If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Developer/Publisher: Rockstar Games.
For Xbox 360, PS3 and PC (coming soon on the first of June).
Version I played: 360.
The launch trailer:
(suggested thing do while reading the review: Take a drink every time I say Max).
Back in 2009, when Bioware was still loved by the public, everyone was looking forward to James Cameron’s Avatar and I didn’t have internet access for a while, the folks at Rockstar announced that a new Max Payne was in the wings. Except it’s set in Sao Paulo and not in New York. And Max is older. And has a beard and bald head. And he’s not being voiced by his original voice actor. And it wasn’t being developed by Remedy (they were busy with Alan Wake at the moment). Lots of people were NOT pleased this news. As for yours truly, I was neutral on the whole issue. The only Rockstar Games I had played up to that point was the Manhunt (liked the first one, HATED the second one) franchise and the other Max Payne games.
Two years latter and many delays latter, some new screenshots for Max Payne 3 began to show up on the internet via sources like Twitter and an article in EDGE magazine that had it as it’s cover story. In said article, it also remarked that Max’s original voice actor, James McCaffrey, would not only come back and do the voice but also do a little more work: BECOME Max. Motion capture and all. This raised a few eyebrows, especially mine.
In September of 2011, Rockstar had begun their marketing campaign for Max. While initial impression of the media was released at first was mixed, people soon found themselves warming up to Max’s new adventure. Now on the same day as Diablo 3, Max finds himself at a struggle. But even with all of the hype, does Max’s newest adventure work out in the end or is it an unnecessarily made game?
Well, it’s defiantly not the latter that’s for sure.
Rockstar’s take on the franchise, while different and kind of unexpected, still respects the character’s legacy and all that we love and know about the very angsty Anti-Hero.
The original Max Payne was regarded at the time for being one of the best action games ever made and to this day, many would still agree. The titular character goes on a rampage to not only clear his name after he’s framed in an undercover op with the mafia that goes awry but also avenge the death of his wife and daughter at the hands of ruthless Corporate Executive Nicole Horne and the drug known as Valkyr, a super serum that was supposed to turn soldiers into Super soldiers during the Gulf War. Along the way, Max would find himself meeting with a cast of colorful characters like Mona Sax the femme fatale, Vlad the Russian mobster, Vinnie Gognitti, a bumbling italian mobster and many more. To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the first one in comparison to others; I didn’t like the way the controls flowed, the mood was inconsistent (it go from being parody to serious every few chapters) and the puzzle elements (in the form of VERY messed-up dream sequences) in the game would make me want to chuck my controller across the screen.
The second one was a different story for me. Set a few months after the original, Max finds himself back in the NYPD and, even though he got revenge on Ms. Horne, he still feels guilt for the things he’s done. All of a sudden he finds out that Mona Sax, who believed to have died at the end of the first one, was up and walking around blowing the heads off of goons. Max and Mona soon find the two of themselves in a relationship together, which leads to Max finding himself being split between his duties as a Cop and his relationship with Max. I was massive fan of the second one. Better control and graphics, a more darker and serious story (with elements of Black Humor thrown in for good measure), much better dream sequences and a wonderfully tragic ending.
The yarn spun in Max Payne 3 is an unusual one: Set around nine years after the events of Max Payne 2, Max finds himself drowning in haze of self inflicted drug abuse and alcoholism. A buddy from his police academy days, Raul Passos, comes to him and tells him that Max can get a better life in Sao Paulo instead of living it out in New Jersey. At first, Max declines but after pissing off a very nasty mobster, Passos’s offer seems like a good idea. Over the course of the story, our lovable Anti-Hero finds himself working security detail for, as he puts it, “the kind of people that need protection in a town like this”. He finds himself working for wealthy industrialist Rodrigo Branco and his trophy wife, Fabianna. When she’s kidnapped, Max finds himself slugging through every shit hole in Sao Paulo you can think of to rescue the woman. But as the narrative progresses, things start to unravel that kinda turn the story on its head....
For the most part, I found the narrative to be an entertaining yarn. While I wasn’t head-over heels with it like say Max Payne 2, it’s still an interesting story with some twists here and there that’ll mess with ya. But I have to say, the main shining part to the game is James McCaffrey’s performance as Max. While we all loved his take on the character in the first two, here, he really shines here. His snark, facial expressions, movements all show a man that has been through so much bullshit in his life. He angsts a lot throughout the game, but it never for once felt like Wangst. His monologues aren’t as flashy as they were in the previous two, but he can still say great things from time to time. And while I liked the new cast, I wish we knew more about certain characters.
