Right from the off, Max Payne 3’s writers pitch the main narrative as a high-speed, intense character drama led brilliantly by its protagonist’s crude and satirical variety of quips. Those players who have already experienced Remedy’s original Payne efforts will know exactly what to expect in terms of the titular anti-hero, yet it’s to Rockstar’s credit that they make the character accessible to series newcomers. Indeed, it’s virtually impossible not to strike some form of sympathy towards Max as he finds himself helplessly drawn into an underworld conspiracy where death waits around every corner.
And speaking of death… boy, is there a lot of death in this game! Whether or not you’ve committed gratuitous atrocities in GTA before, it really is difficult to name many other titles that have featured such magnitude of bloodshed as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque experience that is the main campaign. Such an incredible degree of violence is complemented by Rockstar’s use of a slow-motion camera at the climax of every battle, adding to the genuine cinematic feel that the storyline segments possess in great measure.
That said, unless you’re in a particularly aggressive mood for the majority of the playthrough, there’s a good chance that you’ll find the mindless slaughter that so frequently ensues begins to grow old in the final chapters. As with so many other examples of their back catalogue, Rockstar managed to mix things up in terms of the narrative so as to keep things feeling fresh, however.
The bulk of the storyline itself revolves around Max’s journey into the Brazilian favela of Sao Paulo and his attempts to free a wealthy businessman’s daughter from a world full of corruption and betrayal. For the most part, the balance of narrative-based cut scenes and gung ho gameplay is pitch perfect, just as accomplished in its exposition as in GTA IV or Red Dead Redemption, if not more so.
As anyone who knows Rockstar might have guessed, the supporting cast of this epic action piece regularly consists of satirical, bordering on hilarious stereotypes of the various threads of modern society. Whether this occasionally comedic take on some of the darkest portions of humanity is to your taste will really depend on your personal preferences. Again, for me, it just serves to represent the incredible talent the developer’s script writers have for representing the social archetypes that form the basis of our living, even if some of the new additions to the Payne franchise of characters aren’t quite as relevant or memorable as their predecessors.
One thing that you can definitely not fault, however, is undoubtedly the grand production values that this title boasts. For starters, the graphical technology on display here was, and is, incredible. Every ounce of pain, ammunition and location details is masterfully handled by the game’s designers, making for an incredibly immersive world to encapsulate the already sublime gameplay mechanics and the skilful narrative.
Looking at Max Payne 3 as a whole, it’s certainly hard to shake the feeling that there’s just a little something holding it back from attaining the high ranks that its predecessors reached. None of GTA or Red Dead’s glitches are present here, and in no way does it suffer from the same problems of narrative pacing as those iconic predecessors do. And yet, beneath all of the cinematic design, thrilling gameplay set pieces and unexpected plot twists, the lingering sense that we’ve seen all of this before in some form still pervades the experience.
I must hand it to Rockstar, they most definitely have the ability to make even the most simplified gameplay experience seem damn near masterful. To call Max Payne 3 simple would be to call it a disappointment, which it most certainly is not. I’d place it at the very least on a par with Red Dead thanks to a tighter and more compelling storyline, but there’s still a notable leap in quality between this and Grand Theft Auto IV.
If you haven’t given Max Payne 3 your time yet, then I highly recommend you take advantage of it.