Max Payne 3 Review
We start the newest chapter of Max Payne's life in Sao Paulo, a fresh new setting for a series that has not been touched in over 9 years. We meet an older, more cynical, and more pissed off in general Max then we are used to. In this review I will discuss how Max Payne has changed, and how he has improved over the years of his absence. Has Max's aging rendered him obsolete in the gaming world? Stay with us to find out.
Max Payne games have been known in the past for their visceral, cutting edge game play, innovative ideas and also very simple but satisfying gun play. Max Payne 3 is no different, with a simultaneously intuitive yet versatile cover system and bullet time system, you will be flying over barricades and putting holes in enemies skulls in no time. Hand in hand with this bullet time system is a slow motion cam. This cam will deliver heart stopping and brain numbing visuals of the last enemy in every room getting a healthy dose of bullets to the area of your choosing. The gun play is an incredible mix of elementary concepts that are easily learned but at the same time complex enough that it can be built upon throughout the entire game. The player will find themselves in constant new situations that merit a different use of bullet time and bullet dodging. The game play is not flawless however, and is particularly week in the areas of cover, where the player will often find themselves jerking out of cover completely by accident, or vaulting too far into a rain of enemy fire. This is a hindrance to the game play, but in no means does it completely ruin it.
Constantly mixed with the satisfying, fast (or slow) paced gun play are moments of forced bullet time, where max will use a set piece in the area in order to face off against a large group of enemies. You feel completely in control and ridiculously awesome as you slide down a rappel line, desert eagle in hand, and you lay a bullet in every single one of the enemies in your path. These set pieces are common, but not too much of a burden and occur at exactly the right amount of instances. Along with these forced bullet time scenarios, are several vehicle scenarios, which do not occur very often but seeing Max hang out of the side of a bus and shoot oncoming enemy vehicles never really gets old.
The game play is fundamentally based around the acquisition of painkillers and the sporadic use of them throughout the levels. There is a feature that will become well known to all players, where Max is shot to near death, and he uses a pain killer in order to go into last man standing mode. This last chance will save your life in many situations, but if you miss your mark you will die like any other mortal. I found this feature to be interesting, but I had to rely on it far too much. You are also required to shoot the person who shot at you specifically, if you miss your mark, you must restart. The pain killer aspect of the game is a mechanic present in all the Max Payne games, but here it is taken to an all new level. Each time Max takes a pain killer he has a new line of dialogue, justifying why he needs to take it, like a grumbling addict. This variety reflects the developers intention to make pain killers essential to game play, and it works flawlessly.
The sound in this game is phenomenal. Players of the older games in the series will notice an instant improvement over the older, dated sounds of Max Payne 1 & 2. Without even mentioning the unparalleled voice acting. The sounds of gunshots penetrating the cover around max, hitting your marks and spilling out across the floor is entirely immersing. The player can hear the frantic footsteps of his enemies and himself with ease, and is instantly alerted by shouting enemies when they enter the room. The sound quality is superb and crisp, and it is clear much effort has gone into the recording of the in game sounds.
In unison with the in game sounds is a stellar soundtrack that reflects the dark, sardonic nature of the Max Payne universe. It is the same old Max theme song heard through the menu screen, bringing many gamers back to the place in their heart held dear to this series. You immediately feel sorrow, mixed with cynicism and a growing passion as the score reaches its crescendo. Along with this theme music is well placed music within the game, which amplifies the scenario that Max is faced, whether it be a frantic car chase or a crumbling building. The score also makes a very satisfying appearance late in game, which everyone will experience and enjoy.
An issue I found with the sound is that it lacks a certain ambiance. There are several recognizable sounds that occur multiple times, such as the creaking of doors, pain killers and button presses. These sounds are necessary and understandable, but the game lacked a certain life beyond this. In Brazil, there are no noises of animals or of life inside the favellas. Perhaps this was intentional by Rockstar, but I felt that there could have been more background sound added to this game. This is a small concern but keeps the sound from a perfect score.
Max Payne 3 makes excellent use of Rockstar's RAGE and Euophoria engines, delivering astounding detail from facial expression to bullet wounds.
Environments in Max Payne are beautifully rendered and refreshingly varied settings. The game will take you on journeys from the grimy interior of a favella to a modernized office building and a lush forest all in one sitting. Everything looks near flawless on the PC, which is the platform I am basing this review on. You can see the detail of every interior surface just before it is destroyed in a hail of gunfire, which makes it all the more satisfying. Aside from the praise in the graphical department, players will notice the occasional map glitch, and the more than occasional glitch in posture from Max himself, making some transitions from cover jarring.
