Half-Ass Gaming Reviews: Max Payne 3

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The life of Max Payne is a turbulent thunderstorm. His entire family was gunned down in a hail of bullets, and he fell in love with a cold-blooded assassin. He’s solved every problem he’s ever had with a gunshot, which sent his career cascading down a rickety storm drain. Now he indulges himself in drugs and wallows in self-pity, he has become a truly broken man in every sense of the word. He’d rather drown in a sea of booze, but life places that cold metal piece back into his hand once again. Welcome to Sao Paolo, Max Payne

The twisted tale of Max gives us an up close view of his life in the past and the future. His addiction to Pain-killers and alcohol paints him as a grotesque substance abuser. His absolute disdain for the breath coming out of his lung furthers his self-loathing even more. His cast away career has turned him into a trumped up security guard for rich and unscrupulous people. The situation becomes worse when he fails at protecting the prized female of his boss, and he goes through life and limb to bring her back unharmed.

This deep and engrossing story would mean little if the game mechanics were old and rusted. Max Payne 3 sports a heavily modified version of the Red Dead Redemption system. Max’s famous shoot-dodging movements are still very much a part of the game. With the press of a button he will bound high into the air in the appropriate direction. The improvement lies with the ability to drop into cover, which makes for a beautiful pairing like a fine wine combined with the right meal.

Players are given the choice of 3 different aim-modes in the single-player campaign. Pinpoint lock-on targeting, the middle ground, and freely move the reticule at will. No matter the choice, the fluid shooting and bullet-time mechanics mark a spectacular gaming experience. The act of diving over tables, crashing through windows, or rattling multiple bullets into the head of an unsuspecting foe is wondrous every time. The action never feels forced, and enemies will flank and attempt to destroy Max at every waking moment. Even on the Normal setting, be prepared to reload the game countless times not in frustration, but with the need to outmatch your opponents.

You can’t talk about the gameplay without bringing up the animation system. The euphoria engine is what brings the cinematic flair to each gun battle. Max will dive headlong into combat, his body crumpling against walls and dropping him to position to shoot from the ground. He will sway convincingly while aiming at his opponents and moving, before putting his full weight on his legs and leaping out into the rain of bullets heading into his direction.

The graphical presentation is what drives, Max Payne 3. The cut-scenes transition seamlessly from action to the story sequences. The town of Sao Paulo is breath-taking, and the tremendous amount of detail that has gone into its creation cannot be ignored. The game attempts to keep up with the comic book style of the earlier iterations of the series, but makes an effort to only remind the player with pop-up text and graphical filters. The game all-around looks pretty good; it’s some of the lower textures that bring down score.

James McCaffrey has always been fantastic as Max, but I can say that he is most at home in the third title. His guttural voice lends well to the sarcastic monologue that slips from the script. It reminds me a lot of the Die Hard films, with Max becoming less serious about his situation the deeper he gets into trouble. The rest of the cast is phenomenal as well, it’s just Max that steals the entire show.

The musical score itself is in tune with the situation at hand. At one point the sound of gunfire will be drowned out by the pumping house music of a club. Later, Max will walk through Sao Paulo’s streets and hear the heart of Brazil’s culture, or become entranced by the haunting theme song to Max’s life. Each chapter is comprised of a thrilling composition that matches the setting. An odd audio bug can ruin the experience, causing the sound to go out of sync or disappear altogether… but this is a rare occurrence.

When the 12 hours of single-player is over, there are many modes that can keep the action going. Arcade Mode gives players the option to take on the score attack, or time-attack modes. Accompanied by a leaderboard, these modes allow players to get right into the action and compete without competing. We then move down to the multiplayer option, which I immediately feared would be a tacked on addition… and boy was I wrong.

Multiplayer in Max Payne is absolutely fantastic. Here you can join crews and battle other teams in large scale multiplayer arenas. Two modes in specific stick out as the favorites, Gang Wars and Payne Killer. Payne killer allows two players free reign over Max and his associate. They are stacked with painkillers, bullets, and can use bullet-time at will to fight off the other players. Gang Wars places players in randomly generated battles like capture the flag, assassinations, etc.

The lasting appeal is in the form of earning upgrades to weapons, and new items to decorate your avatar with. The leveling system is very similar to the way that Call of Duty: Black Ops works. Players will use earned cash to buy new weapons, and custom load-outs change based on the weight of items in your inventory. Run around with just a pistol and you’ll have unlimited sprint and quicker health recovery. Put on a helmet, shotgun, bulletproof vest and every attachment possible… and you’ll be a slow but hard to kill tank.

There are some downsides to the Multiplayer that don’t directly affect gameplay. The loading times for getting into a match are at least a minute and thirty seconds, and the same amount of time correlates after a match to get to the scoreboard. At the moment there are far too few maps, and the game will often freeze up and crash when joining a new game. The cut-scenes in single-player are a bit too frequent early on in the game, but spread out as Max gets deeper into the story.

It’s clear that Rockstar has done it again. Max Payne 3 is an unforgettable action packed romp that could have easily been messed up. Instead, we were given a fantastic storyline and often unbelievable gun battles. Max Payne 3 receives an A from Half-Ass Gaming, it’s good to see Max looking good after all these years.