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 bodyguard.

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 experience.

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. 

Rating: 9/10

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