Max Payne 3 sees the title character depart from his noir, hardboiled detective roots (as demonstrated in the first two instalments, where Max claps his way through drug lords in a gritty New York setting) and venture off into the sunset. Approximately nine years after Max Payne 2, fans are now treated to a completely new Max; an older, grumpier, drunker, angrier, and fatter Max Payne, who has been enlisted to help protect a wealthy family in Sao Paulo.
From the intro sequence, it’s evident that Max is in no fit state to look after a goldfish let alone a whole family of Brazilian aristocrats. Within ten minutes of play, cut-scenes reveal a shambling, clumsy and awkward Max in his apartment, getting swirly on whiskey and painkiller cocktails. But as soon as the shit hits the fan, it becomes apparent that the last thing a washed up, out of shape cop loses is his survival instinct. The minute a player’s in control of Max and a gang of thugs swarm the mansion, you instantly sense through the meticulous character animation that he feels heavier. The player’s not controlling the same Max Payne as in the previous games, and while bullet time is still a heavy feature in this game, Max simply can’t just jump around with an Uzi and expect to clear the room like he did in the old days. There’s a lot more cover-fighting, shooting from behind sofas, pillars or from behind cars, and to survive the onslaught of villains that literally blast the environment to pieces around you, the player has to be a lot more strategic with the gunplay.
The specifics of the game are everything you would expect from a Rockstar release, especially in a long-anticipated sequel in probably the company’s most celebrated franchise. Graphics are smooth and attractive (even blending cut-scenes into game action – a clever transition to eradicate boring loading times), the story is enveloping and entertaining, the voice acting is absolutely superb – probably the best in any game yet – and the music is a mix of hauntingly dark, 80’s-sounding synthesizers and upbeat, moody trance.
There isn’t a great improvement on game play, but then again, if it ain’t broke… etc. Players don’t want to see Max do anything extravagant anyway; if you bought the game, all you want to do is shoot people up and blow a few wigs off, and you don’t want to be messing with puzzles, searching buildings or any of that stuff. The action has been designed so that you can pick it up any point and have fun, offering a fast paced, thrilling journey in which you are rewarded with wonderfully humorous and enthralling cut-scenes that detail just how pessimistic Max has become in his old age. He is a cantankerous bastard and he likes to kill bad guys. One point to note here, though, is that maybe the game developers should have included some knife action, perhaps giving Max the opportunity to kill up close and personal, or perhaps some hand-to-hand combat for when the clips are empty.
While this critique may be biased (inasmuch as this reviewer is already a fan of the series), it has to be said that newcomers may possibly find the action repetitive, and the fact that you can’t skip some cut-scenes could lead to aggravation. While the action is first rate, a person new to the series may argue that there isn’t enough diversification in the game play. But if you’re looking for a rowdy, no nonsense third-person shooter, you probably won’t get better than Max Payne 3 for a long while. The shooting mechanics allow the player to carry a shotgun and handgun in each meaty fist (the weight distributing differently depending on which guns are carried – another factor in the movement of the character), and you can absolutely destroy people’s lives with the artillery. A satisfying high point in particular is being able to run up to a crooked mercenary in a favela (ed. note: a favela is a Brazilian shanty town) and head-butt him unconscious before blowing his dome to pieces with an assault rifle.
As an experience, Max Payne 3 feels cinematic, as though one is playing through a Hollywood blockbuster. Reminiscent of John McClane’s descent in Die Hard with a Vengeance, Max Payne 3 encapsulates all the elements of a grim action thriller with the pace of a bullet. Yet, depending on the difficulty you choose, you will probably find yourself reliving gunfights and being murdered repeatedly.
Due to the easily accessible game play, Max Payne 3 offers more playback value than its predecessors. The arcade-like quality of being able to stack a ridiculous bodycount in each scene and Rockstar’s dedication to presenting a well written, hard hitting storyline worthy of the Max Payne mantle ensures the game’s success.
On a final note, the climatic sequence of the game will raise gooseflesh. An airport shoot-out, the chaotic cacophony of gunfire accompanied by a song called Tears by Health (YouTube if unfamiliar), makes the adrenaline boil and the heartbeat palpitate.
Max Payne 3 is certified hard.
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