Game review: Max Payne 3

I don’t have much experience in reviewing games, so let’s see how this goes…  I’ve just finished Max Payne 3.  By that I mean I’ve gone through the game on Medium, Hard and Old School difficulties and got to level 50 on multiplayer.  I am what you could class as a moderate addict to PS3 trophy hunting.  Moderate because I know life’s too short to go for a trophy that requires you to play the whole game with no save option… without dying. (New York Minute Hardcore, a kind of score attack mode)

Yeah, I don’t think so.

So Rockstar’s follow up to their greatly popular Red Dead Redemption is a gritty actioner by the name of Max Payne 3.  A sequel to a game that perfected the bullet-time effect we were all wowed with back in 1999 thanks to The Matrix.

The main character was a tortured neo noir archetype, having lost his family to violence, and his mind to alcohol abuse, Max was a hardboiled cop on the edge.

Max Payne 3 sees him bodyguarding a rich family in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  He’d rather be lying in a gutter dreaming of whisky-drenched angels, but this hardboiled cop has habits that die hard.

Rockstar are what you would call a ‘cinematic’ brand of game-maker.  Their worlds are straight from the movies we love, their characters and dialogue are some of the best you’ll find in video games, because the writers are attempting to elevate games above, well ‘games’.  They want you to sit back and enjoy the cinema splayed on the screen, and then jump in yourself.

I've never owned a gun in my life, I just pick them up off dead bodies all the time.

I’ve never owned a gun in my life, I just pick them up off dead bodies all the time.

MP3’s story does nothing new, but it’s good for what it is.  It doesn’t pull its punches.  Max is dragged into a conspiracy that ultimately ends up with a massive body count and Michael Bay levels of destruction.  It’s quite awesome.  However be warned that throughout the game there is a really headache-inducing visual effect that symbolises Max’s frayed alcoholic-tinged mind.  It’s maddening.

On the PS3, the L1 trigger makes you Shootdodge, i.e – jump in the air in slo-mo, and thankfully this does not cost you ‘adrenaline’.  Actual bullet-time, which is just the slowing of time, does cost adrenaline, but again thankfully it’s not hard to recharge.  You charge up the adrenaline meter by shooting people or getting shot at.  Hey, guess what happens a lot in this game?  Yeah!

It’s a cover-based third person shooter, but unlike the Uncharted games, you can’t sneak around the objects you’ve taken cover behind, which is an annoyance.  Though I suppose it’s offset by the fact that you can leap out of cover like Chow Yun-Fat in Hardboiled.

There are a variety of scumbags to blow up, from scruffy favela gangs with erratic amateur tactics to corrupt SWAT teams who assault your position more methodically.  The game also make use of most locales you love to see in action films.  The only locations that are missing are:  something on a big boat, and on a plane.  But hey, we got our fix for those two with Uncharted 3.

So it’s a pretty decent neo-noir action third person cover-based shooter with bullet time.  Come on, you know what you’re getting into here.  Props have to go to the slow-motion replay whenever you kill the remaining bad guy of an area, watching your bullets travel through long distances to puncture their bodies and watching them react in pain is both horribly gruesome and gleefully good fun.

Let's play dodgeball with bullets!

Let’s play dodgeball with bullets!

The multiplayer, as usual, can not replicate the main game completely, but in MP3’s case I quite enjoyed the whole experience.  You’ve got your usual deathmatch and team deathmatches, and also a co-op mode called Gang Wars, which pits two large sets of players against each other in five rounds, ranging from capturing turf to delivering bags of drugs.  Each gang war scenario is neatly slotted into the timeline of the main game.

Rockstar also amazingly managed to employ bullet-time here as well.  The way they’ve achieved this is genius, and I applaud whoever came up with it.  When you activate bullet-time, anyone in your field of vision is effected by it.  Anyone in the level who sees someone affected by your bullet-time, in their field of vision is also affected by the effect.  Anyone in a corridor alone will be in normal speed, but when they round the corner and see someone, who saw someone who saw someone else under bullet-time…will also now be in bullet-time!  So basically the end result is, it’s simply impossible for someone in normal speed to stumble upon anyone under the influence of bullet-time.  Genius.

Unfortunately there’s less than a handful of level maps for regular players, and I had to resort to buying DLC to obtain more before getting bored.  Sneaky Rockstar, very sneaky.

There are plenty of non-PS3 trophies to grind for XP points, to raise your level and the level of your weapons, and to unlock abilities, most of which are pretty fun to employ against your enemies.

The jump in quality from a storytelling perspective from Max Payne 2 to 3 is a big one, and reflects the current state of gaming to how things were just nine years ago.  I find it hard to imagine where they can take the story for a fourth one, so it might be time to just let Max enjoy retirement like a good ex-cop that he is.  It would be awesome to see him in a cameo with the next GTA game though…

Max Payne 3 is available on PS3, Xbox 360 & Windows.

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