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Max Payne 3 (Xbox 360) artwork

Max Payne 3 (Xbox 360) review


"Max is hardly back on his feet, but he's stumbling forward as best he can, lurching towards the sunlight and away from the snow."



Things change, and we have to accept that. Max Payne has moved from the endless falling snow in more ways than one, leaving behind his Nordic developers and residing instead in a universe dominated by sandbox adventures, hot coffee controversy and table tennis. Time has this way of rewriting the world around us, and change hangs onto its coattails by teeth and nail, chewing up the obsolete and the comfortable without distinction, without thought. Change isn't always good, but it is always inevitable.

So forget the comic-inspired cut scenes; they have no place in this brave new world of brave new developers grasping endless budgets and the same tired ideas. Confident boasts of eliminating loading screens are hidden behind story explanations stretched out to infinity, kicking the previous instalments simplicity to the gutter, then laughing as it bleeds out. Whose to say what's better; it's irrelevant. Here comes the new age; welcome to America where presentation is king and balls out is the favoured quick fix. Say what you will about the American way, but the one thing it understands is capitalism and the best way to make money is to spend it. Pump some high quality CGI into the consumer's veins often and with gusto and watch them crawl back for more, eyes bloodshot and hands grasping for a pad. Maybe Max was never supposed to be pretty, but he is resplendent, decked out in his high definition glory so you can see every bullet scar, every bloodshot vessel, the wear and tear of a life of misery, fuelled by cheap whisky and stolen medication. Max is a mess, but no longer the mess we left him. The woes of lost loved ones and one man wars waged from behind a police shield are whispered rumours, whistling around the landscape like a junkie's dying sigh. It's there, in the shadows, but try and look directly at it, and it vanishes into the enviable darkness.

Save for several flashbacks, Mr. Payne's third favourite vice, the depressing grunge of New Jersey's back streets are left in favour of sun, sea, sand and scum. Welcome to Brazil, and it's not so hidden second face; welcome to luxurious skyscrapers serving forty year old bourbon to people with fake tans, plastic surgery and old money, looking down on the shanty towns filled with desperation, misery and death. This is Max's world now, no longer a slave to the law he ignored, he plays at being private security to the corporate elite. A goon for hire that will soak up as many bullets as he'll fire for enough money to ensure his next fix, blending in to socialite parties with both his gun and his scowl on full display, so long as your glance is directed towards the bar. A chance for a new life and a new start that's only half believed by a protagonist that's been beaten into the ground too many times to embrace optimism. There's no happy ending, there's only a broken man limping from one self-imposed disaster to the next. Here, there be violence.

Max Payne 3 asset

Obligation rears its head, and suddenly Max is able to take cover, like every third person shooter has to, playing the big me too for an audience all too ready to drag themselves onto the bandwagon. The first of many surprises is how well this works; cowering behind a pillar and blasting dope runners and paramilitary thugs with blind fire and measured headshots can seamlessly lead to what we used to know as Bullet Time. Now known as shootdodging, gravity gets pimp-slapped and it's Max wearing the large canary-yellow leopard-print hat with the peacock feather in. Now, there's more crunch to go with you soaring; projectiles still ping around you, tearing corridors in the air and demanding their pound of flesh in a literal sense. But landings now have gravity towards them; slamming into a wall of skidding across the ground isn't without consequences. Max isn't a young man anymore, he's an old, fat, bald guy, and he has to pick his sorry arse back up while the sounds of war bellow around him. That sigh of resignation you formed when you first found out about cover based firefights? Well, it's just become your back-street saviour, giving you one last gasp of air, one last chance to introduce someone's eye socket to that one last bullet in your .40. The old dog can learn new tricks

Eventually.

Max Payne 3 is linear; one straight corridor leading from A to B, lined with grit and punctured with an unwelcome uniformity that traps the game in some kind of endless cycle. Groundhog Day with drug-runners, sub machine guns, stale whisky and pessimism. Every chapter is punctuated by a elongated plot sequence, that drags on like the end of days, but fuzzier around the edges to show the damaged recollection of the bullet-ploughed drunk doing the remembering. Then you're let loose in an enclosed area filled with men spat out by the gutters and asked to send them back there with bullets, melee and uncontrolled explosions. The locations widely differ, moving you from a penthouse party, a rotting boatyard, long-forgotten back-alleys and the razed interior of a luxury yacht caught sailing in the wrong waters. The hospitable young gentlemen you trade bullets with so readily come in a set number, but are not without their own guile; they'll pin you down with suppressive fire and sneak around your flank, or dig themselves in, and not poke their head out without knowing there's something there to shoot at. But whittle them down, and you'll get macabre notice of your grisly completion, the last fuck you scrawled on the back of an unexpected birthday card.The last killed is slowed right down, letting the madman in you revel at the gory demise of your quarry. This signifies then end of hostilities, allowing you to spend time looking for collectible items, or listening to more prattling plot explanations.

