Rockstar’s long-awaited, and highly anticipated third installment of the Max Payne franchise has all the slow-motion gunplay and often grisly story telling of the prior two sequels, and easily lives up to its fans expectations.
Taking place nine years after the last iteration, we find Max at a new low. Now living in Hoboken, New Jersey, after being fired from the NYPD for consorting with a known criminal (Mona Sax), Max stays numb with a steady diet of booze and pills. While at his favorite bar Max gets into an altercation with Anthony DeMarco Jr., the son of a local crime boss, and runs into a former acquaintance from his police academy days, Raul Passos. Passos attempts to recruit Max to a personal security gig in Sao Paulo, Brazil, protecting the wealthy Branco family. After the bar brawl becomes a shootout, and ends in the death of Anthony, reluctantly, Max agrees to the Brazil job.
The story in MP3 is as compelling as ever, and Max is a deeply flawed character that is easy to care for. However, the narrative has detoured dramatically from the film-noir feel of the prior installments. Gone also, are the graphic-novel style storyboard vignettes, replaced with cut scenes using the beautifully rendered in-game graphics…and what beautiful graphics they are. The attention to detail as Max navigates the favelas of Sao Paulo at times mesmerized me, from locals reaching out to close the shutters to their homes as I neared and kids playing soccer (football?) in dilapidated basketball courts to clothes hanging out to dry, waving in the wind. It’s very evident this game was crafted with intense care.
As far as control goes, anyone who played the other entries in the series will find that the controls fit like an old glove, and Max can still wield two weapons at once (as long as you’re willing to discard any two-handed firearms). One thing that I found vastly improved is the way that Max interacts with the environment; for instance when shoot-dodging: if you find yourself doing a slow-motion dive, and you hit a wall, Max’s body will crumple up realistically as he comes in contact with it.
The single player campaign is long enough to feel satisfying, and each chapter enticed me to continue playing, if only to find out what was going to happen next. The dialogue rarely felt campy, and pulled me into the story nicely; even upon completion I felt compelled to return to the game to find some of the collectables (golden guns, clues, etc.) I missed along the way to open up new features and cheats.
Among the few gripes I have with the game is the way it seems to rush you through different sequences, especially in the first half of the story. In a game this beautiful, sometimes you just want to take your time to admire the scenery, or wander around to find some of the game’s hidden items (like the aforementioned golden guns, or clues) without the need to rush. When you hear Max make a comment about how he should hurry, you would do well to listen, unless you want to replay everything since the last checkpoint again. Also worth noting, is the inability to skip the (sometimes very lengthy) cut scenes – especially important for those who are playing through the campaign a second or third time. Shorter load times in multiplayer wouldn’t have hurt either.Another boon to the replay value of MP3 is the addition of multiplayer. While it doesn’t
reinvent the wheel, it definitely refines it. It features many of the standard modes, like deathmatch, team deathmatch, and objective based play, with large TDM teams featuring up to eight players on either side. New weapons, abilities, and avatars can be unlocked with the XP you accrue as you play. Some refinements such as a fairly detailed character customization option, the ability to wager XP, the ability to loot fallen foes and some excellent map design really make the multiplayer feel like much more than an afterthought.
Overall, it is a wonderfully designed game that exceeded my lofty expectations. I felt like I was controlling the character in a wonderfully written R-rated action flick, and I imagine I will want to relive Max’s story over, and over again.