in Review

Max Payne 3

Max Payne has come a long way. His first game portrayed him as an ever-smirking gun ballerino, filling the world with bullets as he lived through a sad tale of comic book noire, unraveling the mystery that left his wife and daughter dead. His second game strongly resembled the first, with light gameplay and storytelling improvements. Since then, Max got to put Mark Whalberg and Mila Kunis together pre-Ted and series developer Remedy went on to make Alan Wake. Rockstar left Max in the capable hands of Rockstar Vancouver, the Bully guys, and after years of waiting, Max Payne 3 is finally here.

Perhaps bored of the noire genre after last year’s L.A. Noire, Max Payne 3 feels more like a Michael Mann movie than the comic book style of the preceding games. After being thoroughly depressed by the first two games, Max has taken a bodyguard job in Sao Paulo, where he protects a family of rich idiots with extreme contempt. He spends his time drinking hard and popping pills, which is painful to watch. The game has a weird digital style, somewhat like the second Kane & Lynch game, although Max’s narration is back and still the best part of the game. Comic panels have been relegated almost entirely to loading screens.

As a shooter, Max Payne 3 is perfectly competent. Max can still dual wield and dive and go into slow motion at will. He can take cover now, too, as this is a modern third person shooter. Since health doesn’t regenerate, Max can take painkillers to heal, which feels weird given what a negative effect they have on him in story cinematics – you almost don’t want to heal him. If that’s the approach you take, know that if you take a fatal hit, you have a chance to kill the guy who would have killed you at the cost of one pill.

This is a very linear game, as you might expect. It’s a series of fights and cinematics, with the cinematics in the majority. Rockstar games are known for their storytelling, and if you’re just in this for fun Matrix-esque gunfights, you might be disappointed by the sheer amount of time spent watching. And you know what, that’s totally fair. This is a game, not a movie, and not a Metal Gear Solid game, either.

Max Payne 3 also introduces multiplayer to the series, for reasons unknown. All the prerequisites are there, leveling, character customization, game modes. But what makes Max Payne‘s combat special is slow motion moves, which are weird when everyone gets to be in slow mo at the same time. I played a match or two and then returned the game to GameFly. I guess it’s fine, but not for me.

If you have an extreme fondness for the series, Max Payne 3 will probably make you happy in some way. It feels different from the other games, but the story does pick up stream eventually, and the combat is fine. But for the uninitiated, this is probably a series you can continue to avoid, as you’d be better served trying a different story-focused third person shooter, such as the Uncharted series.

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