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Review

Max Payne 3 Review

  • Game release: May 15, 2012
  • Reviewed: May 14, 2012
  • X360

With savage gunplay and an absorbing personal story, Max Payne 3 is an exhilarating shooter that grabs hold of you and doesn't let go.

by

Like it or not, times change. When Max Payne last appeared in a game in 2003, he blasted his way through countless enemies with reckless abandon, aided by his signature ability to slow time and deal graceful death. Today, reflecting modern sensibilities and perhaps his own age, Max takes things slower and makes judicious use of a new cover mechanic. Yet the addition of this contemporary element doesn't mean that Max Payne 3 plays like every other third-person shooter. Far from it. With its gripping narrative, brutal violence, and fantastic implementation of Max Payne's bullet-time ability, this is a distinctive and outstanding game through and through, and it's easily a worthy successor to the Max Payne games that preceded it.

Wherever you go, there you are. It's a truth Max Payne knows better than anyone. Fleeing his New York life to take a job working security for a wealthy family in Sao Paulo, the hard-drinkin', pill-poppin' Max finds that his demons come along for the ride. Though the details of the plot add up to your typical story of conspiracy and corruption, of the rich and powerful preying on the poor and helpless to become even more rich and powerful, the writing, acting, and presentation elevate this tale well above a boilerplate video game crime story.

It's hard to stay ambivalent once you see the horrors being suffered by the innocent here, and you'll likely want to see Max's quest for vengeance through to its conclusion just as badly as he does. Max reveals a complexity here not seen in earlier games, as he hits rock bottom and must either stay there or face his demons head-on and make himself anew. Other characters, too, reveal a surprising humanity. You might be tempted to write off Marcelo, the youngest brother in the wealthy Branco dynasty Max is hired to protect, as the shallow playboy he often appears to be. But in moments of disarming honesty, he reveals to Max a depth that lies beneath the facade he presents to the world.

Cutscenes use multiple moving panels to pay homage to the graphic-novel-style storytelling of previous games without feeling beholden to it, and the considered use of blurring and other visual effects echo Max's state of mind, perhaps making you feel as if you're the one who has been hitting the bottle a little too hard. James McCaffrey does an excellent job reprising his role as Max, bringing a wider range of emotions to a character who has previously often been one-note. The writing is terrific; Max's world-weary wit is as bone-dry as ever, and as he ruminates on things like loyalty and loss, much of what he says has the sound of hard-earned wisdom. Subtle touches throughout the game make Max seem convincingly alive, such as the complex look that crosses over his face at the start of one stage when bloodshed seems inevitable; it's as if he dreads what's coming, but does his best to mentally prepare himself for it.

Live by the gun, die by the gun.

Max Payne 3 has far more sunlight and color than earlier Max Payne games, but the menaces Max faces here are at least as dark as those he's faced before. The locales Max has to gun his way into or out of are alive with authenticity and detail. Nightclubs throb with dance music and light shows; children play soccer in the favelas; run-down hotels are packed with leftover junk from their earlier days of luxury. And it's not all tropical locations and bad Hawaiian shirts for Max Payne here; a few great flashbacks that take place in Hoboken, New Jersey, reflect the snowy weather and urban atmosphere of earlier Max Payne games, as well as Max's previous fashion sensibilities, and connect his new life with his old one.

Though some things may have changed for Max Payne, one thing that hasn't changed is his ability to blow bad guys away by the hundreds. Three aiming options for the campaign let you customize the gunplay to your liking: hard lock takes much of the challenge out of things, snapping on to the nearest enemy; soft lock sticks to enemies once you've got them in your sights; and free aim leaves it all up to you. Regardless of the option you choose, shooting in Max Payne 3 feels terrific. This is partially due to the game's unflinching violence. Bullets visibly tear through bodies, leaving holes that spurt blood as your enemies die. Each encounter with a group of enemies ends with a bullet cam, showing your final, fatal bullet soaring through the air and striking its target in grisly detail, and giving you the option to pump excessive, unnecessary ordnance into the poor bastard. It's a cathartic and satisfying way to end each firefight.

Bullet time, the defining mechanic of the Max Payne series, lends gunplay a cinematic intensity that remains exhilarating from the start of the substantial campaign until its finish some 12 hours or so later. When bullet time is enabled, you can see every pellet that bursts forth from a shotgun, every bullet that whizzes past your head. Windows break apart beautifully; concrete shatters to reveal the rebar underneath; and all other sorts of believable destruction to the world around you takes place as you and your enemies try to gun each other down.

