Max Payne 3 sees the return of the surly, pill-popping, whisky-swilling gun for hire, who uses his mix of bullet-time shooting sprees and detective noir to entertain if not enlighten.  

Max Payne 3 review

Key Features:

  • Bullet-time gameplay feature
  • Multiplayer online mode
  • Unlockable arcade modes
  • Downloadable content available starting June 2012
  • Available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, PC release 1 June, 2012
  • Price: RRP £49.99 on consoles, £39.99 on PC

Max Payne 3: Plot  

In fiction, New York police detectives are always hard boiled. Then you meet Max Payne. Compared to this surly, pill-popping, whisky-swilling gun for hire, the rest are about as hard boiled as a Cadbury's Cream Egg.

As we greet Max at the start of his third set of 'adventures', he's getting blotto in his apartment to forget the past. Family wiped out in the first game, NYPD colleagues filling up the morgue in the second, no wonder he is drinking to forget.

Problem is, Max is working as a bodyguard and has been tasked with taking care of a very rich family in São Paulo. When the rest of us have a bad day at the office, the wrong report gets sent out or the boss pins his mistakes on us. When Max has a bad day, those he's protecting find themselves in great danger, or worse.

For all his bad habits, Max is nothing if not tenacious and it takes more than a group of rogue right-wing paramilitaries, heavily armed Brazilian street gangs or flaming, collapsing buildings to keep him from helping those he's been paid to protect.

Along the way there are plenty of opportunities to wise crack and ridicule everything about the modern world in a way that should make Jeremy Clarkson give up presenting. 

Max Payne 3 sees the return of the surly, pill popping, whisky swilling gun for hire ex-cop

Max Payne 3: Look and feel

Playing Max Payne 3 is like watching the movie Man On Fire in a number of different ways. Not only do the central characters share the same kinds of problems (burned out ex-servicemen working as body guards in South America), but they are also framed by similar digital effects onscreen.

Max doesn't do cut scenes - probably because he thinks they are too modern and wussy - so the viewer is treated  to comic-book panels of images that frequently flare out of the screen like a security camera that's on the blink. Tony Scott uses the same kind of thing in his movie and it gives the whole thing a disjointed, out-of-sync feel that aptly conveys the lead character's mental state.  

The graphics are top notch and we played Max Payne 3 on a 60in TV with no problems whatsoever. The South American locations are beautifully realised in high definition and wonderfully accurate, according to the PR info from Rockstar Games. Stand next to a TV in the game for any length of time to see the effort that has gone into even the smallest detail.

Only occasionally is there an aberration, such as once when we bumped into a table on the favela streets and the bottle that was sitting on top of it stayed unsupported in mid-air.

The noir aspect feels spot on too. As you might expect Max is grumpy, not so much having a bad day as having a bad life. Through it all, his quips simultaneously maintain this dark existence and yet manage to lighten the mood.  "Sao Paulo is like Baghdad with G-strings," he drawls.  

As mentioned above, Rockstar Games says "painstaking effort" was put into Max Payne 3 by the development teams and research departments "to ensure that the vibe and presentation of São Paulo" were as close to the truth as possible. While it might look like that on the surface, the view of life in the city seems hugely stereotyped. The poor worship football and it's their only legal way out of the ghettos, for example.

If there's an excuse for this, it is that most of these opinions are delivered by Max himself and he's one of the most unreconstructed men you will ever digitally meet. He's even taken a job working in a country where he doesn't speak the language and can't hear clues for himself, instead asking those nearby to translate or relying on his instincts.

If James Bond ever met Max he would be appalled. And when Max clocked that expression on Bond's face he'd dump the posh British over-achiever on his backside at the very least.

Max Payne 3: Gameplay  

Bullet time. That's what everyone says when you ask them why the Max Payne games are worth playing. Taking a concept that hugely familiar (thanks to the Matrix movies and countless copies since) and turning it into a very playable move in a game is no mean feat. In Max Payne 3 you can once again use the slowed-down time effect to quickly target and remove a group of enemies in a hail of bullets.

That this is still a pleasurable experience 11 years after the original game is amazing. Sometimes the game triggers bullet time for you to give players the chance to shoot a molotov cocktail out of the air or to take out a bad guy when it's either you or him (referred to as 'Last Man Standing'). However this move is most useful when the player triggers it for themselves, using that time-lag effect to target whichever annoying enemy keeps killing you before you can get to the end of a scene.

Max Payne 3 Review

Third-person shooting is the staple mode of the game and there is plenty of it. You won't be surprised when the '1,000 Kills' achievement pops up on screen before the single-player mode has had one run through. This slightly samey gameplay is broken up by what could be seen as mini-games in comparison with that endless slaughter. For example, Max desperately snipes from a distance to keep his friends safe from approaching gunmen or acts as a gunner on a speedboat during a high-speed water chase.

Other styles of play also add variety. Two 'Arcade Modes' - Score Attack and the familiar New York Minute - can be unlocked after the main story-based game has been played. Score Attack allows players to revisit levels and try and get the highest score possible, with accuracy and kill ratio racking up points. Meanwhile, fan-favourite New York Minute from Max Payne 2 gives you just 60 seconds to kill enemies and awards additional time for each kill. It's like Crazy Taxi for hitmen.

Mulitplayer is as challenging as ever. The intelligence of enemies in the single-player game is excellent but pitting yourself against the world online still brings tremendous thrills and crushing disappointments. Shared play is also boosted by a new Social Club system. While there is nothing that unusual about it on the surface, the ability to take your online gang with you from Max Payne 3 to the next game in the Grand Theft Auto series will surely appeal to a great number of gamers.

Max Payne 3 sees the return of the surly, pill popping, whisky swilling gun for hire ex-cop

Max Payne 3: Downloadable content

There are no pieces of downloadable content (DLC) to play just yet but Rockstar already knows what will be coming up. A special Max Payne 3 Rockstar Pass can be ordered to give players access to all of the DLC packs at a reduced cost, which makes sense if you know you will be playing this title for some time to come. The pass costs for 2,400 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live or £19.99 for the PlayStation Network and PC.

First up is the Local Justice Map Pack, coming in June, which bundles together the Police Precinct map for Gang Wars, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Payne Killer multiplayer modes. New precinct-themed multiplayer avatar items and multiplayer challenges are also included.

The full schedule is:

June 2012: Local Justice Map Pack

Summer 2012: Disorganised Crime Map Pack; Deathmatch Made In Heaven Mode Pack; Hostage Negotiation Map Pack; New York Minute Co-Op Pack

Fall 2012: Painful Memories Map Pack; Trickle Down Economics Map Pack.

Max Payne 3: Verdict

If your idea of fun is stoking cute animals in Nintendogs + Cats, move away please, there is nothing to see here. If you are a fan of third-person shooters and are wondering if this is worth your hard earned coin in such a tough economic climate, then look at it as a great investment.

Draw the curtains, put on your best flowery shirt and join Max on a South American adventure that will keep you glued to that HD screen and not out spending any money. Think of it as a 'staycation'.  

Score:

  • Overall: 9/10