Speaking of his acting, the rest of things in the audio department is pretty good here too (at times, just freaking excellent), especially from new characters Raul Passos and a mysterious cop who helps out Max along the journey by the name of Wilson De Silva. The rest of the audio department is also brilliant. Guns sound like harbingers of doom and despair, hearing a bull get lodged into some mook’s skull is nasty as hell and the soundtrack by surreal rock band HEALTH, along with other assorted artists like Emicida and many more, is appropriately eccentric. Throwing around drums, surreal guitar riffs and rap, cellos and all sorts of other instruments. And in the event you’re worried that they ruined the original Max Payne theme, no need to worry.
Graphically, the game is a stunner. Pervious Rockstar Games have been advancing in their signature RAGE (Rockstar Advance Graphics Engine) engine, but Max Payne 3 really makes it shine. Previous games would use a mix of footage and Graphic novel scenes to tell the story. In Max Payne 3, the Graphic Novels in the previous games have been replaced with regular cutscenes that have a distinct flair to them, with bizarre green flares and filters showing off Max’s state of mind and feelings while also putting an emphasis on certain words from time to time. While at first they’re annoying with the filters, after a certain point, I found myself saying to myself “Why didn’t they put an emphasis on this word and not that one?” And Euphoria physics are incredible here. Every time you shoot someone or you make Max dive in the air to blow some fellow’s head and then collapse into a wall, their body reacts differently. I had always looked forward to killing the last dude in the room, just to see him get chewed up by a shower of gunfire and his following reaction to the bullets.
Now, on to the gameplay!
The gunplay in Max Payne 3 is an interesting case of when you find a rhythm while playing it, it feels so good, diving in and blowing off some fools head in a geyser of blood. However, shoot-dodging can enter a high-risk, high reward type deal which can be at once frustrating as hell but incredibly rewarding, just to see the final kill cam of Max blowing apart some guy’s head off with a pair of Uzis. They’re also an interesting new mechanic called “Last Man Standing”. What goes on here is that if Max is near dying, and if he has enough painkillers. he’ll be able to kill the man who shot him and restore his health significantly. This saved my life so many times, it’s a little ridiculous. Which leads me to the game’s difficulty.
The game is also difficult as hell. Guns, though ammo is plentiful, can run out pretty quickly, enemies will swarm you if you’re not careful, environments are destructible and at times cramped and the list goes on. Even on Normal, I found my ass getting handed to me repeatedly in every level, almost to the point of hilarity. On top of that, I found myself fiddling around with the controls for a while, finally getting myself adjusted to it within half-way in the game. But I would still do slip-ups that would make me want to kill myself. There’s a cover system in the game that is very useful and while it can save your life, it can also end you pretty quickly.
I do have other problems with the game as well. Excluding the aforementioned issues I had with the gameplay and story related elements, I also found the length to be pretty short. Many have claimed that the game is 12 hours but for me, it felt a lot shorter than that. Maybe that’s the sign I had fun with it or maybe some other bullshit. Then again, the other two games were pretty short themselves. I could beat the 2nd one in a day if I wanted to, so MAYBE I shouldn’t give it crap for that. Or not. And another note, I wished that the physics of the game didn’t get in the way of the fun. I would have Max do his signature dive move, only to find himself hit the wall realistically, which finds itself getting in the flow of the action, with him lying on the ground until you get him back up. And it would sort of feel like he was taking his sweet time getting his old ass back up (sorry Max).
As for multiplayer, I cannot access it and share my thoughts on it for one singular reason: I don’t have Xbox Live. :p So, with that aspect out of the way, let’s move on to the final thoughts, shall we?
Max Payne 3, though not without problems, still is one hell of an action game and a nice tribute to the original games. The nifty physics engine can get in the way of the fun, the game can have the learning curve of a brick wall from time to time and other little distractions can get in the way, the story isn’t as good as 2 as far as I'm concerned, but in the end, all that matters is this: Is Max Payne 3 a good shooter, does it live up to the expectations of the franchise and did Rockstar do justice? To answer all of those, I’d say yeah. Yeah they did.
Note: In the event I made any spelling errors and the like, notify me and I'll correct them. Feedback, positive or negative, is also welcome.