Max Payne 3 (2012)

Put a Big Shit-Eating Grin on My Face While Watching These Bastards Take Turns Trying to Kill Me…

I remember being introduced to the game series that leads us to today’s game review shortly after it was released by a friend of mine who I now hate.  But my hatred for that particular person did not make me hate everything he brought into my life, and thus my love for the game continued.  I always found myself a little irritated with the typically depressing and morose story and atmosphere of the game, but it was the very first game to introduce gamers to the concept of “bullet time”, though movie goers had already experienced it a little in The Matrix.  But I wasn’t in control of Neo; I was in control of Max Payne.  And I always enjoyed the experience of diving backwards in slow motion, cleaning out the entire room of enemies as I slowly fell to the ground.  The sequel didn’t hurt my feelings at all, but the movie admittedly did (as best I can recall it).  When the game came out with yet another sequel, this time on current generation consoles, I was on board.  Now that we’re all up to date, let’s talk Max Payne 3, based on a character created by Sam Lake, written by Dan Houser, developed by Rockstar Vancouver, published by Rockstar Games, and including the voices of James McCaffrey, Julian Dean, Frank Rodriguez, Benedita Pereira, Robert Montano, Dillion Porter, Stephen Girasuolo, and Shirley Rumierk.

Nine years after the events of Max Payne 2, Max Payne (James McCaffrey) can typically found drinking away his body’s ability to feel things in a bar.  The son of a local mob boss comes in and starts trouble with Max, but he’s rescued by an old acquaintance from the academy named Raul Passos (Julian Dean).  But it’s only a brief respite as the son comes back, hits a female bar hopper in the face with his gun, and gets shot in the chest by Max.  Having just killed the son of a mob boss, Max is no longer safe in New Jersey, so he accompanies Passos to São Paulo to take a job protecting the wealthy Branco family, comprised of Rodrigo (Frank Rodriguez), his wife Fabiana (Benedita Pereira), Victor (Robert Montano), and Marcelo (Dillion Porter).  At a party, a street gang called the Comando Sombra breaks into the Branco’s house and attempt to kidnap Rodrigo, but Max (despite being cripplingly drunk) manages to save him.  Undeterred, the CS tries again at a nightclub Max and Passos are escorting Fabiana, Marcelo, and Fabiana’s sister Giovanna (Shirley Rumierk) to.  Giovanna and Marcelo get away, but Fabiana is abducted.  Max and Passos take it as their personal responsibility to retrieve her before it’s too late.

The story of the Max Payne games has always been one of my biggest issues, and there’s not a whole lot of change in this game.  The story itself is not bad here, but there’s something to the writing I got irritated with that I’ll get to in a bit.  The story itself is actually pretty good, including a good amount of twists and turns that keep it interesting for the bulk of the game.  I’d say an issue I started to take with the story was Max’s involvement in the first place.  We find out pretty quickly that Max was brought into the scenario to be a fall guy for the plot of the bad guys.  I understand why you’d want to pick a drunken gringo has-been with a history of violence to be your fall guy, but I think it’s time to start looking somewhere else when it turns out that one guy is a gundamned killing machine.  This plan is costing you way too much money on goons.  Alternatively, Max also made some shitty decisions that pissed me off.  There’s one point where he’s outside a room with about 4 people in it and an additional 3 he was trying to save, and he walks in there and yells freeze, then gets disarmed by someone behind the door he hadn’t seen.  This also gets someone killed.  And then it really pissed me off.  This dude is a fucking killing machine!  Was the writer aware of how many people I had slaughtered while jumping in slow motion through windows?  Why did he not do that here?  There are also a few more occasions where this killing machine gets disarmed and humiliated when he should have killed the shit out of the people.  The dialogue is the biggest issue I take with the game and the rest of the Max Payne games now that I mention it.  Max is such a fucking bummer!  Is he not aware of the fact that he’s a goddamned killing machine?  If I could jump through windows in slow motion and clear a room of 20 enemies, I would never be sad.  But Max is.  A LOT!  Every piece of dialogue in the movie is basically Max walking into a room of things that might generally make people happy and saying something to piss all over it with sadness.  He walks into a soccer arena and remarks, “A lot of trophies and game plans.  Been a long time since I had either.”  And you’re going to hear this kind of bummer-ism a lot.  Every time you pick something up or look at something, Max Payne will dump a pile of sadness on it.  He’ll do it sometimes to let you know where you’re supposed to go next, telling you which direction to go in the “center of the maze” even though there’s only one door in this “maze” that’s cracked open and obviously beckoning to you.  There was one time where I walked through an obvious door and Max said, “I opened the door to the next circle of this low rent Hell.”  Now you’re just narrating the things I just did and making them depressing!  How do you make walking through a door so damned sad?!

