Max Payne 3

It’s been almost a decade since we’ve last seen Max Payne in action.  In Max Payne 3 we find Max drunk, addicted to Pain Killers, on the run from his bloody and tragic past, and trying to outrun the Mob as he flees New York and heads to Brazil.  Max is hired on as a bodyguard for a wealthy family in Brazil and is tasked with protecting his bosses Trophy Wife.  Max has never had good luck with women as all the women he has cared for seem to end up dead.  His wife, his daughter, Mona Sax, all dead.  Will this time be different?  Will Max find some redemption or will he continue to spiral out of control?

The biggest concern I had about this game is would people even care or know about Max Payne?  Rockstar has done a great job in catering to both the franchise veterans and the new comers to the series.  If you have never played a Max Payne game before then you are in for a real treat.  If you are a fan of the series then all I have to say is that Max is back and better than ever.

Things are about to go from bad to worse for poor Max.

The game is an action packed romp that will take you from the cold and lonely streets of New York to the sun bleached and blood soaked slums of Brazil.  The game handles like other Rockstar titles such as GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption.  In those two games you could see a big improvement from game to game in terms of the game mechanics and with Max Payne 3 they have yet again been improved upon.  New to the franchise is the ability to take cover and it works just the same as it did in Red Dead Redemption and will come in very handy.  While that is a welcomed addition to the series the big draw has always been the gun play.  The guns in this game are very very impressive as each one has its own weight to it and reacts differently when fired.  The weight of each gun will also affect how your player moves.  For example, if you are carrying a pistol in one hand and a shotgun in the other hand then the side with the shot gun will be slumped down and you will be off balance due the weight of the large gun.  Larger guns will also be slower to wield in combat because of their weight.  Not only are the gun physics nice but the player physics are done really well too.  If you are familiar with Max Payne then you’ll know that a lot of the game consists of you diving for cover, diving to set up kill shots or to avoid being shot in open spaces.  During a particular fight in the game I dove to avoid some incoming fire and I hit a wall with some force and my body folded up on impact.  The impact caused my return fire to go astray and even stopped my itchy trigger finger.  I am left on the floor dazed, confused, and now exposed.  In any other game you are likely to just be suspended in mid air until you hit the ground and then you’d be able to bounce back to your feet, but in Max Payne 3 you will need to mind your surroundings.  It sounds like a small item but in the grand scheme of things it’s all the small details like this that add up to make for one unique and satisfying experience after another.

Is this rock bottom for Max?

Returning to Max Payne 3 is the Bullet Time mechanic that helped the previous two games make a name for themselves.  It works very much the same as it did before.  By activating Bullet Time the world around you slows down and makes it easier for you to target multiple bad guys at once.  For those of you who haven’t seen this before it’s a lot like the slow motion affect used in The Matrix movies.  Another feature that makes a return to this sequel is the use of Pain Killers to help you heal your wounds.  Most every game out there now uses the regenerative health system.  You get wounded and your screen is turning red so you better grab some cover and magically heal up.  But in Max Payne you will need to find and horde Pain Killers as they are all that can keep you from dying.  Keep an eye on your health meter and when you need to heal up feel free to pop some pills.  This is a nice homage to old school gaming and is something has been used so little in the past 5-7 years that it almost feels like a new innovation.  To those of you who are new to this type of game play Max Payne 3 will feel unforgiving at first.  Don’t sweat it though as it won’t take long to get used to this style of play.  Another area that the game excels is in its approach to storytelling.  The previous two titles used a comic book panel style approach and it to a certain extent it has returned.  But rather than show us comic book panels of a human stand-in who looks like Max, or others from the story, we now get the entire experience told to us using the games engine.  Doing this really helps the story and game play meld together and the transitions from still shots and narrative to action is seamless.  On top of this we have a running narrative of Max’s inner most thoughts that help guide us through the game as well as his psyche.  In the end it all comes together wonderfully and makes for an incredibly stylish and pulse pounding noir filled affair.  This game is relentless.

