It has been nine long years since the deeply troubled Max Payne’s last story. Despite this hiatus, Max is exactly where we left him. He is still haunted by the death of his wife and child, something that will seemingly never leave Max’s mind. Rockstar makes this very apparent as the game starts by showing a cutscene before the main menu with Max arriving at his apartment. In usual fashion, he deals with his pain as he always has: by popping pills and pounding drinks.
Following the precedent of the first two games, Max Payne 3 begins in medias res. Max is shown walking up to a man who is dismembered from an explosion, narrating about how he has become a killer. As he is about to execute the man, the game flashes back o the beginning.
Max has moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil for a change of pace from the dark, dreary alleys of Hoboken, New Jersey. Now on protective detail, Max is assigned to watch over one of the wealthiest men in the city, Rodrigo Branco, and his family alongside his partner Raul Passos. As nothing is ever as easy as it seems for Max, things soon take a turn for the worst and a group of armed men attempt to kidnap Rodrigo's wife Fabiana. While the men are unsuccessful, Fabiana and her sister, Giovanna, are later taken while at a Brazilian night club. This, being a stark reminder of Max's inability to save the women in his life, forces him to save the girls and find out the militia group's identity. A web of deception and plot twists in typical Payne fashion then follows.
Max's new look...
Max Payne is beautiful, though not without its flaws. While the visuals are crisp and clean, the constant visual effects, such as shifting film stock and scan lines, are a constant distraction in every cutscene and even at points in the gameplay. Although I am not one that is prone to headaches from visual stimulation, I found myself taking frequent breaks from playing for the first few hours of the game. I was eventually able to acclimate to the stimulation and the problem subsided. It is clear that these effects were added to give a perspective of Max's altered mind state, but they are highly unnecessary.
Max Payne 3 is a very cinematic game. Rarely will a player be in multiple gunfights without a minor cutscene being shown. While some may find this irritating, it is not necessarily a problem as Max Payne is highly plot-driven. While the story is great and immersive, the constant screen effects hurt the movie-like qualities of the game. For the most part, Rockstar has also dropped the full-on comic book style cutscenes for more standard cutscenes.
Both bullet time and shootdodge, gameplay staples of the series, make their triumphant return in Max Payne 3. While these are interesting features, I didn't find myself using them much. The only times I was using them was the points where the game automatically triggers them or when only one or two enemies of a gunfight remained. This is because Max Payne requires more strategy than running and gunning, and these mechanics can often injure or even kill you by using them.
One of the more minute features of the game are the collectibles. While these are usually just "pieces of trash", Max Payne presents them as "clues": items that, when inspected, Max will comment on what he has found, giving a bit more detail to the mission. Along with the clues, the player can also pick up parts of "golden guns" that increase clip size and damage when fully assembled.
The soundtrack to Max Payne, while not as memorable as other music, does a tremendous job of setting the atmosphere for the game. The low strings and piano medleys make it almost impossible not to empathize with Max's agony.
Overall Max Payne 3 is a masterpiece. Deep story, outstanding visuals, and great gameplay make this game a tough contender for game of the year. Along with the amazing single player campaign, a quality multiplayer experience is also included. By and far, this game should not be passed over by anyone.
Published by: Rockstar Games
Developed by: Rockstar Studios
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-16 (Competitive)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC