A grand legacy
We can't really talk about Max Payne 3 without first of all revisiting Max 1 and 2. The Max Payne games were the original bullet time noir based gritty third person shooter than didn't require cover mechanics and allowed shoot-dodging and sweet bullet cam effects, wrapped around a film noir story that was full of betrayal, twists and psychological trauma, with some amazing voice acting and some unforgettable dialogue lines."Its fear that gives men wings..."
Flash forwards many years later and it's the turn of Rockstar to bring Max Payne out of retirement...and what a job they've done of it. Max Payne 3 is worthy of the legacy that is Max in more ways than one.Story
Max is no longer a cop in 3, he's quit the force, he's moved out of the US to elsewhere and he spends his time body-guarding rich kids and drinking, popping pills. He's the Max we know and love from the previous games only brought to life in a really brutal manner and through visceral story-driven cut-scenes that are Rockstar's greatest yet. We are not going to mention much about the story or locations the game takes place in, we don't want to spoil a single moment of that extensive storytelling and experience.Gameplay
Take a dash of Max Payne 1 and 2, throw in some cover based mechanics from previous shooters and keep everything nigh-on the same as the previous games in terms of shoot-dodging and bullet time. Have a limited inventory for guns, providing Max with the option to dual wield certain combinations of weapons, such as a pistol in one hand and an uzi in the other and you have the perfect recipe for a faithful recreation of a beloved franchise, right there.
The control system for the game has you ducking into cover, leaping out dramatically in bullet-time slow motion as Max arcs from one place to the next. It all comes intuitively and as a Max Payne vet it was like putting on a pair of red shoes and learning to dance the blues again, it came as naturally as humming the theme song. It is extremely satisfying and Rockstar do plenty to make you work for your kills even on the lowest difficulty for the game. If you let it, Max Payne 3 will kick your ass repeatedly.
They also switch the game up with some refreshing scripted action sequences that put the control of Max's gun in your hand, so you are immersed in that movie moment and can make a definite outcome for the fight ahead. Add to this the fact that you can also look down the scope of some of the guns in first person, and you pretty much have one of the best third person action shooters on the market so far ready for some tender loving mayhem.
It is pretty amazing how tactically you can make Max Payne 3's fights as you look for opportunities to thin the enemy numbers down, cause enough collateral damage to make them think twice about rushing you head on and keep yourself from being turned into a bullet sponge by even the weakest enemy. Knowing when to use bullet time, when to shoot-dodge and when to remain tucked behind cover are important tactics to learn, since running and gunning will often lead Max into more trouble than he can handle.
Movement, Aiming, shooting and moment to moment gameplay are handled with a fine eye to precision fun and the combat is brutally superb. It's the kind of game that you can replay due to the sheer visceral nature of it and just how well it all hangs together, not to forget that there are collectible golden gun parts to find and challenges to beat that give you bragging rights as well as other things.
You can press a button to slow down the bullet camera as well, so you can get a good look at your devastating shot in slow motion.
The game uses checkpoints to save and they are pretty well designed, there's not too much you have to do if you die at certain points in the game, there are however a few moments where the checkpoints could have been more frequent, since there were times where we had to replay a fight over and over again until we got it right. Frustrating but fun.Graphics
Max Payne 3 is a nice looking game, it's also a noir-style gritty game with a dour palette at times and this fits the theme perfectly (be warned there are some epileptic crazy sequences when text pops up over the cinematic scenes as Max narrates). The level of detail on everything is truly superb and the models for Max and everyone else are insanely detailed. Max's whole look also changes as the game progresses, rather like Batman in Arkham Asylum or City – the more Max's story goes towards the darker side of things, the more Max looks beaten up and grizzled. The lighting engine performs admirably and there are no frame rate issues whatsoever even if things get insane during some of the later levels.
Bullet cams and slow motion effects are beautifully done in this engine and Rockstar have brought their A-game to Max Payne for sure.Animations
Euphoria is back and tweaked to near-perfection. It is once again tied into the physics system of the game and provides the most tactile feedback in a shooter yet. Max actually smashes into obstacles and they look as though they hurt. Slide backwards, shoot-dodging away from an enemy and hit a table in the way, Max conforms to the hit and reacts to it just like you would expect a real body to. If he carries on over the table and ends up down a flight of stairs, you can feel every bone wracking crunch as he thumps down.
If Max hits a wall, you'll see him slam against it. He takes a few moments to recover, he gets winded, in short, the animation here isn't canned and it's not scripted. It's a true iteration of Euphoria and it makes skeletal animation heaven for the game. It doesn't just go for Max and his gruelling physical reactions either, it works in terms of gun handling and aiming. If Max is actively holding a bigger weapon in one hand whilst he shoots with his other, he will do just that and reload by tucking the gun under his arm.