The guns are modeled well, but offer nothing in particular too interesting. You have your standard run of the mill arsenal: HE grenades, flash grandes, M4s, M16s, grenade launchers and the like. These guns all look reminiscent of the other games just with updated textures. The stand out feature here is a collectible feature which has you collecting the 'golden gun' equivalent of each weapon throughout the campaign. This feature makes re-playability and full exploration of each map viable, and is quite fun.
Arguably the best segment for last, the story of this installment of the Max Payne series is a breath of fresh air. True to form, the increasingly cynical and self defecating character of Max Payne has been thrown out from one world of chaos straight into another, except this time he's not on home turf. Max has been persuaded by his ex-academy pal Raul Passos. In the interim between the second game and the third, Max has become dangerously addicted to alchol and painkillers, and must fight both a physical and mental journey whilst defending a rich Brazilian family called the Brancos.
The story telling is top notch with excellent character & plot development that carries at a steady pace throughout the entire game, never letting you stop guessing or wondering what is going to happen next. Max Payne is perhaps the most relatable of psychopathic killers in the video game industry and you will find yourself growing more and more attached to his personal issues and moral dilemmas. The writers throw you into his world brutally with spectacularly delivered voice acting in the form of first person narrative from James McCaffery himself. James is supported heavily by a cast of voice actors who are equally as strong in their performances. Along side of this superb voice acting is a motion capture system that adds layers to the story in the form of emotional conveyance from the main characters. Max Payne now shows remorse, anger, and more dimension than he ever has before from the aid of facial expression, body language and voice acting.
Max Payne is no longer the noir-esque, comic book driven character he was in the first two games. In Max Payne 3, he is a balding, addicted mess and it really shows through his conversations and the numerous cutscenes strewn throughout the game. While some may find these scenes overbearing, I believe that it is a worthy investment to grow closer to the character you are journeying through the game with, and ends up being a satisfying pay off. The setting of Sao Paulo is an interesting choice. Rockstar took a gamble with leaving the streets of New York and I truly believe that it paid off. Brazil is widely recognized for being riddled with violence, much as New York has been famous for in the past. The difference is, New York has been done time and time again by game, film studios and other media. The favellas of Brazil provide a refreshing change and are shown as a perfect proving ground for Max in his journey to self realization and catharsis. In the lowest point of the city, Max must find himself and see if he can release his accumulated baggage, and move forward to save countless people from the evils of the rich families.
I will start this section out by saying, THIS GAME IS HARD. For fans of the series and newcomers alike, this game is an overwhelmingly tough game in some situations. There will be points where the player will find themselves, even on normal mode, tossing their controllers in frustration. This is not due to any sort of lack of game play balance by Rockstar, but more due to my own indecision on whether to run and gun or to take cover and take pot shots at your enemies. Players must find a healthy balance between the two or will be relentlessly murdered. Even for those who fancy themselves familiar with third person shooters, I advise you to take your time throughout this game. The difficulties progress from Easy to Old school, or cake to batshit insane. In old school, players will not have the aforementioned ability to get back up after their health is drained, so beware.
Before I go into this final segment, know that this is just the way my reviews are structured. I personally do not feel that re playability will have any impact on your enjoyment of Max Payne 3, and my final score will not reflect this segment, but I digress. Max Payne 3 offers incentive for re playability, such as collectibles and un lockable difficulty modes, but unfortunately not enough. The campaign is a lengthy 10-12 hours and unless you are the type of player who is gung ho for achievements you will most likely not be interested in replaying it. On top of the lack of collectibles and other incentives are un-skippable cut scenes that will most likely turn people off from relpaying the game even more. There is also a fairly decent multiplayer mode with your run of the mill customizables, and offers a few hours of fun, but most of your moneys worth will be coming from the game's campaign.
Max Payne 3 is a stellar game. With excellent actors, who communicate through voice and visuals a story of pain and suffering of one of the most interesting characters I have ever witnessed in my gaming history. You will want to travelwith Max on his journey of hardships, fully knowing the consequences of your actions. His moral dilemmas will become yours, and you will help him carry his burden, and suffer others deceit, through this fantastic title. Max Payne does something that most games dare not do, it thrusts you into a world that is shitty, and forces you to work with it, and never lets up. This is a game that should not be missed by any mature video game fan, and is a must buy in my opinion.
Max Payne gets an A
I will be posting a video review of this game tomorrow, on my channel of the same name.