Published on August 11th, 2013 | by Paul Hibbs0
Max Payne Review
Summary: Bloody Brilliant.
Max Payne is a name that carries with it so much history in the gaming world. It’s the name that defined the 3rd person action genre on PC and later on PS2 and is the series that revolutionised the gameplay mechanic “Bullet-Time”. It’s a gameplay ability that so many other developers have tried to replicate but have never managed to meet the standard set by the original Max Payne.
“Guess what, they haven’t disappointed”
The series also presents a more mature game, one that is dark in tone but also stylish in its presentation. It really is a high quality series in both its content and gameplay and one that can quite happily sit up there with the likes of any Triple-A game or summer blockbuster. Needless to say when Rockstar Games, the talented studio behind Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noir and the Grand Theft Auto series, announced a new Max Payne on a whole new generation of hardware I had extremely high expectations. Guess what, they haven’t disappointed.
Max Payne 3 picks up, surprisingly enough, where Max Payne 2 finished. We join Max at a point in his life where he’s not only hit rock bottom, he’s smashed through bottom and has fallen into a place even darker and more depressing than we have ever been taken to in a game before. He’s an alcoholic and painkiller addict who is struggling to hold together any form of life following (spoiler) the loss of his wife and child from the first game. He broods in his one bedroom apartment night after night downing bottle after bottle of Kong whiskey while staying topped up on said painkillers. He’s clearly not in a good place and is still unable to deal with his loss. Thankfully as this has been the focus of previous games this is not the main story of Max Payne 3. In this game it really only gives the context behind Max’s state of mind, why he is the way he is and ultimately what drives him to want to overcome his issues later on.
“it doesn’t take long for the shit to hit the fan”
This is a story of recovery, Max has taken on new employment in the form of bodyguard work for a very wealthy business man and his family in an attempt to give his life a little bit of meaning. Like all Max Payne games it doesn’t take long for the shit to hit the fan and he is soon mixed up in a feud between local gangs and the wealthy business that provides his employment. For reasons likely linked to his past Max is compelled to save the family of his employer and goes to some serious lengths to ensure their survival.
Narrative wise this is a very deep game and the story is told through both Max’s trade mark narration during gameplay and some very long cutscene’s that would give even a Metal Gear game a run for its money. Really they cover the games loading times but as the story and visuals are of such a high quality you won’t mind sitting through them. I really can’t stress enough how good the visuals are and as the cutscene’s use in game assets they transition beautifully into the gameplay. There were even moments when I didn’t realised the cutscene had ended and gameplay had started.
“one the best looking game of this generation”
Rockstar really are masters of their craft but are better known for creating huge, highly detailed, open world games rather than narrative driven, “level” based games. So when a studio with that kind of pedigree goes to work an a game like Max Payne 3 we get, simply put, one the best looking game of this generation. The quality of detail in every cutscene and level is remarkable and this helps create a very believable, lived in world that will have you immersed for hours. Bullets can rip through nearly everything and the games partial, lighting and sound effects all work together to give some of the most intense shootouts I have ever experienced in a game. Rockstar have clearly built on their experience from GTA4 and the further developed the shooting mechanic’s of Red Dead Redemption to create Max Payne 3. Even the new GTA5 trailers have a Max Payne 3 look about them and believe me that is a very good thing.
The controls are very responsive and do work well however they do require a bit of getting use to. You can if you want choose to turn on aim assist but if I’m honest this reduces the level of control you have and often gets in the way of letting you do what you want in a intense shoot out. Once mastered though you will be pulling off some incredible moves and will feel epic as you dive off a balcony during bullet time with a pair of Uzi’s, wiping the room of enemy’s before you’ve even hit the floor. These are the moments that define Max Payne and to have them look so glorious and play so well just adds to what is an incredible experience.
“not that I’m saying he’s fat”
The animations of Max and his enemies are like the rest of the game, amazing. Max himself has a weight to him that I have never felt in a game before, not that I’m saying he’s fat but he is older and bigger than in previous games and moves as such. He’s sluggish, can’t run that fast and responds like a man of that age should.
“By design or by complete fluke this is poetry”
One mechanic that is carried over from the previous Max Payne’s and one that I truly love is how the game has you use painkillers to help Max recover health. By design or by complete fluke this is poetry, Max is addicted to these pills and as your success largely requires you to have some at hand to overcome each level it’s a perfect system to have. You will find yourself desperately searching areas for these pills to ensure you get Max ready to carry on. Even Max himself will comment on them as they are seen, used and picked up through the game. It’s something that really emphasises how addicted to them Max truly is and something I feel has been done extremely well in context to the story.
As this game has such a realistic tone Max can only carry a few weapons at a time. For example you can have two single handed guns and one larger weapon like a shotgun or MP5 etc. If you we’re to select a single handgun Max would use that in one hand and carry the larger gun in the other. If you wanted to have a pair of handguns or micro machine guns then Max would have to drop the larger weapon. This creates moments when you really have to think about your approach, most of the time guns blazing works fine but when there are a quite a few enemies it makes sense to plan ahead and think about how best to use the guns at hand.
Enemies are smart, they will work as a team, flank you and coordinate attacks, they even die well. What I mean by that is when they are shot they react to where and how they were shot. If they get shot in the leg they loose balance and fall down, if they get shot in the arm they will drop their weapons and cover the wound. This adds a lot of realism to what is already a very brutal game you can even slow down time when you kill the last enemy in a section and watch a shower of blood fill the screen as your bullets rip through the poor sod’s body. This is just Rockstar showing of the quality of their game and even if it is a bit gruesome it looks bloody amazing.
One thing I didn’t expect was how long the campaign is. Each level is meaty and full of things to collect with different scenarios to fight your way through. The action is intense and there are some spectacular set pieces and is broken up well with the already mentioned cutscenes. Max Payne 3 truly is a work of art and a technical masterpiece, how Rockstar have got this running on this generation of hardware I will never know.
After the spectacle that is the single player campaign you can take your skills online and go head to head with other players and gangs. The multiplayer is pretty standard but retains the quality of the single player. Matches can be played over several modes including the more traditional team death match and the more interesting Gang Wars. This mode has two gangs face off over five rounds, each has a different objective and the outcome of each round effects the next. It’s refreshing but not really revolutionary. There is a pretty good progression system similar to the likes of Call of Duty where you earn money by winning matches and looting dead enemies, that money is then used to buy perks or items, these are then used to make a load out. The clever thing here is you could choose to have very little equipment and be light and fast or be a slow walking tank with lots of guns and armour. Both have there pro’s and con’s but you have the ability of customising this to your play style.
All round the multiplayer is a nice refreshing break from the standard first and third person shooters currently out on the market but doesn’t reinvent the wheel.
That said Max Payne 3 is a truly magnificent experience. Rockstar have taken their open world quality and focused their efforts to create a level of detail within Max Payne 3 that is rarely seen in a game and something I honestly didn’t think we’d see this generation. Thanks to the amount of collectables and challenges available you’ll have plenty of reason to keep going back and with a solid multiplayer to back up the stunning main game you will have plenty to enjoy for quite sometime. This game represents the very best of our industry and I am proud to be a gamer when developers like Rockstar push the boundaries of what is possible, this is a once in a generation title and should be experienced by everyone.