Max Payne 3 review (Xbox 360)
Hard-boiled shooter, or overcooked crime-fighter?
Filled with depression, anger and resentment, Max Payne 3 returns the eponymous bullet-dodging hero to form – full of cynicism and more weathered and beat-up than ever before. For Max, age is just a number – he’s in the best shape ever with the third outing in the series.
The story of Max Payne 3 picks up a little while after the events of the second game. Max has undergone a serious career change, as the once-celebrated New York cop is now serving as private security for a wealthy Brazilian family. The Sao Paulo vocation isn’t all sunshine and beaches though, as the wife of the wealthy family is kidnapped, sending Max on a journey of resentment and retribution for himself and those around him.
The story jumps back and forth through time showing how Max ended up in his current unpleasant predicament. Max Payne’s journey for redemption throughout the series has always been ill-fated, marked with sorrow and grim determination in the face of despairing odds, and Max Payne 3’s story is darker than ever before.
The story is conveyed through cut-scenes, primarily filled with Max’s own thoughts as he narrates and comments on his spiral down to an all-time-low. The themes here are dark, touching on everything from desensitised violence to poverty, but the real grit comes from Max’s own introspective look on himself.
His self-destructive lifestyle is highlighted throughout the game, showing his alcoholism consuming his thoughts and actions. Max’s awareness of his problems, his continual commentary, and his self-loathing makes the somewhat distant themes seem relevant and close to home.
The story is visceral, brutal, and most of all, it’s sad. It’s one of the strongest points of the game, and in typical Rockstar fashion, they deliver the voice-acting and performances in the most impressive of ways.
Max Payne 3 focuses Rockstar’s talent of producing a compelling gameplay experience, condensed into a solid and relatively linear experience – but it’s a good thing, because Max Payne’s progressive and narrative-focused campaign requires that degree of detail.
With the story and campaign on a tight, but pain-stakingly detailed track of revenge, the gameplay offers a bit of variety in the way you execute Max’s killing spree.
Bullet-time obviously returns and comprises the main hook of the gameplay. Players can dive, activate bullet-time in a normal firing position, as well as a new feature, which lets players shoot from the ground after a dive, rotating and firing instead of standing up and making yourself vulnerable.
A cover system has also been implemented, allowing Max to cling to walls for more stability and protection. The mechanic, which seems similar to that of Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption, works very well and actually comes into play quite a lot. It brings a good balance of structured gunplay and the visual panache of flying through the air in slow-motion, bullets flying and guns blazing.
The last addition comes in the form of Last Man Standing, which (if you have an available painkiller) gives players the chance to fire a few more rounds if they’ve been downed and are bleeding out. If your enemy is killed, you get a second chance and can re-join the action.
These new gameplay additions help bring Max Payne, who’s been out of the ‘game’ for a little while, into the current-gen of gaming, combining the feel and style of the franchise with a new elements to highlight the series’ foundations.
Despite Max Payne’s rough and bearded exterior, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Every level and detail on character models are refined with the utmost perfection, but the game manages to maintain the gritty and abrasive film noir feel that the series is known for.
There’s a great variety in the locales of the game, such as snowy New Jersey rooftops to sun-kissed Brazilian favelas, which provides a fresh feel to every environment you move through.
The detail of presentation also links the story and visual elements, as certain words and phrases appear on the screen in a comic-book styled caption, adding a lot of emphasis to the dialogue within the game.
With all this in tow, the real star of the show is the Euphoria animation engine. The real-world physics and reactions that the engine produces, brings every gunfight and bullet impact to life. It really feels as if your weapons and shots make a difference to the environment and enemies occupying them.
Max Payne 3 does feature a multiplayer component to the game, with some interesting game modes to boot. A variety of death-matches exist, with bullet-time coming into play through a perk known as a booster. There is also Payne Killer mode, which pits Max and his partner Raul Passos against hordes of other players. Thankfully Max and Raul are armed to the teeth with painkillers and weapons.
Gang Wars makes up the rest of the online foray, where missions and objectives are tied into the matches, in order to bring some of the parallel story moments to the multiplayer.
The multiplayer is a good addition to the series, and provides a relatively unique experience with its acrobatic third-person action, although on the downside, some gameplay elements, such as bullet-time, can often work against you and result in a lot of cheap deaths.
After the bullet shells settle, Max Payne 3 is another triumph for Rockstar, having taken the Max Payne helm from Remedy. It delivers exactly what fans should expect. The game manages to push the boundaries of how a story is told, while infusing heart-stopping gameplay – the experience gives every line of dialogue a meaning and every bullet a purpose.
Max Payne 3 is a compelling and captivating action experience worthy of the Max Payne name.
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