Max may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with him.

Bullet time slows your enemies down significantly, letting you aim and fire faster than they can respond. But despite the significant edge this gives you over your foes, they are no pushovers. They make smart use of flanking tactics, so you need to stay aware of what's happening on all sides, and, yes, you need to make effective use of cover. There are still situations aplenty where an old-fashioned head-on approach can get the job done, but by and large, you need to approach combat in Max Payne 3 a bit more defensively than in past games.

Max's vulnerability, and the feeling of danger that accompanies it, makes combat much more nerve-racking than it was in earlier Max Payne games, but it does come with a downside: Max's signature shootdodge has suffered. You can still leap through the air in slow motion like a John Woo action hero, attempting to blow your foes away before you land, but because your enemies also make good use of cover, there's a good chance some of them won't be vulnerable to your airborne assault, and as you get up from the ground after a shootdodge, you're something of a sitting duck. The result is that you may end up using shootdodge from time to time not because it's a particularly effective tactic but because, risks be damned, it just looks so cool.

There's a great variety of guns to use in Max Payne 3--all manner of pistols, shotguns, rifles, and submachine guns. Max can still dual-wield weapons but, in a great touch, any larger weapon you grab is carried in his left hand, and if you opt to dual-wield your smaller weapons, he has to drop the bigger gun. (After all, where is he going to put it?) Max also has a number of terrific, hard-hitting melee attacks at his disposal, which knock enemies helplessly to the ground and then let you fill them full of lead. Great sound design supports the impact of the action. Gunfire sounds as fierce and deadly as it looks, and simmering percussion comes to the forefront in battle, a fitting accompaniment to your escalating pulse.

The campaign deftly avoids falling into a rut by frequently putting you in situations that fall outside the standard action. You might find yourself blasting enemies in bullet time as you hang from a helicopter, sliding down a sloped roof into a swimming pool, or in any number of other action movie situations. The campaign also includes just enough periods where you get to catch your breath and simply walk from one place to the next, taking in your vibrant surroundings before the next firefight begins. Optional clues you can search for and collect throughout each level give you an added incentive to look around and give you the sense that Max is good at more than just killing, that he has the instincts of a detective. It all adds up to an immensely exciting, expertly paced campaign that's lengthy enough and varied enough to leave you satisfied.

Where the campaign is tight and focused, the multiplayer is fast, freewheeling, and a little goofy. Though you start with just a handful of loadouts to choose from, you eventually unlock an impressive variety of weapons, attachments, gear, and abilities, called bursts, to choose from. Unlike in the campaign, in which Max fills up his bullet-time meter rather quickly on the standard difficulty, the adrenaline that fills up your burst meter in multiplayer takes time to collect, ensuring that these powers are not overused, and requiring you to choose carefully: Do you cash in your trigger-happy burst at level 1, enjoying the benefit of armor-piercing ammunition for 20 seconds, or do you hold off until you have a full meter and reward yourself with a devastating grenade launcher?

Bullet time is one of the available bursts in multiplayer, and it works well, affecting enemies in your line of sight rather than slowing down enemies all over the battlefield. But it's not the only standout burst. Paranoia is great for causing mayhem on the field, making members of the enemy team see each other as enemies. And big dog, which gives you and your teammates a health boost, can help turn the tables when things are looking grim.

Yeah, perfect, Max. You'll blend right in.

There are standard deathmatch and team deathmatch games, but Payne Killer and Gang Wars are much more interesting. In Payne Killer, you become Max Payne or his partner Passos by killing them, and then earn points for staying alive and killing the attacking players as long as possible. Your bullet-time bursts and life-restoring painkillers give you an edge over your opposition for a little while, but you're heavily outnumbered in these roles, and it's only a matter of time before you're overwhelmed.

Gang Wars is a five-round team game in which objectives vary from round to round. In one round, your team might need to plant bombs at sites that the other team is struggling to protect; in another, there might be a VIP you need to kill on the other team, whose identity and location are revealed only after you kill a certain number of other members of the team. The frequently changing objectives and the uncertainty of what's next make Gang Wars an exciting mode that keeps you on your toes.

