The third installment of Rockstar’s high octane third-person shooter series, sees our titular hero leaving the badge behind to pursue a cushy job playing bodyguard for wealthy playboys.
After the murder of his young family, Max has fallen on hard-times. He’s drinking more than ever and has developed a serious addiction to pain-killers. In short, he’s on the fast track to an early grave, until he runs into an old buddy, Passos, from the police academy.
Passos encourages Max to join his private security firm, tasked with guarding Rodrigo Branco, a property magnate, as well as Rodrigo’s lack-wit brother and trophy wife, living in poverty stricken Sao Paulo. It’s an easy living, with great weather and all the Scotch you can ingest. What could possibly go wrong?
Answer: Everything! Things soon go south when an apartment-party, being held by Rodrigo, is gate-crashed by masked villains who seem to have a fairly good grasp of the use of firearms. Rodrigo and his wife are dragged off through the apartment building by the attackers and it’s here that the player takes control of Max for the first time.
You are instantly thrown into a thrilling bullet exchange with the kidnappers as the game starts to walk you through some of the basic controls and mechanics. With some games, this sort of ‘training’ situation can be (let’s be frank) boring as hell, but oh no, this is not just any game…this is a Rockstar game.
Your first few moments with weapon-in-hand are sheer joy. With very little hand-holding, the player is made to feel like some sort of bullet spewing demi-god. You learn to use “bullet-time” which is an ultra-slow motion dive, allowing you to precision target the noggins (or other body parts) of your foes, whilst dodging incoming fire as you glide through the air.
You are also introduced to the mighty “bullet-cam”. This basically works by showing you a slow motion animation of the last enemy that you’ve dispatched. The camera follows your bullet and shows you the devastation that the impact makes on your victim, allowing you to slow it right down to your desired speed. It’s pretty gruesome, but I can’t see myself tiring of the ability to continue firing rounds at an enemies corpse during these tremendously detailed cinematics; a truly marvellous albeit morbid spectacle.
Max Payne 3 really benefits from a sublimely comfortable and accessible control system. Getting in and out of cover is a breeze, with a quick tap of X. Whilst in cover you can easily target enemies for the kill, or simply blind-fire and hope for the best. Rockstar have clearly spent a lot of time getting these mechanics pitch-perfect and it really shows, as cover-based shootouts become both a strategic puzzle and immense fun at the same time.
The targeting system is also highly intuitive, allowing for either hard or soft auto-targeting, the former snapping to targets and the latter guiding your reticule more gently towards foes. Both of these options are great for newcomers, but for the more hardened player there is an option to disable auto-targeting completely, giving the player free-reign over those beautiful little crosshairs.
Great controls, bullet-time and shoot-dodge (diving) are not necessary new elements to the Max Payne series, but they are greatly enhanced by a fantastic physics engine and tremendous environments. These elements all work together to create moments of pure bullet-filled euphoria.
Great game play aside, Max Payne 3 also has an in depth storyline that starts out as a simple kidnap gone wrong, eventually snowballing into a deeply troubling tale of vice, corruption and betrayal on a global scale. Players are also treated to Max Payne’s sardonic, noire-esque monologue throughout the events of the campaign, giving you an insight into the inner workings of his mind; humorous in part, but also immensely bleak (and understandably so).
On top of a thoroughly engaging and immensely enjoyable single player campaign, Max Payne 3 also sees the introduction of the series’ first voyage into multiplayer country. This sees a range of modes from team games, to free-for-all and objective types. Our personal favourite being the Gang Wars variant, which brings some aspects from the events of the single player and turns them into a series of team-based challenges. These incorporate familiar scenarios like territory capture, squad shootouts and bomb diffusals, with one team planting whilst the other defends.
Players can select from a range of loadouts and special “Bursts“, which work largely like Kill Streak rewards giving you the upper hand. One of the most popular “Bursts” seems to be Paranoia, which causes your enemies to view their team mates as the opposition, resulting in a wealth of accidental team kills as members of the opposition try desperately to find a safe corner to occupy until the effects wear off.
Bullet-Time also makes an appearance in multiplayer, affecting all players in your line of sight. In truth, this mechanic is a little disconcerting to begin with and didn’t seem to quite fit with the rest of the experience. However, its use is limited during rounds and the rest of the multiplayer mode is enjoyable enough to overlook the slight annoyance that it causes.
The Sum Up
All in all, Max Payne is a truly visceral third-person shooter, with all the gritty storytelling and delivery that we have come to expect from a Rockstar game. Although the game play could be considered much more linear than that of open-worlders like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, this only serves to highlight the tight plot, perfectly executed cinematics and stunning environments. It is utterly stylised and incredibly more-ish, right to the end (and then a whole lot more through multiplayer!).
View the trailer below and tell me your not impressed:
Max Payne 3 is available now on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.