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Consistently good games from developer

Review: Max Payne 3

by June 13, 2012

Bringing Max Payne into the current generation meant that changes were going to have to be made to the franchise to keep it viable. Rockstar Vancouver was tasked to update the series while also keeping it true to it’s roots.

The result is a game that delivers pulse pounding action while not letting the story go by the wayside.

The story opens up with Max standing in the aftermath of a gunfight. He looks down at some of the destruction around him and starts to think about the chain of events that got him there.

Max has lead a hard life and it shows.

Immediately you’re taken back to a time before these events unfolded. Max has decidedly new digs this time around as he finds himself in Brazil being a bodyguard for an affluent family who’s members straddle a line between underhanded deals and nightclub socializing.  Max has been dealing with the events of the last two games by self medicating with a mixture of alcohol and pain medication that makes him not as sharp as we remember him. This dull edge leads to events that Max would have usually been able to prevent and he spends a good chunk of the game cleaning up messes that went bad due only to his own mistakes.

it’s on par with a finely crafted Tarantino film, there is so much brutality and savagery while also focusing on a deep and touching characterization of all the key players

Max comes off as a sympathetic character because this is him just trying to survive after he’s lost everything. He lost his family, he’s had to leave New Jersey, and now he’s just trying to have some sort of a life in a new location. His reliance on self medication and his inner torment for what he’s lost makes it easy for the player to sympathize with him. He’s no longer a game version of David Caruso, instead he’s a character that’s tormented by his own demons and reflects on where he’s been and what he sees.

Max of course is a product of the amazing writing that’s in Max Payne 3. The best way that I can explain it is to say it’s on par with a finely crafted Tarantino film, there is so much brutality and savagery while also focusing on a deep and touching characterization of all the key players in the game. This is some of the best production we’ve seen this generation. The way that cutscenes and gameplay change effortlessly, making the entire game just one long journey you’re navigating through until the end.

The game keeps you on your toes during that journey by moving you to different parts in the timeline with Max doing all of your commentary. Moving back and forth does two things, it makes the gameplay more enjoyable by having the action play out in many different areas instead of just one long trek through an identical set of backdrops and it also helps fill in Max’s history in a way that keeps the player motivated and playing rather than watching. Not only will you know why events happened in Max’s life but you’ll experience them firsthand.

Max’s life is certainly a violent thing to experience. Bullets leave gaping entry and exit wounds and enemies react to where you shoot them on the body. Nail someone in the leg and they fall, take out an arm and they’ll be unable to support their weapon correctly. Gameplay is set up with the left trigger used to aim and the right trigger to shoot while the left bumper is used to bring up the weapon wheel to choose your weapon and the right bumper is used to initiate the shootdodge.

“He flies through the air with the greatest of ease…”

Oh the good ol’shootdodge. One of the reasons the Max Payne franchise is so revered is because it’s one of the first mainstream games to offer a bullet time mechanic and it returns in Max Payne 3 with a slight twist. Unlike the previous Max Payne games shootdodge allows you to have a full 360 degree radius to shoot from but it does not reload your weapons automatically like in previous games. That means that you better make sure you have a full clip before you take off trying to shoot enemies in spectacular fashion because once you run out of bullets you’re just a guy moving in slow motion in a room of guys that want you dead.

Another point about the shootdodge is that you’d better be able to dispatch all the bad guys when you’re sailing through the air, if you don’t, you’re going to wind up laying on the ground with bad guys filling you full of lead. The wow factor of taking down a dozen armed men in slow motion is offset by the “aw crap” feeling of only killing 8 out of those 12 guys and the other 4 unloading into you. Another gripe is the fact that in some levels shootdodge is a liability because some stages aren’t designed for you to go sprawling sideways and instead you’ll find yourself slamming into an object and crashing down instead.

You can also enter bullet time by pressing the right thumbstick and depending on how much you’re firing, how much the bad guys are firing on you, and what level you’re playing on it recharges over time. As long as you have some charge in the meter you can slow down time and take out as many bad guys as you can get your sights on.

The nice thing about bullet time compared to shootdodge is that you can enter and exit bullet time whenever you want to during gameplay, it’s not like shootdodge where you’re required to perform a certain move to activate it. I used bullet time most often and at the start it feels almost like a cheat but as the game progresses it becomes a regular mechanic you’ll have to use to survive. It’s like the game expects you to use it and stacks the bad guys so it all makes sense.

