So, this has been a long time coming for me. I have been a die hard Max Payne ever since the character first surfaced on PC years ago, so I’m going to do my best to keep this unbiased and fair…..
That being said, Max Payne 3 is fucking awesome.
For anyone that doesn’t know, Max Payne is an ex-police officer with a troubled past. Long story short – his family was murdered, so he flipped out and killed everyone responsible. In Max Payne 3, Max has been hired as private security for a rich Brazilian family. Shit hits the fan, and Max goes on a killing spree that spans 2 discs on the Xbox 360 version. There’s a lot of meat to the story, and it’s very gritty and adult in tone. I’m a big fan of the delivery as well. It has a very “Michael Mann” feel to it, both in pacing and in the visuals (lens flares and distortion all over the place). Fair warning, the cutscenes mask loading, so as badass as the cutscenes are, expect to sit through them on repeat playthroughs (they are un-skippable. boo)
The single-player portion of the game is exactly what you would expect. You shoot everything that moves. The shooting mechanic here is second to none. It all just feels so satisfying. This newest iteration of Max Payne is less “run and gun” and more “take cover” than the first two games, but that’s not a really a bad thing. There are purists out there that are upset about this, but really, it’s a necessary evolution. Luckily, the cover system at use works well here, and the enemies will punish you if you don’ take refuge behind the environment.
The gameplay mechanic that Max Payne has always been known for has been it’s use of bullet time. That is no different here. You get an adrenaline bar that fills up over time, and for taking out baddies. By clicking the right thumbstick, you slow down the game world to a crawl. This allows you to not only methodically pick off your enemies, but it also just looks super cool. In addition, you can also tap the right bumper and send Max soaring through the air while simultaneously entering bullet time. This also is quite awesome.
While bullet time alone would be enough to make this a fun game, it’s not even the greatest aspect of the game. In fact, the greatest aspect of the game is science. Physics. I won’t get into the technical aspects of the engine, but watching what this physics engine can do is breathtaking. Every step Max takes, every bullet he fires, every jump he makes – it all just “feels” real. When you shoot an enemy in the head, it’s almost sickening how realisitcally his body will react. When you dive through the air, if Max hits into a wall….he actually hits it. This might not sound like much to the non-gamer. To a hardcore gamer like myself, it blew me away. Every action that takes place, it happens in a realistic way. If you have Max take a painkiller, his health doesn’t just magically increase. Max tucks his gun under his arm, reaches into his pocket, opens the bottle, and chokes it down. Again, to many, this might not seem too exciting. For those that can appreciate it, things like this really go a long way to immersing you into this world.
The other place that Max Payne’s singleplayer shines is in its details. It is astounding how much Rockstar has put into this game world. When you play, really take the time to look around and take things in. For example, go into bullet time and shoot a window. Marvel at the way the glass spiderwebs and breaks in a unique way every single time you shoot. Another small detail that blew me away was how the guns are modeled. Every piece of the gun is modeled and animated independently. So, the trigger moves, the slide moves, the hammer moves.Every bullet it fully modeled too. Take a single shot with your 9mm pistol then reload and you’ll see bullets remaining in the discarded clip. If you empty every round in that magazine, then reload – that clip will actually be empty. Again, it’s details like this that not everyone will even notice, but they are all things that put the proverbial icing on the cake.
The last thing I want to mention about the singleplayer is its replayability. Each level of the game has several clues to find, and golden gun pieces to collect. Collecting these items will unlock cheats for things like unlimited bullet time, and increased difficulty settings. On top of that, you can also replay the levels in an arcade mode, tracking your scoring for headshots, damage taken, time, etc. Honestly, if you like the gameplay here, you are going to find a ton of reason to keep playing.
I also want to talk about the game’s multiplayer suite. It’s fairly standard fair, where you compete in either deathmatch or objective-based modes. Much like other recent online shooters, you are given a number of customization options to dig into. There are plenty of scopes, stocks, silencers and perks here to have you happily grinding away for a long time. Be warned though, the community seems dangerously small at this point. I can’t see the multiplayer portion of the game staying alive for more than 6 months.
So that’s that. Max Payne 3. I am a big fan of both action movies and shooters, so if you are anything like me, you will eat this game up. Graphically, it is at the head of its class. The physics alone make this one of the most amazing games to behold in quite some time. The shooting mechanic is refined to a point of near-perfection. Replayability is bolstered by collectables and extra modes. In the end, I can’t think of a game that has come out this past year that comes anywhere close to being as fun as Max Payne 3. Buy it, enjoy it, and then enjoy it some more.
I give Max Payne 3 5 out of 5 painkillers.
*Review was based on a retail Xbox 360 copy of the game.