despises. The campaign will take you about 10-12 hours to finish. Completing it will unlock extra modes and there are many collectibles to find but that still doesn't really give one motivation to go through more than a few times. The surprisingly good multiplayer steals the show here. I was really impressed with how Rockstar managed to bring Bullet-Time in the fray and include some engaging modes to play. The game has its few shares of weird bugs such as the screen being black, the music playing, but the game never loads. If you're a fan of high-octane action and a big emphasis on storytelling, then you'll love this game. While I wouldn't say it was worth the 8 year wait, and it may have been overhyped, I still enjoyed playing through Max's new adventure, one bullet at a time.