Nobody does a mid-life crisis quite like Max Payne. This iconic video game character went from gunslinging, bullet-timing, renegade cop to self-pitying, still gunslinging, still bullet-timing, miserable alcoholic. Incredibly enough, that is one of the most important aspects of the story in Max Payne 3. Luckily, despite Max’s severely rattled self image, Max Payne offers very solid gunplay, creative cinematic style, and more to satisfy any fan of the third person shooter. Max Payne is easily one of the best times you’ll have this year.
Where does Max Payne find himself after washing up on the shores of the sea of blood and bourbon? He ended up in São Paulo, where dreams apparently go to die, after being recruited by Raul Passos to act as a bodyguard for the members of the Branco family. Looking to scrounge up any sense of self-worth he has left, Max accepts, to find himself knee deep in shit right from the get go. All goes awry when the three sons of the Branco family, and their wives are kidnapped by a South American gang known as Comando Sombra. Max is tasked to go recover the stolen goods in typical Max Payne fashion; with tons of bullet time, and tons of asskicking.
The way Max Payne 3 opts to tell its story may be one of the most interesting aspects of it. Using continually breaking frames, and a proper use of disjointing, haziness, and camera shaking, you get the impression that you are continually in the mind of Max Payne as he stumbles about numb on painkillers and liquor. The well played cinematography makes sure that none of the cutscenes get too boring. Words will occasionally pan out on the screen to reflect and add emphasis to the current dialogue. Frames will zoom onto a character’s face to envoke emotion. It can be a little overwhelming for some players, but I had a blast with it. I could definitely vouch for a little less camera shaking. I’d like to not have motion sickness. Motion sickness sucks.
The story is narrated entirely from Max’s point of view, through his voice. While things appear on the screen, or events unfold, Max never fails to give his two cents on the situation. Quips about how his life sucks and how his mistakes are all his fault and his life is trash. It’s sort of like the narrator for Bastion, but much much darker and much much drunker. This assuming drunker is a word. Regardless, those who aren’t a fan of constant narration will be turned off by this. His narration is all in all quite entertaining. It helps make you feel one with Max through his struggles and insane levels of self-pity.
Those iffy narrative conventions aside, Max Payne 3 is one of the most satisfying third person shooters I’ve ever played – or at least in a long while. The inventor of the bullet time mechanic comes back in full swing, with my favorite rendition of it yet. The game offers you the ability to use full aim (directs the reticle towards enemies), a slight aim mode (which does so lightly), or Free Aim mode (the player has all the control). Each of these modes are satisfying, though there is something particularly sound about Free Aim. I most recommend the free aim mode. The set aiming modes gravitate towards the enemy’s body, which is the place you don’t want to be shooting them.
In fact, that is a major issue with Max Payne 3. I use major very, very lightly though. Enemies are like bullet sponges. Mastering your bullet time gauge and timing your jumps are the only way you can ensure victory using plenty of headshots. In fact, jumping through the air to execute 3 perfect headshots, and then tumbling to the ground is extremely satisfying. The problem is, if you are like me and don’t always perform that super awesome tactic correctly, you can end up on the ground, waiting to be shot and likely to be dead. Cover mechanics work well, but Max’s frailty and the enemy’s bullet absorbing tendencies can make the game pretty hard, even on normal difficulty.
For those looking for a third person shooter that were disappointed by Uncharted’s less than stellar shooting mechanics and want something to bring back the nowadays less prevalent bullet-time mechanic will have a blast with Max Payne 3. People who like fun stories, and feeling like a badass will love Max Payne 3. Despite it’s hard difficulty, there isn’t anything that should deter anyone from trying Max Payne 3, and likely loving it. You should definitely check it out. All of you.