Shooting stuff up in slow-motion. That pretty much sums up the previous two games in this franchise, and not much has changed. As soon as the opening sequence kicks in and you hear that old piano refrain over Mr Payne’s signature growl, it’s clear before the action even begins that you’re firmly back in the world of Max Payne.
The story is pacey, well written and harsh; harsher in fact than most of Rockstar’s previous output. The comic book film noir styling of the previous Max Payne titles has been ditched in favour of the action-movie vibe of ‘Taken’ and ‘Man on Fire’. If anything, Max has grown more bitter, cynical and disillusioned now that his quest for vengeance from the previous games is over. Whilst not massively clever, the story ticks all the right boxes and serves as a one-liner filled interval between massive swathes of action.
Max as a character remains as appealing deadbeat as ever. Like Droopy with twin 45s he laconically blusters through the game with fatalistic drive, and comes close to finding a kind of blood spattered redemption. As the game progresses Payne attempts to crawl back to humanity, atoning himself in the only way he knows how: by murdering a whole lot of bad guys.
Like many Rockstar games, the setting is as much the star of this game as Max is. The whole gamut of Sao Paulo is explored, from the penthouse apartments of the super rich to the favelas of the super violent. For a very linear game, Rockstar have done a great job of making you feel like part of a larger world.
Immersion seems to have been a driving goal of Rockstar throughout development, as extraordinary lengths have been gone to prevent your suspension of disbelief from being broken, and let’s be fair; gamers are willing to let a lot slide. Most importantly, aside from the initial boot up, there are no loading times whatsoever, sustaining the action movie pace in a way many games just cannot.
Bullet time has become ubiquitous in videogames, but Max Payne invented it and Max Payne 3 has perfected it. The Euphoria physics engine takes ragdoll to the next level. It is never tiresome pumping bullets into foes and watching them twist and contort, like a puppet that’s just been shot a whole bunch of times, in slow motion until the trigger goes ‘click’.
Max Payne 3 is a solid game that sits at the top of the genre for the 3rd Person Shooter, and in many ways is superior to genre stalwart Gears of War and its sequels. Although the game shines in so many ways, it cannot be overlooked that this is a refinement of a game that is 10 years old, and despite a few extra bells and whistles, does not offer a single feature that aren’t either taken from the previous games of the franchise or generic to contemporary 3rd person shooters. With Rockstar at the helm, I expected something game-changing instead of familiar from this game. Despite this, nothing changes the fact that Max Payne 3 is probably the best 3rd Person Shooter currently available, and well worth your time. (Except for the multiplayer which is horrifically bad and only warrants a mention to urge you not to bother playing it; But with such a great campaign, who needs it?)
Derivative and unoriginal it may be, but shooting stuff up in slow motion has never been better.
This review is based on a retail copy of the 360 version of Max Payne 3.