Max Payne 3 Xbox 360 Review – Shoot-dodge Through the Pain
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: May 15, 2012
ESRB: M – Mature
I’ve been through it all before, numerous times. I’m just a guy who tries to do the right thing but always ends up in a bad way time and time again. I wouldn’t have any luck at all if I didn’t have bad luck. I try to outrun the problems. It doesn’t matter if I’m 5,000 miles away from home or 5,000 miles down the bottomless pit of a whiskey bottle. Everywhere I go, there I am. I suffer through no-win situations every day and people get hurt. I can only hope that I can make it through another day.
This is Max Payne’s story in Max Payne 3. It is the story of any alcoholic. The gritty, noir drama manages to tell a story seldom done successfully in gaming. The incomprehensible demoralization that Max suffers from is well known to me and that is a big reason why Max Payne 3 and I connect.
Fans of the two previous Max Payne games know what to expect. The third game in the series has plenty of violent action set-pieces full of goons to riddle with bullets in real-time or bullet-time slow motion. Though Max Payne is now removed from his hometown New York, but the bullet-time, shoot-dodging, internal monologue, and gritty noir are retained in the exotic Sao Paolo, Brazil. This is everything Max Payne should be to my delight.
Max Payne is an alcoholic, drug addled, overweight ex-cop turned bodyguard that has been transplanted from his most recent home, Hoboken, New Jersey to Sao Paolo. His life is in complete and utter shambles. He is recruited by an old police academy buddy, Raul Passos, to work security detail for a wealthy family, the Brancos, in Brazil. The people he’s paid to protect and his insatiable desire for booze does not make this job easy. The Comando Sombra, a powerful gang in Sao Paolo, make attempts to kidnap the various Brancos family members and are successful in kidnapping the trophy wife of Rodrigo Branco, Fabiana. If you know anything about Max, you know that things don’t end well with women in his life. The situation becomes exacerbated by corrupt cops, paramilitary groups, and conniving traitors. All the while, Max is forced to single-handedly wade through the evil elements tearing Sao Paolo and its favelas apart. He is a man in a city and country that is completely foreign to him. Between risking his life trying to save the lives of those he’s sworn to protect, he’s drinking and popping painkillers at home, on the job, and anywhere in between.
I must say, I really enjoy running around Hoboken and Sao Paolo shoot-dodging, bullet-timing, and dual wielding my way through each chapter. Max has the ability to take cover, combat roll and sweep up a new weapon in one swoop, and do all those time-bending tricks he’s been doing over the years. He may appear a little older and overweight, but he’s still pretty spry. The game is still in third-person perspective. There is a vast assortment of weapons to play with ranging from two hand wielded shotguns or assault rifles to two-fisting pistols or sub-machine guns. There is no better satisfaction than diving into a room full of scumbags in slow motion and popping heads like pimples. The gameplay isn’t overly complex. It isn’t always perfect, but it is fun.
Bullet-time is the staple of Max Payne gameplay. At any point, provided you have enough in the meter, you can enable a slow motion effect that allows you to shoot as many baddies as you can until you disable the effect or your meter depletes. This feature is now enhanced with Last Man Standing and a new bullet cam effect. Last Man Standing gives the player a chance to survive fatal damage by going into slow motion and allowing the player to kill the enemy delivering the killing shot. It is an interesting yet flawed dynamic. You have to have painkillers in your inventory, which of course are used to heal Max Payne. When it works properly, it is a boon. When you are caught falling in a direction that firmly plants your point of view into a wall or pillar you were in cover behind, it is just downright annoying. Bullet cam is an aesthetic feature that you’ll likely forget about as you get further into the game. Each time you kill the final enemy within the set action piece, you can actually change the angle of the camera view of the traveling bullet that is about to punch through the enemy.
Max Payne games have always had a bit of a challenge to them. This game is pretty straightforward in level design, but even on normal difficulty, it has its frustrating moments. That said, I wonder how much more difficult the game would be if Max were to suffer ill effects of taking too many painkillers in a short amount of time. Getting sick or even overdosing would’ve provided a very interesting dynamic to the gameplay. Either way, don’t expect to simply walk into a room full of bad guys and blow them all away like its an 80s action movie, especially on harder difficulties. The trick is to maximize your bullet-time and put a little thought into how to effectively dispatch your foes.
