After the events of the second game, Max has hit rock bottom. With nothing more than a substance addiction, and a commitment to do his job properly, he begins anew in Brazil as a bodyguard for a wealthy family. It doesn’t take long before things go south, and it’s up to Max to save the day the only way he knows how: by shooting dudes in slow motion.
Though the events of the third game take place almost immediately after the second, there’s been an almost decade-long gap between the releases. Since 2003, the franchise has changed hands from Remedy to Rockstar, and the genre has evolved quite a bit. Is Max Payne 3 a return to form? Or washed up like its protagonist at the beginning of the game?
Having played Grand Theft Auto IV, and L.A. Noire within relatively recent memory, it’s evident to me that Max Payne 3 has a number of Rockstar touches to it. Everything about the game oozes of high production value, from the gorgeous graphics, great soundtrack, and slick writing. It’s a really pretty game to look at, and listen to. The modern-day noir tale of a washed-up cop is also extremely well told within the cutscenes and in the context of the ongoing bullet ballet. Strictly from a presentation standpoint, the game is fantastic.
Going back to the bullet ballet point, Max Payne 1 and 2 were very offensive-minded games. It rewarded you for running in guns blazing. This is not nearly as forgiving. Max drops like a sack of potatoes after just a bullet or two, while every enemy is a bullet sponge. The reason for this is because Rockstar has implemented a cover system, which is integral to the experience. While it works well and plays well as cover-based system, it does conflict with the bullet time mechanics. In this game, slowdown doesn’t feel like a tool used for offense. It’s primarily guiding you to use it as a defensive tool, such as in cases where an enemy bursts through a door by surprise and you need to quickly dispatch him before he takes you out.
It took me some time to get into the rhythm the game wanted me to play it in, but once I did, I found myself really absorbed into the experience. For the most part, the game seamlessly blends its shooting and story into a cohesive flow that was a blast to play through for hours at a time. The only thing that took me out of the experience were a few difficult moments that could have had closer checkpoints. Overall, it’s one of the best third-person shooters I’ve played in recent memory.
New to the franchise is multiplayer. Initially, I had some concerns around how Rockstar would implement bullet time, but my concerns disappeared once I played it. The bullet time bar is broken out into quarters, which limits the amount of times you can trigger it. Rockstar has also tuned how long it lasts and who gets affected by the effect in a way that doesn’t break the experience. If anything, I almost wish that bullet time was a bit more powerful. As it stands, its a great multiplayer experience with all of the leveling up trimmings of Call of Duty. This is definitely a mode built to last long after you’ve beaten the single player.
After taking a decade-long hiatus, Max is back in full force. Though the cover-based approach may take some getting used to for veterans of the franchise, but I think it was for the best. The game is constantly intense, and a pleasure to play by yourself or with others.