"Maxed out on Payn3"
Another May passes us by, and Max Payne 3, another Rockstar marquee title, graces our presence. While the production values of each Rockstar title have been extremely high, the degree of interaction allowed with each world has actually been reduced further and further, going from the GTA in the Old West feel of Red Dead Redemption, to the Linear GTA feel of L.A. Noire, and now going towards an extremely linear third person shooter. This has given each game its own feel but also has slowly forced players into the exact same experience, the very opposite of which has been the ideology behind Rockstar's titles. While the stories are becoming more engaging, paring back the degree of freedom in the game's world makes a lot of the gameplay flaws even more apparent than usual.
Max Payne 3 takes the titular character, about as synonymous with noir style stories as Duke Nukem is with TnA (Quick trivia, both are the creations of 3D Realms), through an adventure as he begins work as an executive protector of a wealthy man. The story here is oddly engaging, and it actually gives the player reason to go through the game when the gameplay does fall apart and gets frustrating. The first cutscene seems to drag on for a bit long, and even getting the ability to go to the title screen feels like a bit of a chore, but the setup for everything pulls the player into the world and makes them want to see what will happen next.
Presentation and graphics get a special nod here, with stellar animations and character models making the Max Payne 3 world feel all the more realistic. It's not just main character models that get the special treatment here; every character looks believable and has facial animations to match. This has to be the first game where the deaths actually look very brutal (yes, even more than MK9), with bullets decimating enemies and dismembering them without relying on giblets. Presentation gets a nod here, with the way player death is stylish and over-emphasizes the damage the last bullet did to Max, making the player want to find the best way to complete the section that killed them.
With a story encompassing so many locations, it's only expected that the soundtrack follows Rockstar tradition and offers something unheard of from each region. The beginning of the game is set in Brazil, and Portuguese club music is heard as a result. It may be a small touch, but it makes the world feel alive, as the level transitions to a classy Japanese restaurant, and suddenly you hear Bossa Nova playing. Voice acting is excellent, and as with the gore, the game pulls no punches with dialogue.
The only place where Max Payne 3 really has any flaw is in its gameplay. Upon starting story mode, there are many options given to tinker the gameplay to what the player may like, but there's no way to go back and change the options to switch the type of aiming allowed or even the option to change the gameplay difficulty on the fly. I spent a good chunk of the time I played stuck at certain parts where I was spawned in the middle of a firefight.
Max Payne 3's health system is archaic, relying on the use of Pain Killers to heal instead of implementing a system similar to nearly every other game on the market today, and it's even used in the game's multiplayer mode. The need for this isn't highlighted by lack of player skill; the difficulty is similar to other games in the market today, while holding on ancient game mechanics. The placement of enemies, reliance on "bullet-time", and scarcity of ammo doesn't gel well with the health system. There's even a mechanic that allows the player to save themselves by killing the person who killed them, but many times I didn't even have enough ammo to shoot them, locking myself in a long-winded slow motion death animation.
Bullet-time is useful, slowing down enemies to give Max the advantage in a firefight, but it gives the player a lot of grief. Every time it’s used, he lands on the ground laying on his back, so the player has to manually make him stand up afterwards, giving enemies an easy target to shoot at.
Multiplayer’s reception is definitely subject to personal preference. The same three shots that kill someone in Max Payne 3's single-player mode will kill you just as quickly in a Death Match, which means plenty of deaths in matches. The game mechanics also change around a bit: bullet-time is not given as quickly, and character stamina plays a big part in deciding what your character can do based on load out. To the game’s credit, there is a lot of customization available, as well as what seems to be a constant stream of unlocks.
Max Payne 3 is an engaging game, and it has a different feel when compared to other Rockstar Games titles. This is a breath of fresh air, but the game is still prone to the usual hiccups when playing titles as ambitious as this one, and the linear nature of the experience makes these problems even more apparent. Still, a very enjoyable experience overall.
GameDynamo's Score for Max Payne 3 (PS3)
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