Max Payne 3 is a good action game, but some flaws prevent it from being the classic I hoped for. (Singleplayer review)

User Rating: 8 | Max Payne 3 X360
After nearly a decade, Max Payne has returned to us and it is largely a success. Max is now in Brazil working as a bodyguard for a rich family and while he isn't doing that he is binge drinking and pushing the overwrought narrative of man with a dark and haunted past just trying to make a living shooting a seemingly endless number of thugs in the coolest ways possible. In short, it is a lot of fun.

Of course Max Payne's trademark bullet time mechanic is here and while it hasn't been expanded upon much, it is still as fun as ever. It is a blast to run out into a group of armed thugs and dive forward and take out 3 enemies before you hit the ground. Gun battles are intense and the enemy AI is done really well. Enemies will take cover when being shot at and will move into better positions if they can't hit you from where they are located. It is unwise to plant yourself behind cover for too long because enemies will actually move to surround you so the result is that the enemies really force you to push the action and keep moving forward which, in turn, pushes you to use all the wonderful game mechanics for which Max Payne is famous. The sum of all this are some incredibly cool and organic action sequences. One thing that bothers me about the general gameplay is the the over reliance on cover and shoot mechanics. I felt like using the cover mechanic was ultimately much more effective than the bullet dodge, which made Max Payne 3 feel a lot less like a Max Payne game and closer to Mass Effect 2/3. One of the problems is the uncanny accuracy enemies have while Max is using the bullet dodge mechanic and this led me to use it more sparingly than I would have liked.

Graphically Max Payne 3 rarely disappoints. At times, some of the cut scene animation feels dated but for the most part environments are brimming with detail and can be shredded by bullets with great fidelity all the while maintaining a steady and smooth frame rate. Overall the sound and music are pretty good. The voice acting is top notch and the soundtrack fits well with the general mood and setting of the game's story while at the same time being almost totally unmemorable.Gun shots feel powerful and overwhelming when they are supposed to, making gun fights an intense and thrilling experience. The only draw back with the sound is that the specific sounds of each gun feel a little more generic than genuine.

Max Payne 3 oozes with style and sometimes it gets to a point where that can be a bad thing. The artistic direction in the cut scenes is done competently but at the same time bangs you over the head and sometime feels like a cruel joke on those gamers who may be prone to epilepsy. Max's incessant voice over narration starts to feel overbearing pretty early in the game and adds a layer of camp to a story that is taking itself very seriously which makes the whole experience feel uneven at times.

Max Payne 3 can be pretty difficult on hard, which I have no problem with. It avoids falling into the category of so many other action games where you simply go through the motions to complete what is basically a bad, interactive action movie which presents no challenge what so ever. That said, Max Payne 3 doesn't do difficult all that well, as many of the challenges presented to you are hard for the wrong reasons. Ammo can be ridiculously scarce even in the middle of massive fire fights. The power of weapons is often wildly inconsistent. Sometimes enemies can be shot one or twice and they are done. Some can seemingly take a half dozen shots, some to the head, and still stumble back up to return fire. Set pieces often feel cheap as you will often find yourself running straight into ambushes where it is literally impossible to avoid being shot before discovering your enemies location. The accuracy of Max's gunfire during bullet time can be inconsistent and frustrating. Sometimes the bullet goes where the reticule is at, others times it doesn't. Spacing between checkpoints can be too long and there are points where you will find yourself going over the same part of a level many times over because of this.

Up to this point it may seem like I think Max Payne 3 isn't a good game but that is incorrect. There are times where it is a great game actually, but it is too often let down by flaws that can sometimes make the experience as frustrating as it is thrilling. That said, I think gamers who enjoy an intense action shooting game with fun mechanics, good sound, great graphics, and a strong, well written narrative would be making a mistake to skip Max Payne 3.