Max Payne returns after a nearly 10-year absence for a 3rd installment in Rockstars Max Payne series. This is the first game to be developed internally by Rockstar studios with Rockstar Vancouver leading development while collaborating with the New England, London and Toronto studios. Max Payne 3 is also the first game not to be written by series creator Sam Lake instead Dan Houser steps up as lead writer. Not to worry though Max is in good hands with Dan who served as writer for both Red Dead Redemption and most games in the Grand Theft Auto series.
In Max Payne 3 we find a Max we’ve never seen before world weary, older and even more cynical than ever. Max hasn’t had the easiest life tormented by his time as an NYPD police officer Max ends up leaving New York City behind for the sunnier climes of Sao Paulo Brazil. While in Sao Paulo our gruff cynical hero has taken a job working in the private security sector for a wealthy local family and things seem to just drift from bad to worse for Max in the series classic noir fashion.
Max Payne 3 takes place 9 years after the previous game with a retired washed up Max who’s developed an addiction to alcohol the ever-famous painkillers that creates a nice level nostalgia. The game sees Max trying to escape the memories of his troubled past by working protection for the wealthy Rodrigo Bronco but ends up getting pulled into a shady conspiracy when a street gang kidnaps Rodrigo’s wife. So in an attempt to escape Max finds himself right back in the thick of it at the center a conspiracy involving warring factions that thread into nearly every aspect of Sao Paulo where a deadly web seems to engulf everyone and everything around him.
The character of Max Payne is expertly represented throughout the game where Max is nothing more than a gruff hard-boiled man that is all communicated through his cynical self-deprecating inner monologue. Max’s character comes across both tragic and hilarious as he comments on just about anything and everything that’s going on creating a strong bond with you, where you learn more about Max’s personality. Despite Max’s over the top life his problems are relatable ones where you find he’s simply committed to the job not because of any obligation but because he has nothing else. Max Payne 3 has a well-executed cinematic presentation that blends the action seamlessly together while transitioning from cutscenes to gameplay. Rockstar uses cinematic sequences not only to push narrative but also to cover up loading times, which sees you, go from gameplay to cutscenes seamlessly throwing right back into the action straight out of any narrative sequence. The comic style panels from previous games return in a new cinematic format to tell the games story this is a nice touch and adds a unique appeal to the game. The cinematic panels are created during cutscenes by freezing a section of the scene in one panel while the rest continues in another while text is printed and overlaid during these sequences.
Max Payne 3 Doesn’t only look great it feels great too with some of the most advanced animation work to date. The level of detail is surreal with objects disrupting player and enemy movement in a believable fashion Max literally shifts his weight while moving aiming rolling reacting appropriately too different circumstances. The Animation system also compensates for the weight and recoil of each weapon going as far shift Max’s balance when he carries a long armed weapon while firing a pistol.
Gunplay is back but has been completely overhauled for the current generation so players can actually feel the impact of every bullet and the weight in every movement. Combat is as good as ever with high caliber run and gun gameplay where players have the option of using one side arm or two with the return of Max’s signature dual wielding and doesn’t have to be the same two guns. Dual wielding allows players to come up with their own combinations that can be altered at anytime by picking up another side arms allowing for varied load outs. Unlike most action games where you can carry a variety of weapons Max only has the capacity to holster 2 side arms and carry one long arm weapon adding to the games believability. Max’s inventory is all visually represented on him where side arms can be seen in one of two holsters and when you are carrying but not using a long arm weapon Max carries it in his free hand. If you find yourself in a fire fight where you want to go all out dual wielding Max will pull out his holstered weapon dropping any two handed firearm in the process. Combat is handled using precision gunplay where Max follows the target reticule twisting and turning in response to your control input. The precision targeting and advanced animation makes gameplay even more fluid and responsive as Max’s movements respond naturally as you play with Max repositioning his body towards any given target. When you aim a weapon at the fullest reach of motion Max responds by moving his upper body and torso accordingly. This all goes towards creating a unique sense of believability as you go guns blazing through Sao Paulo as you work towards foiling a greater conspiracy, while maintaining complete control of the action.
With such a solid animation system at the games core you have freedom when engaging enemies, while prone you can roll and shoot 360 with the same level of accuracy found in the run and gun gameplay. The series trademark Bullet time returns adding a more cinematic feel to gameplay where firefights feel intense at both normal speed and bullet time. New to Max Payne 3 is a cover system, which is a common mechanic amongst 3rd person shooters but proves intuitive giving you respite from the action and provides a chance to assess the situation. The cover system provides an opportunity to plan a new line of attack but don’t take too long because of the sophisticated AI sees enemies using flanking and charge tactics to force you out of cover. Timing the use of your bullet time can prove crucial in any given situation so chose wisely when deciding to leap from cover to take down enemies as Max sours through the air, which could leave you exposed to enemy fire. The inclusion of kill cams provides a satisfying conclusion for each conflict where the camera tracks an individual physically modeled bullet as it leaves the gun to deal the killing shot. You can slow the action to add emphasis to the bullets true impact while still firing where the enemies react to each individual hit.
Multiplayer is surprisingly fun and a nice addition to the series carrying over a lot of the single player features like bullet time. The multiplayer provides huge levels of customization where you can alter the appearance of each playable character by equipping new items you unlock by leveling up. Weapons load out can be tailored to your play style as you level up by unlocking new weapons, attachments and perks that can be bought using in game cash. In terms of game modes you get standard deathmatch and team deathmatch along with two slightly unique modes gang wars and painkiller. Bullet time transitions nicely from single player and is smartly executed in multiplayer as players have to build up a meter by scoring kills assists and looting bodies. The inclusion of bullet time doesn’t make the game unbalanced as using it doesn’t guarantee you will be the one to get the kill because you still aim and think about where you use it since other players remain unaffected. In maintain balance bullet time in multiplayer relies on line of sight so only players in your line of site are affected.
Rockstar have created a worthy sequel in the Max Payne franchise delivering an epic cinematic action experience showing our beloved Max in a new light. The game doesn’t only provide a dark seedy story with high production values but is one of the most accurate 3rd person action games ever. The overall package certainly doesn’t disappoint and with fun gunplay and a horde of collectable guns and clues you will certainly be playing for awhile, grinds are another reason to keep playing as you try to complete little challenges as you play.