Max Payne 3 is the most recent game from renowned publisher Rockstar. The shooter is a follow-up to Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne; released on the Xbox and Playstation 2 back in 2003. My personal expectations were very high for this game since it followed the incredible Red Dead Redemption and L.A Noire in Rockstar’s game-release calendar. Thankfully I was not disappointed.
The back-story to this year’s hit is that Max, formerly an NYPD detective, has found his life in ruins after his wife and daughter are murdered. Max falls into a state of depression where his life is controlled by booze and drugs, up until his friend Passos from the police academy offers him a private security job guarding the rich and famous in Sao Paulo. What follows is one of the finest corruption stories I have ever witnessed. The script in Max Payne 3 is outstanding, and at times laugh-out-loud. Don’t get me wrong, it was sinister and sure as hell serious, but it had a certain level of jest that really strengthened Max’s character and the game as a whole. The script isn’t just presented during cut-scenes however, as Max commentates on situations mid-level whilst you are actually playing. This keeps things interesting throughout, and really allows the player to engage in the lead character’s emotions. As for the plot itself, I was very impressed. It was a truly compelling (and film-like) storyline that kept me addicted throughout. So much so in fact, that I was able to finish the main story in just two days (although this may have been helped by the fact that the campaign is only mid-length (ten hours). Regardless, there are plenty of twists and turns that make Max Payne 3’s storyline worth a run-through. And if you fancy running through the story more than once there is also an ‘Arcade’ mode in which you play through the single-player campaign under time limits – rewarding you with XP that is transferred across to multiplayer.
For whatever reason, Max Payne 3’s visuals weren’t quite as astonishing as its Rockstar predecessor L.A Noire; but that doesn’t mean they weren’t great. Facial detail is good (but not remarkable) and lip-syncing isn’t bad at all. The movement of characters (which, by the way, is in third-person) is as good as any other Rockstar game and looks pretty realistic. Environments are where the game really shines however. The attention to detail all over the game is fascinating – for instance, early on (whilst fighting on a helipad), I couldn’t help but notice the realistically moving stream of cars passing-by about a mile below on the ground. Now, this might not mean a lot to some gamers, but to nit-pickers like myself this meant I found few faults in the game’s appearance. To top it all off the environments vary greatly from level to level, which complements the twists and turns of the storyline. What makes the surroundings really special though is how they are affected by the commonly occurring explosions that bring about some great lighting effects.
One aspect of Max Payne 3 that is (as far as I’m aware) unique is its replacement of loading-screens with cut-scenes. This means that there is no stopping and starting during missions (that to be honest can ruin the experience in some games), but instead a constant stream of storyline that maintains immersion. That being said, it can sometimes lead to some confusion – on occasion I found myself watching Max die, unaware that the cut-scene ended a couple of minutes ago. I doubt, however, that too many people will be as stupid as myself in that situation. Like with most games there are a few glitches here and there but no game crashes or anything that serious. For me the most annoying aspect of the gameplay (which is largely based on taking cover and popping up at tactical times) was that when attempting to hide behind a slim object, Max would occasionally be unable to take cover and I’d accidentally run out into a hail of gunfire, thinking that I was safely ‘secured’ to the object in question. Besides this minor flaw though there were very few hiccups in the game – only the occasional combat glitch (e.g. getting stuck whilst melee-ing in a small space). Overall the combat was actually very impressive and the shooting felt superb. Also featured in the game is a new feature (similar to ‘dead-eye’ in Red Dead Redemption) called ‘bullet-time’. It allows the player to temporarily slow down time in order to execute the perfect shot, however after using it there is quite a lengthy re-charge time before it can be performed again. It’s a pretty exciting addition though and ultimately can change the way you play the game.
The multiplayer in Max Payne 3 is good but in no way unique. Most game modes have been seen many times before (e.g. ‘Deathmatch’) and although the customisation is good, it adds nothing new to the shooting genre. One aspect I did really like however was the fact that single-player performance can result in XP being earned and transferred to multiplayer. However the clumsiness of the third-person controls in the very small maps and the extreme level of camping (as players have been trained to take cover throughout the single-player campaign) somewhat ruin the multiplayer experience.
Overall, Max Payne 3 is a fantastic game that features one of the best single-player campaigns I have played in a long time. There are a few areas where the game could have been better (for example the map layout in multiplayer) but besides these and a small number of glitches I can’t really fault Max Payne 3. Another cracking game from Rockstar that you just HAVE to play if you enjoy a good shooter.
Game Score: 9/10
By Lewis Manning