Max Payne 3 released yesterday on Steam, and I ended up playing and finishing the whole thing from when I got home until I went to bed. Yup, that good. It took me about 8 hours total, which was a similar length to the first game, actually – but nowhere near the 12 hour mark that some have been claiming. What it is though, is really friggin’ awesome, in every sense of the word.
I recently played the first two games (more or less for the first time) in preparation for MP3, so the general feel of those games was still fresh in my mind. Naturally, going to Max Payne 3 – a sequel released almost a decade later, built by a different studio on an entirely new engine – felt very, very different. I actually didn’t like Max Payne 3 very much as a whole until about 2-3 hours in. Like I said, the first two were still fresh in my mind, so getting thrown into Brazil – the main setting of the game – was a little disorienting, and it took me some time to adjust. For the longest time, the sudden change of scenery really put me off, because it quite simply didn’t feel like I was playing a Max Payne game.
Around a quarter into the game though, it really picks up steam. Things get incredibly chaotic, there are sharp twists and turns, and I wanted to keep playing until the end just to see what would happen to Max and his (mostly) rich Brazilian friends, especially once you start picking up on the trail of the main, overlaying story – it just gets really, really good, and overall the whole package is very much deserving of the Max Payne name.
True to MP1 & 2, Max Payne 3 is, as you can probably expect – a third-person-shooter. The main change is that Max can now take cover behind pretty much anything in a system that works very similarly to Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto IV. The game regularly throws tons of enemies at you at once, so you’ll have to rely on the trademark bullet time feature to slow things down, get up from cover, and pop a few guys before they have the chance to pull the trigger themselves. This works well because you get more bullet time for every enemy you kill, so if you pace yourself well enough and keep your shots accurate, you can go through levels ripping apart enemies with your bullets left and right. Because of how well the cover works in your favor – especially when you put bullet time to good use – the shoot dodge mechanic in Max Payne 3 becomes more of a novelty. Sure, it looks badass, but the cover system replaces it as the go-to, practical option.
Another highlight of Max Payne 3’s gunplay is the blood and gore effects. I’m a huge fan of well-done blood and gore effects in games, especially when they have real-time mechanics applied to them – and Max Payne 3’s technology really revolutionizes what gunplay should look like and feel, and in doing so, it really earns its “Mature” rating.
As you slow down the game – or if the game slows down itself for your enjoyment so you can watch a particularly grisly final kill-cam – you’ll see bullets tear into your enemies, creating individual holes which spout blood and sometimes, if you hit the “sweet spot” – spray it. Every shot you fire into an enemy has its own effect, and when the results are slowed down, they look amazingly realistic, not to mention brutal. The homicidal maniac in me liked the mouth-shots and neck shots best, and these moments are only made better by the changing facial expressions of enemies as the bullets hit impact. It’s a beautiful system, and the best one I’ve seen in any game yet, and it’s the icing on the cake for what is already a solid shooter.
Although the game is set in Brazil, there’s a lot more level variation than you might think. Nightclubs, boats, a stadium at night, and (somewhat) abandoned buildings just to name a few – I was especially happy to see some throwback New Jersey levels in there, but once the story gets going, the Brazil setting starts to feel more like home, which is to say it works. There’s a lot of attention-to-detail in the varied scenery, and I never felt like I was in one particular area for too long – it’s very-paced and your approach to gunfights changes slightly with every new area. Especially awesome are the scripted bullet time shootouts built-in to some of the best moments of the game, which give you a spontaneous opportunity to pop more than a handful of unsuspecting bad guys while Max pulls off a crazy stunt. Overall, the gunplay always felt fresh and exhilarating – especially because Max Payne 3 throws a good, sizable amount of weapons your way over the course of the game, all of which feel deadly. Coming from pretty much every other shooter out there, it was nice to pick up a shotgun in Max Payne 3 and discover the effective range was longer than two meters.
Max Payne 3 isn’t Rockstar’s finest game yet – the linear nature prevents it from besting Grand Theft Auto IV in my opinion, but it is without a doubt one of the best modern shooters I’ve ever played. Bullet time works as well as ever, killing enemies is satisfyingly brutal, and Max’s personal narrations appropriately – and entertainingly – parallel the chaotic and twisted plot Max finds himself dragged into. It didn’t feel like a Max Payne game at first, but by the time the credits rolled, I had changed my mind. Max Payne 3 is a shooter definitely worth playing for so many reasons, and I highly recommend it. If you’re stopping yourself from playing this one right away because you haven’t played MP1 & 2 – don’t. Max Payne 3 is a sequel, but it tells the story of a new chapter in Max’s life and there are no major references to any specific events of the first two games, so chances are you’ll feel well-aquainted with what is going on in MP3. Trust me, the price of admission is well, well worth it here, folks. This game is one hell of a ride.
I’ll have some multiplayer thoughts up later on as well. I’m still processing the awesome that was the single-player!