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Review

Max Payne 3 Review

  • Game release: May 15, 2012
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

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.

Max brings death from above. Also from below, the front, the back, and the sides.

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.

New Jersey. Brazil. There are scumbags the world over.

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.

You can loot bodies in multiplayer for helpful items like adrenaline and painkillers.

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.

Even by the standards of Max's rough life, this is kind of a bad day.

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
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Discussion

84 comments
Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

I'm only just playing the game for the first time and it is a great game but my god the writing is pretentious! It is like every line out of his mouth has to be all poetic and intense. They really need to give it a rest and just let us kill some people!

Just having a break while the second half of the game which I didn't know needed downloading is downloaded. Why give us a game and then put the last half in three separate files online? So stupid!

c0mmanderKeen
c0mmanderKeen

Excellent game. I have been playing shooters since Wolf3d, loved the first two Max Payne's. And this one is awesome, much unlike many other shooters in recent memory, it really feels oldschool, but not dated. If you play a lot of shooters, start on hard (pc freeaim ofc...) and enjoy some of the best looking sounding and FUN shooting you can get.


Max doesn't disappoint.

Prometheus
Prometheus

I was a little worried after reading mixed reviews, but I loved every second of this game. It keeps you on your toes and there is never a dull moment. Don't expect a deep story or 'sophisticated' gameplay, but if you want a fun, fast-paced shooter then I can wholeheartedly recommend this game.

HjAa
HjAa

What a fantastic game. I'm a great fan of the series and I started right over when I finished it!

johnthegamegeek
johnthegamegeek

Max Payne 1 and 2 were fantastic PlayStation 2 games :) can't wait to play this entry :D

SsangyongKYRON
SsangyongKYRON

Just finished Max Payne 3. Totally awesome game, and I recommend it.

Kryptonbornson
Kryptonbornson

Just got my PS3, so now I have a point of reference. This game is simply an Uncharted knockoff. No wonder it feels nothing like Max Payne. That said, the RE 6 demo has me impressed and I think it will be a far better Uncharted knockoff.

hitmanub40
hitmanub40

This game is horrible. I finished it, because I'm a big fan of the franchise, but I give it a 3.5/10 score. Low frame rate, stupid unskippable blurred and flashed cut scenes and weak story far, far away from original thrilling series. I've died so many times in confusing shootdodge situations (reloading, NPCs behind the wall and etc.). Don't buy this piece of crap.

mr_azim
mr_azim

I just wish they brought back the Arena/infinite enemy modes that Max Payne 2 had.... if I was ever bored and just wanted some gun action, I could just load it up and play until I died without having to "look" for action.

Energycell_81
Energycell_81

The game is great, I'll give it a 10 from 10. I'm concerned about his length, tough, cause I've finished it very fast (about 10 hours). It runs well on older PC's too but with a DX 11 video card.

 

Thank you Rockstar for such a beautiful game and we all hope that GTA V will be the best game ever made!!!

xxZiggyxx
xxZiggyxx

So far...for the first time...this is the only game that gave me a headache and sick in the stomach...I almost had to throw up lol...I think it's because of all those flashes and blurriness...I can't play this game more than 2 hours...but I must say...after I completed the story..it's an amazing game!

it50vr
it50vr

awesome game, although mine seems to lag (during slow motion shooting scenes) it cuts and skips.. not sure if everyone experiences this? it just doesn't run smooth.

madpunho
madpunho

Its an amazing thrilling experience. awesome game

cosacblue
cosacblue

can't wait to buy this one.. :-) although it sucks!!

 

-Fromage-
-Fromage-

This game is pretty damn awesome.

BloodScarlet
BloodScarlet

Another Epic from Rockstar worth picking up.

DreamyMeadow
DreamyMeadow

it's one epic and amazing game.. I recommend it to everyone who wants to enjoy a thrilling 3rd person action! also to anyone who wants to enjoy fast-paced and epic MP :) also to anyone who likes a challenge or just likes to collect and complete (because finding those clues and golden guns is fun as well) :) great game!

