max-payne-3-review

Max Payne 3’s opening scenes waste no time explaining the type of man that Max is. He’s addicted to painkillers and alcohol and still lamenting the loss of his wife. The opening scene is to show newcomers and fans alike just exactly how far Max has stooped from his previous adventure. Though lady luck may have finally caught up to Max in the form of a job offering as a bodyguard for a wealthy family in Sau Palo in Brazil. It isn’t long until everything around him begins to go to hell.

First, a group of armed thugs kidnaps your employer’s trophy wife. The company you’re employed at is attacked by terrorists. Thankfully none of them is a match for Max and his signature bullet time mechanic. The ability to slow down time that gives him the edge when dealing with these many enemies on screen at once. Killing enemies in real time and getting shot will increase the adrenaline bar on the lower right corner of the games HUD.

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Don’t be afraid to use bullet time at every chance you get through since you need every advantage you can find. The enemies in this game are extremely smart and often take cover if they so much as sense your presence. While the bullet time and shoot dodge mechanic still remain truthful to the previous games, a lot of things have been changed. Making Max Payne blend in with the rest of the shooters of this generation.

Max can only carry around two or three guns at once this time around. He can’t even dual wield two handguns without dropping his primary weapon. In the previous Max Payne games, you could carry around eight guns plus a lead pipe Molotov mocktails and grenades. Here in order to make the game have a slightly more realistic feel, Rockstar Games have replaced that with your standard two weapon limit. Grenades have been removed from the single-player campaign entirely.

Now Rockstar has never been a company to sacrifice story for gameplay or vice-versa. All their games up until this point has been open world sandbox games. This is their first time ever constructing a linear shooter. As such a lot of the sense of freedom that they’ve constructed in there, other games feels absent here. I’m saying is if Neko Belic from GTA IV can carry around an unlimited amount of weapons up his jacket.  John Marston from Red Dead Redemption can carry four guns plus a torch, machete, and lasso. Why Max Payne only carry around 3 guns at once?

Maybe it’s to keep up with the gamespace because the game is very fast paced. Having to cycle between a billion different guns in real time would be difficult, but it still took me a while to get used to it. Once you get over the fact that you can’t carry ten weapons at once however you get the feeling that you are indeed playing a Max Payne game. The feeling of loneliness and hopelessness when you and your partner are hopelessly outnumbered from the first two games is still present.

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So too is the health system, one that Rockstar thankfully didn’t change to keep up with modern shooters. Health doesn’t regenerate, instead, you must seek out and consume painkillers to lower the amount of damage that you’ve accumulated. The last stand mechanic from Call Of Duty‘s multiplayer has also been integrated into the campaign.

When you are about to die if you have a painkiller left the game will automatically go into slow motion allowing you to take out the person who just shot you, succeed and you will be given a second chance at life, fail and you die.

Outside of simply shooting everything in sight, there are also specific times in the game when you can use the environment to your advantage. Such as shooting the bumper on a car that is parked downhill. Blowing up a gas station to kill bad guys that are too far out of reach to be dealt with using conventional methods. There was even one moment I recall where I was in a bus depot and I could shoot the hinges off the conveyor belt of a bus and squish to death the enemies beneath it. One boss fight even requires you to use the environment to beat him.

While you’re standing beneath him and he’s covered by a waist-high barrier on top of a balcony, I had to shoot the tiles above his head to hurt him and eventually force him to reveal himself. These moments are great, but there aren’t enough of them. The scenarios I mentioned were some of the only times when you got to dispatch enemies in nonconventional ways. Now this doesn’t hurt the game and I won’t lower the score because of it, but it did feel like a waste of potential.

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Now Max Payne 3’s story is nowhere near as good as Rockstar’s most recent outings (GTA IV, Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire), but it is competent and relatively long. Clocking in at roughly 12-15 hours depending on the difficulty this is the longest game in the series. The game also takes a lot of risks by trying to establish itself as less of a Noire themed crime game and more of an all-out action experience. Let’s face it the fa vela’s of Brazil don’t give off the same mood and vibe that the abandoned streets of New York City did.

While some fans of the series may find it difficult to adjust to this, I can most certainly understand Rockstar’s desire to try something new with the Max Payne name. Having it take place in the same location as the last two games, especially after how Max Payne 2 ended, it would be contradictory to the games ending. So I can definitely see why such a change of pace felt desirable.This is also the first game in the series to receive a cover system.

