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.