Just like Arnie and Stallone, you can never keep a good action hero down and with the recent renaissance of these aged heroes it is inevitable that some gaming gods of days past also get a another chance at saving the world, however with Max Payne it’s more about saving himself. Max, still grieving the loss of his family and trying to find solace at the bottom of a bottle of whisky has wound up in San Paulo, acting as a gruff bodyguard for some rich kids, babysitting them in his own personal hell but as long as the booze is flowing he has a resemblance of normality, which of course quickly turns into a bloodbath with him turning back into the action hero all too easily.
The original Max Payne was one of the first games that made bullet time so popular, before this we shot bullets and they just done their job, with pretty much every game since having failed in attempts to copy, (apart from Stranglehold) with us again going through a slow motion ballet of death-defying dives over and over again.
The “if it aint broke” mentality with Max Payne 3 means we are again chomping pills to increase our health and shooting pretty much anything that moves to boost your Bullet Time meter as Max takes on numerous hoods as he tries to dig himself out of another mess. But it’s not a complete copy of the originals, with an adjustable snap-to aim and cover based mechanics added and the old gritty graphic novel presentation and cut scenes being dropped and going for a more movie blockbuster approach which works really well with stylish camera effects and angles giving you the best views of both the action and more quieter moments.
With Max’s Bullet Time we also have the Shootdodge, which will launch Max into the air, dodging incoming bullets and also slowing time down for vital head shots. As you progress through the levels, most areas are split into zones that are full of enemies, with the aim to clear out each one as you make your way through. The game is as brutal as ever with a healthy stock of baddies gunning for you, but the game gives you plenty of explosive opportunities and if they do get the better of you, as long as you have a spare painkiller you are granted a last chance mode where you have a brief window to kill whoever got the last shot, succeed and you are given another chance. Another new addition is the blood thirsty Bullet Cam, a slow motion camera that follows your bullet as it flies towards the last enemy in the room, especially impressive with a shotgun as the camera follows the shot as it peppers the enemy in slow motion that also grants you the chance to continually shoot off screen, watching the baddie flap away as you hold their body up like a puppet with barrage of bullets.
The game sets out to be an all-out shooting fest, running and gunning through numerous different locations and it does it well, but just like the protagonist, Max Payne 3 is getting a little rough around the edges and mileage has become a factor for this ageing anti-hero. The action has not really changed much over the years and is let down by being too linear and repetitive, plus there are too many moments where the game seems to be having more fun than you.
Where the single player is linear and does get a bit tedious in later levels, The multiplayer aspect is the complete opposite, offering a wealth of options and a fresh approach to multiplayer gaming; yes you have the usual deathmatch and team deathmatches but even then the amount of customisation and originality in presentation is refreshing for such a well-covered gaming mode.
For starters the Bullet Time meter has been replaced with an Adrenaline Meter which is built up in the same way as single player with kills and also looting downed players to then use Burst Powers. These are ideal for tactical use and can be used to boost team health, grant your allies the ability to see enemies on the radar or the very confusing ID power that makes all players on the opposite side appear as enemies to each other, not much of a problem on easier match settings but turn on friendly fire for plenty of team kills.
Ranking up is the key to get more from the game, with most new ranks opening something up, be it a new character title to more weapons at the shop. You rank up via experience that is earned by getting kills and carrying out missions in game and is also boosted by completing Grind badges, which are in-game goals like kill limits that opening up even more XP bonuses goodies; though all this means nothing without cash to spend on those new items so searching dead bodies on the floor and completing the in game tasks will earn cash and whilst time consuming and leaving you open to attack, it is worth the gamble in the grander scheme.
As with your in game avatars, the weapons available come in all variants, with Uzis, rifles, shotguns, pistol and grenades and just like your own character you can unlock even more customisation items the more you use them.
Aside from the usual multiplayer modes Max Payne 3 also has a couple of original modes in here as well. Payne Killer is a great mixture of co-op and competitive action with each game starting off as a free for all stand-off, with the first kill and death then becoming Max Payne and Raul Passos, along with their respectable weapon loadouts. The remaining players are then tasked with gunning down Max and Raul, who need to try and work together to stay alive as long as possible and rack up kills to earn points, with the reins being handed over to whoever kills one of the two special characters.
For a longer running and more team based experience Gang Wars is a great addition with it being best summed up as a progressive team story. Each map will have five tasks to complete with each one needing to be achieved to move on to the next with missions like a simple capturing an area to setting up and protecting a bomb from being disarmed, a gang battle to the death or taking down a specific target. A great mode that will come even better when more crews start to be formed, allowing for group specific tactics.
Max Payne 3 manages to show every third person shooter how to do action, we have suffered games like Kane and Lynch for far too long. With ideas as grand as the best blockbuster movies, plus the well-crafted multiplayer mode, Max Payne 3 will be a mainstay in your console until at least GTA 5 is released.
Rating: Excellent Review Policy (version tested: Xbox 360)
You can order Max Payne 3 here.