Max can press himself against any object at any given time to give him a little more protection than simply just squatting down. Though it feels a bit stiff at times. Since it uses the same method of cover from GTA IV you can’t move from cover to cover. Instead, you have to stand up, risk getting a short walk to the next available cover section and press the square button.

Throughout the game, you will also be given opportunities to seek out clues to uncover the conspiracy and hopefully manage to figure out some of the games overarching plot before Max does. You can also collect pieces of golden guns which, once you’ve obtained allow you to play with a gold version of that gun in the campaign whenever you pick it up. It may not be much but it does give a little incentive to replay certain parts of the campaign.

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The game’s story at certain times also feels like it’s trying too hard to be something that it’s not. It tries to have a gripping narrative and make every action sequence intense and exciting. But without any juxtaposition, every intense action sequence begins to feel similar. If every scene in the game is filled to the brim with explosions and burning buildings, then the ones that truly deserve to stand out in your mind get overshadowed by some of the not so great ones.

There was one scene that was extremely well designed where Max is trapped in the burning building of the company that he works for. Watching him tread slowly as everything around him goes to hell is a very captivating set piece. This can almost be looked at as a metaphor. As his world is crumbling around him Max is forced to either go down with a shred of dignity or continue to walk on forward knowing that there is nothing for him if and when he gets outside. These scenarios are the ones that I paid attention to the most. The incredible attention to detail and the way that Max moves through the flames is on par with Nathan Drake from Uncharted 3.

Though Max Payne 3’s color pallet is by no means at the level of Uncharted the Attention to detail is still noticeable. From Sao Palo’s slums to the people that inhabit it. Watching children play soccer as Max makes comments about them, and how it’s there “best legal way out of here” truly shows that Rockstar prides themselves with making their worlds feel as lively and diverse as possible.

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To add to the realism are the incredibly well acted NPC’s, and of course Max himself. James McCaffrey does an excellent job at voicing Max even after nine years. The way he talks portraying Max as a cynical jackass is a perfect reflection of what Max Payne should be.

After you’ve completed the campaign you will unlock New York Minute mode, and score attack mode. In both these modes, you are given one life to beat each level of the game. In score attack it’s simple. You kill bad guys for points. In New York Minute mode you start off each level with only one minute counting down, and the only way to increase your time is to kill bad guys. Headshots award you with even more time.

But this mode as cool as it sounds become almost unplayable because of one major design flaw. The inability to skip cutscenes. And believe me, this game has a lot of them. With over three hours of in-game cutscenes the fact that you can’t skip them make them feel like a chore to watch.

Now 3 hours may not deem like much especially compared to games like Metal Gear Solid 4. But at least MGS4’s cutscenes were interesting to watch and didn’t disturb the flow of gameplay.

Also, you could skip them if you wanted. Here most of the cutscenes don’t do much other than disguise the games unbearable load times. This is just ridiculous especially considering that before your even able to play the game you have to wait about 40-50 minutes for it to install a massive 5.5 GB of hard drive space.

Now it’s tolerable during the campaign to have these cutscenes since you have infinite lives. But during the arcade modes where you are only given one life and no continues it is just completely unbelievable that if you are almost at the end of a level and you die just once, you have to restart and watch the same cutscenes over and over again.

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If you can’t skip them then why bother putting them in at all during arcade mode. Think about it if you go to an arcade in real life do you want to spend half your time watching a movie or do you just want to play instantly. The very bases for all arcade games are that you just want to have mindless fun.

Now Max Payne 2 also had Arcade modes. The cutscenes could be skipped, and they were barely over a minute long. The last bit of entertainment that Max Payne 3 offers is its multiplayer component. This being the first game in the series to have any form of multiplayer Rockstar wanted to make sure that they made a good impression.They did a great job capturing the feel of the single-player campaign even going as far as to include bullet time in the multiplayer options.

When you activated bullet doge in multiplayer the entire game doesn’t slow down. Instead, only the people in your line of sight are affected. The closer they are to you the longer it lasts.

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You can also unlock perks to be activated when you’ve acquired enough adrenaline. Adrenaline can be found by looting bodies of dead teammates and enemies. My favorite multiplayer mode though has got to be Payne killer.

In this mode, two people play as Max and his buddy Passos with overpowered weapons and abilities. While seven other players hunt them down. Whoever manages to kill one of these two will automatically become them, making you feel like a god among men. And best of all you can form gangs or “crews” with specific teammates, whose status will be directly uploaded into Grand Theft Auto 5.

When all’s said and done Max Payne 3 is a shining example of what you can expect out of an action game from a Triple-A (AAA) developer. And I can’t imagine anyone not finding at least something they like out of this game.