Everybody in the world has demons or fears in their lives. Whether it is drug issues, drinking problems, death, abandonment, claustrophobia or even less crazy ones like finally riding that first rollercoaster or conquering those monsters under the bed, they must all be faced in one way or another. This is what drives Max Payne, a video game character that has faced tremendous hardship and dealt with the death of his family using booze and pills. When Max was younger it seemed he could handle it, but now that nine years have passed since his last starring role he is a wee bit older and with less hair. Max moves a tad slower, is once again voiced by James McCaffrey and seems to have more to talk about then before. However, what interests gamers the most is how he chooses to deal with all those demons. Max´s shooting abilities are still as tremendous as they were nine years ago and players will love that about him. Max still knows how to shoot up a whole room in seconds, and isn´t that what everybody cares about in the first place? Well, if it isn´t you may want to turn away now.
Max has been convinced by a former police academy buddy Raul Passos to leave New York and join him on the mean streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Max and Passos have been asked to protect various members of the wealthy Branco family led by the “King” Rodrigo Branco. His main job is to take care of Rodrigo´s brother Marcelo and Rodrigo´s trophy wife Fabiana (who winds up more with Marcelo than anyone else, anyone find that odd?) Marcelo also brings his sister around as well, who just happens to be pregnant with Passos baby. After players get through Max´s long reflection at the beginning, it immediately bleeds into Max´s first chapter in the offices of the Branco´s and the first attempt at various Brazilian gangs trying to kidnap Fabiana and Marcelo. Eventually they succeed to kidnap Marcelo, Giovanna, and Fabiana and of course it is Max´s job as the hired hand, to rescue them.
Throughout the 14 chapters across the entirety of Max Payne 3 (and two discs on 360) Max will be shooting his way throughout various beautiful locales in Brazil, on a cruise ship in Panama, and he also goes back to his old stomping grounds in New York during flashbacks too. Don´t worry you don´t play with bald Max the whole game. The locales are huge and give enemies numerous corridors and rooms to hide in while spending cartridges shooting at Max. Being able to traverse an entire futbol stadium and then turn right around and sneak through favelas in Brazil is glorious. The best part is Max gets to shoot everyone down in his way, in a brutal and fabulous fashion I might add. Max tells his story once again in flashback form, while giving opinions on absolutely everything and everybody he comes into contact with along his journey, even though there are many times it gets overbearing. Rockstar has taken over developing duties from Remedy and put their own vibrant flair on the tale of Max Payne. The dark noir elements are only revisited in a couple of flashback chapters in New York, for the most part Max deals with darkness more inside than out. Max´s time is spent in more colorful areas such as clubs, offices, and favelas and he takes his sweet time going through them all. Rockstar seamlessly blends well done (long and short) cutscenes into loading screens so that it feels as if the story happens in one continuous flow.
Though I am fond of stories in video games, towards the end of the story Max Payne 3 does get pretty cutscene heavy and sometimes causes a bad break in the action. Next time though, can we please eliminate the golden guns? I did not even see the need for them and searching through each area for parts places the biggest damper on the game. They are optional, but I question why they even needed to be included in the first place.
Except for on those very few occasions though, the cutscenes and well written story are a very welcome sight that keeps things moving at a brisk pace. This includes Max´s monologues that add incredible depth to his psyche. The cutscenes and game in general are also set to a tremendous score by the band Health, which includes the catchy song heard in every commercial for Max Payne 3. The song doesn´t actually appear until the first part of the final chapter and fits in wonderfully because it really gives players the feeling of finality. Rockstar really put their stamp on Max Payne 3 it feels like a Rockstar game akin to Red Dead Redemption or a GTA title, and not so much like Alan Wake or the other Max Payne titles Remedy developed. Though, there is something to be said for the lack of original Max Payne atmosphere.
