On May 15th of this year it had been exactly 8 years, 7 months, and 1 day since gamers, Rockstar Games fans, and Remedy fans had gotten a chance to see Max Payne in an all new adventure. A lot can happen in almost a decade of development time, especially when the original developers aren’t attached to the project, and a lot of skepticism starts to build within the fan base. So, did Max come out guns blazing? Did the Remedy writers hang onto Max’s soul when Rockstar took the mantle to write and produce the third entry in Max’s troubled life?
In short: Max Payne 3 is the best action/adventure/shooter I’ve played in at least a year. Rockstar really rolled up everything that they’ve learned while working with the Euphoria engine, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Red Dead Redemption into one slick, cynical, and occasionally suicidal package.
The single player portion of the game takes you through a roughly twelve hour South American romp with Remedy’s wrecking ball of a leading man. Rockstar made his presence on the other side of the equator both genuine-feeling and off-putting for players as much as it felt off-putting for Max himself to finally be off of the East Coast. To all of the folks that worried that Max Payne’s soul and realistic grit would be absent in the third installment, all I have to say is this: it’s hard to miss the mark with such a strong character persona, such as Max’s. Rockstar kept the noir sentiments perfectly intact, making Max Payne 3 feel like 1 part Max Payne, 1 part Grand Theft Auto “crawl to the top” style plot development, and 1 part Red Dead Redemption “strong, political, and American” writing. All in all, the narrative structure and flow of Max Payne 3 is really something to experience. There are very few other games that offer such an immersive story.
Something that may put off Max Payne fans, however, is the loss of the comic book panels used in place of cut-scenes due to graphical limitations in the first two games. Instead, elaborately constructed in-game cut-scenes act as the loading screens. There is still a strong style about them, though, and as Max drinks, pops pills to numb his wounds, and questions his line of work, the screen will pop, tear, and split-screen away into multiple views to reflect Max’s turmoil. All of the extremely well executed attention to detail that Rockstar poured into Grand Theft Auto IV makes its way into Max’s world as well, and noticing the nuances and little touches here and there can really be breath taking at times.
Even while writing this article I find it extremely difficult for me to pry myself away from the multiplayer of Max Payne 3. The game works like a fusion of Max Payne, Uncharted, and a pinch of Call of Duty unlockables/endorphin releases. The “adrenaline”/”bullet time” works spectacularly in multiplayer, only affecting those within eye sight, which can help your team or ruin your enemies depending on when you decide to use it. The unlockable items and gear are just as nuanced and detailed as the single player game’s attention to detail, allowing seemingly useless equippable items, such as a wrist watch or a ski-mask, to provide stat bonuses and sometimes even gameplay tweaks to your character or even your whole team. As you continue to play you’ll unlock more game types, gear, and avatars, and the whole ordeal can be addictive and fast paced fun. It almost makes you wonder why it took so long for Max Payne to get a multiplayer mode officially integrated into a title.
I initially started the game, setting the bar a bit low to prevent myself from being disappointed if the writing and plot just didn’t feel like Max Payne titles, but the more I played the more Max Payne 3 feels like the next logical evolution for the series. The writing, voice acting, and production values are all extremely top notch. You can tell that major care and effort was put into making the game play extremely fun while being difficult to master. The throw backs to earlier days of gaming, i.e. no recharging health, uncompromising difficulty, and punishing checkpoint spacing, makes Max Payne 3 one of the best titles I’ve played on my PS3 all year.
If you still play games for the tightly written and focused plots, fleshed out characters who you legitimately want to see through to the end of their journey, and gameplay that reflects the charm and personality of the writing to a “T”, you’d be punishing yourself by not snatching up Max Payne 3 as soon as possible. Now, whether or not the DLC will be worth the time, money, or wait, is another thing.