In the context of the campaign, shootdodging typically looks like a stylish way to kill people. In multiplayer, however, you might see people belly flop gracelessly onto the ground, which can make things a bit comical. The action is wilder in multiplayer than in the campaign, as players scramble to kill each other, using their various bursts to aid their team or to wreak havoc on their opponents. It's all chaotic fun, and the option to start vendettas against players who have killed you twice in a row, which earns you more experience points for the next kill if you get them before they get you, brings a dynamic and personal aspect to the competition as you're often trying to seek out and kill one player in particular.

Vendettas give you a reason to hunt down specific players.

But while the multiplayer is enjoyable, the single-player campaign is a knockout. There's incentive to return to the campaign and conquer it on higher difficulty levels, or to tackle the leaderboards in Arcade mode and in New York Minute mode, in which you race through levels, earning time for each kill. Times change and people change, too; Max Payne isn't the same man by the end of this game that he is at the beginning. It's fitting, then, that the gameplay has also evolved, that Max needs to proceed with a bit more caution than he did in his younger days. They say the more things change, the more they stay the same, and one thing remains true: you can still count on the Max Payne name to deliver some of the most stylish, distinctive, pulse-pounding shooting around.

The Good
Tight, terrific gunplay intensified by bullet time and hard-hitting violence
Great writing, voice acting, and cutscene presentation
Detailed environments that get destroyed in spectacular fashion
Impactful sound design
Fun, chaotic multiplayer
The Bad
Max's shootdodge maneuver is sometimes frustratingly ineffective
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews
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Discussion

492 comments
ff8munoz
ff8munoz

I loved this game. From the shooting to the story. Its all good. Plus I really liked the mp but not many people on there now.

WalkingP
WalkingP

I've been a Max Payne fan ever since the series started, I actually gave the game a 7.5 based on that merit alone, however, I tried to imagine playing this game as a first time user and based on that criteria I would have given it a 6.0.  This game is definitely not up to par compared to previous installments.

Rich6826
Rich6826

I found this game really overrated and was glad it didn't drag on any longer than it did.  It's highly polished, and shoot dodge is always fun,  but it doesn't disguise the fact it's a fairly dull shooter. 6.5 from me.

nachote
nachote

Superb! excellent game!

gpm23
gpm23

Something else to add....the multiplayer in this game is one of the funnest online multiplayer games I've ever played, but I think they alienated their fan base with all the pay-for DLC.  I'm not one to pay more on top of the original purchase price for a game, so for me the servers were pretty dead.  Sad they had to nickel and dime people so much just to have some fun online.  If it wasn't for that, this game would have lasted a lot longer online.  Shame.  

gpm23
gpm23

I thought this was a fantastic game.  Played it on my PC in 3D and it was definitely worth every penny.  The story was awesome and was what kept me coming back.  The only thing I didn't like was how negative Max was all the time, just going on and on about how his life sucked.  I mean I get it, he lost his family and has been through the ringer and he had every right to complain, but to hear him continuously griping got a little bit old after a while.  Other than that, best third person shooter/mechanics I've played in a while.  8.5/10 from me.  

DiamondSlicer
DiamondSlicer

I bought this game for 20 euros and regret it... I don't like this game whatsoever. It's just lacking somehow. Wish I bought a different game. Oh well..

slomlo
slomlo

So basically in these comments I see the same 3 people liking all the comments of people who came to say the reviewer gave the terrible score because only they can have an opinion and no one else.

mineman2
mineman2

Glad I rented it.  I gave it a try for two hours, suffered through that.  Stupid.  No comparison to a quality game experience like Halo 4 or Far Cry 3. I am very surprized to see such a rating for this rotten game.  

Terror27
Terror27

dont waste your time watching the dark night rises again get drunk and play this game!! this game is rowdy !! best $14 ever spent thankyou walmart

Legends_Living
Legends_Living

Awful review for an awful game. Mind-numbingly repetitive, monotonous gameplay, stale, inane dialogue and a threadbare, uninteresting storyline makes Max Payne 3 a slog after the first 45 minutes. Reviews such as Petit's should come with a disclaimer: GameSpot lacks even an ounce of journalistic integrity and tailors its reviews to the highest bidder. To allow such a positive review for such a terrible game, you must either be incompetent or corrupt - in GameSpot's case I'd venture to guess they're the latter.  A lot people pay $60 for games, Carolyn Petit. That's a lot of money for most of them. Just something to keep in mind.

waterbuffel
waterbuffel

The game itself is very good, but still full with bugs. So far I'm right at the boat chase. At this point the game got stuck a few times, which is not good. So far happened 4 times already that I was in cover with Max and he couldn't get out of cover, couldn't shoot, like the whole controller stopped working (and no, the controller wasn't turn off). Now I died in the boat chase and when I reload the checkpoint it's stuck looking at a cabin with the sun behind it, but I can't do anything at all. I don't see Max or anything, just the scenery until I die forcing me to start the level all over.

