A great addition to the franchise.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present Max Payne. New York's finest, with the biggest mobster bodycount ever.
It’s been almost 9 years since we’ve last seen Max Payne. Rockstar Games had a lot to prove taking on the continuation of this classic PC third person shooter, since the original developer- Remedy- parted ways with Max in 2002, when they sold all the rights to Take-Two Interactive. Has Rockstar succeeded in making a true, worthy sequel, or is Max Payne 3 a max pain to play?
I didn't like the way the show started, but they had given me the best seat in the house, front row center.
Before the release, there has been a lot of controversy regarding the new setting of the game. While the predecessors have been placed in New Noir York City, a large part of Max Payne 3 is set in São Paulo, Brazil. Indeed, the grim, dark streets filled with Russian mobsters and Valkyr junkies are no longer here, instead they have been replaced with nightclubs, favelas and luxurious cruise ships. After the events of Max Payne 2, our antihero returns to his home in New Jersey, where he lives the life of self-pity. That is until he meets Raul Passos, a former colleague from the police academy, who is doing a private security job for the Branco family. Max and his friend engage themselves in a conflict with the mob, and soon Max is forced to move out to Brazil as well. As you might suspect, things don’t work out well for him. Seriously, has things ever worked out for him?
Your past has a way of sneaking up on you. You'll hear broken echoes of it everywhere, like a bad replay.
Needless to say, Max doesn’t turn out to be a good bodyguard. Half-drunk all the time, addicted to painkillers that he downs with whiskey, he simply cannot do his job properly. This results in the boss’ wife, Fabiana, getting kidnapped. These are things you learn in the first 15-20 minutes of gameplay, but I’m not going to spoil anything more, since the story is fantastic. The plot, characters, and dialogues are top-notch, and even after you finish the game it is worth to play it again just to notice little nuances in the characters’ development. James McCaffrey, who returns as both a voice actor and as a mo-cap actor, delivers an absolutely stellar performance. Payne’s famous monologues make a return, although the flowery metaphors are more often than not replaced by harsh cynicism and bitter nihilism (I needed a real drink to deal with the electronic music and the robotic people). Despite having a nonlinear narrative, the story is rather easy to follow through the heavily edited cutscenes, definitely reminding me of movies like Man on Fire (some key words in the dialogues are highlighted in the scene). The old comic-panel storytelling device is gone, but the flashy cutscenes definitely make up for it. Their visual aspect, heavily inspired by IO Interactive’s Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, actually plays a large role in storytelling as well. It represents Max’s constant hangover and tipsiness, with cut-up, multi-framed, noisy scenes, flashing lights and weird camera angles reminding me on my own drunken ventures and the morning afters, but let’s not get into that. Overall, Max’s story is an engrossing, brilliant experience, and what’s even more important, it keeps in touch with the noir aspect of Max Payne 1 and 2.
Firing a gun is a binary choice. Either you pull the trigger or you don't.
Max Payne 3’s gameplay is the old-school fun you remember from the previous games. There is a massive arsenal of weapons to choose from, ranging from revolvers, through micro SMGs and ending with a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher. However, you can only wield two one-handed weapons and one two-handed weapon at a time. If you choose to dual-wield, you drop the larger weapon. The cool thing about it is, all weapons are shown on Max’s body throughout cutscenes as well, and the way he reloads his pistol while holding a shotgun in another hand at the same time is one of the finest animations in gaming to date. Here comes the first complaint though, after each cutscene, and there are a LOT of them, Max defaults to his one-handed weapon, which might sound like a minor thing, but is actually quite annoying and breaks the immersion slightly. It is something that should definitely be fixed in a future patch. The old gameplay mechanics are still here- both bullet time and shootdodge make a return, and you absolutely need to use them if you want to stay alive. You might think that the game has been dumbed down because of the newly introduced cover system, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only does the health not regenerate even on the lowest difficulty setting (painkillers make a return as well, so you can’t make Max suck a thumb for a few seconds to recover), but the cover is also fully destructible. And so are the enemies. Max Payne 3 is mercilessly brutal. The developers take pride in that it seems, since there is a button that allows you to slow down time to see your bullets shot at the last enemy in the area. And then allows you to shoot him some more. With 50 bullets more. To the chest. By the time the guy is down, his body has more lead in it than blood, and each of the wounds gushes blood and leaves bloodstains on clothes as well. The game utilizes the Euphoria physics engine known from GTA IV, and although some hilarious glitches might occur, you can feel the impact of the bullet with every shot, and seeing an enemy stumbling over a set of stairs never gets old. The game is a majestic theatre, a wet dream of John Woo and Chow Yun-fat, and a glorious sight to any gamer. The environments intensify the firefights even more- from shattered glass, through empty shells bashing the floor with every shot, to massive splinters falling off of wooden surfaces; the game is a truly thrilling ride throughout all 14 chapters, lasting about 9-12 hours.
