Max Payne 3 Review
I aint slippin’ man, I’m slipped.
It’s been nine long years since the last Max Payne game and time hasn’t been kind to the face, or liver, of gaming’s favorite trigger happy cop. Things are going to be a little different this time but, as you may know, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Max may have a new haircut but he’s still got a few thousand bullets burning a hole in his pocket. If you’ve been counting the days until the release of Max Payne 3 you won’t be disappointed.
Max Payne 3 follows Max to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he’s ditched the badge, but not all of his cop instincts, to do bodyguard work for a rich businessman and his family. Rich people frequently make many enemies but Sao Paulo is the kind of place where a hostile takeover involves a whole lot of guys with guns. Max deals with the stresses of the workplace in the same way he always has; drinking heavily and popping painkillers.
If you’re new to the series then you may not know that the Max Payne series is where Bullet Time started. Any shooter that’s used slow motion sequences as a gameplay hook has been borrowing from Max Payne and there’s a good reason for this; Max has always done it the best. Bullet Time offers players an opportunity to slow down time for your opponents, while Max moves at nearly full speed, taking them down one at a time. The Bullet Time meter fills up as you take risks, get kills and land accurate shots so skilled players will be able to make extensive use of this feature and due to Rockstar’s Euphoria game engine, kills have never looked better. Or worse, depending on how you look at things.
The Euphoria engine allows Rockstar to keep movements realistic, injuries realistic and deaths fantastic. One new feature, or extension, of the Bullet Time system is Bullet Cams. When Max finishes off the last bad guy in each firefight you can watch the last bullet strike home from a camera that follows the bullet, and can be slowed down by pressing A, for maximum effect. In addition, you can continue to pump bullets into these unfortunate souls while Max is off camera, just to add insult to injury. One thing the new engine also does is allow for precise reactions from all of your shots with these effects being particularly noticeable in Bullet Cams. Blood and gore burst from each wound and enemies react to each wound as if it had actually happened.
While the new engine can make things look fantastic it also trips over itself at time. Max now has a Last Stand mode where, if he has at least one painkiller left, he can stave off death for a few moments, in bullet time. If he finishes off the enemy closest to him he gets to fight on but during these moments, the camera will attempt to point you toward the enemy who shot you last and, while the cross hair is on the enemy, Max’s arms are quite often flailing around behind him. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it ends up looking very goofy when it does.
Followers of the series will be happy to note that, aside from the main story, New York Minute will be making a return. For the unfamiliar, New York Minute, has you trying to finish each level before the clock runs down with each kill extending your time by a few seconds. Each level will also be available in a Score Attack mode so you can compete for bragging rights. These two modes, along with a much more lengthy campaign than previous games, round out a deep single player offering.
Some fans were disappointed to learn that Rockstar would be getting rid of the Noir, comic book style, cut scenes but I’m a big fan of the new fully motion captured and acted movies. If only they had left out the weird, annoying, video distortion effects in favor of more of the comic book style transitions that pay homage to the previous games the cut scenes would have been perfect. Still, Max’s story is well told and, mostly, well presented. Rockstar have made a game that takes mowing down hundreds of bad guys and doesn’t allow it to get dull. You’re constantly moving from one crazy action sequence to another, in which you’re more the director than the actor.
Max Payne 3 has a surprisingly deep, unique and fun multiplayer suite. Since this is the first multiplayer offering in the series it would be easy to think that this is just going to be another tacked-on collection of the same old thing but it is much more. For starters, you can actually still use Bullet Time in multiplayer. Seriously. It actually works too, with only players in your line of site being involved in the slow down. You’ll have to be much more strategic with its use, since you’ll be moving in slow motion as well, but Rockstar are geniuses for managing to work this in smoothly.
Aside from a few familiar modes there are a couple of Max Payne flavored standouts. Gang Wars assigns objectives to complete, which could involve assassinating a random team member or detonating a bomb, over four rounds. The objectives you complete in the first four rounds determining the score modifier for the last round which is an all-out deathmatch. Each match follows a story narrative based in the single player story and events will change based on the objectives you, or the other team, complete.
My other favorite mode is Payne Killer. Two players start as Max and Passos and have to face off against the rest of the players, if you kill Max or Passos you become that character. This mode is a lot of fun because you have to quickly switch teams as you move between controlling the enemies and heroes.
Max Payne 3 builds on the things that made the previous games great. Long past the point where most shooter campaigns have gone stale, you’ll still be telling your friends about that time you took out eleven guys in one Bullet Time sequence. Max still likes to narrate his life with depressing, cheesy one-liners but these are secondary to a gritty, well told story. There are a few minor technical issues but Rockstar delivers an extensive and engrossing game with Max Payne 3. No one will be disappointed with this one.