In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t played any of the previous Max Payne games. This fact has less to do with a lack of interest and everything to do with my parents actually taking concern with my emotional development as a kid, taking the time to learn about games before going out buying it for me. You might say my parents were strict, but I like to think that everyone else’s parents that carelessly buys M rated games for their 12 year spawn are secretly hoping their kid will publicly go off the deep end in one form or another and they can make millions selling their memoirs about being a bad parent then ultimately blame the incident on something else entirely. Oh the joy that is my imagination!
Where was I? Oh, Max Payne!
So as much as I can gather, Max Payne is an ex-cop who some how screwed the pooch and got his wife and daughter killed. I’m not exactly sure how, the game assumes I knew what happened in the first two stories despite the fact that it was 10 years ago, but whatever, Max Payne is super bummed about whatever happened and likes to remind himself about it in between gun fights while popping pills to mend his 30 recently acquired bullet wounds. I might sound like I am complaining about the lack of clarification, but to be honest, the Max Payne 3’s story only modestly alludes to the last two games to give some context to Max’s actions and the main plot has almost nothing to do with those past games directly. I don’t want to spoil the story because it takes some dark twist I think you should experience first hand. What I will say is unlike most Rockstar games, Max Payne’s story finishes up in a rather neat and clean bow.
What make Max Payne 3 a standout game is that it sets a new industry standard in presentation. I have never seen a game this polished before; animation is flawless, faces move convincingly, enemy AI is smart… in short, the production quality is nearly perfect. One of my favorite touches to the game was the scan line and purposeful screen tearing process effects that characterizes the visual aesthetic of the game, but never feel too distracting. The game also tracks the bullet that kills the last enemy in a encounter providing an up close and personal view of the face shredding violence the game proudly touts. All this leads into the crown jewels of the presentation, being able to seamlessly jump between cut-scene and gameplay. This gives the game a truly cinematic feel without robbing the player of enjoying the game and ensures they never sees a loading screen in gameplay.
All the production in the world would not mean a thing if Max Payne 3 wasn’t a blast to play. The action sequences and fire fights are chaotic and engaging, book ended by either story and intrigue or bombastic interactive set-piece moments. At the heart of it’s cinematic gameplay is Max Payne’s signature bullet time mechanics that allow the player to dramatically clear a room enemies John Woo style with slow motion dives and maneuvers that clear countless paramilitaries and avoid each bullet fired at you. This sometimes leads to a comical Jackie Chan like miscalculation in the player’s that may propel Max into a nearby book case or wall, but the game is more than able to even make these crazy mistakes look convincing. This level of total control means that if you die in Max Payne, and chances are you will, It was because you did something stupid and not the some sort of cheap shot by the game. My only issue is that in the event you need to restart, the game is more than willing to dump you off at a checkpoint horribly unprepared with low health and/or ammo. This results in you being dropped in an un-winnable position over and over again until the game realizes it and gives you a helping hand in the form of an extra pill bottle. This however is a rare issue and when everything works, you are treated to a gameplay experience that empowers the player into becoming the ultimate bad ass.
Max Payne 3 is a game for adults, and I just don’t mean that because of the realistic and unapologetic violence or references to drugs and sex. It’s gameplay and film noir inspired story represent something strong and refined, like the aged whisky Max enjoys, in an industry that is overwhelmed with mass produced Bud Light and easy to drink cocktails. Just like that whisky, it’s not going to be enjoyed by everyone, and it’s certainly not open or easy… but that trade off leaves you with a strong well written narrative and shooting gameplay that most games could only hope to achieve in cut scenes.
This micro review was based on my experiences on the Xbox 360 version of the game, I played through the entire campaign on Normal Difficulty with soft aim, collected about 40% of the hidden items and grinds, and did not play any multiplayer.
What’s a micro review you might ask…
It’s shorter than a regular review, and means that for one reason or another I don’t really feel compelled to write a comprehensive review that covers all aspects of a game. This could mean I simply didn’t play a component of the game, finished the story or don’t feel competent enough to address all aspects of the game.
Release Date: May 15, 2012