Max Payne 3 is a stylistic exhibition of brutal punishment and insightful narration in this savagely satisfying shooter
Venom_Raptor wrote this review on .
Contains: Very Strong Language and Frequent Strong Bloody Violence
Max Payne 3 is a third-person shooter in which you assume the role of it's titular character Max Payne for his latest bullet-riddled adventure 8 years from the events of the last installment.
For Max Payne, the tragedies that took his loved ones years ago are wounds that refuse to heal. No longer a cop, close to washed up and addicted to painkillers, Max takes a job in Sao Paulo, Brazil, protecting the family of wealthy real estate mogul Rodrigo Branco, in an effort to finally escape his troubled past. But as events spiral out of his control, Max Payne finds himself alone on the streets of an unfamiliar city, desperately searching for the truth and fighting for a way out. The story of Max's descent from vengeful, leather-jacket wearing detective roaming the alleys of New York to the broken, shaven-headed man out for justice on unfamiliar streets far from home is at the centre of Max Payne 3, an absorbing personal story that features terrific voice acting, writing and cutscene presentation. The main story eventually falls into a well-worn plot about corruption and conspiracy, but it's the characters in the turn of the events that make you take notice, and more importantly, take care, and you'll be glad once you take the law into your own hands and show the South American city your stylistic brand of justice.
Max has his demons, and the cutscene presentation makes it evident that it wants to pass across these details and echo his state of mind with a variety of visuals effects that are fittingly placed within multiple moving panels that pay homage to the graphic-novel-style of storytelling of previous games, but not enough to feel frequent and out-of-place. Uniformly impressive on a storytelling front, Dan Houser and the rest of the writing team have put together a phenomenal script with some of the best writing in a game for some time. More specifically, the first-person narration and dreary monologues are what captures the essence of the story and protagonist the game revolves around. Equally smart, insightful, and darkly humorous, you never get tired of Max's thought-provoking commentary audible over the top of the gameplay.
Those who sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind… and the gameplay certainly is powerful in it's method of deliverance. Just like an exuberant painter, you'll find yourself splashing colour onto the environmental canvass and creating a masterpiece out of enemy brain matter and blood. The violence should come as no surprise to those well acquainted with previous Rockstar titles, and though the core gunplay can take a few levels to make you feel secure in the control scheme, once you're comfortably seated you'll find yourself witnessing and unable to resist the spectacle and barrage on the senses that the brutal imagery and discharged bullets create. Combine the adrenaline of these thrilling shootouts with the series-returning 'shoot-dodge' mechanic and a debut of 'last stand' and you have yourself sustained entertainment within a fast-paced crime thriller experience.
Shooting adversaries adds juice to your 'bullet time' metre, allowing you to instigate slow motion at the tap of a button for crucial, pinpoint accuracy and deadly results, but a more thrilling method is to leap from cover in mid-air, fill that air with bullets, and then watch as they catapult towards your selected targets. Killing the final enemy within an area showcases this bloodshed graphically up-close in a neat cinematic aptly named 'bullet cam', and even then allows you to pull the trigger continuously after the fatal killshot, displaying the inflicted wounds and blood spurts in slow motion as you excessively empty the chamber or clip of your weapon. Propelling lead into your targets is savagely intense and rewarding, with the force being felt as you land back onto solid ground, free to fire from the position you find yourself in. The 360 degrees aiming is impressive after a John Woo inspired 'shoot-dodge' moment, and whilst it is usually a more difficult affair to rival your many opponents whilst lying on your back or your stomach, it's still pretty cool when you actually do eliminate everyone in the room from such an awkward position, even if it's at the expense of health and painkillers (Max's remedy for bullet wounds). Should you be carrying bottles of health replenishment pills, then at anytime that you find yourself at death's door you'll be granted precious seconds to retaliate and restore yourself to full strength in yet another blurred frenzy of bullets and murder.
Non-stop action is the focal point for your journey into vengeance, and there is no shortage of well-staged, scripted set pieces amidst splendidly detailed locations which get destroyed emphatically that provide a rush-of-the-blood like the rest of Max Payne 3's finely composed action and tightly wrought realism to violence. Whether it be jumping onto a moving cart as you and your enemies exchange shell casings while glass and concrete shatter dynamically around you, or when you are a passenger on a speedboat hurtling down a river all-the-while raining down death and carnage as you attempt a suicidal rescue operation, Rockstar certainly know how to handle tension and explosively exciting payoffs to culminate that chapter in style before carrying you further into the story and the next locale. There are moments that remind you there being a calm before the storm, and when you have the chance you'll be enticed to explore the detailed environments carefully for two reasons. Collectable gun parts service as a worthy way to brighten your load out if you acquire all three pieces hidden in each chapter so that whenever you find the weapon on a corpse of your making it has a gold shine to it. The most profitable reason to search your surroundings is to find clues to examine. Finding a clue triggers a brief cutscene and more insightful dialogue from Max as he shares his thoughts on his findings reminiscent of his past, still equipped with a detectives instinct. Whether it be on known characters or related to the unfolding events, Max will prove he's better than just killing by finding something informative to say on a dropped photo, a celebrity magazine or an encounter with an ex-cop among other clues.
Committing cold-blooded actions at a fierce rate gives many reasons to return to Max Payne 3 for another dose of chaotic mayhem and fateful justice. Most notably the single player grinds, which are a large handful of statistical targets worth aiming for throughout gameplay with nice presentation and experience payoffs for a job well executed. You get rewarded for hitting milestones such as 100 headshots, 50 enemies killed in cover, number of 'shoot-dodge' kills and many more, which are all presented in way which doesn't make them seem unfitting to the story which, by the way, lasts a respectable 9 or so hours.
Lunging out of cover, down a flight of stairs, or over a railing is a satisfying feeling whenever you successfully manage to increase the body count in the process, and the risk is usually worth the extra effort for this ageing protagonist. As time shifts into a slower pace, momentum continues to build, and firing round after round and watching it cut through the air as it heads towards its destination is a gratifying moment each and every time it occurs. The same can be said for the standard gunplay which is graphic in nature and showcases entry and exit wounds very clearly with copious splatter effects as you pepper enemies repeatedly with bullets with numerous weapons, and always accompanied with solid sound effects. Max Payne 3's level of violence is hard-hitting but not off-putting, merely a depressing realisation and fact-based representation of the world you find yourself, and the actions that possess a man who strikes back not for the sake of vengeance, but the personal justification of an obligation unfinished.
Story - 4/5
Characters - 4/5
Gameplay - 4/5
Graphics - 4/5
Sound - 5/5
Controls - 3/5
Atmosphere - 3/5
Enemy AI - 3/5
Length - 3/5
Replay Value - 4/5
OVERALL SUMMARY - 8.5/10
Good Points: Superb writing and insightful first-person narration, Engaging personal story that gives the violence even more impact, Fast-paced campaign and fierce gunplay with plenty of style, Exceptional cutscene presentation, Profound voice acting, Worthwhile collectibles and single player grinds increase replay value, Explosive scripted set pieces amidst beautiful locales.
Bad Points: Controls take a while to get to grips with.