Ever since the first game appeared, Max Payne has quickly obtained a status of a legend. Dark, whimsical, self-pitying and world-hating, sarcastic and hope-deprived, Max staggered through dark, dirty streets and rain of bullets in search of revenge and absolution. He got the first, not the latter, and that is just the way we like him.
Vexing me Brazilian style…
We had to wait for the third installment of this great game for a long while, and once it got of into development the delays didn’t exactly make things easier, but now our favorite bullet time anti-hero is indeed back. With vengeance. Max has moved down to Sao Paulo, also known as Sampa, and tries to make his living as a bodyguard for some rich Brazilian family, when he is not trying to drown him in self-pity and booze, that is. But Sampa with its 11 million inhabitants is everything but a safe and peaceful place, and soon it will seem as each and every last bum, thief, murderer, crooked cop and paramilitary is after our iconic protagonist. But what most people wondered was is can this game recapture the gloomy atmosphere of New York and previous games? Rest assured, it can, and it has. Oddly enough, maybe even better then before.
To put it simply, Max Payne 3 is a good game and it really delivers upon the premise of the previous parts. Basically, except some technical changes, graphic improvements and such, it is very much the same game as the first two. Max will run, jump and shoot bad guys, and given enough time and painkillers, he’ll have them all lined up. There is a small white dot helping you to aim that turns red when you hover over the enemy, and you can improve your accuracy by holding the right mouse button. You can have two primary weapons, you can dual wield two guns or a gun and an uzi, and you can carry a 2h weapon like a shotgun, sniper or a machine gun. There is only one thing to pay attention to, and that is switching weapons; if you switch to dual wield while carrying a shotgun, Max will drop the shotgun and get two onehanders; on the other hand (pardon the pun) if you switch to a single gun, Max will carry the shotgun in his left hand and won’t shoot with it. All in all, a very good way to keep a 2h weapon without slugging it over your back and making Max look ridiculous.
Movement is realistic, one might say, if we were to exclude the fantastic nature of bullet time, but it can’t be argued that animations and the feel of Max running, crouching and shooting are very well done. The new element added to the game is the cover system, which works quite well and will often save your skin. While crouching behind a solid cover or leaning against the wall, Max will be relatively safe, but even the cover won’t stop enemies shooting an exposed limb or simply running around and coming up from the behind. While in cover, one has the ability to shoot blindly, just reaching out with the weapon, and even though you can – kind of – aim and hit opponents, you won’t see the targeting dot and will use a lot of ammo. It is also possible to right click aim from behind the cover, which will expose Max partially to enemy fire, but will provide you with much better chance to hit the opponents. The Brazilians are tough, no doubt about that, and it will take several hits to dispatch a baddie, unless it is a clear headshot.
Its time for…
Bullet time is a trademark of the series, and has been brought to perfection in this third installment up to the point where one might say it is rather overpowered. It is possible to do 360 degree rotation while jumping in the air or falling down the stairs and calmly set up all your foes for headshots. The killcam is reserved fo the last opponent where you get the close up of the bullet and see his demise up close and personal. Beware of bumping into tables or other objects while bullet-time-jumping, since that will interrupt your flow and bring you back to the “normal” space-time.
Yet another trademark of the series is the atmosphere of doom, hopelessness, excessive self-pity of our main protagonist and the general feel of the world that is slowly going to hell. It was hard to picture such atmosphere in tropical surroundings where the samba dancers are showing of thier skills and curves, one was tempted to feel that dark, snowy New York atmosphere couldn’t be as easily replicated, but somehow the Max Payne manages to make Sampa appear like a fiery hell hole filled with deception, lies, murder and desperation. His spare time is dedicated to the attempt to empty as many bottles of cheap booze as he can lay his hands on, while recovering from his latest firefight, patched up, bruised and scarred. His attempts to provide safety for his employer’s family are less and less fruitful, as members are being abducted or killed off, and Max gets his fair share of beating while trying to stop his newly founded world from crumbling away under him. In his quest, Max will go through some changes, both in dressing and hair style, but his sarcastic, dry wit will stay the same.
But I was too tired to go on…
Overall, without expanding too much on details, Max Payne 3 is truly an amazing sequel. There are few objections, though; Max can push his dry, self-pitying monologues too far at some places of the game, cinematic cuts in the game, while well done and superbly narrated, can sometimes overwhelm in their frequency and can disturb the rhythm of the gameplay. There is a certain linear feel to the game, where you need to go exactly the way the scenario is taking you, which is something that might bother some players occasionally, and an often complained problem is the fact that Max is switching his weapons automatically when the game enters a cinematic sequence: for instance, you may be holding an AK-47 when clearing a certain area, then cinematic kicks in showing max having a 9mm in his right hand and carrying (without being able to use it) in his left hand, and when the action starts again, often middle among enemies, you need to quickly switch back to the weapon of your choice. Not a deal breaker, but certainly a nuisance with so many cinematics during the game and subsequent high paced action fights.
Addendum: After playing some more Max Payne 3, there is another rather annoying fact, and that is a reference to the flashy, dizziness evoking visual effects that occur on a regular basis during the cinematics, as well as during the moments of fights. It is golden ticket to epilepsy. Surely they could have done without that much flashy stuff, sadly, it is something one notices only after a prolonged game time. The headache will make you pay more attention next time.
Apart from those inconveniences, Max Payne 3 is a must have game if you were a fan of first two parts, and is definitely among one of the best games of the year, even if you haven’t played the series yet. Everything that was there in the first two parts is back in the number three, popping painkillers, bullet time, drinking and feeling sorry for yourself, that violent film noir sensation unique to this title. Action is amazing, weapons are well done and have a great feel to them, the graphic is superb and animation will knock your socks off. But above all, it is the Max Payne feel of the game that we have missed and that you can now relive once again.