Max Payne 3 Review
Max Payne 3 is the first game to come from Rockstar that held my interest until the very end. I know they are well known for their games and story telling, but I always feel games like Grand Theft Auto go on a little too long for me. Even Red Dead Redemption, a western (I love the genre), lost me about half way through. I’m not saying they are bad games, they just aren’t for me. With that being said, I loved Max Payne 3.
When the first Max Payne came out, I had a computer that could barely run it. I tried it out, liked the game play, and thought the way the story was told was unique to gaming at the time. However, I never finished it. I uninstalled it and completely forgot about it. Then came Max Payne 2 and I let that one pass right by me. Then there was the train wreck of a movie that came along… Yes, I watched it. Movie previews have a way of making something look so amazing that you just can’t pass it up. I wish I had. I’m sorry if this offends anybody, but I thought it was bad and it could have been so good.
So, that’s MY history with the Max Payne franchise.
If you have never played the previous titles and missed out on the movie, you will not be lost. From the beginning, it’s obvious that Max is a very damaged person. Throughout the first half of the game, you get to see plenty of boozing and pill popping from our hero. I found myself asking “how is he not dead?” and that’s just from the self inflicted damage. Almost every person in São Paulo, Brazil will try to kill you. Luckily for Max, he’s good at killing too. Max Payne 3 is a third person shooter, with has a basic cover system. On the PS3 (the version I played) you push the square button when you are near something, and you will have temporary cover. I say temporary because almost everything thing in the environment is destructible. You have to move from cover to cover in order to stay alive. Believe me, if you don’t, you WILL die.
And then, there’s Bullet Time. Max has the ability (maybe from all of the drinking?) to super focus his attacks in slow motion. There are two ways to do this. The basic bullet time that will allow Max to run and gun is done buy clicking down on the right analog stick. The player can also press R1 on the controller while pushing in different directions, and Max will dive in slow motion until he either hits the ground, or something in the environment. I found it funny at times thinking how badass it looked until he hits a filing cabinet and crumbles to the ground. Max isn’t exactly fast at getting up, so I found myself getting shot quite a bit trying to recover. There are other instances of Bullet Time that happen at the end of cut scenes. Max will find himself surrounded by enemies and as the scene ends, time will slow down, and you have the chance to take out everyone of the guys shooting at you. It’s usually done in a fashion of quick thinking and using the surroundings to your advantage. For instance, there is a scene where you are on a motor boat and end up jumping another boat full of enemies so time slows and you can pick them off one by one. In another scene, you jump onto a zip line already occupied by an enemy and you get to use him as a human shield while placing well aimed head shots at people on the other side. The game is full of adrenaline inducing bullet time scenes like this. The final use of non player controlled Bullet Time occurs when you have cleared a room and you are taking down the last enemy. You have the option to press and hold the X button and watch as your final bullet hits the enemy in slow motion. You can even pop off a couple more shots in this mode and watch as the bullets tear through the face, mouth, eyes and limbs of the the bad guy. I thought this might come of as gimmicky, but it never gets old.
So, if Max is being shot at from start to finish, how do you survive? When Max isn’t being shot at, you have a chance to explore your surrounding. You’ll find bottles of pain killers hidden all over the place. Sometimes they are in obvious places like a medicine cabinet. Picking up the bottles doesn’t heal you. As you take damage, there is a Max shaped health bar that fills with red on the bottom right of the screen. When it’s full, the scene goes to black and white and time slows down so that you can take a shot at the enemy that last fired on you. If you are able to hit them, your pain killer stash drops by one and you are healed. You also kill the bad guy with one shot in this mode. Kind of like a super bullet. This doesn’t always work as well as it should. For example, if the last enemy to fire at you is behind you, you watch in slow motion as Max tries to bring his gun around knowing that you won’t be able to. The game doesn’t recognize that this is impossible so you have to wait for time to run out before you actually die. Moments like this pull you out of the flow of the game. Luckily, the game is full of checkpoints so if you do die, you don’t have to start the area over.
What about the story? I don’t want to have any spoilers in this review so I’ll keep it basic. Max has taken a job protecting a rich family in Brazil. What should have been an easy life with good pay becomes a nightmare when the wife of his boss is kidnapped. As the story unfolds, you get to play flash back missions that tell the story of how Max ended up being recruited by Passos, an ex cop who seems to know a lot about Max. The story also takes you back to one of their first missions together that plays into the overall story of the game. With a few plot twists throughout the game, what starts as a rescue mission turns into something else entirely. Something quite epic. The voice acting in the game is excellent. A lot of the dialogue is in Spanish and there aren’t any English subtitles. Max mentions a couple of times in the game about not speaking the language so I’m glad it doesn’t get translated. If Max doesn’t understand, why should I? The game falls into the Noire category of story telling. Max narrates as the story plays out. Usually in a somewhat monotone voice. When Max talks in the game, he has a lot more emotion, especially by the end. The supporting cast is great too. The bad guys are horrible and the good guys are likable.
Rockstar made a great game. I recommend this to anybody that enjoys third person action games. It had great story telling, fast and fun gameplay, and it looks pretty good graphically. It’s definitely not the best looking game out there, but that doesn’t matter. Sure, there are a few glitches, but what game doesn’t have those? The game took about 10 hours for me to finish and I think that’s the perfect length for any good story. I never felt bored and I never really knew how the story was going to play out. I’m sure this will probably be considered a reboot of the franchise, and I’m sure if they make more, they will be good too, but I would be OK with this being the end of Max Payne. Will I play Max Payne 4 if they make it? Probably, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to succeed like this again. This is a gem of a game that makes me happy to be a gamer. Thanks Rockstar for making this near perfect title.