How many good gaming trilogies have there been? Mass Effect only had two games (yes, only two. We don’t speak of that last one here), and Gears of War 3 is the only one that comes to mind. So does Max Payne deliver? Read on to find out.
Story: Max finds himself in another crap job in another crap place, this time protecting the Branco family in Sao Paulo, Brazil. After each hectic work day, he relaxes by popping pills, chugging booze (the breakfast of champions) and smoking. Needless to say, Max Payne’s life is pretty screwed up and things only get worse after one of the Branco girls he was supposed to protect gets kidnapped. So he embarks on a dangerous journey into gang territory to recover the girl, overcome his midlife crisis, uncover a huge conspiracy and set things straight.
Sound: The soundtrack is new-age and perfect for the scene. The street party music in the favelas of Sao Paulo that Max visits is actually catchy, and the entire score for Max Payne is really memorable. And to complement a perfect soundtrack, the voice acting is perfect as well. James McCaffrey has got to be the best envisioning of Max Payne ever, and I can’t imagine this game without him. His voice is expressive, realistic and elicits whatever emotions he’s supposed to throughout the story. The best part of his dialogue would have to be Max’s sarcastic and sadistic voice-overs which are so clever I can’t help but specially mention them and applaud the writers. Sound: 10/10
Presentation: Max Payne 3 has an extreme eye for detail, and it shows. Aside from the already gorgeous graphics of the game, every single action you take is accounted for and is implemented in the cutscenes, such as what weapons you were holding before the cutscenes being in the exact same weapons during it, and when a door is inaccessible Max bashes into it and you really feel that it’s locked, instead of it just being a lifeless texture that blocks you like in most games. Rockstar did a great job in this respect, with everything feeling extremely real, interactive and like you were controlling a real person in a real place, which is why I can excuse the handful of texture pop-ins and visual glitches that occured throughout my playing of the game. The visual style as a whole in the game is great and extremely cinematic, with film grain, scan-lines and all sorts of other things to keep you invested in the cutscenes and atmosphere of the game. Even better, these cutscenes disguise loading times which allows for virtually uninterrupted story telling and gameplay. Presentation: 10/10
Gameplay: Max Payne 3 is a cover shooter at its core, with “Bullet Time” being the only real unique mechanic the game has going for it. Bullet Time allows you to slow down time, dodge individual attacks and leap dramatically in a direction while firing rounds of bullets through enemy heads. This brings me to my next point, the gunplay. Unlike most, Max Payne isn’t a mindless shooter. Enemies come by the thousands (literally) and they are smarter than the average online opponent, which is pretty intimidating for the player. They flank, dive and do everything in their power to analyze and avoid danger while dishing out enough bullets to knock you into next week. But after the horrendous strife that is every single in-game battle, there is a gorgeously gory cinematic kill-cam, which slow-mos bullets as they finish off the final enemy in a room. It’s messy, brutal and satisfying in a twisted sort of way, and makes you feel accomplished as you blow a thug’s brains out of his ears on the third try of a really hard battle.
Aside from incredibly smart AI and a lack of superpowers other than Bullet Time, there is one more contributing factor to the game’s difficulty: the lack of regenerative health. I actually love Max Payne for this, as it does everything most modern games are too afraid to do. Tough enemies and a clearly human protagonist (not some kryponite induced brute, just some old drunk guy) who doesn’t instantaniously recover from bullets. Instead, he ops for painkillers, small pill jars hidden throughout levels that’ll recover about two thirds of your health. Finding these things is a victory in itself, as Max can only take two to three bullets in a row before death and any sort of recovery item is heaven-send.
I really like how Max Payne plays, and it’s a great challenge for any gamer. My only gripes would have to be that some of the checkpoints are seriously unforgiving, and that near the end of the game fighting ridiculous waves of goons becomes a little stale. Gameplay: 8.5/10
Multiplayer: Considering how good the single player portion of the game was, I was a little disappointed by the multiplayer. Characters feel like detailed stick-figures and all of the realistic physics and motions that the game previously had are lost. Maps aren’t very big and the modes aren’t very diverse, so the best I can call the multiplayer experience is a fun diversion. It’s cool that they managed to include Bullet Time in the multiplayer, and the arcade-ish feel to it all is nice, but it doesn’t feel as weighty or quality as the single player. Multiplayer: 6.5/10
Length: The story mode is surprisingly long, ending at just over eleven hours. Add that to the tons of hours spent dying and retrying, the golden guns/grinds and other collectibles plus the multiplayer, and Max Payne gives a fair amount of bang for the buck. Length: 9/10
Overall: Max Payne 3 is a great game that easily earns its 8.8 out of 10. This is a game that squeezes the boundary between movie and video game one step thinner, and is easily the most Oscar-worthy Xbox title I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. If you’re in it for multiplayer, prepare to be disappointed. But if you’re in it for the most amazing video game story of all time with incredible narrative and extremely interesting characters, Max Payne is a must.