Max Payne 3 is the latest addition to Max Payne series. This time the game is created by different developers (Rockstar instead of Remedy). As we all know that Max Payne started his journey on PC and both 1st and 2nd installments in the series were created primarily for PC platform and ported to consoles. Both games pushed high end PCs to their limits and showcased some of the best graphics ever seen back then.
Surprisingly, both games still hold up very well till this day. The series brought bullet time (slow motion) to games and perfected it. Since the release of Max Payne 2 back in 2003, fans were waiting for a proper sequel and after 9 years of wait we finally got Max Payne 3. Rockstar Games bought Max Payne IP from Remedy after Max Payne 2 and started to develop Max Payne 3 few years after that. So, was it worth it? Is Max Payne 3 a sequel that fans of the series deserved? Is it a good game for new comers?
When it comes to story, Max Payne is one of the most unique franchises in game industry. Sam Lake tells the story of Max Payne, the main character of the game, in his iconic way. Both Max 1 and 2 were known to have unique stories, featuring a dark and gritty atmosphere. The games were full of Noir elements and featured a main character who was fighting his inner demons and nightmares. Max Payne universe was full of interesting characters and strong narrative, that we don't see much in video games.
Unfortunately, Max Payne 3 is completely different in that department. The game doesn't take place in New York and Noir setting is gone. Max Payne is no longer the man he used to be. Rockstar Games totally missed the point of Max's story. The main concept behind the game is the main character leaving his home and trying to earn some cash to live in a foreign country. Sounds familiar? Yes, sounds like a character from Grand Theft Auto but unfortunately this isn't GTA, this is Max Payne.
In a nutshell; The legendary cop from New York is now a bodyguard of a rich dude in Brazil and his task is to protect his wife. The game is full of uninteresting characters and there are some silly moments in the game along with cheap jokes. The only great character in the game is Max Payne himself. Even though sometimes he doesn't behave like Max Payne, but most of the time he is same old Payne that we all liked from previous installments. So yeah, Max's character is well written for the most part. Too bad the story is not good this time around,
Max Payne 3 is an action game just like any other but with bullet time. It takes over 10 hours to beat the campaign and unlock other difficulties like previous games. This time Rockstar decided to include multiplayer as well because for some reason they thought that was something that the series needed badly. There are different modes in the multiplayer (death match, rescue hostage, New york minute, Co-op etc) and one thing that really impressed me was the implementation of bullet time and shoot dodge in multiplayer. Other than that it is just a distraction and tacked on feature to justify the price of the game. Who cares about Single Player right?
Unlike previous games, Max Payne 3 doesn't only feature night time missions but day time missions as well. The best missions in the game are the flashback missions that take place shortly after the events of Max Payne 2. In these missions, you'll find Max wearing a badass leather jacket like previous games, killing baddies in cold streets of New York city at night. Too bad only 2 missions take place in that setting.
Rockstar also decided to include cover system in the game which kills fast paced action. Some people say "then don't use it" but that's not how stuff works because entire game is built around that. Max didn't need a cover system, bullet time was his cover. Just like GTA 4, Max takes a lot of time to take cover or leave it. Not only that but same is the case when trying crouch or switch back to normal position. However, I have to admit that motion capturing and in between animations are top notch in this game. Max is fully aware of his surroundings, he changes is body movements during shoot dodge, based on type of surface that his body is going to touch.
It is safe to say that Max Payne 3 is a console centric game unlike its predecessors. Enemies are slow because game is tuned down to make it controller friendly. Controls aren't responsive if you are using mouse and keyboard. When you move camera 180 degree during bullet time or shoot dodge, you'll have to wait for couple of seconds for Max to turn his body and arm towards your enemy before you can shoot him. It doesn't matter if your crosshair is pointing his head for few seconds already. Crosshair in the game also shakes sometime when Max is running, so a lot of time you can't shoot properly through mouse, unless you are using auto aim on a controller.
Also, say goodbye to quick saves. At least some devs bring that feature in the PC version despite being ported from the consoles but that's not the case here. Not only that but checkpoint system in this game is terrible. Sometimes you are placed in the middle of a gun fight and the game auto saves. You'll have to die again and again and again and again until you somehow manage to succeed in the battle and reach the next checkpoint. Not to mention, some checkpoints occur BEFORE lengthy cutscenes, which brings me to my next point.
Max 1 and 2 told story like an interactive novel or a comic book. These sections were brief and thanks to clever writing, the sections moved the story forward a lot. Not only that but both games had short real time cutscenes as well. This time interactive comic scenes and short real time cutscenes are gone and replaced by fully acted pre rendered cutscenes. The problem is, these cutscenes are extremely lengthy and some last over 8 minutes. Some cutscenes are more boring than others and contain a lot of boring conversations with uninteresting characters. And it doesn't end there, you can't skip these cutscenes. You'll have to watch these cutscenes over and over again if you are replaying the game or loading the last checkpoint.
Another bad design choice in Max Payne 3 is the over use of over saturated colors that explode on your screens after every few seconds. As if that wasn't enough, Rockstar decided that it'll be great if users can see giant texts flying all over the screen during cutscenes. These ugly texts act like subtitles, and whatever someone speaks, after few seconds you'll see that sentence flying all over the screen and you can't turn them off either. Max also switches to his basic pistol every time the cutscene ends. For example if you were carrying an assault rifle before cutscene, Max will hold the rifle in his left hand during cutscene and hold the pistol in his right hand. In entire cutscene Max uses that Pistol to shoot or warn enemies and when cutscene ends, he doesn't switch back to rifle and the next thing you find yourself doing is switching back to assault rifle in the middle of a gun fight and as mentioned before, Max takes time to change his weapons because animations are incredibly slow.
