Review: Max Payne 3
It has been a while since Max Payne has ‘graced’ our consoles and news of his return should have excited me greatly however, with a very different look and a move into the sunny climes of São Paulo, Brazil I just didn’t get the vibe that this was going to be the same Max that I had experienced so much with, because let’s be honest playing a Max Payne game is one emotional ride.
Max Payne 3 can be played in either Story or Arcade mode. Arcade mode is only available when you complete chapters of the story mode, this unlocks Score attack for those chapters. The two modes New York Minute and New York Minute Hardcore only become available once you compete the whole game. These are competitive story modes where you can show off and gain high scores to prove that you are the meanest Max Payne. I can’t say this is something I will invest much time in but fans of the Bulletstorm style level scores will enjoy bettering their scores and competing with each other on the leaderboards.
You can choose to play the story on either easy, medium, hard, hardcore or old school difficulties. Hardcore and old school only become unlocked when and if you complete hard. Once a difficulty is chosen you can then tweak the targeting style by choosing from hard lock, soft lock or free aim. Hard lock makes the aiming reticule focus strongly on enemies, soft lock focuses the reticule lightly and free aim offers no assistance with aiming at all.
Max finds himself in São Paulo these days working as a private bodyguard for the Branco family. Recruited by an old acquaintance, Raul Passos, things start to go horribly wrong for Max very quickly. The story will keep you hooked all through its twelve-hour playthrough and although there are no “nightmare sequences” to let up the pace and delve deeper into Max’s mind, you do get to go back and play as classic trench coat wearing Max in several sequences which fill in just how Max ended up in Brazil.
After only 5 minutes into the game one thing will become clear, Rockstar have nailed the scripting perfectly. It’s brilliant and keeps delivering as the game goes on. This isn’t just a game script – this script belongs in a film or a novel, people who love film or to read but have a strong dislike to games are missing something pretty special here. As I played my wife got so absorbed into the characters that she even began to criticise one guy’s acting before correcting herself that it was just a game!
You’ll be pleased to know Max is still that same disturbed character, his inner monologue returns and is better than ever, in fact I think it’s the best inner monologue of any character I’ve played as in a game. He constantly describes his predicament as you progress through levels, reminds you of the task at hand or just cracks off witty one liners with that same dry tone and humour that we have all come to love. The first 10 minutes is like a blast from the past – nothing seems to have changed except for the fact that Max and his world now look absolutely incredible.
Max and his new world look superb, a real technical masterpiece. Max will react if he collides with objects when leaping about and he carries his shotgun by his side when he isn’t pelting the enemy with it, instead of it magically appearing and disappearing when equipped. The facial expressions of all the characters look so lifelike it’s uncanny. There is also a slight motion fuzz to the action throughout the game, although some may find it distracting, it’s a necessity to highlight the delicate drug fuelled nature of the game’s hero. The only thing missing is those crazy nightmare levels – ok so Max has moved on and dealt with his inner demons somewhat but with the game looking this good these sections could have been really interesting and twisted.
Music also plays an excellent part to the drama unfolding on-screen and where I could I enjoyed standing around listening to the excellent sound track, like everything about the presentation of this game the music has been excellently picked and fits each scene perfectly. The voice acting is superb, each line is delivered perfectly I’m sure anyone would forgive my wife for thinking this was a real film.
Bullet time makes a glorious return and also comes loaded with some new tricks up its sleeve. As before, you can either activate it at your command or during shootdodge (diving about). I found with the MP3 that bullet time seemed more thoughtful, instead of mindlessly leaping around and abusing the slow-mo sequences to dispose of my enemies, I had to think about when and how to use it. At times a shootdodge will land you the wrong side of a body bag particularly as some enemies seem to be able to absorb far more damage than they should. Instead I found myself using the cover system and activating bullet time while in cover to pop out and take on an overwhelming force. Some sequences demand that you shootdodge your way through them and as long as you have at least one pain killer left you can access bullet time’s latest trick; last man standing.
Last man standing lets you recover from a fatal shot as long as you can kill the enemy that fired it. Bullet time also kicks in if you make a fatal shot on an enemy. Following the bullets trajectory, you can hold down A to slow down time and pump even more lead into you hapless victim, its pretty gruesome and a complete waste of bullets but you’ll do it every time you activate one of these sequences. Finally if you go in for a close range attack you will be treated to a slow mo execution scene – simply pull the trigger when you’re ready to put the goon out of his misery.
