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Max Payne 3 Review

May 27, 2012

I was right. Rockstar managed to pull it off and oh my, did they pull it off with all the style and finesse I expected.

The following review is spoiler free so please enjoy and hopefully I can inspire you to spend some hard-earned cash on one of the best third-person shooters on the market to date! Rockstar has masterfully recreated Max Payne in all its gritty and grungy glory.

First thing after the install (yes, an install … sigh) you are treated to a one time only opening cinematic once you press ‘Start’ at the title screen. The cinematic allows old and new players alike to catch up with Max as he arrives in his new apartment in San Paulo. First off, Max inspects his new surroundings, taking in the dirty downtrodden two-cent apartment. Second off, Max indulges himself in some familiar vices of his, e.g. strong liquor and painkillers. The cinematic shows new-comers how Max’s life has spiraled down the toilet, losing his wife and child, and becoming an out of luck loser ex-cop. Max’s struggle with his demons is apparent from the word ‘go’. This opening cinematic was the most impressive start to a game I have seen for a while.

Max Payne 3’s story is full of corruption, shady killers, uneasy allies, gore, betrayal and non-linear story-telling, all brought together under Max’s gruff and cynical internal monologue. Max and the rest of the voice acting is outstanding and worthy of mention, and Max’s trademark, insightfully long metaphors, is back, and they are delicious to behold: “I wouldn’t know right from wrong, if one was helping the poor and one was banging my sister”, “I had a bullet wound in my second favourite drinking arm and figured we would be getting Fabiana back in installments” and “These bastards made the NYPD look like the Hari Krishnas.”

Max’s story picks up with Max now acting as a bodyguard to the infamously rich and powerful Branco Family in San Paulo, but it is a short-lived peace before Max is pulled back into the world of gunfire and death that he thought he was leaving behind.

The writing is wonderful and the story is fleshed out with the harsh realities that each character faces. The lead writer Dan Houser has brought Max into a new environment and managed to keep the style, but include his own sweeteners. Could we expect any less from the man who wrote the critically acclaimed ‘Red Dead Redemption’?

I know that the writing has been attacked and Max described as a cliché, gruff, charmless sod, but given the genesis of the series it is spot on in recreating the Max from Max Payne and Max Payne 2. Criticising Max Payne 3 for being dry and full of long metaphors is like criticizing a comedy script for being silly or a drama for being dramatic.

Max himself shouldn’t be criticised for being charmless. He’s an anti-hero, a dark loner with his brand of moral justice.  An ex-cop, widowed, turned hired bodyguard. Of course he’s not going to be a happy go-lucky a la Nathan Drake, but he has his own gruff and sincere charm.

The environments are painstakingly detailed and just ooze atmosphere. You can feel the ‘stick’ of the dance-floor in one of the many clubs of San Paulo, you can feel the oppressive close heat of the favelas and the prudent smell of stale whiskey on Max’s breath. You can see the gloss of sweat and muck as Max’s world spirals out of his hands yet again.

The visual style is very unique, all the cinematics and in-game cutscenes are peppered with screen-flares, distortions, quick bleaches of mono-chrome and superimposed quotes from the characters. Some players may find them annoying, but once you have had five minutes with them, you will just accept them as Max Payne 3’s visual story-telling. This game just gives refreshment from the normal.

The gameplay is tight and easy to control. I believe I had a mistake at first by turning all aim assistance off, which caused many deaths, but since every gunfight was won by the skin of my teeth it only enhanced my experience and provided a much needed challenge in the genre I love best. You know what they say: ‘Go hardcore or go home’.

The gunplay is fierce, addictive and brutally unforgiving. Even on medium setting its about 3 – 4 shots before Max crumbles to the floor dead as a doornail. If you have any painkillers left you can perform a last stand. Kill the guy who got you and you are back in the game.

 

 

Painkillers act as your health packs. Yep, no regenerative health. A nice return to classic form. You sometimes find yourself going into fierce and deadly firefights with little to no health with no painkillers, and you get the real sense you will have to fight for your life. No matter how long you hide, you will need to take these guys down quickly or you are dead as the A.I is merciless and will try to out-flank you in cover. It gives a real sense of urgency and mortal peril that few games manage to pull off. Its makes the slow-motion last kill cam feel very satisfying, finally breaking through the crowd of gunwielding goons and watching as the last guy crumples under your last shot. The aftermath, however, is always quiet and just as unsettling. Max Payne keeps you on edge, your body constantly pumped full of adrenaline. It’s one hell of a ride.

Once you have finished the main campaign, you can enjoy the online multiplayer (which I haven’t tried yet), The Arcade mode or the New York Minute mode.

The Arcade mode lets you replay any chapter in one of two modes. There is score attack where you will earn points for style and risk in gunfights, while using painkillers wipes out your multipliers. Score attack will push you to play run and gun, and it’s a lot of fun pushing for more points to get that coveted platinum medal. New York Minute puts you up against the clock to finish each chapter in a short amount of time. If you manage to do that, you can try again on Hardcore New York Minute (which I have yet to unlock).

Max Payne 3 is one of the best third person shooters you fill find on the market. I say that with a heavy heart as I love the Uncharted series and know nothing will push them off my personal top, but damn, Max Payne 3 is bullet-dodging up that list. Watch out Drake!

Max Payne 3 is available on PS3 and Xbox 360 now and will be available for PC on the 1st of June worldwide.

Image Link: Rockstar Games: Wallpapers

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