When fans of the Max Payne franchise think of Max Payne, images of snow, New York rooftops and Mafia goons immediately come to mind. Yet, in Max Payne 3 all of that is mostly thrown out the window for the lure of tropical weather, endless slum shacks and urban gangs. This is not the Max Payne that we’re used to, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. In fact, Max Payne 3 is a praise-worthy successor to the critically acclaimed franchise.
I’m also not saying that Max Payne 3 is flawless or that the game is revolutionary by any means. The game is great, but it’s not without its pitfalls. The most glaring problem is replay value. Sure, the collectables and achievements are fun, but once you’re done with the campaign: you won’t feel the need to play it again for some time. The story is fascinating with twists and turns and double crosses and set-ups and every other plot device you can throw into a noir crime thriller, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the story of betrayal of Max Payne 1&2. Yes, I’ll replay the story again after maybe a few weeks, but I think the main problem with replay value is the glaring void that every game needs: a head villain.
In Max Payne, the main villain was Nicole Horne since she ordered the hit on Michelle Payne and Max’s child. In Max Payne 2, Vladimir “dearest of all my friends” Lem was revealed as the puppet master behind all of the events and Valkyr related drug trafficking in New York. In Max Payne 3, there was no stand out main villain to pull you toward the ending. Sure, the fight with Armando Becker was great: but he was nothing more than a heavy-duty henchman. Without giving too much story away, the “head villain” of the story wasn’t as shocking as the bosses in Max Payne 1&2.
Now that I got that out of the way, I can honestly tell you that Max Payne 3 still manages to deliver a killer story along with heavy action sequences. Don’t let my complaint about a lackluster main villain fool you: Max Payne 3’s story is nicely detailed with betrayals, misdirection and corruption. My favorite aspect of the story is the fact that Max is definitely not in the best of shape at the start of the game. He’s retired from the NYPD and he’s been drowning himself in booze and painkillers (because he sure needed a lot of them in the last two games). Max is sluggish and he wants for a quiet life of being a body guard for a rich, spoiled family. Instead, Max gets pulled into a kidnapping plot with a shady military group and droves of crazed gang members. What keeps the story interesting is its non-linear story-telling, the game shifts from the end of the game to the start (like all Max Payne games) and it even goes back further to show how Max got to Sao Paolo and his first missions for the Bronco family. The jumbled plot shows how Max is continually spiraling downward while trying to protect his employers and it’s a great continuation of Max’s fractured life. My favorite level is the flashback that pins Max against some New Jersey scumbags in a cemetery. Some of the thugs look like members of the Jersey Shore, so I’m sure there are a lot of fans that took immense pleasure in sending them to hell in bullet time. With that in mind, Max Payne 3 manages to deliver a solid story while maintaining the noir roots of the original 2 games.
Also, I have to make mention of the stellar voice acting from James McCaffrey. McCaffrey hasn’t lost his gritty touch and his voice alone makes Max come alive. McCaffrey manages to pull off even the strangest and most heart-wrenching dialogue of the game and his constant narration is a major comfort for Max Payne fans. Without the voice acting of McCaffrey, I’d be willing to say that Max Payne 3 would be a much more hallow game.
The biggest change for the Max Payne franchise is the addition of multiplayer, which I was a little hesitant about during its announcement. However, after playing it and testing out the waters of several different modes of play, I found that it was very enjoyable while being simple. My favorite mode is Payne killer, a game type that has each gamer attempting to kill Max or his partner Passos. If you do succeed, you can either become Passos or Payne as you attempt to fend off the hoards of killers. Customization is also a neat aspect, as it allows you to dress your character in moderate or strange fashion and it even lets you create specific sets of weapons and armor to compliment a level or game type. While it’s not extremely in-depth, it does allow for flexibility since you can choose to use heavy weapons and forget about health regeneration or choose light weapons with fast healing. Armor and bonuses can be added like having extra painkillers or extra bullet-time and it can save your skin in tough situations.
So overall, Max Payne 3 isn’t a perfect game, but it does excel in key areas of game play and plot. The story, controls, multiplayer and voice acting are all solid and it’s no surprise that RockStar games managed to make another AAA title. While it might be a huge change of setting for Max Payne, it still manages to keep a gritty atmosphere with some of the best action scenes this side of a John Woo film.Pros :
- Great story
- fun multiplayer modes
- Same, great Max payne action
- Main villain is so-so
- Look for a strange tombstone in the graveyard