Max still uses pills to refill his health and remains the master of shoot dodging and bullet time, but Rockstar has added some new moves to his arsenal. The main two additions involve direct cover and a revive skill. Max has used cover in previous games, but not in such a direct manner as he does in the third game. By simply pressing X, Max can go in and out of cover with ease and can lean on almost anything in the environment. The neat thing is the A.I. recognizes that and can blow up Max´s cover. I liked the direct cover mechanic because Max´s shooting style is still unique enough to where it adds to the experience, instead of making Max Payne 3 feel like any old shooter. Cover is only forced on players in about three or four sniping situations, so it does not take over the game in any way. The only issue I found with the cover is that it almost makes the shoot dodge irrelevant. I guess to make Max feel older and slower, using a shoot dodge instead of cover will leave Max vulnerable. It takes Max a little too long to get up after a shoot dodge and the smart A.I. usually notices that quickly and puts many bullets in his body before he can get up. So, that is why I said it technically does not force players to use cover, but shoot dodge at your own peril.
The A.I. overall is the best I have ever seen in a third person shooter. The A.I. adapts to its surroundings superbly, knows how to use cover, and is able to kill you in an instant if players are not careful. The A.I. gets supremely difficult as the game progresses, they can take numerous hits similar to Max himself. Once players hit Part 3, the A.I. where vests and make it to where Max is forced to use bullet time to get through the set piece with a string of head shots.
The second new mechanic is named “Last Man Standing” and gives Max one last chance to survive, as long as he has a pill left. The game will automatically go into bullet time and then players must find the enemy, which dealt the final blow and blast him before Max dies. “Last Man Standing” is pretty awesome because when successful it allows players a close up view of the carnage. Thankfully players can still choose to just pop the pill instead of waiting for “Last Man Standing to go into effect because there are a few drawbacks. Similar to the shoot dodge, the use of Last Man Standing will leave Max vulnerable to open shots. The other drawback is that if the effect triggers while in cover, Max cannot disconnect from that object. So, if the deadly subject is not within view it basically means Max is dead. So, it causes players to have to think a little too much about their position as it relates to area. It does not happen that often to where it is gamebreaking, but it does happen.
The main reason this is a problem is because the game has some erratic checkpoints. There are chapters where the game literally saves after every set piece and then there are chapters where the game takes its sweet time to give Max a checkpoint. This forces players to have to repeat long stretches of a chapter if they die for any reason. So, those small drawbacks in shoot dodging and Last Man Standing do matter.
Surprisingly, the other modes in Max Payne 3 hold up their end as well. Arcade Mode and New York Minute mode add a nice replay factor to the singleplayer experience, but it is the multiplayer that really steals the show. Gang Wars and Payne Killer are the true highlights here. Payne Killer is the Max Payne version of “King of the Mountain” where the leader becomes Max Payne and the rest of the foes involved attempt to kill him to become Max Payne. If there are a lot of people on the same game, Passos is included as a secondary character. Gang Wars attempts to add storyline to multiplayer and involves the enemy gangs seen in the singleplayer. What´s nice is that the objectives change depending on who wins each round and that brings a fresh experience to multiplayer that is not available in other similar games.
The multiplayer aspect is fun and chaotic. The multiplayer grasps more of what people love about Max Payne, shoot dodging and bullet time can actually save lives and provide an exciting way to combat foes. I normally do not play multiplayer in shooting games because admittedly I suck at them. However, Max Payne 3 throughout the singleplayer and multiplayer I felt like I had a chance because there was someone at every turn and you can just blast them into oblivion. Well, at least until they respawn and get you back in a nasty way. The main reason was because I always had fun and did not feel like I had to be this awesome player to win a match. Players should try out the bursts provided in the multiplayer mode as well.
Overall, Max Payne 3 is a brilliant game that tells an interesting and disturbing tale of a troubled action star. Rockstar kept a lot of what makes Max Payne great intact, but its new additions do cripple some of the series signature maneuvers. The golden guns seem like a waste and the removal of Max Payne´s darker exterior elements, in favor of an interior darkness full of cutscenes may turn off some fans. Regardless of how players feel about the window dressing, the core mechanics of Max Payne 3 are fantastic and Rockstar figured out how to not only make multiplayer interesting but incredibly fun as well. The single-player experience is still the main draw here and it certainly does not disappoint. The 10-12 hour journey will have players feeling a mixture of emotions as they follow Max through every blood laden area.
Max Payne 3 has action that keeps things moving along and ramps up the challenge as player’s progress through the chapters. At the end of the day, Rockstar brought all of their signatures to Max Payne 3 and left fans with unforgettable lasting impression.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5