 

I really loved the game as long as it worked, but the last bug stopped me from playing. Really bad, the game would've been superb if it didn't bug on me so many times in such a small time...

empoi666
empoi666

this game is real shit!!! but how disappointing  this was not included in game of the year!!! really!! fuck you gamespot

C2J2
C2J2

This game is awful... I try to play and get shot as little as possible... The bad thing about that is that it puts you in the worst spot possible every time after guys run in and it takes 2 full seconds until you get complete control of max....I felt like I was being scripted through levels... As in other max paynes there were hidden meds or meds as you go (you could find meds if you needed health), not in this one.... it gives you the meds your have.... I think theres only 2 a level (I'm not sitting through playing each level of this crapfest)

 

The levels are very small and made smaller by cut scenes... (Seriously, cant you just let me go) There is a cut scene every 2 minutes... which makes the game longer but boring...

 

The controls are extremely sloppy... I felt like half the time max did the complete opposite thing of what I told him to do....

 

No matter where you shoot people its still a body shot... There are slow mo scenes where you will shoot the guy in the head but it still goes through the scene of the guy getting shot in the body (The very first level this happens and where the bullet hole goes into the bad guy it would have to go through the lady your trying to save....

 

You cant shoot through easy stuff... If there is something flimsy in front of you that you should be able to shoot through it will not... Extremely sloppy! (And guys will be there shooting you while you cant shoot through this object...)

 

You shoot guy 5 times in the head and they still get up and kill you... In other versions you shot them in the head they were dead... In this one sometimes you shoot them5 times and then turn your attention to another threat... Meanwhile the threat you shot 5 times gets up and shoots you (IT DOESNT MATTER IF YOU SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD)

 

It gives you little awards for groin shots, which is nice... But at the same time I dont understand... If it doesnt matter where you shoot them why give little awards... You shoot them in the groin it is just as effective as shooting them in the head (Or for god sake the leg, which if you clip them in the leg its a realistic animation, but then they get up like nothing happened!!! DUMB!!!)

 

 

Pr0ving4Gr0undz
Pr0ving4Gr0undz

I did not like this game very much.

To many damn cutscenes and repetitive gameplay. Hell, I need a cut scene to climb a damn ladder. 

Good thing I brought this for only $20 on black Friday. 

sis03300
sis03300

absolutely mind blowing, loved the story, loved the gameplay, loved the style. A MUST- BUY

paquitao
paquitao

I like this game alot maybe they launch other versions soon

SkullsnChains77
SkullsnChains77

A ten year hiatus between Terminator 2 & Terminator 3...epic fail! A ten year hiatus between Max Payne 2 & Max Payne 3...epic win!

Princess_Rectum
Princess_Rectum

Love the game, but this review is a bit off.  I thought the dialogue was pretty terrible at times.  As if the writers were just trying desperately to be a bit more risque with it.  "This place has more smoke and mirrors than a strip club locker room" was pretty terrible, yet a good example.  Half the time you grab a set of painkillers Max has something stupid to say, such as "Hur hur I don't think they'll need these anymore -- CUZ I KILLED THEM HUR HUR!"

 

The soft lock although very useful (I guess I'm terrible at the game) is pretty frustrating at times.  Sometimes it locks onto some enemy too far away rather than the one you're already trying to fix your crosshair onto.  Also at times it's pretty frustrating how it'll seem like you pumped a full clip into an enemy's chest, he falls down, you assume he's dead and move onto the next guy.  First guy gets back up and pulls off a clean headshot on you. 

 

Anyways, I do feel the good really outweighed the bad, but I had to point out the finer grievances I had.

noctislucis21
noctislucis21

I played the game and in gameplay i found that slow time event thing is so repetitive.

mmarab
mmarab

This game is so boring. Story line is terrible, its basically a linear version of grand theft auto with the ability to fly in the air whilst shooting. First two Max Payne games were brilliant. This was a let down. Problem is anything rock star release gets an automatic 9/10 on this website. 

issac00ezio0076
issac00ezio0076

max payne is one of my favorite characters and the game was really fantastic!!!!!!!!!!great!!!!!!!