The action in Max Payne 3 is relentless.

Rockstar is further encouraging folks to continue playing the Max Payne 3 campaign by adding a new way to play.  Arcade Mode is a single-player challenge game type that is tailor made for leaderboard junkies and those obsessed with the Rockstar Social Club.  Once you complete a chapter from the campaign it will then be open for Arcade Mode play.  Here you will race through  each of the chapters from the campaign.  In the New York Minute Mode, making its return from Max Payne 2, you will start with 60 seconds on the clock and will need to race your way to the end of the campaign.  Each kill you get will add some precious seconds to your timer with more time being added for headshots and multiple kills.  There is also a new mode known as Score Attack.  This mode is all about style and skill as your goal is to blast your way through each level earning extra points for headshots, Bullet Time kills, and multiple kills.  But be careful as taking damage to yourself, using pain killers, or shooting civilians will result in a loss of points.  Once you finish your run through each chapter you will be awarded a medal and will earn XP based on how well you scored.  Your results will then be posted to the leaderboards on the Rockstar Social Club network.  Now you can truly boast about your skills and rub it in the faces of your friends and enemies alike or laugh at them as they fail to beat your score.  Both modes offer a fun way to play through the campaign and they cut right to the chase and get rid of the cut scenes and storytelling aspects of the main story.  Here it is all action all the time and the need to beat your best score or climb the leaderboards will give the campaign a ton of replay value.

Using cover is needed in order to survive.

New to the Max Payne franchise is the multiplayer component and if you’ve played the competitive modes in Red Dead Redemption then the game will feel familiar to you.  That’s not to say that it’s a carbon copy of Red Dead though because it’s not.  At the core it remains the same in terms of how it handles but the gun play has been refined and it feels as sharp as a FPS while maintaining a 3rd Person PoV.  The result is an ultra tight run and gun experience.  The marquee mode for Max Payne 3’s multi-player offering is known as Gang Wars.  This mode focuses on what the gangs and cops might get into behind the scenes of the campaign.  Here you and your team will compete in a series of objective based game types.  Each game will consist of 5 rounds and the outcome from game 1 will influence what type of game type you get in game 2 and so on and so forth.  Each match of Gang Wars will throw multiple game modes at you and you will see modes that range from a capture the flag inspired bag snatch mode, which sees teams scrambling over two bags of cash then dropping them off at constantly changing drop zones, to a bomb defusal mode.  You’ll also see straight-up Team Deathmatch games and point capture games that play out like a game of Domination in Call of Duty.  Rockstar has always been thought of as an innovator and they’ve done it again here with Gang Wars.  When you think about it it’s a very simple idea and the use of a short narrative in between rounds give you the feeling that you are part of something larger then just 5 mini games played in a row.  With Gang Wars you feel a sense of purpose and get a huge feeling of satisfaction when you win and are genuinely disappointed when you lose.  But if you’d like to skip the large objective team game and try these modes out ala carte you can as all of these modes can be played outside of Gang Wars.  Something really cool takes place when you try each type out on its own and that’s the fact that the maps will change their layout depending on how much of the 16-player lobby has been filled when the game loads.  It’s a subtle little feature but doing this really keeps the action from bogging down.

The action in multi-player is just as intense as the action in the campaign.

What game these days doesn’t have some type of Horde Mode?  Max Payne 3 is no different but this one has a bit of a twist.  The game mode is called Payne Killer and each game will begin with everybody taking place in a free-for-all battle.  The first person to get a kill will become Max Payne, while Max’s first victim will re-spawn as his partner Passos.  From here Max and Passos will team up and they will be very well armed and each of them has two bottles of pain killers at their disposal.  The rest of the players take on the roll as the incoming horde and must hunt down Max and Passos and kill them.  Now for that twist I was talking about.  If you are part of the horde and kill Max or Passos you will take their place and become the hunted while the person you killed will become part of the horde.  The players who spend the most time as Max or Passos will win the game.  This mode is a mad dash to hunt the duo down while trying to remain cautious of their increased power and health.  It’s a nice balance of play styles and a team of Max and Passos that works well together will be very hard to bring down.

