Max Payne is back! Older, heavier and with whiskey replacing the blood in his veins. Different times call for different situations, and this is a different Max Payne game. Gone are the snow covered night scenes of New York (well, aside from the flashback levels) and in there place are the sun-drenched favelas of South America. Rockstar have taken over full responsibility from Remedy for Max Payne 3 and there are Remedy-shaped holes where they are sorely missed. Gone are the trademark graphic novel cutscenes and they have been replaced with stylish full-action animations. They do echo the graphic novel panels in fast-cutting transitions, but if it wasn’t for the return of James McCaffrey voicing the titular anti-hero, this game would almost be unrecognisable. Other differences include a cover system and the ability to dual wield any two handheld weapons. Not that any of these changes are a bad thing, of course.
Let’s get to the main thing this game is about amongst all the painkillers; action. Bullet Time is back and better than ever with Max diving through windows in slow motion and getting a well needed close shave by a 9mm round. There are moments when Bullet Time is forced, such as being winched up by a cable or sliding down a sloped roof, and it feels quite satisfying when you clear the room on the first try. Interactive environments such as shooting the compressor on a raised car platform and crushing the enemy NPCs who stand below it, isn’t a widely available as the game initially made out. I wasn’t expecting Stranglehold, but sadly they are few and far between aside from the odd explosive canister.
The game has its small share of bugs and gripes too. For instance, occasionally a box will fly across the room for no apparent reason. Sometimes Max will slow down upon approach to a door which will trigger a cutscene, when only regaining control of the character 10 seconds before. So I just walked down that corridor for what reason, so you can add this to the total playing time stat? I also slightly miss the messed-up dream sequences as in the previous games which further enforced Max’s innner demons, but we can’t have everything!
The story has always drawn me to these games, with Max’s character a combination of 90s Hollywood action heroes who is then thrown into John Woo-esque action scenes. The set pieces are brilliant and are some of the best I’ve ever played. In my opinion, Max Payne 3 does a better job than LA Noire ever did in being a seamless game that plays like a movie, showing that this can also be a writer’s medium. Levels load during the cutscenes and then the player is launched into the heat of the action without a moment’s hesitation. It’s a very good story too and you feel sympathetic towards the tortured titular character, especially at the midway point. The game owes a bit to Tony Scott’s awesome 2004 film Man On Fire, with the alcoholic anti-hero working as a gun-for-hire in South America who digs deep and opens a can of worms. There’s plenty of fantastic plot elements and as the player, you really root for Max. The game’s soundtrack is riddled with additional tension in the last few levels.
Additional features-wise, I’m always disheartened with this current generation of games since the financial success of Call of Duty that multiplayer “must” be included in the package. For me, 8 times out of 10 it’s a waste of time and detracts from the main game. So for the purpose of this review, “there be no multiplayer business here!” In addition to the single player campaign, New York Minute makes a welcome return along with an Arcade mode. These modes also allow players to choose a different character skin, such as the Max from MP1 and MP2 which is a nice addition for fans of the series. I’m a bit of a trophy whore, so coupled with the golden weapons and clues to uncover, there’s a fair bit of re-playability here. Upon completing the campaign on Hard it unlocks Hardcore and Old School, the latter removing the ability to use cover as in the the previous games.
Max Payne 3 is an outstanding game for fans and also newbies to the series. It could stand out in its own right as an action thriller as well as a game. On the PS3 it looks and sounds brilliant, with each location being a living and breathing character. It’s got a lot of great moments that will thrill from start to finish that you’ll want to revisit again come the thrilling finale.