Max Payne 3 Review for Xbox 360

Max Payne 3 Review for Xbox 360

Purgatory Is Worse Than Hell

Those of you who made it through Max Payne 2 (and happen to possess a particularly well-focused memory) might recollect a hint of optimism in our hero’s closing line: “I had a dream of my wife. She was dead. But it was alright.”

Well, nine years later, life has proven to be far less sunny than Max Payne might have hoped for. But in a franchise whose primary gameplay mechanic is a tortured metaphor for lost time, we certainly can’t expect our protagonist to have recovered from his past.

Actually, Max’s pain actually seems to have grown deeper over the last decade. He’s has traded his Detective’s shield and crappy New York City apartment for a private security job and an even crappier apartment in São Paulo. Payne spends his days playing babysitter to the socialite family of industrialist Rodrigo Branco, and spends his nights downing pills and drunkenly stumbling into a bed that makes a wooden sound when he collapses.

Max Payne 3 Screenshot

His new digs are the product of an old Police Academy friend named Raul, who thought it would be a slick way for Max to take a Brazilian vacation. But when Branco’s trophy wife is kidnapped by an army of ski mask-wearing, AK47-toting goons, Max’s vacation is evidently over in favor of yet another damsel in distress story.

Thematically speaking, Rockstar Games is really playing to their strengths; some might even say that they’ve found an interesting storytelling niche. While developers like Bethesda are focusing on spells and dragons, and companies like Activision are preoccupied with military-based narratives, Rockstar places their characters into a universe that borders on our own. Sure, it’s darker and more disheveled than most suburban white kids are used to, but they’ve managed to blend the storytelling of L.A. Noire with the composition of Grand Theft Auto to shape Payne’s particular purgatory. But even as we’re becoming reacquainted with the franchise, it’s immediately clear that this is an entirely new game.

When Max Payne showed up on the scene in 2001, the gaming masses were quick to latch onto Rockstar’s newfangled Bullet Time mechanic. However, as with most good ideas, developers managed to quickly overuse the feature, turning it into an industry cliché and relegating it to the same category as most Law and Order episodes.

Max Payne 3 Screenshot

And this was my biggest worry when I sat down to play the game. See, even though the Max Payne franchise practically has a responsibility to utilize Bullet Time, they also need to create an experience that’s altogether different from the dozens of copycat titles that have surfaced over the last decade; just because you invented something doesn’t mean you’re exempted from the stereotype. Just ask U2.

But Max Payne has certainly aged well. Even after a decade off the job, the Detective still has enough finesse to casually place round after round into the forehead of any approaching enemies. If anything, it feels like he’s been practicing.

Max Payne 3 Screenshot

In fact, in the first two titles, the transition between bullet time and standard time always involved a bit of clumsiness. Players were constantly forced to reacclimatize themselves to their surroundings before reengaging their enemies. But in Max Payne 3, the process is silky smooth. There’s a bit of video lag from time to time, and the auto-aim mechanic always manages to lock onto the most inconvenient enemy. But you really shouldn’t be using auto-aim anyway, so hopefully that’ll teach you to turn it off, cheater.

The transition actually seems to downplay the Bullet Time mechanic, and this is a good thing. The Max Payne empire may have been built on a singular atypical effect, but Rockstar Games has managed to find ways to make it feel like just another feature. This allows players to focus on the game as a whole rather than reliving what made the original great. (Are you taking notes, Duke Nukem?)

And, whereas the original beat us over the head with its distinct lack of subtlety, Max Payne 3 manages to do just the opposite. In fact, subtleties are the name of the game in Max Payne 3. Players won’t find themselves being screamed at by a drill sergeant or having to diffuse a suitcase nuke. This story is told in the twitch of Max’s hand as he unscrews a bottle and the broken frame on his coffee table that contains a beer-soaked picture of his deceased family.

However, and I hate to say this, subtleties don’t make the transition to multiplayer. It’s not that the multiplayer component isn’t fun; it is . It’s just that the lighthearted pandemonium of the multiplayer seems to undermine the tone of the rest of the game. Though, even though I had my reservations, I still managed to spend several hours addictedly glued to a multiplayer game. So you should probably just ignore me.

As far as the controls go, if you’ve ever played a third-person shooter, you’re probably ready to go. Some of the buttons that are typically allocated for grenades and hand-to-hand combat have been co-opted for the Bullet Time mechanic, but it’s an easy switch to make. You utilize the slow-down controls so often that they become part of your repertoire quickly.

Max Payne 3 Screenshot

I should also mention, just to cover my bases, that this is not a Rockstar Game in the same way that Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption is. Players are strapped to a fairly linear storyline that lasts between 15 and 70 hours, depending on how frequently you use bullet time. However, the narrative has Rockstar’s stamp all over it. There’s a nouveau kind of interactive storytelling happening in Max Payne 3 that could only really be told by the people who brought you GTA and L.A. Noir.

The cutscenes, while possibly too numerous, are seamlessly integrated into the overall narrative in a way that often makes you forget when it’s time to take control of your character. This, coupled with a graphical universe that undoubtedly pushes the limits of this generation of consoles, creates an immersive experience that will give titles like Uncharted a run for their money.

However, if you’re looking for a fast-paced, explosion-filled, Michael Bay-type experience, you’re probably going to want to steer clear of Max Payne 3. Remember, this is a game where you slow things down.

When you actually add them up, Max Payne 3 contains more played-out references than I’m typically comfortable endorsing. You’ve got a burned-out cop with a drinking problem who plays by his own rules, a highly funded crime syndicate bent on personal revenge, and a gameplay mechanic that’s made its way into almost every video game and film over the last decade. Rockstar even added a last stand mode, à la Call of Duty, as if one overused mechanic weren’t already enough. But clichés exist for a reason, and Max Payne uses them all flawlessly.

In fact, I would almost say that anyone who’s used one of these clichés up till now was just trying to be like Max Payne 3.

Pushes the limits of this console generation. 4.5 Control
So intuitive that your mom could probably learn. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Everything you could have hoped for. 4.7 Play Value
Makes me wish I had the super natural power of Bullet Time so I could play it more. 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Max Payne 3 introduces an explosive and innovative multiplayer experience, bringing Max Payne’s signature Shootdodge and Bullet Time gameplay features along with a range of new and expanded special abilities into the arena of competitive online multiplayer.
  • From automatics to handguns to rifles and explosives, Max wields (and dual-wields) a wide range of high-powered weaponry in both single-player and multiplayer. Max Payne 3 provides devastating firepower for any and all situations that call for decisive and punishing action.
  • From New York to São Paulo, explore intelligence gathered on the characters and gangs that you will encounter throughout the treacherous story of Max Payne 3.

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