Max Payne 3 Review

Intense Action

The air around me was filled with alcohol, so when I jumped, I jumped not onto the wardrobe, but into the water.

Max Payne is a legendary series, and so on. The last time the legend visited our monitors was back in 2003, after which Max’s story seemed to have not ended, but there was a struggle with a proper continuation. It’s not like we should consider the 2008 movie as a real MP series.

The first “Max Payne” was a kind of revolutionary shooter, and so on. But since 2001, the famous bullet time has been adopted by everyone, including some indie developers, and plenty of good third-person action games have been released, take for example Gears of War. From the third part of “Payne,” we want not only a return to hardcore roots, but also a good ending to the adventures of the main character. So how did it all finally end for Max?

But sunny Brazil made all fans of the series’ classic dark urban style wary. At first glance, Latin America with That Atmosphere doesn’t fit well. At second glance, it still doesn’t. Max still hasn’t grown a beard and shaved his head. Oh, how times have changed! Suddenly, the agenda for die-hard Max Payne fans has returned to being a hardcore shooter. And what happened to the hero, well, let’s take a quick look.

Bullet-Time Mayhem

Change of scenery

When I arrived at the party, my first thought was, “I made a mistake with the games. Now I regret not playing Saints Row.” It was worth drinking for that.

And yet, the new Max Payne primarily emphasizes its cinematography™, so let’s start with that. If someone missed the first two parts: Max Payne loves alcohol, painkillers, “The Matrix,” comics, and film noir, but nobody loves him. In the very beginning of the first game in the series, Max lost his family, and in the end of the second game, he lost his lover. Now it’s not clear anymore who or what our hero is fighting for, as Max doesn’t even work in the police anymore.

After another bad and gloomy day in the USA, our hero moves to Brazil to work as a bodyguard. Since the end of the second part, Max has been drinking, and he continues to drink, not understanding why he is still breathing. But suddenly, there is a prospect of shooting a bunch of people in the name of good, and the former cop returns to the path of war.

First, Max’s boss’s wife is kidnapped, and then things get even more interesting. In a sense, in terms of cinematography™, the Rockstar team is already ahead of BioWare and other companies that want their game to be “like a movie.” While everyone else is creating plot-heavy behemoths, trying to include saving the galaxy, heroic drama, love, and everything else, the Rockstar team creates a relatively simple but solid crime action game, and, most importantly, brings it to a proper conclusion.

Let’s draw a relevant analogy: if Mass Effect eventually descends into idiocy, like your “Prometheus,” then Max Payne, in all its episodes, delights with its dynamics without turning into a circus, like, well, let’s get further away from here, “From Paris with Love.”

Yes, the decade-long celebrated Max Payne “noir” was not exactly lost, just left behind. The game itself, by the way, keeps returning to the past, giving the gamer nostalgic episodes, but the mood of the third “Payne” is still radically different from the original duology. The comic book style has also transformed into something else, but there’s nothing to be done about it – nowadays, graphics allow us to do without static images, which probably wouldn’t fit purely technically.

Gritty Noir Adventure

Take Three

I fell from the ship for about twenty seconds. In the first five, I managed to shoot down eight militants, and in the remaining fifteen, I regretted not learning how to swim.

But neither the hot Brazilian sun nor liters of whiskey could break Max’s habit of silently conversing with himself. On the contrary, by the third part, Payne became so lonely that he never stopped talking to himself even during shootouts. In general, Rockstar did a good job of combining the game itself with the storyline. You always more or less understand why Max ended up here, what he is doing, and what the essence of it all is. To a large extent, the immersion in the Brazilian atmosphere is facilitated by various landmarks and clues scattered throughout the levels. Newspaper headlines, various details of life that reveal the motives and actions of the characters in the local drama, stories within stories… In short, the levels are decorated with unyielding pipes.

