Max Payne 3 Review

Rockstar has opted out of the graphic novel style of the original two games and gone with something more akin to a eclectic, gritty movie presentation that fits the Sao Paolo atmosphere well. It also includes lots of in-engine cutscenes that push the story along. If you’re not a fan of a lot of story, this is going to get a bit irritating, but if you’re in Max Payne 3 for the story of Max Payne, the cutscenes are commendable in their quality.

Not much else has changed, however. To Rockstar’s credit, the developer has managed to capture Remedy’s original gameplay formula and run-and-gun style. In terms of gameplay, much is exactly as it was in the first two Max Payne games. Max can go to slow-motion for intense aiming (known as Bullet Time, and just as awesome as always), dive through the air to avoid bullets, and shoot with a 360-degree range of motion while running.

There are also a few little improvements: Max can now enter cover, which makes the game bearable in the modern era, and he can stay prone and shoot in any direction after landing from a dive, without being forced to stand back up. The enemy AI is mostly pretty smart about jumping into cover and running from position to position, although it never really approaches the level of having distinguishable tactics other than fanning out in a 120-degree semicircle around Max’s position.

If you’re carrying the series’ version of health packs, Max’s pain killer pills, you also get saved from death when you get shot down by the Last Mand Standing feature, a slow-mo moment in which you have a chance to finish off the guy who killed you before dying, which gives you the chance to save yourself. It’s a nice feature, although more gimmick than anything because it keeps often saves you from the defeat you deserved by giving you an easy out. Only being short on ammo or having your view obstructed will keep you from nailing every Last Man Standing event you encounter.

However, the old style gameplay also where Max Payne 3 falls short. The video game landscape is lousy with third-person shooters today. Where the Max Payne series was a landmark franchise a decade ago, today, it offers little that isn’t commonplace. Rockstar has even worked to make Max Payne more like the standard crop of shooters by adding a cover system. There’s nothing here we haven’t seen before or played plenty of times over.

The story, too, is a big letdown in terms of the Max Payne universe. The Payne games have always had conspiracies at their heart, and while Max Payne 3′s conspiracy story is a great deal more realistic than its predecessors, it’s also just convoluted. What’s more, Max isn’t so much uncovering the truth as stumbling through room after room of guys who need shooting. He’s a pawn in the conspiracy, but more than that, he’s a pawn in the story — he rarely drives the action forward and mostly just goes to the places he’s told and shoots the people in his way. Max is like a bullet or a missile himself, and he’s constantly being aimed and fired by other people. It also doesn’t help that the conspiracy makes little or no sense in many ways, that there are too many factions of enemies that all are basically the same, and that several characters exist only to drive the plot forward when it stalls.

The game really has one speed and one speed only, and fails to capitalize on even the most basic means of breaking up the action. Cutscenes can kill the pace but more than that, every level is the same scenario with a different skin. It’s amazing how many times huge groups of armed men break into the Brancos’ various holdings; more amazing how many buildings full of armed men Max needs to clear out each day and night. Sometimes Max shoots from the side of a boat or inside a bus, sometimes he does a cool one-off slow-mo entrance through a window or hanging from a chain, but it’s really just the same thing over and over and over and over.

Rockstar has failed to recreate some of the greatest parts of the Remedy Max Payne titles, as well. Those games are steeped in subtext. It doesn’t all work, but much of it does: things like Max’s dream sequences and the parallel story of the “Address Unknown” television show. Things are much more straightforward in Max Payne 3, and while the game isn’t nearly as weird as the earlier titles, it also feels less relevant or interesting.

Adding to what ends up being a pile of mediocrity is Max Payne 3′s multiplayer suite, which, again, adds very little to what’s already available in third-person shooters. If you’ve played Uncharted 3′s multiplayer, you’ll have an idea of what to expect. The mainstays are represented: there’s a deathmatch mode that has players shooting one another, a team deathmatch mode, in which you shoot half as many people, and an experience system that has players earning gear to make themselves more effective combatants.

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11 Comments on Max Payne 3 Review

Austin

On May 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm

This review may be rather fair, but this is still one of the best games I’ve played all year.

Phil Hornshaw

On May 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm

@Austin

I must say I enjoyed playing it. It’s just hard to recommend at $60.

Swcloud

On May 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Good and FAIR review.
My only gripe with it is that you seem to fail to mention the complete lack of loading screens keeping the game constantly going without ever giving you a moment to pause.

Mr Glassback

On May 22, 2012 at 6:45 am

I thought the story and game were excellent on first playthrough and the opportunity for re playability is there with all the clues and golden gun parts, but the cut scenes are a pain in the arse. Only on second playthrough did I realise how many there are and how many of them cant be skipped.
Rockstar are the masters of DLC though so I won’t be getting rid quite yet.

JawaEsteban

On May 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Thanks for an honest and fair review, Phil. I’m going to buy MP3, but I think I’ll be waiting until it’s priced a lot lower than $60. Steam sale six months from now, or something similar. Good read.

Jwiggs

On May 26, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Whoever wrote this review is a retard, this game is amazing. The story is awesome, the fluid movements are uncanny, and the bullet time cam scenes are unforgiving. This game is brutal, they did an amazing job with the gore factor. Multiplayer has alot going for it as well (ROCKSTAR IS THE FIRST TO USE SLOWMO IN A LIVE GAME WITHOUT ANY ISSUES). If youre a fan of shootouts, a great story, and gore pick this game up.

PTTREAN

On May 30, 2012 at 1:01 am

I am enjoying the multiplayer a lot. It is more than passable. If you give it time and get used to the pace of it, it can be extremely addicting and tons of fun.

dogsoutside

On June 15, 2012 at 6:20 am

you people that complain about the price of a game make me laugh. You’d go out and drink at a bar for $100 plus, and not think anything of it. Stop complaining and grow up.

ThePrion

On June 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I completely agree with the review. As I was playing the game it felt forgettable in the first hour already. Rockstar’s touch doesn’t feel right to Max Payne, it’s just not his style wave the big guns and trigger such big explosions all around, it felt like I was playing John Woo’s Stranglehold all over again, repetitive all the way. It is well polished and technically great but lacks the finesse and even as said the weirdness of the previous titles that built up such a classic atmosphere. The story is anything but great, the conspiracy presented is ridiculous and surely convoluted, and being a brazilian myself I could only laugh at such naive depiction. Despite all the high hopes I had for the game, I can’t see it standing as a worthy and remarkable sequence for the series.

Tiagonal

On June 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I couldn’t keep off thinking about GTAV playing Max Payne 3.. The first was Max Payne was epic.. but now it’s a rockstar :(

Phil Hornshaw

On June 25, 2012 at 8:30 am

@dogsoutside

I’m failing to see the point of your comparison. What does a bar tab have to do with video game value?