When playing the game keep in mind that you are not allowed to go too far because sometimes a cutscene triggers and Max moves to the next area while closing the door behind him. This means that you can't pick up bullets or weapons from dead enemies because path to previous area is now permanently blocked. This wasn't the case with the predecessors. Oh, and there is cinematic walk too PLUS no mod support (No Kung Fu Edition for you). Overall, design of Max Payne 3 is flawed.
Max Payne 3 plays like any other modern day cover based third person shooter. The difference is, here you get bullet time as well. Max Payne 3 features not-so-responsive cover system, that protects you from incoming bullets fired by enemies. You can use pain killers to refill your health. Yes, pain killers are back, which means no auto regen health, and that's a good design choice.
Max can use bullet time and roll to dodge enemy attacks and shoot them in the process. Bullet time is easily the best part of the gameplay. You can also use shoot dodge to kill enemies in slow motion. The animations are top notch and Max changes his body movement according to surroundings which is something that we don't see in other games. The problem is, how long it takes for Max to turn himself around before he can shoot an enemy. It may not feel too bad with a controller but it feels bad when using mouse and quickly turning the camera around.
In Max Payne 3 you can't equip lead pipe, grenades or molotov cocktails. It doesn't matter if your enemies are throwing grenades at you because for some reason Rockstar decided to not let you use grenades. You can only carry 3 weapons at a time (2 mini guns and 1 rifle). Say good bye to carrying over 10 weapons at the same time along with grenades, lead pipe/baseball bat and molotov cocktails. You can carry a lot of weapons in GTA and for some reason you are not allowed to do the same in this game even though that was core of old games; Use bullet time/shoot dodge, kill enemies, switch weapons, kill different enemy, fast reload and repeat. It seems like Rockstar wanted to target fans of new cover based shooters instead of old school fans, with this game.
There are also achievements in the game that kill the immersion when a giant menu explodes on your screen, telling that you've killed over 500 enemies. There are also collectibles in the game, mainly golden guns. Golden guns can be unlocked by finding their parts in each level. These guns have ability to automatically reload themselves when Max performs shoot dodge. Previously this feature was just an option which could be enabled or disabled in the gameplay menu for all weapons, now it is locked behind a collectible mini game.
Shooting enemies is a lot of fun and you wait for cutscene to end before you can get back to business. Excellent animations and slow motion effects encourage you to ignore cover system as much as possible and use bullet time to kill baddies but sooner or later you are forced to use boring cover system again to protect yourself, otherwise someone from far away will just shoot you right between the eyes and that means game over. When Max is about to die, time slows down for few seconds, during this time you can kill the guy who shot you, and doing so refills some part of the health. The number of times you can use this feature depends on number of pain killers you have. Using this feature one time means using one pain killer to save your life. Overall, Max Payne's gameplay is a bit flawed but a lot of fun when it works. It is clearly dumbed down from previous games though.
Graphically, Max Payne 3 looks very good but nothing revolutionary. Animations in the game are top notch. Voice acting is excellent but apart from main Max himself, other characters are boring and uninteresting. The game proceeds its story by series of long and unskippable cutscenes, that use over saturated colors that make the entire scene look ugly after every few seconds. Giant texts that fly all over the screen during cutscenes are annoying and assets used in pre rendered cutscenes are worse than actual assets used during gameplay in the PC version. The reason is that, the game is designed for consoles and enhanced for PC. So, the asset quality in cutscenes match actual gameplay assets used in console version but are lower than PC version.
PC version of the game was delayed for two weeks but it comes with enhanced graphical features, not available on console versions. Max Payne 3 also features a lot of graphics settings. The game is optimized well and runs smooth as silk even on lower end machines. The best soundtracks in the game are the ones featured originally in first two games but other soundtracks are great too. Character models look good on higher settings but apart from cloth physics, the rest of the models aren't revolutionary due to poor textures, outdone by older PC games like Witcher 2, Battlefield 3 etc. Overall, Max Payne 3's presentation is decent but it fails to raise the bar for graphics unlike Max Payne 1 and 2.
Most of the fans of Max Payne series are on PC platform because that was the platform from where the series was originated. Both Max 1 and 2 were primarily PC games, ported later to consoles. The controls and gameplay were built for mouse and keyboard, Max Payne 3 fails to to fully satisfy its fans by dumbing down the gameplay for consoles and on top of that it is a flawed game. Even if we judge Max Payne 3 as a console game, it still has issues mentioned in the review.
So, design wise it is not a polished title in any case but of course the situation becomes worse when you judge the game from eyes of core fans. Keeping both new comers and fans of the series in mind, I'd say that Max Payne 3 is not a bad game. It's a good game with a lot of flaws and bad design choices. Developers should not be given a free pass just because they are famous. Fans of the company should realize that as well. Valid criticism forces developers to change their strategy. I really like Max Payne 3 but it is heart breaking at the same time due to its flaws.
- Top Notch animations
- Great optimization
- When it works, the gameplay is a lot of fun
- Decent amount of graphics settings
- No auto regen health
- Flashback missions
- Enhanced PC version
- Bullet time is awesome
- Max is still badass
- Mediocre storyline and uninteresting characters
- Cover system
- Multiplayer was waste of resources
- Unresponsive controls
- Gameplay is designed for consoles
- Weapons limit
- Can't equip Grenades, lead pipe or molotov cocktails
- No mods support
- Over use of over saturated colors
- Long and unskippable cutscenes
- Giant flying texts in cutscenes
- No quick saves
- Terrible checkpoint system
- Slow paced gameplay