The game takes place in Brazil, with some flashback treats for fans of the series that take us to the city of Hoboke, New Jersey where Max moved after quitting the NYPD. Max Payne 3 is both emotionally exhausting and thrilling. Rockstar did a fantastic job of making Max relatable and likable, despite his grogginess throughout the campaign.
Max is desperate in trying to escape the memories of his past. He gets involved in the private security sector of a wealthy family in Sao Paulo,Brazil and expectedly, things take a turn for the worse. The story escalates into a rollercoaster of shadowy conspiracies and warring factions. The pacing of the story, as well as the action, is reminiscent of 90’s movies like Lethal Weapon, minus the humor. The script is brilliant. Rockstar raises the bar with the narrative once again, making each character feel and sound like a real, believable person. We hear Max’s inner dialogue throughout the entire game, accentuating his inner turmoil and agony.
The visually striking environments are a real tease. For years, Rockstar gave us massive, open world environments to traverse and explore, but the detail packed levels of MP3 are largely linear with only a few secondary routes to your objectives. Nevertheless, the indelicate details of the Sao Paulo slums are awe-inspiring. Accompanying the gritty yet beautiful world are the meticulously rendered character models. Every bystander, every thug, every encounter feels authentic. The populated streets and alleys radiate with life and history. Everything feels lived in and realistic, thanks to an impressive graphics engine.
Unfortunately, the entire experience is marred with frustrating artefacting filters that are overdone and extremely distracting during gameplay. While a nice stylistic touch at first, it soon becomes an unbearable nuisance that begs for an off option. It is unfortunate such a small element hinders the overall experience.
The cinematics, while beautifully directed, interrupt the gameplay too often. A cut scene lies around every corner: for opening doors, walking through an alley – absolutely everything. They’re designed to cover up the loading screens, but it could have been handled better.
I shot the sheriff, but then his thugs gunned me down
Max Payne 3 will kick your butt. You will run into frustration within the first few missions. Hoards of bad guys will shred you to pieces if you’re not using cover strategically. The shootouts go from exhilarating to unforgiving early on, but that’s what makes the game so fantastic. There is a high level of difficulty, even on the normal setting, that makes each completed mission feel like a merited victory.
The gunplay is precise, fast, and excessively violent. The last kill launches a special bullet time cinematic which lets you pump endless amounts of lead into your enemy, while pieces of flesh and blood paint the screen. The shooting feels smooth, the guns have nice weight to them, and the variety in the death animations is stupendous.
Where the gameplay falters is the dive mechanic. It feels clumsy and useless. It looks cool to dive in slow motion and pick off baddies, but considering the erratic, stampeding enemies, there’s little use for it. The variety in guns is also lacking. There are handguns, SMGs, shotguns, assault rifles and the occasional sniper rifle, but in my entire playthrough, I relied on only a few effective weapons. Enemies can also toss grenades at you, but you can’t throw them back. Bummer!
My biggest disappointment in the gameplay department is the repetition. What you do in the first two hours of the game is no different than the last two. Each objective consists of your typical run, cover, and shoot structure with a few sniper sections tossed in. The creative level designs and challenging enemies save the day, but those looking for innovation in their third person shooters should look elsewhere.
You will spend between 8-10 hours with Max Payne’s main story. It’s definitely worth replaying for the great narrative, but the biggest surprise is the addition of an Arcade Mode. This mode is strictly for accumulating points, earning medals and climbing the scoreboard. The Arcade mode takes the story missions, tosses the cinematics, and lets you lose to gun down enemies as quickly as possible. Throw in an exciting multiplayer mode into the mix, and you have a ton of value for the money.