In fact, the locations and the way to pass them have not changed at all since 2003. Well, almost not at all – the unstable Max had his grenades taken away. Which is probably right in separate episodes – would you hire a bodyguard who constantly carries explosives with him? – but when the real action starts, why not? Will everything become too easy? And although Max Payne 3 is indeed an easy game for all gamers who have experienced old-school shooters, grenades and Molotov cocktails wouldn’t hurt.

However, explosions would not save us from the main problem with shootouts in MP3 – the strange checkpoints.

On the one hand, it’s logical: watched a scripted cutscene on the (excellently performing on PC) engine – saved, break through to the next cutscene. On the other hand, often Max “loads” right under a hail of fire from all sides. The two most exciting episodes of my Max happened when the hero was hit by a shotgun blast and a burst from an assault rifle at point-blank range within the first second, and the moment with the Brazilian ambush when Max appeared behind a low concrete block a la checkpoint, with three militants on the roofs, two more approaching, and two more at the nearest exit.

Bullet-Dodging Hero

I spent approximately the same amount of time on about five of these episodes as I did on completing half of the rest of the game, including watching all the cutscenes. In these moments, the cinematic™ aspect unfolds to the gamer with its, um, baggage: you’re supposed to be an enthusiastic spectator, but in reality, you become an actor, spending hours doing take after take of the same scene. These problematic moments are not so much infuriating as they are simply exhausting, but you still remember them with a good word for the developers-designers.

I especially want to speak warmly about the Rockstar employees when in the game, firmly tied to autosaves, problems start in the third big shootout from the last checkpoint. But otherwise, everything is great – Max doesn’t regenerate health like a troll and relies on good old painkillers, flies for ten seconds to the nearest cabinet, delivers spectacular headshots, hides behind walls, makes witty and not so witty comments about everything and nothing, in short, everything is like in the good old days.

Shooting is fun, thanks to the controls, level design, skewed difficulty, and even the fact that every time after scripted cutscenes, Max tries to switch from a rifle to a weak pistol. And if you really enjoyed the shootouts in Max Payne 3, you can also try the local multiplayer.

Where would we be without multiplayer?

It seems that at some point I finally ended up in Hell. Gangsters were running around shooting each other, and the funniest part was that I was one of them. Then a young version of myself ran past, with an old hairstyle and a smirk. I shot myself and ran forward.

Which, yes, is again Gears of War plus a couple of my own tricks. The main one being the somehow transferred bullet-time. The faster you run around the arena and the more accurately you shoot, the faster the infamous slow-motion meter fills up, which can be effectively used by jumping out at an opponent from around a corner, just like in the single-player campaign. Naturally, time slows down for everyone in these moments; the catch is that the initiator of this slow-motion shootout has the advantage – if they take a good position and jump well, it becomes much easier to aim. And, of course, the potential victim still has to orient themselves in order to fend off the Matrix attack.

Urban Chaos

I tried to record a large brawl of people with at least four, but I couldn’t find a server that was well populated enough.

In the online game Max Payne 3, everything is like everyone else – in the first few days, people were shooting each other on local servers, but the further it went, the fewer people played the entertaining but still quite gray variation of the GoW multiplayer. Moreover, in MP3, there is a new plague of online shooters – an RPG-like ranking system, where you have to spend dozens of hours killing in online battles to unlock interesting guns, fighter models, and so on. One wants to believe that this plague will disappear in a year or two, but for now, we have what we have.


Judging by the ending of the game, Max Payne’s story has come to an end. In any case, making a fourth part after everything that has already happened to the main character would be at least in bad taste. It’s a pity, of course, but it’s worth admitting – Max slammed the door loudly and beautifully.

Max Payne 3 is worth buying and playing just to see a successful implementation of the concept of “game as a movie”. It has solid gameplay and a solid storyline. And just completing MP3 is great. The game’s flaws pale in comparison to its merits, and Max has remained true to his roots, which automatically makes Rockstar’s shooter excellent compared to its competitors.

Max Payne 3
PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Action, Multiplayer
Rockstar Games
Rockstar Studios
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



More Reviews