Ready to bring the Payne? The Max Payne? The Max Payne 3? Yeah, that was a bit of a stretch but Max Payne 3 is finally out and ready for gamers to salivate over! It’s been almost ten years since the last installment in the series. A development company by the name of Remedy made the previous Max Payne titles and eventually left the brand to work on Alan Wake. Now, Rockstar Vancouver, makers of the 2006 sleeper hit Bully, has just released the latest installment in the franchise with a brand new multiplayer feature and the same great cheesy writing fans know and love.
Most of the story takes place in Brazil where Mr. Payne, a former New Jersey cop dealing with a heavy pain killer and alcohol addiction, works as a private security guard for a rich family in Sao Paulo. The question of why he’s there is answered via playable flashback sequences throughout the game explaining the motivation behind the drastic move. Like any modern shooter, cut scenes surround the gameplay to further the story and break up the action. Previous installments told story through the use of motion comics but Max Payne 3 goes for more of a hybrid between cut scene and graphic novel. You won’t find any Ken Burns effects here, but words show up on the screen sometimes as characters say important lines and the video will often split into two or three screens much like comic panels.
This keeps the storytelling modern while still respecting the game’s heritage and breathing new life into the unique way Max Payne 1 &2 did cut scenes. The flashback sequences are interesting and do their job to break up the locales throughout the story. This allows the player to explore a handful of contrasting locations without flying all over the world like James Bond. It keeps the story real and the visuals interesting. Every flashback sequence provides insight into Max’s current situation and the intrigue doesn’t let up until the very end. It’s the perfect way to tell this story and it’s wrapped up in dialogue that is cheesy, but some of the best you’ll hear in a videogame all year.
If you’ve played a Max Payne before, the gameplay should be something you’re already familiar with. It’s a shooter. Plain and simple. Environments are full of walls to take cover behind and guns to kill the crap out of whoever is trying to kill you. The only unique feature in the gameplay is bullet time. This allows you to put the world in slow motion making it easier to dive in and out of cover or take extra long to aim for that perfect head shot.
It sounds bland, but, like any shooter, it’s extremely fun to pick off goons level after level. There are numerous enemies all with different fighting styles, health, and armor. They flank, cover each other, and do whatever they can to put you in a body bag. Normally, artificial intelligence like this would be too difficult for one player to handle. That’s why bullet time is the perfect slow motion rock to their intelligent paper. This gives you the edge over groups of extremely impressive killers and defines itself with gameplay that can’t be found in any other shooter. It sounds rinse and repeat, but it’s so much fun to pop enemies in slow mo, it’s hard to get sick of it.
For the first time ever, Max Payne 3 features a multiplayer mode. Like any standard multiplayer shooter, you’ll gain XP, unlock weapons, customize load outs, and do whatever you can to kill newbpwnge72 before he/she kills you. You’ll find the usual team death match mixed with a couple of unique modes to keep you busy after the campaign. A few notable modes are Payne Killer and Gang wars. Payne killer pits everyone on the map against one poor online player who looks like Max Payne. Whoever is playing Max eventually gets overrun, but then his killer will immediately become the new Max Payne of the match (think VIP in Halo).
Gang Wars is a collection of five matches played across multiple game types leading up to a final showdown to determine the overall winner. The better you do in each match, the better chance your team has for victory in the end.
Surprisingly, a lot of luxuries from the single player campaign make their way into the multiplayer including the bullet time. “How does that work” you ask? “Quiet! I’m talking!” I might say. After that, I might tell you that the developers have found a clever way of making slow motion work online without it becoming a nuisance. Every time someone activates bullet time, only the people within that immediate area, or in line of site of the person who activated it, is affected. This way, someone’s slow motion won’t affect a couple of guys trying to punch each other to death across the map. It’s a unique feature for online gameplay that will scarcely be found anywhere else.
Unfortunately, the shooting mechanics aren’t the smoothest you’ll find in gaming. Controls that are slightly clunky are okay when fighting computer controlled enemies, but other human beings are a different story. You’ll often fight with the cover system or sluggish aiming to get a good shot on your evil online counterpart causing you to miss your mark a little more often than acceptable. Shooting mechanics must be smooth and flawless for online battles. This is just a touch under acceptable.
A couple of the multiplayer playlists are unique but really nothing that sets it apart so dramatically that you need to drop Call of Duty immediately. It’s intriguing enough to give it a shot and have some fun for an hour or two, but it doesn’t do much to make you want to hop into multiplayer any longer than that. There simply isn’t enough there to persuade you to play Max Payne 3 online over any other shooter on the market today.
The game suffers from a lack of replayabilty due to its lackluster online and linear Story mode. So, “Why such a high grade for a game with such little replay value?” you ask? “This is one of the best gaming experiences to be had all year” I say. And stop interrupting me! The action sequences are spectacular and over the top, the bullet time makes anyone feel like an instant badass, and there’s no competition for the deliciously cheesy (and hilarious) one-liners. It might be hard justifying a purchase for a game that will essentially sit on your shelf until some downloadable content is released (or you get a hankering to play it again), but there is no substitute for a story crafted this good with gameplay that is ridiculously satisfying. It doesn’t matter if you rent, buy, or steal, every gamer needs to play Max Payne 3.