One of the most anticipated games of the year has finally been delivered. Max Payne 3 by Rockstar Games has made a triumphant entry into consoles everywhere, taking the beloved series to new heights. If you’ve been looking for “that new game” to occupy your gaming time, this is the game to do it. Featuring a new campaign with a new multiplayer mode, this shooter has something for everyone. This game is everything you would expect from Rockstar, and much more.
As mentioned earlier, this game has a brand new campaign, taking Max from the streets of New York to São Paulo, Brazil. For those following the Max Payne series, you would know that things weren’t going well for Max in New York. Max was in a state of depression, drinking heavily and mourning the loss of those closest to him. He was in a bar in Hoboken, New Jersey when he ran into a fellow policemen and classmate from the academy, Passos. Passos offers Max an opportunity to get out of New York and start fresh in Brazil. He pitches it almost like a vacation, basically saying that all Max would have to do is protect the people paying him. Max initially refuses, but just when he begins to retreat into his depression, trouble comes knocking on his door. He is then reminded of his current circumstances and believes a change of pace would do him some good. Max is in charge of protecting an extremely wealthy family, and things go well for a while. Unfortunately, a paramilitary group eventually kidnaps the billionaire’s wife, and Max has to save her while coping with his already substantial losses.
The campaign of Max Payne 3 is a gritty, visceral experience, to say the least. Granted, you’ll feel more for Max and his situation if you’ve played the previous games, but either way, you’ll still see a man struggling with his past. This game has a very solid story, and the high-highs and low-lows are evident and engrossing. You’ll take pleasure from every victory and ride the roller-coaster down with every defeat. To say the story is strong is almost an understatement, and it truly stands out as one of the best stories you’ll see in a shooter today. This is also a very mature story; its bloody, its visceral, its textbook Max Payne, but it suits the atmosphere perfectly.
If the story isn’t something you normally care about, you still have a solid 3rd-person shooter reminiscent of previous Rockstar shooters. The shooting elements in this game are excellent. Every shot you land on an enemy opponent looks and feels real, pushes your enemy back, and causes blood to spray from the area hit. Most enemies will take a few shots unless you hit the vital areas, in which case one shot will do. The aiming in this game is excellent and can be tailored to any play style. In the beginning of the campaign, you can select the aiming system that suits you: Hard, Soft, or Free Aiming. Hard Aiming snaps the bullet cursor onto an enemy instantly, and you just hit the aim button and fire. There is a Soft Aiming mode as well, which brings the cursor in the general area of your target, but you have to refine your shot. This mode offers the most flexibility for most gamers. However, if you are a Rockstar shooter veteran looking for a challenge, go for the Free Aiming mode, which will make you do all the work. Whatever your preference, you’ll find a setting that suits you well.
The gameplay moves far beyond aiming and manages to incorporate some of the staples of the Max Payne series. Bullet time makes a welcomed return to the franchise; however, in this game, players are able to trigger bullet time with the press of a single button. Once engaged, Max will jump in slow motion, allowing you to pick your shots and get off a few extra rounds than you normally would. This mechanic creates some seriously cinematic moments and is sure to take you to the edge of your seat; that is, if you weren’t there already. This time around, Max can carry three separate weapons: two smaller weapons, such as pistols and SMGs, and one larger weapon, like a shotgun or rifle. Max can also dual-wield two smaller guns, making bullet time that much more fun to engage in.
Since Max’s health does not regenerate, painkillers make a return to the series, and they are used in a unique way this time around. A new mechanic called “Last Man Standing” is integrated, engaging when you take a fatal shot while carrying painkillers. You will automatically go into bullet time mode, making your reticle swings toward the enemy that killed you. If you successfully return fire and kill your enemy, then you are given a boost to your health and you live to fight on. This is extremely helpful in firefights, especially when you are out-manned. It’s really an excellent addition and makes the game that much better. This game does have some collectibles, so completionists, you’re covered. You collect golden gun parts and clues, each found in nooks and crannies in the campaign. By collecting all these items, you can unlock perks while replaying the game, including infinite ammo and kill-cam on every enemy. This adds tons of replay value to multiple playthroughs, but it does prevent you from earning achievements if you engage them.
Finally, Max has a dedicated cover system for the first time in the series. This new mechanic gives players the opportunity to plan your strategy and heal up while large scale fights are going on. You are certainly encouraged to run-and-gun, and if you stay in cover too long, you’ll find yourself on the business end of a grenade. Even so, the new system is intuitive and works well. Navigating levels and finding cover is easy, and it is done is a way that gives you the right balance between spraying bullets and being an assassin.
Max Payne 3 offers multiplayer for the first time in franchise history. Players can compete against one another in matches with up to sixteen players. By taking out your opponents, you will earn XP that levels you up. By levelling up, you will earn cash to buy new weapons, items, and abilities, called “Bursts”. “Bursts” are perks that give you an edge when facing evenly matched opponents. The most exciting addition is the ability to use bullet time in multiplayer, which works a little differently than it does in the campaign. This time, it is based on line-of-sight, so as long as you can see your enemy, you can use the ability. If the enemy breaks that line-of-sight, bullet time is disengaged. Not everyone has access to it immediately, and in order to use it, you have to spend adrenaline. Adrenaline is earned by killing players, looting bodies, and shooting weapons. Therefore, you have to be careful how and when you decide to activate bullet time.
There are several multiplayer modes for you to choose from including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Payne Killer (which is a king of the hill mode), and Gang Wars. Most of the modes are exactly what they sound like, but the real differences come in with Gang Wars. In this mode, the single-player mode is chopped up and remade into a multiplayer frenzy. The story follows the campaign mode and the objectives of the game change to reenact the proper events, which, in essence, allows you to relive moments of the campaign in a multiplayer setting. It sounds complicated, but it is extremely fun to play.
For those willing to invest time into the multiplayer, you’ll be rewarded with a slew of customization options. You’ll be able to choose your “Bursts”, weapons, items, and factions, among others. Furthering the customization experience, you’ll be able to create crews with your friends and set up vendettas against your foes. The experience as a whole is quite deep for a multiplayer game. The options are endless and sure to satisfy even the toughest critics.
Overall, Max Payne 3 is going to be a contender for your game of the year. It has an engrossing campaign, a deep, varied multiplayer experience, and many layers of customization, so you can play this game whichever way you like. If you’ve been looking for a game to wean you off of Call of Duty or Madden, this is the game to do it. Max Payne 3 is a quality Rockstar product, and if you like shooters, this is as good as it gets. If you never played Max Payne before, this game is a great place to start, and it is certainly the best game in the series. If you don’t have it yet, get it. You will not be sorry.
This review is based off of a review copy of the Xbox 360 version of Max Payne 3 by Rockstar Games.