+ Slow motion shooting
+ Max Payne does not disappoint as a character
+ Interesting multiplayer implementation
- A bit too much social and political commentary
- Some badly designed combat spaces
Final score: 9 / 10
A working PlayStation 3
I initially thought that it would be impossible to mix Max Payne, with his sour expression, his cynicism and dark one-liners and his tendency to get a lot of blood on all his good clothes, with Brazil, the land of beautiful women of European heritage, sandy beaches, gleaming high-rises and warm, Latin blood.
But the development team at Rockstar has proven that they are able to take an old character, long disconnected from modern gaming, and build a hit around him just as they were able to make the long-delayed L.A. Noire a successful, if somewhat broken, experience and to make Red Dead Redemption a reboot for the Western genre.
Max Payne 3 looks impressive, sounds really good, has laugh-out-loud lines and a deep morality tale at its core and, above everything else, engaging slow motion and cover augmented gunplay.
Max Payne was never a good guy, he was the man who, without any real morality left, was ready to go to extremes in order to kill the other bad guys, always sure that his own mortality and his sins will eventually catch up with him.
The third game in the series keeps this image and expands on it and widely chooses to take the main character out of New York and into Brazil in order to give the development team freedom when it comes to the narrative and treat gamers to something other than shots of a city of filth, covered in pristine snow.
Never dive forward
The actual story taking place will be familiar to fans of the character and the series, but it benefits from an extra layer of polish from Rockstar. There are also bits and pieces that sound very close to the kind of political, social and economic critique that the Grand Theft Auto is known for.
I would have liked to see Rockstar keep the comic book elements of the first two games for at least some of the narrative sequences. Yet the team chose to go with full cutscenes, created in-engine, which do look good but at times feel a little overproduced.
The writing in Max Payne 3 is quite good and the sarcasm that the character deploys often drew smiles and outright chuckles from me and the people watching me play, despite the rather dreadful situation I was in.
The events of the first two games in the series are rarely mentioned in this installment and the entire focus of the story shifts, with Max’s quest to self-destruct taking center stage, making him a less appealing character than when his personal tragedy was regularly mentioned.
The core mechanic of the Max Payne series has always been the slow motion diving and shooting, which was a revolution when the first title was launched and still feels interesting today, more than 11 years after its public debut.
By tapping a button and a direction on the controller, Max goes out to the side or the back (sometimes even the front) while in the world around him time drags its feet, giving him time to quickly take out the most threatening enemies, before landing down, taking a quick look around and then searching for others to engage.
The big problem with Rockstar’s implementation of the slow motion diving shootout is that the recovery is rather long and the character is very vulnerable at that time. This often means that, after a spectacular few kills, Max himself gets a quick shot to the head and goes down, forcing the player to restart the sequences from the previous checkpoint.
The problems with slow motion jump assaults are magnified if the player chooses a Free Look or Soft Lock aiming option because the controller setup for home consoles seems to be designed to only allow Hard Lock as a viable option for the Normal difficulty mode.
New York scene
Same leather jacket
The vulnerability and the target lock take some of the fun out of Max Payne 3 when it comes to consoles (the PC version of the game might be better in this regard when it launches in early June). However, the developers at Rockstar made the wise decision of also adding a cover system to the game in order to balance it out.
As in most modern third-person shooters, Max can now walk up to a solid surface and the crouch behind it, firing either blind or aimed, and taking a few moments to recover.
Health is still managed in the old-school way in Max Payne 3, via limited doses of painkillers (you might want to use them sparingly), but cover allows players to use their full slow motion meter, take care of the most pressing enemies, and then duck and take a few potshots while waiting for it to recover enough for another spectacular action sequence.
The entire concept works most of the times and Rockstar has the ability to mix action with story-based sequences and create a narrative that flows smoothly, raising the players’ adrenaline level and then giving them time to recover before another firefight.
There are a few sections that feel overly slow and another couple where the difficulty spikes unexpectedly and where numerous checkpoint visits are necessary, but Rockstar mostly works its design magic and manages to deliver a mix of game features that will satisfy both old fans and newcomers.
Graphics and audio
The RAGE engine that Rockstar has employed for some years gets a few new bells and whistles for Max Payne 3 and the game, even if it is more colorful and much brighter than the two previous installments, manages to get the tone right all the way through.
There’s a lot of variety when it comes to the environments that gamers will explore and there’s quite a bit of detail when referring to the main characters, especially to cutscenes.
One stylistic choice starting out as interesting and ending up in the annoying category is the deployment of an array of complex effects during the cutscenes in order to suggest how inebriated and drugged up Max is.
The constant use of labels to underline some of the things that the various characters are saying also becomes tiring and distracting after a while. Yet their overuse is compensated by the crafty employment of visual cures to move the gamers' attention through time and space and to emphasize how Max feels about his current situation.
Rockstar does not disappoint when it comes to the voice work of Max Payne 3 and all the voice actors are good and make their characters believable, especially those who are playing the Portuguese only speaking thugs making up most of the enemies you have to gun down.
Max himself is also suitably dark and cynical, and I love the low tones and gravel in his voice, despite the fact that lately every action hero has been using the same approach.
The biggest achievement for the multiplayer side of Max Payne 3 is that it feels so similar to the single player, with slow motion diving still very much the flavor of the day.
Rockstar has wisely kept the game tight, quick and violent and, as long as gamers are interested in recruiting others to their cause, the modes might have some legs.
Additionally, there are regular, scheduled events planned by Rockstar, which might help with long-term appeal as long as the team is ready to also deliver more content in order to keep up interest.
Max Payne 3 is a sign that Rockstar is able to create good games outside of the core Grand Theft Auto franchise and that a dedicated team can easily bring an old character and a set of mechanics into the present without sacrificing what made them special in the first instance, to serve the cause of modernity.
Max feels familiar yet fresh, the action is engaging and appropriately broken up by both cutscenes and new kinds of gameplay, the setting is new and beautifully rendered, the violence just enough over the top to keep the comic book vibe going.
This is a labor of love for the development team and it shows, and anyone who had at least a passing interest in Max Payne needs to get this game and take some time to get through the single-player story, with all its slow motion diving and sarcasm-filled dialog.
Bought the game a week ago , multi player has real potential once you start levelling up , story is good .I won't be trading it in anytime soon unlike modern warfare 3 which I traded in to get this.I must be the only person alive they doesn't rate COD , BF3 multi player blows it out the water.