Cactusgod
Cactusgod

I agree with the review, except I disagree that the campaign will take you 12 hours. I beat it in about 8 hours on hard.  Granted, I wasnt trying to find ALL the golden gun parts and find every clue though.

mabisking
mabisking

The game is improving big time it's becoming epic best written game off all time so far.

drcsyntax
drcsyntax

Oh another video with Petit; let me not even bother watching it, I'll just read it to avoid the horrid mono-toned script reading.

mabisking
mabisking

Just started playing it and I am a huge fan of the Max Payne series. The story graphics seems great and is plotted well but and this is a big butt your aren't max payne.... Of course you really are but compared to the last games this plays way to smiliar to gta 4 might as well be Niko Belic. In the original game shoot doge and rolling were enought to get a skilled player thought tough spots without the need for bullet time. This game has bullet time but is less effective. You ca dodge and roll but it's more realistic and you always get nailed in the head. The key is cover which is lame  many times you take cover on the wrong side of the wall and look the wrong way instant death. Aiming while cover sucks it's realistic but sucks. There is an arcade mode I haven't tried yet in fact hopefully I get passed the learning curve here so I can dominate again like the other games. What can you say though it's rockstar their bad ass go buy this game.

EE061003
EE061003

after chapter 2 i am facing horrible frame rate issues on PS3....any 1 facing the same problem? 

Kryptonbornson
Kryptonbornson

This game is not only not a 9, it's bad. Kane & Lynch was better and I mean that as in Kane and Lynch is a true 7 to 7.5 and this is a 5. It's clear to me than Alan Wake feels more like a Max Payne game (and looks better). You'll be trilled more with the flashlight and slow-mo dodge play than the shootdodge in the this Max Payne reimagining. It's not noir/Matrix, it's not even a Scorsese film, it's like watching an American b-movie--and you'll often feel like you're watching more than you're playing and the cutscenes are unskippable, probably so you won't notice the games's has no substance and the shooting sucks. Alan Wake and it's mini-sequel American Nightmare, look better than Max Payne 3 even with DX11. Nothing to see here, poor review.

blacksharkv
blacksharkv

awesome..10/10....will mess with your mind man....had a blast playing it on my 3d led hd projector on 120 inches of pure fantasy bliss....the HD sound with the sub firing made it double the pleasure....amazing.

google657
google657

shit game man do get it shit game man do get it shit game man do get it shit game man do get it shit game man do get it

rezabehbin
rezabehbin

the game is not bad

but you should play it once to the end it worth

CyberLips
CyberLips

Does anyone else think this game looks boring? I'm not trying to be mean or bitter and i'm not saying the game is bad because i haven't played yet. It just doesn't intrigue me , i don't know the story is kind of boring and i don't like the character either and cannot relate to him in any way :\ But if GS gave it a 9 then it must be really good.

zrka
zrka

I did not like the game

 

painkilla357
painkilla357

(Narcotics Anonymous crew) recruiting killas holla!!!!

Digital_Utopia
Digital_Utopia

 @hitmanub40 So...let me get this straight. You're giving this game 3.5/10 because your PC isn't powerful enough to run it at an acceptable framerate, and you're not skilled enough to learn how to use the mechanics? lolProtip: If you look very carefully when attempting to skip those "unskippable" cutscenes, you'll notice that it says "STILL LOADING". In other words, those cutscenes are fancy replacements for a load screen. The ones that can be skipped, are the only ones where it *isn't* loading.

cynicgeek
cynicgeek

 @asstatahosasi The other went for a bike ride a borrowed bronze and they yelled the government threw the banana bunch whispered You're Welcome a far away land. 

ajhu_2003
ajhu_2003

 @zrka Coz you can't accept challenge. Plagued by current gen easy bs

hitmanub40
hitmanub40

@abhreebhu @it50vr Stop pushing people to buy a new systems - the game isn't optimized well on consoles so what about some gaming PC's from year ago.

painkilla357
painkilla357

why thank you:) check out the NA crew i just started it and its  better then jumping on a random crew will be starting at the bottom and working our way up lets get it lol

midway_nights
midway_nights

Just shut the hell up man. Every gamer on earth knows you are lying. Game runs near perfect on ps3.

SaibotF8
SaibotF8

 @painkilla357 Nice, I actually just started multiplayer today and only played 2 matches, but I guess im pretty good because I light people up.

Max Payne 3 More Info

First Release on May 15, 2012
  • 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 4543 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Rockstar Studios
Published by:
Rockstar Games
Genres:
Action, Third-Person, Shooter, Team-Based, 3D
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