Through all the fancy graphics and seamless storytelling as cutscene blend into gameplay, underneath still lies a rather bulky aiming mechanic. Hit detection at times is a bit off or enemies are just too hard to hit in the right spot, especially those in full body armour. This is certainly where expert use of Max’s bullet time techniques comes into its own but with enemies able to take a tremendous amount of damage and ammo being quite scarce I never felt fully empowered as Max like I did in the first two games. Smart players will do fine but let’s be honest Max isn’t the smart kinda guy – he defines the term “all guns blazin”. Guns with scopes also posed quite a problem for me as they force you to aim with the left stick, this totally messed with my head. Switching from aiming with RS to the LS as you look down a scope in the heat of battle is just confusing and while I could adapt quickly to these circumstances when sniping I just couldn’t grasp guns with scope.
In what you could call a final accolade to the original games, Max Payne 3 is just as linear. However, there is always enough action on-screen and a strong sense of desperation and the need to strive forward to save the day, I never felt restricted by being herded through the levels. Once I finished the game all I wanted to do was jump right back in at the start and go again, it really is one heck of a ride.
After you’ve tackled the multiple difficulty levels, challenged the score attacks of the Arcade modes and found all the clues and golden gun parts hidden in the chapters, Max Payne 3 also comes packed with an excellent multiplayer.
Playable on six maps, multiplayer is split into two types: standard deathmatch game modes or Gang Wars. There is also a mode created straight from the main game: Payne killer. The first person to get a kill becomes Max, the person that got killed becomes Passos. These two then become hardened killers complete with painkillers and plenty of ammo and it’s up to the rest of the players to take them down and by doing so become either Max or Passos. It’s an intense game mode with lots of kill stealing as players desperately struggle to become one of the heroes, only as one of them do kills count. Gang Wars is a story based competitive multiplayer game, you play through 5 chapters, each has an objective and either team may win each chapter. It’s essentially the best of 5 rounds.
Before you pick a playlist you must decide at what level you want to play at: soft lock or free aim, selecting either will mean you will join others who have also opted for this aiming mode. You can also join an online crew (clan) wear clan colours, gain exclusive XP bonuses and hang out with the guys in your crew and feud against rival crews.
You can completely customise you multiplayer experience with loadouts, avatar appearances and of course titles, naturally you have to unlock them all first and to make things more tricky, once weapons are unlocked you then have to purchase them using in-game cash you have accrued. There are numerous awards and challenges to chase, with each unlock awarding you additional XP.
Throughout most of the game modes it seems the shotgun is king and there are plenty of players who believe that running around blasting a spray of shot in your general direction will make them top dog, well it works to a certain extent but then so does a AK to the face. Rest assured though shotgun runners will drive you crazy.
The action is thick and fast in all the modes and you won’t have to stray too far to get into the thick of a gunfight and with lag practically being non-existent you will have an awesome time running, leaping and blasting your opponents into the middle of next week. When you do die you get a death screen with a body shaped target board, like those found in shooting ranges, marking out just where you got blasted.
Bullet time has also been introduced to the online space as bursts, you build it much the same way as in the story but once activated it only affects those caught in your line of sight, that includes any teammates standing behind you. If you choose not to activate bullet time then you can work towards earning your chosen burst ability, ok so they’re kill streaks for want of a better description, except death doesn’t cause you to lose your streak. I really enjoyed this mechanic allowing gamers to choose whether to use the bar as bullet time abilities or to save up for their chosen burst abilities.
For me multiplayer is certainly an aspect of MP3 I thought I would dip in and out of especially as you don’t have to invest hours into it to get the most out of it. Third person competitive multiplayer isn’t really my thing but I must admit, I’m pretty hooked to playing this.
Max Payne 3 really is worth a look and so far it’s been my favourite game of the year. Awesome set pieces, great gunplay, edge of your seat gaming – Max Payne 3 has it all. Rockstar have not only reimagined Max Payne but they’ve done a damn good job, fans of the series won’t be disappointed and even though the third person shooting can feel a little off, it’s not enough to take everything else that Rockstar has done away. It’s like going for a drink with an old friend. It’s been far too long but nothing has changed, you still talk the same way and enjoy the same things but most of all you realise just why you were friends in the first place.
Review: Max Payne 3 Results
What we liked:
Graphic elements and the music wrap up an incredible experience
A brilliant set of multiplayer modes
What we disliked:
Bullet sponge enemies
Aiming can be a little frustrating at times
Multiplayer shotgun runners can be annoying