In this week’s review, I decided to take on a recent title from Rockstar to fill anyone left standing with bullets. I still remember the distaste I had for Rockstar, not just for their violence- filled games, but because I just didn’t get the popularity of the Grand Theft Auto series. I know I’ve said this story before, but a lot of what I did in GTA was just get in a car and drive around finding all the fun glitches Rockstar likes to leave in their games. I then played Red Dead Redemption, and while I found some things annoying about it, I really liked it and it will probably be one of the few shooters I will ever play constantly. I then played L.A. Noire, their collaborative effort with the controversial developer Team Bondi. While that game could have had a few more months added to its development time, I fully enjoyed it as one of the best games of 2011. I am now honestly excited to try out Grand Theft Auto 5, due to those two games. But, here we are now with Max Payne 3. I remember hearing about this game back in 2009 and wasn’t really interested in it. I then learned more about it and, well, got interested this year. I mean, I knew about the franchise and the terrible movies based off of this series (if you can really say they were “based” off of the games). Since it has been half of a year, reviewers and fans seem to be split about the game. Some love it and some don’t. Where do I stand amongst the guns and overused Matrix slow-down techniques? Read on to find out.
James McCaffrey plays the role of Max Payne this time, instead of Sam Lake from the first game, or Timothy Gibbs from the second game. Anyway, Max Payne’s story is played like Pulp Fiction where it jumps around a lot. The beginning of the story starts with Max Payne basically pissing off a mob boss in New Jersey and ends up fleeing to South America to take a job as a bodyguard for a rich, but corrupt family. Just like any grizzled, cynical, and drug-abused ex cop’s story goes, things happen and everything goes to hell. Max Payne gets caught in the middle of betrayals and gritty situations, and must stop whatever is going on. The story overall is actually pretty dark and can be interesting till the very end when the story comes full circle. However, it is a tiny bit jarring when you are focusing on one part of the story only to jump back to an earlier part of the game’s story.
The game play is a third person shooter, but has the Max Payne touch. There are the typical cover-based mechanics where you, of course, take cover and shoot. The unique trait from the Max Payne series is where you can slow down time and take more accurate shots at the enemies, who later become extremely aggressive and covered in armor. You can also do that whole slow-down thing doing certain kind of jumps to make awesome action shots. You can carry up to three guns, two smaller guns that you can wield one-handed or duel-wield, and a heavy gun, like a machine or shotgun. There are no regenerating shields here and you basically regain health by shoving painkillers down your throat. When you have these painkillers and you get shot up too much, you enter a last stand kind of duel where you can shoot the guy who shot you and recover a lot of health. There are some problems with this mechanic, but I will explain that later on. Overall, the main campaign can take about 8-10 hours in length and maybe a bit longer if you want to find all the golden gun pieces and other things. Multiplayer is pretty solid. Of course, you’ve got your death matches of all kinds, and this time you get to make your own gang or join an already existing one where you can customize your entire character with certain perks to help you out in the huge gang wars that can happen in multiplayer. One of the unique modes is called Payne Killer mode where if you do specific things, you can either become Max Payne or his partner in the single player mode, and the goal is to kill either character. This game’s multiplayer is supposed to connect with the future release of Grand Theft Auto V, so I’m interested to see what happens with that. You’ve got a solid package, but it has a couple of rough areas. Let’s go through the presentation part first.
The presentation is, of course, the high standards Rockstar gives to their games. It’s gritty, detailed, and very graphic. It also has some of the cut scene execution-style that the old games had. The music is great. There are some memorable tracks here, especially the theme that plays through the airport level near the end. It is especially catchy. There are 3 different collaborators here. The first one is an American noise band called Health, the second is a guy named Pedro Bronfman, and the final collaborator is a Brazilian MC known as Emicida. The voice work is also great, with Max Payne’s voice actor, James McCaffrey, taking top honors for portraying an aging, drug and alcohol abusing ex cop going through a rather grim story.
Now that we got the presentation out of the way, let’s talk about why Max Payne 3 might be the most disappointing game of 2012. First off, the game is way too difficult. It has an extremely tedious difficulty that breaks the game. Sometimes, you can breeze through the game fine, but then the difficulty spikes and you end up getting killed over and over again! At times, it makes going through the single player mode a chore. It’s an incredibly unpolished experience when you keep dying multiple times. The AI is actually smart and aggressive, with later enemies wearing huge amounts of body armor and carrying huge guns. The element of the hordes of cheap enemies is not the only reason why it’s difficult. Doing a slow-motion dodge jump thing is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t, due to Max Payne not being able to get into cover or move quickly enough after doing these kinds of dodges. The showdown mechanic also hasn’t been polished fully. A big problem I ran into while doing these showdown duels before dying is that sometimes I get hit in the back and I can’t fully turn around to shoot the person that put me in the showdown duel in the first place and then I end up dying. Apparently Rockstar doesn’t fully know yet how to balance difficulty with reward, because the whole game throws hordes of enemies at you and you have to survive them with very limited ammo at times. Sometimes, when you re-spawn, you don’t get fully refilled guns. There is very little reward besides a solid and dark story that will keep you mostly invested. The thing that annoys me the most about these unpolished difficulty settings are that NONE of those issues are in the multiplayer. Did Rockstar, the makers of Read Dead Redemption, just get lazy with their first linear single player game?! I find that hard to believe since they usually have a huge amount of polish to their previous game’s gameplay in both single player AND multiplayer. I guess, I kind of feel like how fans of Saint Rows 2 felt when they played Saint Rows 3. Just like Spec Ops: The Line, it does certain things really well, but it falls flat on the other things.
Max Payne 3 might be my most disappointing game of 2012. I mean, it isn’t a terrible game at all since I can highly recommend it over a huge number of games that everyone might be waiting for prices to go down on, but I can’t help but think that Rockstar should have put a few more months into this game. Maybe I’m being too harsh since they could have possibly run out of time or budget on the game, but that still shouldn’t excuse a lot of the unpolished areas that are in this game. I would recommend renting it WAY BEFORE you think of picking it up on a cheaper price. Maybe it was meant to be painstakingly difficult or maybe they didn’t polish this gem out. It is better than a lot of games I have played this year and last, but this might be my most disappointing good game of 2012.
This game gets a 7 out of 10