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Max Payne 3 Review

Posted on May 21, 2012 AT 10:22am

Rockstar Games is no stranger when it comes to good story telling and there is no doubt that Max Payne 3 is certainly the culmination of their ability to do so.  While Max Payne may be the father of bullet time as we know it there is no denying that on its surface Max Payne 3 is just another third person shooter.  While its gameplay certainly isn’t breaking any new ground the story however, more than makes up for any short comings the game might have.  With numerous plot twists, amazing characters, and accompanied by some of the best voice acting in a game ever, the story in Max Payne 3 easily elevates it to a level high above its peers.

The game picks up with Max Payne on the run from his past, with the death of the ones he loved most he is a drunken beaten battered version of himself.  Looking to start life over as best he can he has taken up a private security job in Brazil protecting the wealthy Branco Family.  It doesn’t take long before trouble finds Max as it always does and things quickly start to unravel around him.  Thus begins one of the most intricate and compelling stories I have ever encountered in a video game.  There are so many twists and turns in the story you will constantly find yourself eagerly waiting to see where the story goes next.

As I mentioned the gameplay itself isn’t breaking any new ground when it comes to third person shooters.  Bullet time plays a large part in the gameplay and no one does it better than Max.  You can trigger bullet time two ways either by performing one of Max’s legendary jump moves, allowing you to slow things down as you take flight towards the ground or simply by pressing down on the right stick allowing you to slow things down while keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground.  There is no real advantage to using one over the other it’s up to your regression as to which  you think will suit you best at that very moment. The gameplay itself for the most part is rather solid but it’s certainly not without its faults.

I found that using cover in the game could sometimes create some rather odd gameplay mechanics that lead me to get frustrated quickly.  If you try to fire at extreme angles to your cover the game will respond one of two ways.  Either you will find yourself firing pointlessly into the sky as Max will push his weapon straight up when pressing against cover or you will find that your head sometimes blocks your ability to see your reticule leaving you no clear idea of where your shots are landing.  Another issue I often had with the gameplay was the “last stand” so to speak you enter into when you are dealt a deadly shot from an enemy.  As long as you have pain pills with you at the moment it happens Max will enter into bullet time automatically and the game will force your focus to the one who caused you to drop, if you react quickly enough and kill this person you will get back up, fail and you will die.  The issue here is that if the sequence is triggered without you having any rounds left in your magazine you will find yourself slowly falling to ground with nothing more than an empty clicking sound coming from your gun as you pull the trigger, since you can’t reload or swap weapons here you are forced to slowly watch yourself die.  Another issue is that sometimes you enter last stand only to find that there is an object between you and your assailant making getting a shot at them impossible, again you are forced to do nothing but slowly watch yourself die and start over.

There is no doubt that Max Payne 3 has a level of difficulty to it that you just don’t find in most games today, and believe it or not I found myself enjoying it more because of it.  Your health doesn’t regenerate in Max Payne 3; instead you must rely on pain killers to gain health back.  Unlike other games that work on a similar health pack system pain killers in Max Payne 3 can be hard to come by, they are often few and far between!  The “free aim” mode also adds another layer of difficulty to the game by removing all of the targeting assists. To truly enjoy the game its best to use this game mode, it created an almost refreshing sense of difficulty.  It was nice to play a game that didn’t spoon feed you one target after another instead forcing you to rely solely on your stick skills.  Call me gluten for punishment but I felt it was incredibly self rewarding to play the game like this.

There are a lot of little things going on in Max Payne that make it an amazing game overall.  As I mentioned the voice acting is great and the attention to detail is noticeable.  One of your companions in the game often smokes and each time the character holds the cigarette with his lips you can hear that reflected by the voice actor as well.  His speech becomes slightly mumbled as he uses his lips to the hold the weight of it.  It’s truly a small detail but goes to show how much Rockstar takes making great games seriously.

Another small detail most might not notice is the attention to realism when it comes to holding your weapons.  Unlike most third person shooters that allow you to carry a small arsenal on your person at all times Max can only carry so much.  With the use of dual holsters you can carry two single handed weapons and one two handed weapon.  When not using the two handed weapon Max is forced to carry that weapon in his left hand until you decide to use it again.  If you decide to dual wield two single handed weapons Max has no choice but throw the dual handed weapon to the ground thus loosing it.  You can’t magically attach rifles and bazookas to your back until you need them again.

The single player portion of the game will take around 8-10 hours depending on what difficulty you play it on.  There is plenty of variation in the levels and the game never feels stale at any point. The action always keeps the game moving along right up to the incredibly climatic ending of the game. However I felt the game was its own worst enemy in a strange sort of way.  You see I was so compelled by the story that often times I just wanted to rush through the level to get back to the story again to see what was going to happen next.  There is no doubt that there hasn’t been a game before that drew me into the story as much as Max Payne 3 did.   That is the real treat here; the story truly makes what would have been an average third person shooter into something so much more than that.  The amazing action you encounter in the final portion of the game coupled with the great story telling makes it one of those experiences where you find yourself simply saying “WOW” at the end of it all.

When it comes to the multiplayer portion of the game players will find it’s more of the same third person action you found in the single player.   Again there is nothing ground breaking going on here and it certainly pales in comparison to Rockstar’s other ambitious multiplayer outings, like Read Dead Redemption. There is nothing glaringly wrong with any of it; it’s just nothing you haven’t seen before.

With your run of the mil game modes of death match, team death match and even objective based gameplay I found there was one mode that stood out.  Payne Killer puts a small new twist on the normal king of the hill gamemode.  When the match starts it’s a free for all, the first player to score a kill becomes Max while the first person to die becomes the other main character Passos, everyone else in the game is now your enemy!  The two are forced into an unlikely partnership and must work together to remain those two characters(kings of the hill), if someone kills one then that player becomes either the new Max or Passos  depending on who they killed. It’s certainly a ton of fun and the one game mode I spent the most time playing.

In the end the game shines best in its single player experience its pulls you in and spits you out, in a good way.  The multiplayer is fun but certainly not anything that is going to pull people away from the multiplayer juggernauts that currently take the top spots each week.  If you are looking for a great gritty compelling story then look no further than Max Payne 3.


  • THE GOOD: Incredible story, interesting characters, numerous plot twists
  • THE BAD: A few bugs here and there with the cover system but nothing deal breaking
  • THE UGLY: Max’s attempt at a home hair cut

SCORE: 9.3




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