Rivboes
Rivboes

This game was amazing.  I'd say more like a 9.5.

dbene
dbene

A. how long is the average campaign in MP3 ?

 

B. I have never played a MP title......does it compare to Stranglehold (if any of you have played that game)?

GorezoneResin
GorezoneResin

Picked this up for sale at Wal-Mart bundled with Liberty City Episodes for $20 during a promo. Really glad I did. From what I've played so far the game is pretty clunky. Bullet Time is really the only saving grace here, Max moves and shoots in traditional Rockstar clunk fashion. Why do all Rockstar characters move like they have sticks up their asses?

 

Grab this game for $20 if you see it. It's worth the $20 for sure. $60 for this game is a complete ripoff.

Kryptonbornson
Kryptonbornson

 @waterbuffel I experienced zero bugs. Not one...the game is just bad...and I played on PC. Are you playing a pirated copy?

emfan457
emfan457

@C2J2 Dude I think you just suck. I was just popping mad heads.

Deniss99
Deniss99

 @mmarab say what? this game is insane! have you even played the first two? wtf dude

Rivboes
Rivboes

 @dbene 

Mp3 was pretty long.  Id say around 10-12 hours.

Kryptonbornson
Kryptonbornson

 @GorezoneResin I bet it's alot easier to be honest at $20 no? You don't have that buyer's remorse for the extra $40 wasted you need to justify.

deestinct
deestinct

@Stebsis  Idiot, of course everyone can have his/her own opinions, but this is a professional critic in one of the major online gaming review websites in the world, able to influence people and determine the success/failure of a game. So if they just choose anyone with an opinion to write a review for them, how incredibly stupid is that? And I do agree with Legends_Living, pretty boring, draggy,  and in short an awful Max Payne game with an uninteresting story. Only thing it has going for it is graphics, sound and voice acting but that's about it.

GorezoneResin
GorezoneResin

 @Kryptonbornson That's exactly it. Buying the game at $20 let's me enjoy it for what it is, which imo isn't the blockbuster triple-a title everyone expected.

NickPunt636
NickPunt636

@slomlo @deestinct @Stebsis With you on this one bro... 


I read the review, I loved the previous iterations, weighed up the pros and cons, and I LOVE this game... 


The reviewer, even being a "professional" as stated above, is giving her OPINION! SHE LIKED IT and thus spread her thoughts. Apologies for her not saying, "I Liked this game, but for the sake of the hating trolls, 3/10..."

slomlo
slomlo

@deestinct @Stebsis Do you not understand what an opinion is? She played the game, thought it was good. gave it a good review. You didn't like it, don't think it's good, but that doesn't automatically mean you are right. I thought it was good. Guess I must be a fucking moron.

wavelength121
wavelength121

It's a great game. Go pick up your paychecks studio plants.

Kryptonbornson
Kryptonbornson

 @mmarab  @Deniss99 Pretty much said what I've been missing. They all feel the same. L.A. Noire was a superior GTA clone however due to the excellent story elements, even if it never really was a cohesive story.

mmarab
mmarab

 @Deniss99 @Kryptonbornson  Denis of course I have played the first two, otherwise I wouldn't have said it. Although if I hadn't played the first two, its irrelevant anyway. This game is repetitive, mindless and its score (9/10) is a joke.

Compare it to something like MGS4 which got 10/10, this game got 9/10.... really!! MGS4 as an overall game is only 1 point better than this... Hmm I think that is ridiculous. Lets be honest all rock star games are the same, GTA, L.A Noire, RDR etc, The core elements of all their games are just exactly the same. Played one, you played them all. This is just my opinion, I was just sharing it. 

wavelength121
wavelength121

Congrats, you just lost all credibility for displaying your terrible taste in games.

Kryptonbornson
Kryptonbornson

 @GorezoneResin Max Payne 3 sucks, but I guess we're in agreement about the principle with good games. In the case with awesome games like Rage and Bulletstorm that oddly as good as they are, don't feel worth the $60 price tag. I suppose a mediocre game like MP3 wouldn't seem as bad at a discount.

Max Payne 3 More Info

  • Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Max Payne 3 is the third installment in Rockstar Games Max Payne series and is set eight years after the events of the last installment.
    8.5
    Average User RatingOut of 4557 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Max Payne 3
    Developed by:
    Rockstar Studios
    Published by:
    Rockstar Games
    Genres:
    3D, Action, Shooter, Team-Based, Third-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol