Broke Gamer Review: Max Payne 3

Posted: June 24, 2012 in Gaming, News, Video Game Review
Tags: , , , ,

Max Payne is a relic of the past, and he knows it. In the opening moments of Max Payne 3 players see a washed up, burned out shell of a man whose sole purpose in life is to drink and pop pills in an attempt to numb the pain of a life not so well lived. No one expected this joke of a man to ever be brought back from the metaphorical dead, least of all Max himself. While it seemed a bit unusual for Rockstar to resurrect a character who hasn’t been seen for merely a decade save for an awful movie that didn’t exactly help the franchise, I’m glad they did, as the end result is a well-crafted game that deftly mixes the old Max Payne storytelling and mechanics with modern sensibilities.

The clear standout of Max Payne 3 is the script, with some of the sharpest, most darkly humorous writing found in a game. Max narrates the adventure in his traditional noir style, providing a very clear picture of the mental state of a man who’s seen everything in life break the wrong way and who has lived most of his adult life at the end of his rope. The bulk of the story is set in Sao Paolo, a city where Max never thought to find himself, doing a job that he’d never expect. Throughout the course of the plot’s many twists and turns Max provides insightful monologues not only about how things to be going to shit around him, but also the continuous devolution of his own sanity. At several points the game flashes back to Max’s time in New Jersey and his desperate struggle to stay one step ahead of a mob boss who’s out for the former cop’s blood. Throughout it all Rockstar paints a portrait of Max as a fatalistic, cornered man, and someone who is infinitely more dangerous because he’s trapped. Max Payne may be self-sabotaging, but if he goes down you may not want to be in the area, as he’ll be taking a lot of people with him.

Complimenting the emotionally complex script are some humorous lines that are expertly placed to break up tense moments. When Max said that a local special forces unit in Brazil “made the NYPD look like the fucking Hari Krishna” I couldn’t help but grin. There are numerous occasions where otherwise bleak and helpless moments are lightened through a sarcastic quip or darkly funny aside, and all of them further establish Payne as a character who realizes the absurdity of his continued survival against perpetually impossible odds. Max Payne should have died hundreds of times, and no one is more aware of that than the title character himself.

When the talking stops and the bullets start flying Max Payne 3 falters a bit, though it remains impressive overall. Since the franchise basically invented bullet time in video games it’s only reasonable to expect it to come back once again, but at this point it’s more out of nostalgia than as a useful gameplay mechanic. The same goes for finding painkillers as health packs, it’s basically just a throwback to the old days before regenerating health became commonplace. Gunplay feels tight for the most part, and the variety of lock-on features Rockstar provides should make shooting comfortable for nearly all sill levels and player types. There are a few questions about weapon balancing and the amount of punishment enemies can absorb in relation to Max, but I almost never ended up feeling cheated in a shootout.

One aspect I could have done without entirely is the kill cam, which slows down the action whenever Max fells his final enemy in a room and showcases the baddie’s grisly end. Rockstar relishes showing players how impressively they can render entrance and exit wounds while also drawing attention to the spray of blood and bone. Thankfully it’s a feature that can be turned off, because there’s really no reason for it. It’s excessive gore for excessive gore’s sake and honestly nothing more.

I could continue to prattle on about how nice the game looks (which you’d expect from Rockstar) or how immersive the multiplayer is (it’s great, but if you’re not an online shooter type of person you don’t care), but I won’t. Instead I’ll just applaud Max Payne 3 for being a mature, well-crafted game that manages to successfully revive what we all thought to be a franchise that had pretty much run its course. I don’t know where Max goes from here, but if Rockstar is up for making yet another trip into this universe then I’ll definitely be along for the ride.

Broke Gamer Score: 92

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