The lights are on
Max Payne 3 starts with Max staring down at a completely
maimed person struggling to escape whatever fate Max's gun has for him. Max's inner
monologue kicks in, explaining how he has become just a murderous tool for
another employer. This scene sets the tone of a game that certainly has a
specific visual aesthetic and narrative style in mind. Max Payne's story should
be one of its biggest selling points, and though it certainly is an interesting
tale of a guy who has been kicked while he's down practically his entire life,
Max Payne's latest narrative is hardly the best part of the experience.
Max finds himself away from his New York roots and in
Brazil, working for rich, decadent socialites. His employer's loose wife gets
captured, sending Max on a trail of twists and hectic gun fights where he
leaves behind roughly an equal number of bullet shells and bodies on the
ground. It's an interesting setup for the game, and anyone who was worried
about the scenic departure from the previous games will certainly get their
fill of original Max.
The gritty, noir style set by the game's first two
entries remains despite being mostly relocated. Max is still a cynical, self-deprecating
guy with a sharp tongue. He also still has a soft spot for just about every
woman he runs into. This description of Max is what really starts to get in the
way of the game's story, though.
He's just not a very upbeat kinda guy
The entire game is told through his perspective, Max
narrating just about every cinematic and gameplay scene. Though quite a bit of
it, particularly during the early segments of the game, are well written and
engaging, the entire tone of Max's inner monologue gets repetitive and boring.
Max consistently talks about how incompetent and useless he is as a bodyguard
as he takes down rooms of heavily armed enemies. He'll also make a passing
comment around every single female character regarding his inability to protect
them or how their deaths seem to set off his misadventures. It's possible to
just consider these narrative bits motifs; however, after a few hours into the
game, Max started to feel more like a whiney teenager than an ex-cop turned
Dude, we get it, you're sad and stuff
The presentation of the story is much like Max's inner
monologue: interesting at first, but quickly diminished by repetition. During
cut-scenes, the camera will have an odd, blurry visual that seems to be ripping
through the screen. It's an interesting look at first and really helps in selling
Max's dark, drug-addicted lifestyle early on in the game. It gets used
far too often, though, making many of the cinematic scenes of the game annoying to
watch. Words of the character's dialogue also flash onto the screen as frames
are moved into panels, doing a great job of capturing the comic book feel of
the previous games without strictly adhering to a comic book style. Connecting all these cut-scenes is also an incredible
manner of transition from cinematic moments to gameplay. If you're interested in the
story just as much as the gameplay, Max Payne 3 offers an amazingly fluid
Max's slow-motion, gun-toting gameplay is certainly where he
still reigns supreme. It has been years since bullet-time first showed up in Max
Payne, and it is an absolute joy to see that Rockstar has brought it back to
such an engaging and entertaining degree. The most interesting part about Max's
signature ability is just how important it is to gameplay. Using or misusing
bullet-time makes all the difference in just about every shootout. With a quick
click of the right stick, Max goes into slow-motion, his crosshair moving
effortlessly from target to target to score perfect killing shots. The
shoot-dive button also sends Max into bullet-time as he jumps forward
into a very Choy Yun-fat like acrobatic move. The mechanic that originally defined
the game works just as well now as it did when Max first showcased it. Even the
ending kill-cams that zoom in on the final enemy's departure at the end of each battle are absolutely
satisfying each and every time, making them some of the best in gaming right
now (with the possible exception of Sniper Elite's recent use of the kill-cam).
Nearly every weapon in Max Payne 3 feels unique with a rich
amount of detail. All of this is only highlighted by Max's
animations. Similarly to Rockstar's recent games, Max moves very fluidly and
realisitically, swinging his guns about as though they each have a certain
shape and weight.
Much like the original games, the level design is very
straightforward, offering quite a linear experience. This might be seen as a
negative by many gamers these days, but the true joy of Max Payne is found in
mastering each shootout you encounter with precise aiming and timely use of
bullet-time. This leads to an arcade feel during gameplay (particularly if you
replay the game in New York Minute mode as it actually scores your shots with
extra seconds on your limited timer), forcing the player into finding the best
moment-to-moment use of every mechanic available to Max. Essentially, Max's
single-player campaign is at its best when the player is able to line up every
shot perfectly with their slow-motion driven, cover-taking actions, making a
successful shootout feel incredibly rewarding.
Surprisingly, one of the best parts about Max Payne 3 is the
game's multiplayer action. Rockstar has tried multiplayer with its last couple
of games (GTA IV clumsily so while Red Dead Redemption created a much better multiplayer
experience), but Max Payne might be their most successful outing in online play
yet. Most notably, Max Payne 3's action keeps the key mechanic of the
experience in tact as it transitions to online: bullet-time.
Players get to build adrenaline during combat, and they are
allowed to use that resource for either slow-mo shoot-dives or bursts. Whenever
players use a slow-mo mechanic, every other player within that person's line-of-sight
(indicated by their marker on the mini-map) also goes into slow-motion. The
player who activated bullet-time gets to have a freely moving crosshair while
all other players are limited to incredibly slowed down aiming.
Rarely does bullet-time get overused in a match as players
will often utilize their adrenaline for bursts instead. Bursts are activated by the
right click and can aid the player in numerous ways. Extra health, firepower,
and defensive abilities can be activated for an entire team by a single burst,
something that can really shift how each match plays out.
The multiplayer of Max Payne 3 is certainly worth your time
With an impressive suite of multiplayer options to play with
and plenty of customizable weapons, armor, and bursts to try out, Max Payne 3's
multiplayer offers a lot of content that will keep you going long after you
complete the single-player campaign.
Max Payne 3 entered into a market that was flooded by games Max's
original titles influenced in various ways. That Rockstar was able to pick
up where Remedy left off so many years later is quite a feat. The story may not
deliver to the fullest, and some questionable presentation choices can hinder
the overall experience, but Rockstar's latest, much like Payne himself, came
out against some difficult odds and still managed to come out on top.
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