The Max Payne 3 opening scenes waste no time explaining the type of man Max is. Addicted to painkillers and alcohol and still lamenting the loss of his wife and child, this opening scene is to show newcomers and fans alike just exactly how far he has stooped from his previous adventure. Lady Luck may have finally caught up to Max in the form of a job offering as a bodyguard for a wealthy family in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
It isn’t long, though, until everything around him begins to go to hell.
First, a group of armed thugs kidnaps his employer’s trophy wife, then the company he’s employed at is attacked by terrorists. Thankfully, none of them are 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 game’s HUD.
Don’t be afraid to use bullet-time at every chance you get 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. However, while the bullet time and shoot dodge mechanic still remain truthful to the previous games, a lot of things have been changed to make Max Payne blend in with the rest of the shooters of the 7th console generation.
Max can only carry two or three guns at once this time around, and 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 Cocktails, and grenades. Here, in order to make the game have a slightly more realistic feel, Rockstar Games has replaced that with your standard two-weapon limit and 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, however, most of their games up until this point have been open-world sandbox games. This is their first time constructing a linear shooter. As such, a lot of the sense of freedom that they’ve constructed in their other games feels absent here. All I’m saying is that if Rockstar’s other protagonists like Neko Belic from GTA IV can carry around an unlimited amount of weapons in his jacket, and John Marston from Red Dead Redemption can carry four guns plus a torch, machete, and lasso; then why the hell is Max Payne only allowed to carry around three guns at once?
Maybe it’s to keep up with the game’s pace because the game is very fast-paced, and 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 into the feeling that you are indeed playing a Max Payne game. The sense of loneliness and hopelessness when you and your partner are hopelessly outnumbered from the first two games is still present. 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 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 merely 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 or 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 dispatch enemies in non-conventional ways. This doesn’t hurt the game, but it did feel like a waste of potential.
Now, Max Payne 3‘s story is nowhere near as big as Rockstar’s most recent outings, 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 many risks by trying to establish itself as less of a noir-themed crime game and more of an all-out action experience. Let’s face it, the favelas of Brazil didn’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 – with Max excepting the loss of his wife and trying to move on, would be contradictory to the game’s ending. So, I can definitely see why such a change in pace felt desirable.
This is also the first game in the series to implement 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 as GTA IV, you can’t move from cover to cover. Instead, you have to stand up, risk getting shot, walk to the next available cover section, and press the cover 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 game’s 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 in the campaign.
At certain times, the game’s story 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 a 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 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 their best legal way out of here truly shows that Rockstar prides themselves on making their worlds feel as lively and diverse as possible.
To add to the realism are the incredibly well-acted NPCs, and of course, Max himself. James McCaffrey does an excellent job of 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 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, becomes 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 makes them feel like a chore to watch. Now three hours may not seem like much, especially compared to games like Metal Gear Solid 4.
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 game’s unbearable load times. This is just ridiculous, especially considering that before you’re even able to play the game, you have to wait about 40-50 minutes for it to install 5.5 gigabytes game. Now, it’s tolerable during the campaign to have these cutscenes since you have infinite lives. Still, 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. You die just once and then you have to restart and watch the same cutscenes over and over again.
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 want to play instantly. The very basis for all arcade games is that you want to have mindless fun.
Now, Max Payne 2 also had arcade modes, but 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 a multiplayer form, 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 dodge in multiplayer, the entire game doesn’t slow down; that would be stupid; instead, only the people in your line of sight are affected. The closer they are to you, the longer it lasts. You can also unlock perks to be activated when you’ve acquired enough adrenaline. Adrenaline can be found by looting the 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. Best of all, you could form gangs or “crews” with specific teammates, whose status would be directly uploaded into Grand Theft Auto V.
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 developer. And I can’t imagine anyone not finding at least something they like out of it.