Rockstar's one man wrecking crew is back in Max Payne 3.
With the first two games being developed by Remedy, everyone was interested to see the transition it would make falling into the safe hands of Rockstar Studios. Rockstar studios takes Max into the next generation of video games with style.
This time around Max has taken his talents away from the gritty, snowy, mess that is Hoboken, New Jersey after SERIOUSLY pissing off the mob. He has found new pastures in South America and is employed (if you want to call it that) by the rich and all powerful Branco family as a "dumb gringo who likes to shoot". The game is primarily located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but takes you all over the place at the same time whether it's a flashback to New York or in the Panama Canal. Fun fact: Sao Paulo is the ninth most populated city in the world so you pretty much know from the get-go the city is fucked up; a perfect place for Max Payne to call home.
The narrative of the single player portion of the game begins with the kidnapping of Rodrigo Branco's trophy wife, Fabiana. While she really isn't the main
focus of the story, Fabiana is illustrative of the empire Rodrigo Branco has built for his family and how it has unfortunately fallen into the wrong hands. Ditching the comic strips of the first two games, the narrative is now told cinematically, and is retrospectively told by the returning James McCaffrey, the stellar voice actor for Max in the first two games. Following the tragic events of the conclusion of Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, Max has certainly fallen....deep. The cut scenes are full of drunken blurs and lots of self loathing monologues (while obviously masking load times). The game does a fantastic job of really make you feel a real connection to Max. Being new to the Max Payne series, the painting of Max's dejected, downhearted personality actually made me want to go back and play the first two games. Being a self-loathing, boozing individual myself, I really felt like Max Payne. And while the game has the obligatory "drugs, money, rich people doing bad things" plot, the main focus is really about Max and his need for redemption, self-fufillment, and hopes of leaving the past.
The action is similar to the first two games making full use of a rich arsenal of weaponry and the return of the iconic Bullet Time from the first two games (and the Matrix). And there is a lot
of fucking action. Seriously, if you're looking for clever gameplay mechanics, and a variety of things to do, don't come here. Not to say the gameplay isn't clever. Rockstar Studios were in fact very clever in the variety of situations and challenges thrown at the player. However, the basic mechanics of shooting is very rhythmic making the action a tad stale towards the end of the game. I really wish they had cut some of the action and let the story play out. Thankfully, the story is interesting enough, rich with characters that will keep you going to its conclusion.
The Bullet Cam is quite enjoyable, with a great physics engine always keeping you guessing how each enemy's body is going to blow up and squirt glorious blood. There is also a thanks to be had for the beautiful scenery and the amazing attention to detail that each of the 14 chapters provide; transitioning from lush penthouses, to graveyards, to the slums of Sao Paulo, and even a yacht. The single player includes arcade modes, challenges, and clues to find to keep the replay value high which I'm always a little "eh" about; but I had great fun finding clues providing inklings of plot details that the completionist in me so eagerly thirsts for.
The BIG gripe I had with the gameplay was bittersweet. The Bullet Time feature is no question a staple of the Max Payne series and I'm glad I'm seeing it with such a beautiful engine. But why is Bullet Time and shoot dodging kicking the gameplay in the ass? Max Payne 3 is to be a straight up fast paced action game, but unfortunately wants to be the next Gears of War or Uncharted at the same time, heavily encouraging the use of cover. Bullet Time and cover mechanics meshing with each other can be very frustrating. Too many times I was killed due to the fact that Max slowly stood up after a shoot dodge when there is obvious cover in front to crawl behind. I often found myself just using cover and slowing down time every time I popped up to shoot. I feel the action could have been much more enjoyable if I was straight up running and gunning people down, dodging my ass all over the place, and defeating my enemies in style. Add this with some clipping issues, and some glitches (sound cutting out), I feel Rockstar could have used a little more time to polish these details.
Perhaps the most surprising perk of purchasing Max Payne 3 was the multiplayer (however I'm not sure it's surprising anymore to find solid multiplayer in Rockstar products following GTAIV and Red Dead Redemption multiplayer goodies). The multiplayer mode follows a similar upgrade system that most shooters these days follow. Rockstar has really polished the multiplayer up though adding some very interesting game modes, and a load of weapons and abilities to work towards. The traditional Death Match and Capture the Flag modes are there, but there are a couple modes that really steal the show. For example "Gang Wars", being my favorite mode, features two teams and five rounds. The objective changes each round (ie Domination, Last Man Standing, etc.) depending on which team wins the previous round, all the while switching to new maps each round. It's these kinds of touches that keeps the multiplayer fresh, fun, and competitive.
The single player combat carries quite well over to the multiplayer. In fact it might even be better
. The multiplayer is less about cover and slowing down time and more about chaotic running and gunning. Bullet Time is featured using a "line of sight" mechanic. If you see someone and you launch Bullet Time, they're slowed down as well leading to some very entertaining in-your-face moments. Largely, the multiplayer is a huge success that I'm sure many players will play for months to come.
Overall, Max Payne 3 is a blast. While flawed in some aspects, the game is a lot of fucking fun. The character Max Payne couldn't be more interesting and the presentation and visuals are beautiful and well implemented. The action sequences in the single player mode are a bit long winded but it does not detract too much from the entire experience. Had the gameplay been a little more tight and polished in the Single Player mode, Max Payne would have been fantastic rather than great. The multiplayer was a great surprise and the game has enough to keep you going for a while. I had fun with this game.