- Publisher: Rockstar Games
- Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
- ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
- Genre: Action
- Pros: Amazing Graphics, Addictive Multiplayer, Great Voice Work, Consistent Tone
- Cons: Flawed Storytelling, Repetitive Action
"Max Payne 3" attempts to revitalize a dead franchise with bullets, blood, booze, and slow-motion head shots. Taking this iconic video game hero and sending him to a drastically different location (a Hoboken cop relocated to Brazil and Panama), the developers of "Max Payne 3" set out to create an experience that is notably cinematic. With no load screens (the game loads behind cut scenes which are incorporated completely into play, so you go from action that you control into a dialogue sequence and back again seamlessly, never seeing a menu screen or a load screen), "Max Payne 3" feels more like a feature film than arguably any other game ever made. And this big-screen feature is an action movie packed with regret, addiction, death, and thousands of spent bullet casings. And, if the story isn't involving enough for you, the best multiplayer mode of the year to date should do the trick. For action fans, this is a must-own as one of the most anticipated games of the season has definitely lived up to our expectations and even exceeded them in some regards.
The "Max Payne" games revolutionized the field with something called "Bullet Time" in which the player could push a button and the field of play would suddenly move in slow motion, giving Max a better chance of targeting a head shot or avoiding getting one between the eyes himself. The gameplay mechanic has developed quite a bit in its 2012 incarnation. In fact, the system has been perfected with "Max Payne 3" to the point that it becomes a part of the fabric of the experience instead of pulling the player out of the storytelling. It becomes almost a strategic device as you have to plan your attack -- "I'm going to pop out of cover here, use Bullet Time to slow things down while I dodge left and shoot that guy behind the wall. Go!"
How will you be using this addictive mechanic? To kill HUNDREDS of bad guys. "Max Payne 3" picks up after the events of the first two games as the grizzled ex-cop is still mourning the loss of everything that mattered to him by seeking redemption at the bottom of a bottle or pill container. Just as he seems to have nothing in life to live for, a man named Passos enters the bar. Being in the right place at the right time, Passos helps Payne escape after Max kills the son of a notorious Jersey mafia don. With the mob after him, Passos makes Payne an offer -- come help me run security for some very important, very wealthy people down in Sao Paulo, Brazil. While on duty there, Max lets the wife of his client, Rodrigo Branco, get kidnapped. As Max weaves his way through the slums of Brazil in pursuit of her, the game flashes back and forth to reveal how Payne got here and features more impressive storytelling than most films released so far this year.
However, you should know that this storytelling is the one aspect of the game over which you have almost no control. Players accustomed to branching narratives may be dismayed by the linear nature of this title. Sure, you can choose the order of your victims, but the fact is that my "Max Payne 3" experience is not going to be drastically dissimilar from yours. With its cinematic quality and driving narrative, it's closer to an "Uncharted" game than what we have come to expect in recent years from Rockstar. Personally, I’m just as impressed when a developer can pull off such an experience and not make me feel like I'm just going from point A to point B. "Max Payne 3" may be linear, but it is rivetingly so.
I will admit that there are times when "Max Payne 3" gets a little repetitive. While the physics of the gunfire can be amazing -- you can feel the weight of carrying guns and the kick from firing a fatal shot more than in most shooters -- there are only so many times you can blow a guy's jugular out and feel anything at all. I will say that, every time I thought that repetition would overtake the title, the developers would come up with an amazing set-piece, sequences like Max having to shoot from a runaway bus or an incredible boat sequence in which Max wakes up from a drunken evening to find that the luxury liner he's on has been overtaken by criminals.
While the story of "Max Payne 3" may not be as engaging as one would hope, this minor disappointment will be off-set by the sheer joy that shooter fans will find in the other two modes -- Arcade & Multiplayer. In Arcade, players can play through the game again, chapter by chapter, with a point system in place. Headshots, deaths during bullet time, survival -- it all equals more points. Some of the action in "Max Payne 3" is so addictive that the chance to go back and revisits a 10-minute chapter over and over again, just to improve the way you tackle it, makes this one of the most replayable campaigns in a long time.
And then there's the multiplayer, arguably the best yet produced by Rockstar. Believe it or not, the developers actually found a way to incorporate Bullet Time into multiplayer. You earn "Adrenaline" through combat and that meter can be used to initiate Bullet Time. Instead of slowing down the entire map, it slows down only those in your line of sight. It doesn't sound like it should work -- multiplayer is meant to be fast-paced -- but it completely does. Other little bells and whistles like the ability to mark an enemy with a "Vendetta" if they kill you twice in a row (making them show up on a map) or to loot your enemies just add to the depth of the experience.
With deep customization options, interesting modes, and well-designed maps, "Max Payne 3"'s multiplayer is the best available so far this year. The game features standard modes like Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch, along with two other stellar and unique options -- "Payne Killer" and "Gang Wars." In the former, one player is Payne himself and another is his partner Passos. They have more abilities, but the rest of the field is trying to kill them. And, if you kill Payne, you become Payne. In "Gang Wars," Team Deathmatch turns objective-based through a series of challenges.