Max Payne 3
I have to admit that I was somewhat concerned about Max Payne 3 when promo artwork depicting the lead sans hair and clad in a loud Hawaiian shirt appeared online. I know that Remedy had handed over the reins to Rockstar so expecting something exactly like the first two installments was perhaps a bit unrealistic but Max looking like an extra from “The Hangover” was a bit much. Fortunately, things became a lot clearer once I was able to play the game myself and see where life has led everyone’s favorite melodramatic cop.
The game takes place nine years after the fall of Max Payne, with a retired Max now burying his painful past beneath an avalanche of booze and painkillers. In typical Max Payne fashion he runs afoul of the Jersey mob, leaving him no choice but to flee the country. Fortunately, he finds new employment as a private security contractor thanks to an old friend from the academy. Leaving the dark and snowy streets of the USA, Max relocates to sunny South America to guard the wealthy and powerful Branco family. After a kidnapping on his watch and a botched ransom exchange, Max once again finds himself at the center of chaos. Events spiral out of control quicker than a booze soaked ex-cop on a merry go round but as Max at one point remarks “I am at my best when I am at my worse.”
It has been a long wait but Max is finally back, albeit a little older and more cynical. You don’t need to have played the previous games to understand the events of Max Payne 3 but it will definitely help you understand why the lead character is such a miserable sod. Even in the sun drenched streets of São Paulo Max is a gloomy bastard but judging from the way that trouble seems to dog his every step, who can blame him. Max acts as narrator for the tale as well with his depressing and sarcastic musings punctuating every encounter. The film noir graphic novel style has been ditched in favor of frequent and lengthy cut-scenes that also serve the mask the loading. The scenes often have multiple moving panels as well as words and phrases from the dialogue superimposed over it for a truly unique style.
It’s been quite a while since we last saw Max on our screens and the gameplay has evolved to fit in with the modern crop of third person shooters. The game now has cover-based shooting mechanics which means you no longer have to awkwardly shuffle behind a door frame to get the drop on foes. It also means that while the trademark “bullet time” leaps make a return, they are no longer a sure fire way to win a gunfight. Leaping out of cover in slow-motion kind of loses its impressiveness when not only are your enemies behind cover leaving you with nothing to shoot but your graceful aerial acrobatics ends with Max hitting a filling cabinet and falling on his ass. Sticking to cover is a must if you want to survive and you can even blind fire to get the drop on foes. Since the odds are always against you, you’ll have to take advantage of your surroundings. The awesome environmental destruction means that you can drop heavy objects in the scenery on foes if you can’t shoot them directly.
While there has been a drastic shift in the tone and locations of the series, the visuals manage to impress just as much. Max Payne paved new ground in its depiction of realistic textures and animation but this game takes it to new heights. Everything is extremely detailed and those who feared that it might be a watered down console port has got nothing to worry about. Max becomes more wounded and haggard as the story progresses and frequently changes his dirty, bloodstained clothing between chapters. Flashback chapters also shows us Max in his more traditional film noir surroundings as he takes down mobsters while clad in his iconic outfit. It is the attention to detail that really brings this game to life and nowhere is it more apparent than in the animations. Just the way that Max handles his weapons and reloads them is miles ahead of the competition in terms of realism. The bullet cam that kicks in when you down the last foe in an area also showcases the damage your weapons can inflict. It’s hard not to wince as a bullet rips into flesh and tears a baddies face apart. Gone are the days of jittering, clipping rag-dolls as well as enemies go down in a realistic heap even when the bodies pile n top of each other.
The blurring visuals and sudden color shifts used during cut-scenes to convey Max’s state of mind can a bit jarring and reminded me a bit of Kane & Lynch 2. The ratio of cut-scenes to action is also quite high which might annoy some people. Max’s extreme pessimism could also become wearisome I would imagine although I enjoyed it a lot. The game packs quite a stiff challenge even on “Normal” but there are more than enough checkpoints scattered about to ensure you don’t lose too much progress upon death. In fact, provided you have at least one bottle of painkillers left, Max will go into a “last stand” mode when fatally injured which enables you to kill a foe to claw yourself back from the brink of death.
The whole game has the look and feel of a Hollywood blockbuster which is to be expected from a Rockstar title. Shooting enemy rpg’s out of the air while dangling from a helicopter or swooping down on a group of enemies while hanging from a zip line might not sound like Max Payne but it works. There are a couple of high-octane, on rails sections as well where you handle the shooting duties as a npc does the driving or flying. Other times, the pace slows down enabling you to really soak in your surroundings and appreciate the hard work of the art department. You can also go looking for hidden “golden gun” pieces or scour the environment for clues if you wish.
I was glad to hear James McCaffrey lending his vocals to Max again as the character would just not be the same without him. Other voice actors did a good job too and the soundtrack is top notch. Just hearing the familiar Max Payne theme song again was already great. At one point in the game you can even direct Max to a piano where he attempts to play the tune, calling it the soundtrack to his life.
Max Payne 3 is a spectacular game with extremely high production values. Rockstar did a phenomenal job and while the game is not perfect, any faults pales into insignificance compared to what is on offer. I had a blast playing the story from start to finish and the Arcade mode as well as multiplayer offers plenty of new reasons to keep going. Max Payne 3 is a rare case where the amount of hype was actually justified.
*Review originally published 2012.
- OS: Windows 7 32/64 Service Pack 1, Windows Vista 32/64 Service Pack 2, Windows XP 32/64 Service Pack 3
- Processor: Intel Dual Core 2.4 GHZ – i7 3930K 6 Core x 3.06 GHZ / AMD Dual Core 2.6 GHZ – FX8150 8 Core x 3.6 GHZ
- Memory: 2GB – 16GB
- Hard Disk Space: 35 Gigs
- Video Card: NVIDIA® 8600 GT 512MB VRAM – NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 680 2GB VRAM / Radeon HD 3400 512MB VRAM – Radeon HD 7970 3GB VRAM
- Sound Card: 100% Direct X 9.0 compatible – Direct X 9.0 compatible supporting Dolby Digital Live
- Additional:Please refer to your hardware manufacturer and http://support.rockstargames.com/home for current compatibility information. Some system components such as mobile chipsets,
Integrated, and AGP graphics cards may be incompatible. Unlisted specifications may not be supported by publisher.
- Other Requirements: Initial activation requires internet connection and a valid Rockstar Social Club account (13+ to register); Online play requires log-in to Rockstar Social Club (13+); software installation required including GameShield IronWrap; DirectX and Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 SP1 Redistributable Package (x86).
- OS: Mac OS X 10.7.5 Lion
- Processor: Intel Dual Core Xeon / Core i Series 2.4 GHZ or greater
- Memory: 4GB
- Hard Disk Space: 32GB
- Video Card: NVIDIA® 8800GT 512MB VRAM / AMD Radeon HD 4870 512 VRAM