Max Payne 3
The first Max Payne was one of those games for which you would gather your friends to gather around you, if only to show off the beautiful graphics, the hard action, and of course the blindingly tough and innovative gameplay. Remember how you could occupy yourself for hours with the physics of a couple of paint bins and some cloths? All interwoven with the great bullet time and the dramatic anti-hero Max is.
But times change and 2001 is far behind us. Rockstar isn’t scared of some risk and even less from controversial games and now launches Max Payne 3. And just like then this is a game you’ll love to play, even if all in all little has changed compared to back then.
The story is again one of misery, corruption and lots of casualties but this time set in the heat of Sao Paolo. Max has fallen deeper than usual and as bodyguard with the necessary rehab issues he needs to fight old and new demons. However, Rockstar has found a good balance between drama and credibility of the characters, something they’ve always been good at.
The presentation got quite the paint job, one worthy of the year 2012. The cut-scenes are no longer in comic-style but there’s a clear hommage to the previous style. Both the script and the voicing – and actually all the sound – are very atmospheric without getting over the top. Something we did see sometimes in previous Max Payne games. In 2001 the locations were already very memorable and also now thought has gone into how to make the places where you get into action as varied and appealing as possible.
Think of the very detailed and vivid slums, the aged buildings of which you just feel the decay, and the burning sun that drenches everything. More color, but that doesn’t diminish the atmosphere, something you shouldn’t underestimate as the gameplay of this series has always been quite limited: shooting as never before and with as much show as possible.
The variation won’t come from bullet time but the 100th time you activate it it’s still equally exciting and addictive as the first time thanks to its simple formula: beautiful graphics, tons of detail and interiors and objects that are just waiting to get destroyed, penetrated and broken. A marble elephant exploding in a glass shop is nothing against it!
Opponents fall by the dozens, not sparing any blood and injuries. An extra is that your last victim gets treated to a killcam shot (so you get to see all the gory details, you know?) and the possibility to add a couple of bullets extra. Not to be played with the faint at heart around.
The biggest difference with before is that jumping, activating bullet time and shooting isn’t enough anymore. Your opponents aren’t wussies and you’ll need to take cover and use some tactics here and thre. Some may find this less appealing, I think it was necessary to make sure we aren’t fed up with the game after an hour or so. On top of that the realistic vulnerability of Max is now more in line with the more realistic approach throughout the entire game. You do feel Rockstar doesn’t reach the level of Epic or Naughty Dog when it comes to pure action sequences thoug. But of course that’s not why we came here, even if the comparison isn’t unlogical anymore due to the large focus on cover and the many parts where you get to do other things.
I do have to add to that that you get a plethora of choice in weapons to keep you happy throughout the entire campaign. From automatic to semi-automatic, to pistols and shotguns. Dual wielding is also an option for the smaller arms. Once finished you can go in Arcade mode and fight for higher scores or choose for the New York Minute in which time and killcount are crucial.
Still not enough? Then you can try the multiplayer but I found it a bit disappointing. Not that it’s bad – you can have quite some fun with it and bullet time was well-implemented – but the unique aspects of the game tend to fade away and there are better options available. Gears of War for instance, or just about any serious FPS.
The most innovative options are Payne Killer where you need to try to become Max or his partner by killing them and then trying to stay alive, and Gang Wars. The latter is done in different rounds where you each time get an objective that changes throughout the game. Just a bit more immersive and interesting than the standard modes.
In the end Max Payne 3 is just the same as over ten years ago, but also totally not. The gameplay is still as addictive, but the presentation has leaped forward and the story as well as the character have grown and become more adult. Bullet time of course doesn’t have the same impact but does guarantee tons of stylish fun and bloodshed in the surroundings that you’ll love to shoot to pieces. Add to that a lead character who’s become an icon and you know the campaign is rock solid. The multiplayer disappointed a bit but that’s not why you would buy this game.