What? I can’t hear you over the sound of my enormous gun.

The weapons have a nice heft to them and all have distinct feel. It’s not as satisfying as the elite games on the market as far as feel but it’s not very far behind.

Depending on your skill level you can expect this game to last you about a dozen hours or so. No matter what difficulty level you choose you’ll find the later levels will really pour on the enemies making you have to go slowly in most areas just to stay alive. Max isn’t the sturdiest hero in the world so a few bullets will take him down. There is a nice mechanic that if you have a painkiller in your inventory and you lose all your health you enter bullet time and have a chance to kill the one who killed you. If you succeed you can keep on going but if you fail you’ll be restarting the level.

Once you’re done with the story mode you have three arcade challenge modes to pick from.

  • Score attack: Try to get the highest score by taking out bad guys with speed and style.
  • New York Minute: Go through as quickly as possible while shooting enemies to gain extra time
  • New York Minute Hardcore: Same as standard but ramped up difficulty

Then we have the multiplayer which is a blast and offers a wide range of game styles.

The first thing is that you’re split into two main groups, guided or manual aiming and from there you have a choice of three play types.

  • Deathmatch: Playing either solo or with a team you run around and shoot people for a certain amount of time, it’s your standard fare.
  • Payne Killer: Become Max or Passos and try to stay alive for as long as possible, the winner has the highest time.
  • Gang Wars: Two teams of gangs compete in five rounds of objectives. Each team is trying to complete their goal while preventing the opposing team from completing theirs.

There’s a ton of content in multiplayer that will keep you coming back for more and if the past is any indication Rockstar has a lot planned for the multiplayer side of the game.

Multiplayer allows players to go all out in different gameplay types.

I enjoyed the multiplayer experience and everything works the same except for shootdodge. In multiplayer when you activate shootdodge you just slow down everyone you’re looking at. This takes a huge chunk of the advantage away from you since you could be moving in slow motion looking forward gunning down people while someone on the side of you moving in real time has a clear shot at you floating by.

After going through the scripted path and meticulously working your way across levels in the single player campaign it’s a completely different feeling to be in multiplayer games where speed and recklessness abound.

The sound in the game is phenomenal. Not just the voice work in the game but the way that so much detail has been put into making Max Payne 3 feel alive when it has to and completely devoid of anything auditory when it has to. It does a magnificent job of framing the story.

The music in the game matches perfectly. In a game like this you don’t want score after score blaring out at you. Instead the create a subtle background that helps lend a sense of urgency and need to many of the situations during gameplay and especially in the cutscenes where it’s used.

Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety

  • Great story to keep you interested
  • Terrific characters that will make you follow their stories
  • Long and interesting campaign
  • Multiplayer has a lot of content to keep you busy

Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety

  • Dark depressing world
  • Max self medicates
  • Constant use of distracting flashback visuals

Why you should be playing this

Max Payne returns in a big way with the latest installment of the franchise. Rockstar has taken the lead and given us a modern day version of the character that’s believeable yet still feel like he’s a total bad ass. Rockstar Vancouver’s ability to elevate Max from an almost comic book hero to a multi layered character should be appreciated for the feat it is. Also their ability to keep Max’s core gameplay unchanged and still have it resonate with the fans shows just how forward this franchise is as an action title.

The story is terrific and when you’re done with that you have pure gameplay driven activities like arcade mode and multiplayer. The story will take you anywhere from 10 to 14 hours on your first pass and multiplayer along with arcade challenges will triple that. For fans of the franchise this is a must have title that was brought to the current generation of games with a lot of care, for anyone who’s curious about the title just grab it, it’s completely worth your time.

This review was based on the PS3 version that was provided by the reviewer.

Release Date

May 15, 2012

Digital or Retail



XBOX 360, PS3


Rockstar Vancouver



AwardsConsistently good games from developer

Great story, fun bullet time mechanics, superb acting, lengthy campaign, varied multiplayer


Motion blur starts to become annoying rather than immersive, shootdodge a liability in some areas

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Jason Moquin
Oh this is where I get to say something about myself like I was captain of the debate team or that I was once king of Prussia. Well games, let's throw games in there, and I like sports, and comics, and animated things, mostly Japanese giant robots, oh and pasta, big fan of pasta. You know all shapes taste different? Each one has a distinctive bite and holds the sauce differently. A lot of people are like "PASTA IS PASTA" and I say "STOP YELLING AT ME".

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