There are two aim modes that will have a drastic effect on your gameplay, Soft Lock and Free Aim. If you find things going rough, you can go with Soft Lock, which is similar to other shooters that will automatically gravitate your aiming reticle towards enemies. I prefer Free Aim because I like the freedom. Besides, a diehard gamer would go Free Aim since it seems to go against the grain of Max Payne’s more hardcore sensibilities.
I’ll admit, I had high hopes for Max Payne 3’s multiplayer. All they had to do was give me an update of the Half-Life mod, The Specialists. Max Payne 3 has a multitude of multiplayer options and Rockstar does an admirable job of creating a multiplayer game that isn’t tacked on. It is very reminiscent of Red Dead Redemption in design. Ultimately, the multiplayer is good, but not great and a bit of a letdown.
There are of course, the requisite amenities now commonplace in online shooters; customizable classes, cash for equipment, weapons, and upgrades, perks, and ranks. You’ll settle right in if you’ve played any shooter post-Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Characters can be completely customized from head to toe with unlockable clothing and gear. As you gain ranks, you will unlock new weapons. As you gain weapon ranks (through kills of course), you will unlock different attachments for them. You can equip bursts that provide various effects and are activated as you build up adrenaline through killstreaks or looting bodies. They range from being able to detect enemies on the map to actually earning more powerful weapons like a grenade launcher. The variety of amenities is a treat, though I do find the menu system to be too clunky. It needs to be more streamlined and user-friendly, even for a shooter vet like me.
Where Max Payne 3’s multiplayer stumbles for me is the controls and the framerate. The control systems are actually the same as the campaign, but because you actually spend less time in bullet-time, maneuvering corners or stairwells with the strange momentum physics Rockstar employs in its games makes controlling your character a chore at times. The framerate is just too low when you are used to games that play smoother. Lag wasn’t a huge factor, but I still felt that hosts had the advantage in games. That is the price to pay for playing on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network as opposed to dedicated servers.
You can dive right into deathmatch or team deathmatch modes, but the real charm of multiplayer is the Payne Killer and Gang War modes. In Payne Killer, two players get to be Payne and Passos. The rest of the players must kill them. Whoever scores a kill on them gets a shot at being them. The hitch; they are better armored, have painkillers, and better weapons.
Gang War is a combination of various game modes wrapped into five chapters. The gang with the most points at the end are the victors. What sets this mode apart is the variation of the game modes. One chapter could be a Grab the Bag round, similar to Red Dead Redemption. Another chapter might feature a plant/defend the bomb round. Five points are awarded to each team based on wins through chapters one to four. The final chapter is a team deathmatch that could still be won by a gang that is behind in points. Its quite fun and the most original online shooter play mode seen in a while.
If multiplayer isn’t really your bag, there are some other single player arcade modes to slow-mo dive into like New York Minute and Score Attack. Aside from competing with people online, running through these modes unlocks bonuses in multiplayer. Should you be up for a real challenge, try beating Max Payne 3 on the harder difficulties. There’s more than enough to keep you occupied.
The real beauty of Max Payne 3 is the dark and gritty feel of the campaign with superbly voiced and rendered cutscenes clearly inspired by the likes of Man On Fire director, Tony Scott. Rockstar created these gorgeous scenes on the surface that turn ugly at a moment’s notice with quick cuts, filter effects, internal monologue, and text that highlights dialogue. The goal is to enhance the depressing situation that Max is in and it works wonderfully. Most of these scenes can’t be skipped, but that’s because they actually serve a dual purpose; to tell the story and to load new areas. The experience runs about ten hours on normal difficulty and it never once felt disjointed. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the multiplayer. I just wasn’t as addicted as I hoped I would be to the multiplayer.
I have an emotional attachment to Max Payne. The true testament to his story is the feeling of despair with each drink or painkiller he downs as he slides deeper and deeper into a black morass until one day he’s had enough. Not every alcoholic or addict is lucky enough to reach that point. Max reaches that point and gains a little redemption. That resonates greatly with me and that is why Max Payne 3 was such an exceptional experience despite its multiplayer flaws.
+ The story is crafted with spectacular characters, voice acting, cutscenes, and gritty effects.
+ Max Payne is still Max Payne. Run, dodge, dive, and shoot.
+ Intriguing multiplayer modes like Gang War and Payne Killer
+ Difficulty and extra modes add replay value.
- Multiplayer wasn’t as addicting as I’d hoped it would be.
- Cutscenes mask loading, but they drag on after seeing them multiple times.
- Casual shooter gamers may find the difficulty overwhelming.