Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3

Written by Travis Huinker on 5/31/2012 for 360  

Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment introduced gamers in 2001 to Max Payne, with its sequel following in 2003. With Max Payne 3, Rockstar Vancouver has taken the reigns along with assistance from Rockstar London, New England, and Toronto studios. In addition to Remedy's absence from the project, series creator Sam Lake has been replaced by Dan Houser as the lead writer. Originally scheduled for release in 2009, the game has finally arrived on shelves for eager Max Payne fans.
 
The narrative in Max Payne 3 weaves between Max's current private security employment in São Paulo, Brazil to his life in New York City after being retired from the NYPD. In the signature nature of the series, events are narrated by Max as he reflects on his predicaments and addictions to alcohol and drugs. Max's current employment that involves drinking excess amounts of alcohol while managing security for a rich family is soon interrupted with gun fire and kidnappings. As Max investigates the people associated with the attacks on the family, ties to his past in New York City start to appear and develop into a tale of corruption and injustice. Just as with previous games in the series, Max has a terrible habitat of being in the wrong place at the exact wrong time.

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The narrative in Max Payne 3 weaves between Max's current private security employment in São Paulo, Brazil to his life in New York City after being retired from the NYPD. In the signature nature of the series, events are narrated by Max as he reflects on his predicaments and addictions to alcohol and drugs. Max's current employment that involves drinking excess amounts of alcohol while managing security for a rich family is soon interrupted with gun fire and kidnappings. As Max investigates the people associated with the attacks on the family, ties to his past in New York City start to appear and develop into a tale of corruption and injustice. Just as with previous games in the series, Max has a terrible habitat of being in the wrong place at the exact wrong time.
 
The narrative assembled in Max Payne 3 begins with an interesting premise that never quite materializes into its grand scope, other than a few memorable set piece events. The switch between Max's past and current day predicaments keep events unfolding at a brisk pace throughout the story's fourteen chapters. In regard to the narrative's characters, Max and his private security employment partner Passos share a number of exciting encounters that continually add more intrigue and tension to their story. Unfortunately, only a select few of the characters are memorable with the majority of others filling stereotypical roles. With the heavy focus on film noir-inspired storytelling in previous games, Max Payne 3 implements an assortment of screen effects that display words or multiple scenes to provide emphasis. The cinematic and in-game appearances of color distortions and other screen effects help little with enhancing the narrative and quickly lose their charm after the first couple of chapters.
 

In similar effect to the narrative, the gameplay provides an assortment of engaging experiences that ultimately suffer from minor issues with frustrating difficulty and odd design decisions. In comparison with other recent shooters on the market, the difficulty will either be a surprising and refreshing experience for gamers, or an infuriating attempt at understanding the techniques to success. Max Payne 3 takes pride in offering gamers a challenge that few modern games dare to include based upon fear of alienating casual gamers. Fortunately, multiple difficulty and aiming modes are included that allow gamers to adjust the amount of challenge presented in-game. Even with the difficulty customization, a few areas in select chapters contain unbalanced situations that even the highly-skilled, dual-wielding Max has trouble avoiding the death screen.
  
Odd design decisions with rail-shooter sections, sparse painkillers (which act as the game's form of health restoration), and lack of incentive for using bullet time are minor frustrations with the otherwise addicting and brutal gun play. It was often the case with one chapter containing an assortment of thrilling gun battles, in which another chapter suffered from either lackluster narrative sections or unbalanced difficulty. Features such as weapon variety and kill cams provided quick relief to these minor annoyances. In stark contrast to past games in the series, Max Payne 3 introduces the now common cover system that is found in nearly every modern third-person shooter. Bullet time is still available for use, but is somewhat negated with the more practical use of cover. These design decisions create some distraction from the overall gameplay experience, but never diminish the enjoyment of flying through the air in slow motion while hitting one target after the other.


From the narrative's locales across Brazil and New York City to character animations, the game's visual aspects are presented with the utmost level of quality. Gun battles that take place inside offices or bars showcase the highly-detailed, and highly-destructible interior game levels. As with previous Rockstar productions, the Euphoria engine delivers organic character animations that are still a treat to behold. Equally impressive as the game's visuals is the original soundtrack by Los Angeles band HEALTH. With familiar melodies from previous games in the series and bold direction for new compositions, the music combines effortlessly with the game's dreary cinematics and hectic shootouts. The cast of voice actors deliver gripping performances that are reminiscent of the series' roots.
 
For the first time in the series, Max Payne 3 features a multiplayer component that includes an assortment of unlockable items, character levels, and match types. Other features of the multiplayer include player crews, avatar customization, and even the series favorite of bullet time. The game's multiplayer competent provides a great deal of content with future add-ons already promised, unfortunately, it feels like another item on a checklist for a modern game release. The inclusion of multiplayer will capture the interest of some gamers, but doesn't offer much that's new or even innovative in comparison with other online shooters.
 
By itself, Max Payne 3 provides gamers with a lengthy narrative that is accompanied with entertaining gameplay, which occasionally suffers from a few encounters with unbalanced difficulty or odd design decisions. The presentation is reminiscent of other Rockstar productions delivering both high quality visuals and sound. In comparison with past games in the trilogy, Max Payne 3's radical direction often conflicts with the elements of an enthralling narrative and bullet time-focused gameplay that has defined the series. Action and shooter fans will find a great amount of enjoyment with Max Payne 3, but series veterans will undoubtedly be split upon the new direction.

Max Payne 3 is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows PC.
Max Payne 3 signifies a new direction and developer for a series that has been well-known for its engrossing narratives and bullet time-focused gameplay. Unfortunately, the narrative begins with a thrilling premise that never quite manages to fulfill its grand scope. The gameplay is still addictive as previous games in the series, but occasionally suffers from instances of unbalanced difficulty and level sections that favor cover over bullet time. As with other Rockstar productions, the visuals, sound, and music are presented with the utmost level of quality. Max Payne 3 and the character himself are best compared with a love/hate relationship in which a majority of the aspects are entertaining and thrilling, while a few issues intermittently hinder the experience.

Rating: 8.5 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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About Author

I've been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2011 and focus primarily on PC games and hardware. I'm a strong advocate of independent developers and am always seeking the next genre-breaking and unique game release. My favorite game genres are strategy, role-playing, and massively multiplayer online, or any games that feature open worlds and survival elements. View Profile

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