It wasn't about how good you were. It was chaos and luck and anyone who thought differently was a fool.
When it comes to multiplayer, I have mixed feelings. The maps are well balanced for the amount of players that can play at the same time (16), yet, paradoxically, the gameplay is way too chaotic. You have your classic character progression system, with hundreds of ways to customize your character both visually, and in terms of abilities. These abilities, called “bursts” are basically perks known from Call of Duty. Some of them increase your damage; one grants you Bullet Time (which actually works great in multiplayer), another one makes you appear as a teammate to your enemies. One game mode I really liked is called “Payne Killer”, where two players take a role of Max Payne and Raul Passos; they start up loaded with ammo and Bullet Time, and if you manage to kill one of them, you become either Raul or Max. One of the most marketed gamemodes, Gang Wars, is a hit or miss when it comes to actual enjoyment. When you play GW, you have a set of objectives you have to accomplish, and the set of objectives may change depending on which team wins the round. However, Max Payne 3 is hardly an objective based shooter, and many players are simply running around killing dudes, without caring about the objectives at all. And honestly, I can’t really blame them. Objective based gameplay doesn’t have a place in a Max Payne game, just like a simple deathmatch doesn’t fit in ARMA or Operation Flashpoint. I understand that Rockstar tried to improve the longevity of the game, but they also could have introduced mod support, since there were countless of those for MP1&2 which greatly improved the lifespan of these games.
A bomb went off in my head.
Max Payne 3 uses an updated version of Rockstar’s RAGE engine, known from games like GTA IV or Red Dead Redemption. The aforementioned cinematic effects give the game a unique atmosphere, and the engine is more than capable of displaying graphics worthy the PC platform.
Rockstar prepared a galore of settings and options for the PC owners. The game supports triple and six head monitor support, scalable water and shadow quality, along with a lot of command line parameters, ranging from anything from forcing the game to run in DX 9.0 to changing your language in-game. Max Payne 3 also fully supports DX11, and brings with it some effects we already know- like tessellation or bokeh depth of field. The team increased the details on both characters and vehicles, along with increasing the resolution of the cutscenes. By the way- even though they are basically just *.bik files, you don’t really notice a difference in quality when compared to in-game footage. Too bad we don’t get those in real-time though, which would bring the game size down significantly from the 30 gigabytes it currently requires. The port is extremely well done, and the game runs silky smooth (60+ FPS) on my rig, which, to be honest, I did not expect. Considering the GTA IV port fiasco, I just hope that Rockstar learned its lesson and the upcoming GTA V will be an excellent port, just like Max Payne 3 is.
The game’s score is bloody fantastic. The eclectic, brutal soundtrack by a New York rock band HEALTH is probably one of the best ones I had a pleasure to listen to in the last year. Additionally, the music is completely dynamic, so when there is a lot of action going on, the drums are heavy and loud, while when you’re just walking around, it gets quiet. The dramatic percussion, heavily distorted guitars and memorable tracks are one of the many reasons this game so enjoyable and satisfying.
I didn't deserve to walk away. There are no happy endings.
Rockstar has taken a lot of risk reshaping one of the most popular games on the PC. It can’t be denied that Max Payne 3 is a proper successor to previous games, and is a beautiful and well technically designed shooter. What little bugs there are, they do not hinder the experience in a significant way, and fun multiplayer modes improve the game’s longevity, making this product a game definitely worth buying.
+ Max Payne still feels like Max Payne
+ Actually difficult!
+ Bullet Time is as fun as ever
+ Fantastic story and characters
+ Ą great artistic design
+ A fantastic port
+ Great soundtrack
+ Some multiplayer modes are fun
-… But some are hit or miss
- Little glitches here and there
- No dedicated servers
- Prerendered cutscenes
- No mod support