By EpicSteve 2 Comments
I would have written a full-fledged review. I don’t have access to any real Internet in Afghanistan, so I was unable to check out the multiplayer portion of the game. I know these reviews aren’t “official” or anything, but something in me can’t tie a score and call the article a “review” without seeing the full experience.
It’s been a decade since we’ve last seen Max Payne. Booting up the game it was immediately apparent that Max Payne 3 won’t be anywhere near the bro-shooter that makes up the bulk of the genre today. Center stage is a broken man living in the past full of regret. The pathos of Max Payne is clear. We aren’t reintroduced to the protagonist through sunshine and rainbows or heroics, instead Max is drinking liquor alone and swallowing painkillers like he doesn’t care if he wakes up. The game puts players on ride to see the self-destructive path of a man that doesn’t give a shit.
Max Payne 3 isn’t quite like Rockstar’s other titles this generation but still manages to hit similar beats. You could probably guess this is a Rockstar title without knowing upfront. The title’s character finds himself working in Sao Paolo as a body guard for the rich. Being Max Payne, things go downhill. The acting is fantastic and dialog is on par with RockStar’s other forays. But the plot has too many moving parts for the game’s pace. The action never slows down enough to get a real handle on what’s going on. Betrayals, plot points, new characters, and backstory are thrown at the player without time to digest before bullets start flying again. I enjoyed the story early on, but half way through the game the plot development’s pace doesn’t match the pace of the game. The entire experience would have been significantly better with larger breaks in combat.
Guns are star of the show. There are plenty of “kill everyone in the world” games, but Max Payne does it with enough style to not roll eyes. Firefights are better compared to a ballet than Black Hawk Down. Success depends on your competence with managing bullet-time. When the bullets start flying, you’ll be in slow-mo floating through the air taking out goons with well-placed headshots. Ran out of ammo? Simply roll over a dead foe’s weapon and upon getting back up, return fire. Every individual bullet is rendered allotting plenty of spectacles such as slowing down time and seeing a cone of fire around Max’s head.
To make up for bullet-time, Max is extremely fragile. Even the standard tactic of popping in and out of cover won’t work for very long. To be victorious in the countless gunfights requires tactical use of stylish fighting. No, you won’t want to switch between cover and pretend you’re Marcus Fenix, you’re Max Payne , and he dives over a staircase and shoots 5 dudes before he hits the ground safely behind cover. While the gun-ballet is impressive looking, the game falls apart any time momentum is lost. There are a lot of instances were Max will enter a room with huge gaps between cover and the enemies already have him in their sights. And every aggressor is a deadly marksman. This resulted in me replaying a lot of scenarios countless times. The cover mechanics aren’t reliable enough to maneuver safely through the environment causing a lot of needless confusion on how to proceed without loosing my head. Yes, I have bullet-time, but running out of it in the open is punishing.
The presentation is top-notch and is clearly were most the attention went to. No, the plot doesn’t make much sense but the cut-scenes are stylish. Rockstar did away with the comicbook panel storytelling but kept the basic idea alive with dynamic multi-frame cutscenes. Shots are often blurred, riddled with lighting effects and popping up key dialog. This style is shockingly beneficial to the game’s aesthetic and not annoying. The on screen flare is best compared to IO’s Kayne and Lynch 2: Dog Days, but without the shaky cam.
Max Payne 3 is one of the most modern feeling games I’ve ever played. The shooting is super accurate and intense which is literally the only reason to come to this game. The whole experience drives on the promise of offering a visual spectacle. The story is a very grim tale of a broken alcoholic and drug abuser that goes after crime organizations for reasons of self-destruction rather than being Batman with guns. It’s a very interesting concept and I was almost completely drawn into the Max’s macabre world. I felt like I spent way too much time shooting and not enough time getting to know the world around me. The mechanics aren’t reliable enough to combat the weird difficulty spikes making Max Payne 3’s most glorified feature fall flat. After finishing the game I was surprised I didn’t enjoy it that much. I figured out that every reason I like Max Payne 3 can be traced back to it just looking cool. Rockstar is great at crafting open worlds, but not so much with straight action.
Written by: Steven Beynon (EpicSteve)