Max Payne 3 Review (PS3)
I never played either of the first two Max Payne games. They seemed to slip past me during a time when gaming wasn’t all that important to me on the PlayStation 2. So I came into Max Payne 3 cold and was somewhat afraid that I would be lost with not playing either of the first two games, but I can say with ease that Max Payne 3 seems to hold up fine on its own, which it probably would have to with it being almost a decade since the last sequel came out. After Remedy split ways with the franchise, Rockstar came a long and scooped it up and has put their own personal touches on the series with this third installment. They bring a dark, gritty and more down to earth look and feel with Max Payne 3, something Rockstar is always good at.
I have to be honest, it would be much easier describing this game if I could compare it to the first two. I do know some things about them, just not much. Most importantly I know Max Payne 3 is quite departed from those games and quite the same in other ways. Rockstar seemed to find a good mix of old and new for the most part and also gave Max Payne 3 a look in the graphics department much like that of Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption.
A lot of time has pasted since Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne and the same goes for Max Payne himself, as he is older and has tried finding salvation in the bottom of a whiskey bottle accompanied by a bottle of pain pills. Again, I am not completely sure what Max’s story is, but I do know he has dealt with some dark things in his life, like the death of his wife and child and in this game it is clear he is still wrestling with these things that have happened. Max has since ruined his life in New York by way of being an alcoholic and getting addicted to pain killers. So much so he found himself run out of town and now in São Paulo, Brazil reluctantly doing work as a bodyguard for a very wealthy family. Max fit nicely as a tough cop in New York, but here he is out of his element every way possible. The game does a great job of constantly showing Max uncomfortable in ever scenario he ends up in. It makes you feel like you are right there drawn into the game. As much as Max clearly hates himself, he sure has no problem with having nothing but contempt for his rich clients as he does his own drunken, addicted and careless ineptitude as a kidnapping happens on his watch and from there every situation goes from horrible to nightmare with every move Max makes.
Rockstar has been known for their specific influences of cinematics and same goes for Max Payne 3. Everything about the game such as the setting, situations with characters and most of all the visualization of the game as a whole is clearly ripped from Tony Scott’s movie Man On Fire (if you haven’t seen it, do so). It also has a mixture of other modern day crime drama movies with some acts of extreme violence, grittiness and synthesized score that rings loud in intense scenes.
Max Payne has an internal monologue throughout the game, something that I would feel bad for fans if it happens in the whole series. Max is basically telling us the story as he remembers it happening, which would be fine, except that it switches between memories and into as if he is thinking thoughts right as they happen. On top of that is he constantly telling the player what to do next, even in unneeded situations were he just got done saying what he needs to do next in the cut scene. Also he repeats himself almost constantly while you search the grounds for things. “I had to move quickly”, “I had to move quickly”, “I had to move quickly” had me saying, “Yeah, Max. Except apparently, you didn’t, seeing you took time to find pain killers and pieces of golden guns. Now shut up!” I understand what they wanted there. Rockstar didn’t do a great job with it is all and it would sometimes pull me out of the game.
Max Payne games are apparently known for their comic-panel style story telling, which is completely different in Max Payne 3. Now cut scenes are done in a multi-frame flashy way with a jumpy and shaky dynamic to it, adding it smalls bits of dialog popping up on the screen to add a little punch to them. This distinct look has some spirit of the home camera and digital noise looks that Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days had, but nothing on the same level as feeling like you are the camera man following Max Payne at all. Some times this was distracting from the game and the story being told.
Max Payne is an older man and on top of that has been chained down with all the alcohol and pain killers. However, he is still very capable. Basically he is a functioning alcoholic. That doesn’t stop him when he needs to jump through windows in slow motion while pulling the triggers of a pair of guns as he shoots down groups of thugs, paramilitary mercenaries and crooked cops one at a time. You didn’t have to play the Max Payne franchise before to know that the bullet time is a hallmark of those games. Drooping into slow motion for short moments at a time is still fundamental to the third-person action and gunplay of Max Payne 3. He also relies on the pain killers found in the game to heal himself, which is made interesting how Rockstar made him addicted to these pain killers for the character development. Something you do not have happen with other characters in other games.
Max Payne 3 has a small silhouetted life meter in the bottom right hand corner and it fills red with every bullet Max takes. The game also starts to get redder when closer to death; something more modern games have been doing over the last couple of years. The problem here is that the silhouetted life meter and the screen turning somewhat red are not both needed. It seems more and more games lately feel the need to do both and it doesn’t need to be done. Either give us a life meter or have the screen start to turn near death, but don’t do both. When Max is near death and has at least one bottle of pain killers on him the game gives you a sort of last stand, if you will. If Max takes too many bullets you have a chance to kill the baddy that shot you last and in doing so you stay alive with minimal health remaining. The game goes into slow motion automatically and pulls your aim to the guy you must kill (that hit you last). This can be frustrating when you are firing at a guy and have this happen; not knowing a guy is more over to the left of you that shot you last. If you are not paying attention you might try to force your aim at the same guy you were already shooting at. If you do not kill the guy that shot you last, then you in turn die. When Max clears the room of enemies Max will also then go into slow motion giving the player the opportunity to pump the last guy full of lead, for no real reason other than the satisfaction of having to try certain areas over and over again. Sometimes you just want to keep shooting an enemy that really pissed you off and Rockstar gives you that opportunity with some very gruesome violence.
Bringing Max Payne to this generation consoles also brings in a cover system to the game, which apparently the last two games did not have. But why would they with bullet time and bullet dodge? A cover system does seem kind of unneeded, but for people like me that prefer it, it is nice to have. Giving this to Max along with the ability to literally slow down time seems like he might as well be a God. However, with all that Max can do, Rockstar tried to even it out by making Max Payne fragile in terms of being shot up, thus making it more of a challenge for players using slow motion a lot. For those that are familiar with the series, you probably won’t have much trouble with this. But for people like me, who’s first ride with Max is this game, they might find some parts a lot harder than they needed to be until they get a grasp on how the slow motion and gunplay work.
There is a multiplayer that Rockstar wedged into the game also. I have not played much of it, but it seems very standard for third-person multiplayer games. There is bullet time, however, but it feels cheap, making it not fun when you are not the person using it. If you are being aimed at by someone that uses it, you too are now in slow motion, making it feel impossible to get behind cover before being destroyed by the other player. Again, I did not play much of it at all. I found it to be tacked on and gimmicky at best. I would rather Rockstar had put the time and money they used on the multiplayer into the single player and making it better.
Max Payne 3 is a good experience, but not at all great. Maybe this series is the one that gave birth to slow motion bullet time in games, but other games have adapted it over the years and some have done a more interesting job with it. Those that have played all the games will find it works good and much like the older two titles from my understanding . Those that are new might find it works perfectly well, too. For me, it took some time getting use to it were other games it came more naturally. The story is pretty standard, nothing original and at times boring, but there are characters who, for the most part, are somewhat decent. Except when some of the main people have the same character models as average baddies trying to put you down. That does take away from the experiences you have with the main characters with that model. Whether you are a fan of the series or just a fan of shooters you will most likely find a good time with this game and should give it a try.
Final Score: 3.5/5