The mess that is ex-cop Max Payne is back for another tale of angst and defeat. Except this time the tale is not noir nor it is even in New York. He is the same ole’ Max but now up to his eyeballs in the politics and crime of Brazil’s Sao Paulo.
There has been much thought put into the storyline of Max Payne 3 and while not the same noir of the first two titles in the series, it works. In a nice touch, the game does flashbacks to New York before Max absconds to South America. They show a glimpse of what made the first two games so special to many. It is a nice touch by Rockstar to help bridge the two types of Max Payne games.
Visually, this game is a treat for eyes and ears. It looks gorgeous and has rarely been topped by any modern videogame. The game’s visuals rival DX:HR for ambiance and feel. Sound, as well, plays a huge part in this game and one learns quickly to count the voices to determine with whom one still has to deal. The visuals, tale, and sound are responsible for almost all of the plus aspects of the score at the bottom.
What is responsible for the less than perfect score is just about everything else. It is almost as the game designers really don’t trust the gamer to play the title properly and continually need to hand-hold the entire time. There are far too many cut-scenes that are completely unskippable (unlike in the previous games) and they get tedious when seen for the 10th time after dying yet again. It feels as though in order to lengthen the game they have deliberately made everything exceptionally deadly so you have to repeat things over and over time and again. The cover mechanics more often than not stick you to cover and make it hard to move out of it even if you are being shot at.
And, of course, like many games today MP3 suffers from consolitis. Whether it is the lack of save function and reliance on poorly paced auto-save points or the absolutely idiotic wheel weapon selection, it feels as though the title has been completely geared for consoles and just given a basic port for PC. Like DNF, you can only carry two weapons at a time and you are limited to one heavy weapon. Speaking of weapons, besides offering little feedback there is the annoying problem of the game deciding which weapon to let you use after each cut-scene. So, naturally, when facing yet another game forced ambush it equips with a pistol or a Mac-10 instead of the AK or the grenade launcher. The mouse acceleration is incredibly frustrating as well. Bizarrely, and maybe tellingly, you have to use the controller settings to adjust the mouse movement. Oh, yes, and during bullet-time/last stand, the aiming reticule has the habit of disappearing so your are firing blind.
The gameplay in MP3 is just dire most of the time despite the impressive setting in which it all takes place. More often than not, you feel like you are stuck in an interactive movie where you occasionally get to do something. Quite often instead of being able to run around and collect ammo from all the fallen baddies, you are forced forward into another cut-scene & confrontation. This game is so linear that it often feels like you are on rails. There is no ability to chose your own path and attack baddies in a manner advantageous to you — you are always shoved into situations where the baddies are in the heavy advantage. Max Payne is a grizzled ex-cop so why would continue to walk into ambush after ambush?
Oh and there is multiplayer. Yet again, you get the feeling they should have forgone this aspect to concentrate on making the solo game play better than it does. Someone described the online play of MP3 to be a cluster***, and I think that is the most accurate way of portraying it. It is the normal combination of lag, hackers, bad spawn points, and long spawn times. Why not get it right and release it in a patch later?
The game, whether playing it solo or online, crashes frequently. It is quite unstable and seems to particularly like crashing during cut-scenes. Additionally, there are many people on the Steam forums complaining about not being able to play at all this past weekend.
While the storyline is no longer (mostly) the noir joy of the first two, it does have redeeming features to it that make you want to see where it is heading. Although, it has to be said it that it is hard to give a damn about the family he is protecting here, unlike the quest to get justice for his family which of the first two games.
On the whole, the title is a visual treat that is sadly let down by sub-par gameplay that makes this game distinctly less impressive than the original Max Payne. Ultimately, I played that original game all the way through several times in the many years since its release (as I did with the original Deus Ex) and I cannot see myself ever playing MP3 again.
Max Payne 3 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol. This game can also be found on: PS3 and Xbox 360.