Max Payne 3 asset

Some stages, so wrapped up in the importance of the tale they try to advance, make you spend ludicrous amounts of time plodding around while Max recounts his woes, dripping self pity and regrets. These represent the lowest ebb of Max Payne 3, effectively making the game and the noir-tinted story if wallows in two separate entities seemingly at odds which each other. The highlights are when the game is allowed to flow, the depressing tale of a shadow of man completely unable to catch a break told in snatched pockets around gunfire, exploding buildings and wasted life. Thankfully, as things progress, these become the norm and Max's healthy disregard for a life that's not his takes centre stage. Few people live long enough to try and steal the spotlight.

That much, as well of the misery of one Max Payne is something that should never change, but in this brave new world, maybe it's just a matter of time before it does. Already against the grain comes multiplayer options that, really, have no right being as brilliant as they are, and perhaps a sense of redemption that's more deserved than expected. The new Max Payne? Well, he's a more dapper gentlemen than he used to be, but he perhaps still displays the same old scars, the same cynical scowl and the same answer to all of life's solutions. One shot of whatever spirits are on offer, one handful of painkillers and one arsenal you hope never to fall foul of. Max is hardly back on his feet, but he's stumbling forward as best he can, lurching towards the sunlight and away from the snow. He's left some things behind that will be missed, but, well, times change, don't they?

Rating: 7/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (September 15, 2012)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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zippdementia posted September 17, 2012:

Seems you enjoyed the plot and the massive dialog about as much as I did. I assume, from the seven, that you also enjoyed the combat as much as I did.
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voraWreri posted September 17, 2012:

What a fantasic review written by a fantastic man, one no doubt my superior in every way. I bet he has no flaws to speak of at all, and makes people like myself look like the mere ants we are.

That Max Payne, though; I bet he can do with some kind of hair product -- am I right?
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zippdementia posted September 17, 2012:

Now if there is one man who needs hair reduction help, it is MAX PAYNE.
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EmP posted September 18, 2012:

Underneath it all, I think I just wanted to write a really pretentious review.

Max Payne 3's plot wasn't my big hate; the story itself was actually pretty good and suitably miserable. But the way the game forced it upon at times was sufficating. Which was a shame because, yeah, tuning out and blowing shit away was great. That I could play the game as a balls-out shooter, a careful cover shooter of a crazy drugged-up hybrid is a fantastic selling point.
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zippdementia posted September 18, 2012:

You did manage to write a particularly snobby, over the top review, by the way. I figured it was completely intentional.
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overdrive posted September 18, 2012:

You did manage to write a particularly snobby, over the top review, by the way. I figured it was completely intentional.

Indeed you did. Kudos! Great read.
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EmP posted September 20, 2012:

Thanks, gang.
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ryan posted September 24, 2012:

I never though I'd be this disappointed with a Rockstar game. After GTA, RDR and LA Noire, i was hoping for more of the same but got probably the most linear and repetitive shooter I had ever played. The story was uninteresting and the comic style presentation of the scenes kinds got old after about an hour. The game was pretty challenging though so not a total waste of time. I would have given this a 6/10.
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honestgamer posted September 24, 2012:

Did you play the first two Max Payne games, ryan? Not every game Rockstar makes is open world like GTA or Red Dead Redemption. They've also put out a number of racing games, and yes, a conventional(ish) FPS series.
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EmP posted September 24, 2012:

The first couple of Max Payne games were made by Remedy, Jason. Rockstar was only involved with MP3.
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honestgamer posted September 25, 2012:

Right, and Rockstar didn't make LA Noir, either, or Smuggler's Run. But those are still Rockstar games as far as most consumers are concerned because the Rockstar name is on the packaging. The Rockstar name doesn't always mean open world gaming.
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wolfqueen001 posted September 25, 2012:

Great review. I especially found this line to be rather poetic and effective. The woes of lost loved ones and one man wars waged from behind a police shield are whispered rumours, whistling around the landscape like a junkie's dying sigh. It's there, in the shadows, but try and look directly at it, and it vanishes into the enviable darkness.

I need to invest in this series at some point, too.
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zippdementia posted September 25, 2012:

Max Payne 1 is a classic, but it's got very stiff controls. Max Payne 2 has better controls but has a habit to be glitchy and somehow isn't quite as satisfying a story. It's TOO grim (and coming from me, that says a lot). Max Payne 3 is the best in terms of controls, I mean it just plays great, but is pretty weak in terms of story and has a terrible end game.

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