The biggest irritant I had with this game was in the look, but it’s again a specific thing in the look and not so much the look itself.  The game is third person and almost everything in the game looks fantastic.  The environments are often extravagant when you are in the early stages of the game, existing in the Branco’s company.  They all look great.  Then you go to a favela, where it also looks great, but captures the underprivileged look well.  The thing that annoyed me was – to show that Max was often having a hard time making it through things – the camera would constantly flash with different colors.  They made the great look of the game irritating!  Why would you do that?  I understand that the character we’re viewing these things through the eyes of is often inebriated, but I’m not.  Why should I be punished for someone else’s alcohol abuse problems?  This gimmick they had was well into my nerves by the end of the first level, but thankfully it lightens up by the end of the game as Max dries out.  I was also a little bit bummed out when Max’s look changed from his classic look in the game, but I understood the purpose in the story.  I figured it was no coincidence that Fabiana often looked like a big boobed version of Paris Hilton, but I was confused when her hair seemed to change color in the middle of the game.  She was a blonde, but she’s suddenly a brunette in parts of the game.  Was it dirty or something?  Had the game been going on so long that her natural hair color grew out?  I don’t know.

The gameplay is where this game really wins.  It’s a whole bucket full of awesome to be Max Payne, even though he’s trying to convince you that it’s not all the time.  It’s still a third-person shooter that relies heavily on slow motion to increase its awesomeness.  It remains largely unchanged from my dim recollection of the previous two games, adding only a new cover system that’s been made popular in games since Max Payne was around, and it works for the game very well.  For the bulk of the game, I didn’t find the bullet time as useful as I remembered it.  Max just wouldn’t stay airborne long enough for me to make short work of my enemies, and not always because I ended my bullet time jump – and lost serious style points – by jumping into a credenza or something, smashing into it and crumpling to the floor, humiliated.  But, when I got to thinking about it, I had played the original games on the PC, where it’s much easier to aim, so that may have been the perceived problem.  They also added a new thing that they called “Last Stand”, which gave you a second shot at life that worked very well … sometimes.  If you had been killed, time would slow down and give you the opportunity to kill the person who had put you down.  The irritation came when your gun was empty because you were, after all, just involved in a major shootout, and you could not reload during Last Stand.  Occasionally, the person that shot you was obscured by a wall, where he could apparently shoot you, but you could not shoot him.  So that was annoying.  The reloading problem was big for me because I was about two chapters from the end of the game before I even figured out that it was possible to reload in the game.  I confess that I downright refuse to read instruction manuals, and I often cannot be bothered to even check in the options for the controls.  That happened here, but I just figured I wasn’t able to reload because they didn’t mention it within the lengthy tutorials in the early stages of the game, just to make sure you know what to do.  You could’ve thrown that one in there.  I was also a fan of the checkpoint system they use in the game.  If you run into a big battle nearly dead and out of painkillers, you don’t need to worry about restarting the entire level.  If you die, you restart with full health.  If you keep dying, they restart you with full health and some painkillers.  And you just keep getting more as you die.  I appreciate that.

This is not a game to get for achievements, at least if you’re anything like me.  First, there’s a multiplayer component to this game that you will not find in this review because I probably will never play it.  I want Max Payne for its single player experience and I can’t be bothered with your tacked on multiplayer that people seem to think every game needs.  Some of the achievements require you to play that, and I won’t.  It also requires you to play the game on significant difficulties, and I had enough issues on Normal that I won’t bother with anything above Hard.  There’s also apparently a thing in the game called New York Minute that you would need to beat, and beat on Hard, if you want the two achievements for it.  New York Minute means you have a minute to get through each chapter, extending that by killing people, but if you die, you restart from the first chapter.  Fuck that.  You’re going to tell me I need to rush into battle to win, but then punish me for the inevitable outcome?  No thanks.  Besides those, it’s mostly just killing all the people in the room in one of the many locations that Max dives from something in slow motion.  I’m okay with those ones.

In the end, I thought Max Payne 3 was a fantastic game, but it was not without its annoyances.  The story was great, but Max himself did everything he could to bum me out all the way through.  The look was also great, but only when they allowed you to see it without randomly flashing the visuals in an irritating fashion every thirteen seconds.  But the gameplay I don’t have any big complaints about.  Every minor irritation is overridden when you become the slow motion embodiment of death and destruction.  This game is definitely worth playing, but I’d keep anything sharp out of your reach lest Max causes you to open up some wrists.  Max Payne 3 gets “You buy a product and you get what you pay for, and these chumps had paid for some angry gringo without the sensibilities to know right from wrong” out of “I’d killed more cops than cholesterol.”

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