Max Payne 3

MaxPayne3box
8.7 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Multiplayer: 9/10
Gameplay: 8/10

Cinematic I Incredible Music I Satisfying Legnth

Frustrating difficulty spikes I Bullet Time is nearly useless.

Written by on May 25, 2012 in [, , , , , , ]

When the credits began to roll on after I finished Max Payne 3, I sat there and stared at the credits as the names rolled slowly toward the sky.  I had to reflect and really think about what I had just witnessed.  There were so many emotions running through my mind.  Was it the lack of sleep?  Was it the impact of the story?  Perhaps I was just swept by the incredible score.  One thing was certain:  I want more games like this.

When the game begins we catch up with Max in his new “retirement” handling security with his partner Passos for some rich socialites in Sao’ Palo, Brazil.  Max’s wife has been dead longer than he knew her to begin with and he still hasn’t fully let go of the pain.  He drinks excessively, even when on the job.  What Payne didn’t count on was the sauce dulling his senses when heavily armed men kidnap his boss’ trophy wife. Max Payne vows to make amends for his failure.

Being a Max Payne game, the story isn’t that straight forward. What I described was only the opening moments of a story that focuses on Max’s transformation from a man with nothing to live for to a self-proclaimed “Avenging Angel”.  It isn’t really giving anything away there, as the game opens much like prior Payne games; with a flash forward to the end.

The story, while convoluted, is satisfying.  It’s a story about love, betrayal, organized crime, political intrigue, and the one thing that ties all of these story threads together; Payne.

Max Payne 3 is a great step in the evolution of cinematic experiences in video gaming.  The story follows a natural progression, something that is mostly absent from video game story telling.  The characters are well realized and fleshed out, especially Max’s partner, Passos.  The settings are exciting and never get old or repetitive.  The dialogue feels completely natural.

The biggest issues that I have for the game are mostly in the actual gameplay. In the original Max Payne games, the main game mechanic was Bullet Time.  This function has taken a back seat to cover based combat.  The combat works well and is fun, but the shift in game style changed Payne from the John Woo styled heroic dives and slow motion combat to a more Gear of War style of play.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, but it changes what it means to play a Max Payne game.  It just seemed to me that Bullet Time was rendered nearly useless except for the portions where you are forced into using it for the progression of the chapter.  Hitting your targets wasn’t much of an issue, but in MP3, nearly every one of the enemies that you will face is wearing a flak jacket or other heavy armor of some kind.  It is extremely frustrating to jump into a fray, as was possible with previous Payne games, and miss your enemy’s head or legs and then be shot in the face.  Even if you get a head shot, a large portion of the guys are wearing helmets too, so you have to shoot them in the face. You’re hardly ever against just one or two guys, but large groups of armed men who want nothing more than to clear your head with .45 caliber therapy sessions.

What they did decide to keep from previous iterations was the painkiller health system. This means that you can only restore your health by popping bottles of pills that you find throughout the levels.  This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that the bottles are in extremely limited supply. Only toward the end of the game, did I feel like I was getting an appropriate amount of meds in order to complete my objective. This had the unpleasant side effect of the difficulty ramping up unexpectedly when I am given one painkiller bottle and get stuck in a room with eight guys with laser scopes and a boss. Mercifully, the game will start to feel sorry for you if you keep dying like a lemming as you walk into a hail of bullets and spot you one when you respawn. There would be times where the level even started out as a shooting gallery for your enemies, but then the rest of the Chapter would be a cake walk. The enemy placement just didn’t make sense to me.

The simple fact remains that I died a LOT. It wasn’t just that the enemies had stronger armor, that I wasn’t expecting the combat style, that I was far outnumbered, and that my medicine cabinets were mostly bare, but the enemy AI is brutally smart and accurate. They will outflank you, sneak around corners, and then shoot you in the face from a hundred yards away. These issues frustrated me more than anything, but it didn’t keep me from enjoying the game as the action is frantic, and varied. You will escape burning buildings, set charges, and kill enemies as you protect yourself from a moving bus.

Cinematically, the action fits in well with the cutscenes and flow seamlessly together, but the game will clearly indicate when you have control. With such a well-drawn environment, some of the normal tropes of videogames become a little nagging. The best example is a section where you are walking around the slums.  You can see kids playing soccer, people going about their lives, and shop owners conducting business.  Once the action starts, all of the locals seem to disappear unless they are part of that section of the story.  The damage that can be done to the environment also gets distracting as some things can be destroyed, but other things seem to be made of adamantium.

The multiplayer is a welcome addition to the series.  Along with the normal deathmatch modes, you can unlock the core multiplayer experience, Gang Wars.  Gang Wars is a team based mode that is a best of five series of random game types such as a “king of the hill”.  I honestly believe that this is the strongest multiplayer I have ever played. Not only can you play with your individual “Crew” from Rockstar’s Social Club, but also random teammates.

Yes, I realize that this isn’t a new thing, but there seemed to be camaraderie with the players I was playing with.  I could have just been getting lucky, but we all seemed to work for a common goal, even in the Rookie category of play.  Each of us seemed to know our strengths and played to those strengths.  The power ups, known as “Bursts”, are gained by kills and looting dead players.  These bursts include the iconic Bullet Time, which is a first for multiplayer and works rather well, but it also includes weapon upgrades, and disorienting HUD changes.  This system levels the playing field for those that are power houses when it comes to taking out the opposition, but even the supporting forces that provide your suppressing fire and whatnot can get power ups.  This is further exemplified by the inclusion of assists, making it no problem for me if someone steals my kill. “Payne Killer” multiplayer mode allows one player to be Max Payne or Passos and you try to stay alive as long as you can while assuming the role of Max.  This mode is fun, but really doesn’t break any ground.

The multiplayer seemed to work better within the confines of the gameplay style than the story in my opinion.  There is just something about getting a little nervous when a player is standing right over you, but can’t see you due to the cover you’re taking that you don’t get within Max’s story because no matter how stealthy you think you are, the enemy saw you and proceeds to explode your face.

I would be completely remiss if I finished out a review of this game without going to great lengths to stress just how great the soundtrack is. Composed by the LA based band HEALTH, the music is a great mix of the familiar themes of the Max Payne franchise and puts in liberal amounts of bass driven rock that makes you want to be the biggest bad ass in the world. What I can only describe as the “theme song” of the game; a heart pounding, yet melancholy composition called “Tears”, guides you through one of the most difficult portion of the game.  I won’t swear to it, but I think it helped me mow through my adversaries as the odds were not in my favor, yet it only took me two tries to get through it.

When gamers talk about which characters they would love to be, the answer would never be Max Payne.  Max is a bad mamma-jamma, but his purpose in his life is defines by how everything that he loves and cares for is taken from him in dramatic and horrific ways. This is a man who has been wronged in nearly every way imaginable and Max drowns his depression with Jack Daniels and cries tears wrapped in shell casings.  I am glad that I was there to see him move on to the next stage of his life and can’t wait to see where his new outlook will take him.

A copy of Max Payne 3 was provided to The Married Gamers for review.

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Author: Wallace Phelps View all posts by

One Comment on "Max Payne 3"

  1. Loren Nikkel June 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    I picked this game up today from the local Redbox. Man, it is hard! Not sure if I’m going to keep it another day.

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