Say hello to my Crew. Now run.

Max Payne 3’s multi-player offering also boasts a deep experience in term of player progression and customization.  Earning kills, assists, completing objectives, and winning games will earn you some cold hard cash that you can then use to buy weapons, weapon attachments, and other items such as Bursts.  Bursts are Max Payne’s version of CoD’s Perk system.  Each player is allowed to have one Burst equipped and needs a near full adrenaline meter in order to activate it.  The higher your adrenaline meter is the more powerful your Bursts are.  Bursts can do a number of things such as disabling all the weapon attachments for the opposing players, unlimited team ammo for 10 seconds, or making it so your gamer tag looks as if you are on the same side as your enemy.  One feature that I really enjoy seeing is the ability to loot a dead body.  This process makes your character crouch for a precious second, leaving you open to attack. The reward can be extra bullets, cash, painkillers, or adrenaline.  On top of this you can customize your characters look from the clothes they wear, their facial hair, and their tattoos.  But you need to keep in mind that the more gear you add to your character the slower they become in combat.  Making an appearance in the multi-player arena is the use of the Bullet Time mechanic from the campaign.  I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about including this feature in multi-player as I feared it would slow the game down for everybody.  But Rockstar handled it well by making it so the game will only slow down for those players that are in the direct line of sight of the player who has activated Bullet Time.  The use of Bullet Time in multi-player works very well and it adds a cinematic feel to the game and creates a lot of drama and intensity to online firefights.

Players who have the misfortune to be killed twice in a row by the same opponent are given the option to start a Vendetta.  When you start a Vendetta with an opposing player this means you are in the running for some extra XP and some extra cash.  If you kill your foe—you get the extra XP and cash.  If they kill you, they get the extra XP, cash, and a shit eating grin on their face.  One nice facet of starting a Vendetta is that you can identify your target on the mini map thus making a confrontation more than likely.

Gang Wars is an absolute blast to play.

Rockstar is attempting something bold with the multi-player experience with the introduction of Crews. Among the Crews features are persistent feuds that will see players scrapping with opposing “Crews” or “Crew” members in online tussles.  Rockstar Social Club integration will connect play across multiple titles starting with Max Payne 3 and later this year with GTA V.  By playing both the Max Payne 3 and GTA V multi-player games the “Crews” that the player sets up or joins in one title will be carried over to the other.  So if I have a feud with a rival “Crew” or “Crew Member” I can seek out my justice in either GTA V or in Max Payne 3.  It sounds ballsy but if it works this is something that I could see other AAA developers adopting.

The overall multi-player experience in Max Payne 3 is a good one and it offers something different from the norm as Rockstar has managed to meld 3rd Person game play with First Person precision.  Rockstar has always had a loyal following and I’m sure the Rockstar diehards will flock to this as well.  The real question is can they capture the FPS audience?  I think they should be able to as the game will feel familiar to FPS fans but will also offer enough of a change that it just might hold their attention and help this game break away from the niche that Rockstar games tend to create.

Even if Max Payne has undergone a face lift in terms of upgraded graphics, game physics, an expanded Arcade Mode, and multi-player, the core Max Payne game play and style has remained intact.  This is the sequel that the franchise deserves and you can tell that Rockstar did its best to stay true to Max’s roots and give fans what they wanted as well as satisfy the new comers to the series.  Max Payne 3 will provide you with gun play that cuts like a razor and will deliver an overall experience that is as brutal and as fierce as a wrecking ball.  Glad to have you back Max.

Game Details:

Developer: Rockstar Studios
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Reviewed Platform: Xbox 360
Singleplayer 9
Multiplayer 9
Replayability 8
Graphics 8
Audio 9
Overall 9