Gotta hand it to Rockstar, after so many years since the original Max Payne game they go out and bring the game back to life in a full on reboot. I have to admit, at first I wasn’t sure that they were going to pull it off, but after completing the game, impressively enough, they pulled it off and knocked it out of the park. They retained the classic elements while elevating the game with stellar action driven gameplay and a remarkably good story to keep you captivated through to the end.
The original Max Payne games had a dark gothic art style set in the nights of a grim crime filled New York City. Visually this set the game apart from any other game on the market and really gave Max Payne it’s identity. A lot of us gamers were uncertain about the bright colorful direction that Max Payne 3 was showing off from the previews before it’s release. It was clearly looking like a completely different game going in the opposite direction when compared to the original two games.
As part of this new direction the game was showing off an older struggling Max, putting time between this game and the previous two. The second game was appropriately titled The Fall of Max Payne which really left Max at rock bottom after loosing his loved ones and destroying his career while constantly giving in to the demons of drugs and alcohol to help deal with his pain.
Like many gamers, I was skeptical if Max Payne 3 would turn out to be any good. The original games left a very lasting impression I wasn’t necessarily ready to have that impression get changed up into a new direction. Many of us gamers thought it would be a completely different game from the first two, and it is, there are a lot of differences. Yet somehow Rockstar managed to inject the essence of Max Payne‘s character and visual style into this new game while introducing a new heavily distorted vivid style that perfectly suits Max Payne. In the end, the risk that Rockstar made worked out well.
Visually Max Payne 3 is dark and vivid with a lot of grungy noise tossed in to create a unique dirty nior style.
Great Story Telling
It’s not just the art style either, Max‘s story is cohesive and well written for a video game. It naturally feels like the next chapter in Max‘s antagonizing life. As Max Payne 3 starts out, Max has a fresh start in a new city and new job doing protection detail for a wealthy family in San Paulo, Brazil. Things are looking up for Max while he continues to recover from losing his loved ones. Then like a well written action movie, Max‘s job explodes into high gear pulling you in to unravel what is happening those Max is supposed to protect. Things appear to be fairly normal scenarios, but soon enough twists and turns cause Max‘s life to begin the perpetual downward spiral that keeps you going to finish the game.
The way the story unfolds works extremely well to keep you captivated and engaged. You are constantly fed bits and pieces of the story through Max‘s own narration as he thinking out loud to himself. This creates a balanced yet engaging way build up and develop Max‘s character while unraveling the story as you progress through the game. Combine this with the noir graphic novel story telling sequences between the chapters makes the story an engaging experience.
The well written story is perpetually dark and grim for Max Payne.
To help transition gamers from the original games into the new one, Rockstar mixed in flash back chapters of Max back in the dark cold New York City. Each of these flash back chapters helps fill in the back story of how Max ended up where he is now in San Paulo. They don’t go into the original two games, but they do seem to pickup fairly soon after they left off.
Classic Original Gameplay
Key to the success of all the Max Payne games is bullet-time and bullet-dodge. An essential aspect of the gameplay that allows you to slow down time while you shoot your opposing enemies. In bullet dodge you can leap into the air as time is slowed down so you can clear out a room of bad guys by the time you hit the floor. It’s a great Matrix style effect that we’ve seen in other games like Red Dead Redemption and Stranglehold, however it was originated by the first Max Payne game.
Nothing beats jumping into bullet time and clearing out a room full of enemies.
While the slo-mo makes you feel very powerful, it does not necessarily make the game easy. Each level is packed with smart challenging enemies that are constantly unloading on Max in their attempts to kill him. Even when in cover, Max is frequently exposed and venerable to enemy fire. The enemy AI is always moving in on you to keep you on your toes to act fast or get killed.
You will die a lot, the game provides lots of challenging situations where you feel over whelmed with enemies, but as long as you approach each area with a little strategy you should be fine. On the harder game settings you need to always stay in cover while learning to get good with your aim, manage your pain-killer pills, your bullets, and bullet time to clear out each level. This is key to moving forward through the game or you will not make it.
The game provides three different aim-assist targeting modes, hard lock, soft lock, and free aim. These can dramatically impact the difficulty of the game, free aim provides the best authentic gaming experience with a good amount of challenge that requires you to manually aim. A nice touch of realism comes in the ability to climb and jump over most obstacles or furniture, pretty much anything that is about waist-high, Max can jump over it.
Rockstar is known for doing great motion capture animations in their games and Max Payne 3 is no exception. All the animations feel natural and fluid as you move throughout the levels, popping in and out of cover while hopping over things to get to your target. It always feels credible and real to give you an immersive experience.
Great Level Designs
Like the original games, Max Payne 3 isn’t an open world game, it is a linear action game. Some levels allow for exploration but you’re rarely lost on where to go next. There is a wide variety of well designed levels in the game. A few really stood out for me as very memorable chapters, including the stadium, docks, yacht, canals, graveyard, police station, and the favelas. Mixing in the New York levels helps balance the game and keep it feeling fresh. Throughout the game you’ll experience a wide variety of levels as you progress through, each one is well designed bringing you a different environment, mixing up the weather, and often introducing a new color pallet to change up the mood.
Throughout the levels you need to find pain-killer pills to heal yourself, bullets for your weapons as you can easily run out of bullets regularly on the harder setting. For those of you who like collectables, there are golden gun parts to be found along with clues scattered throughout the levels to investigate, these clues help add little tid bits to the story experience. For the golden guns, there are usually 3 parts per gun, once you get all of them, that gun becomes gold whenever your using it in the game. It’s a nice touch that adds a little bit of flair as your playing through the game.
Good sound design can help tie everything together and elevate a gaming experience. Max Payne 3 sounds great when playing through a full home theater sound system, everything feels livid and real with a little added umph to boost the experience. Combine this with some great songs composed by Health to set the mood and energy throughout the game. They did all the songs on the soundtrack except for one, it showcases a wide variety of moods to set the tone throughout each of the levels in the game.
An unexpected surprise to the game was the multiplayer gameplay. A lot like the hit multiplayer from Rockstar‘s Grand Theft Auto IV, the gameplay modes and action in Max Payne 3 multiplayer turned out to be a lot of fun. I normally don’t pay much attention to multiplayer in games unless they are Halo, Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Uncharted, but Max Payne 3 has a good formula with the mix of third person perspective and bullet time that got me playing online for a while. Plus they have and continue to release DLC to keep the game fresh.
Max Payne 3 Rocks
Overall I was delightfully surprised by Max Payne 3. I didn’t have high expectations for it, but I gotta give kudos to Rockstar Games as they have really done an exceptional job in producing a polished gaming experience. Not only by staying true to the series but taking the risk by breaking out into new territory to rejuvenate the series franchise. The campaign felt like a dark 15 hour action packed movie with stellar gameplay and solid story that made for one hell of a fun ride which kept me captivated and fully engaged from beginning to end. Due to the success of Max Payne 3, I suspect that we’ll be seeing more of Max in the future.
Video: Max Payne 3 Launch Trailer
- Max Payne 3 on Amazon
- Max Payne 3 Soundtrack on Amazon
- Official Max Payne 3 Site
- Rockstar Games
- Game Informer review (9.25)
- IGN review (9.0)
- Game Trailers review (7.6)
- Max Payne on Wikipedia
Have you played the Max Payne games? What did you think about Max Payne 3? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and thank you for reading my review.