In the 9 years following the previous Max Payne game quite a lot has changed. Leaving New York City and the DEA behind in favor of a private security job for the wealthy Branco family in Sao Paulo, Brazil, our hero has sunk lower and lower in life pressured by the constant overhanging guilt of his wife and daughters death. Max is now addicted to pain killers and an avid alcoholic, often getting drunk on the job and leaving it up to his new friend from the police academy, Raul Passos. That’s not to say the years have taken Max’s precision away, he still has his signature bullet time abilities allowing him to slow time and shoot the hell out of anybody that threatens the rich and dangerous trophy wife Fabiana Branco. Very early on in the game Max becomes tangled in quite the web of danger as Fabiana is kidnapped and it’s left up to him to save her, a goal which will take Max across a ton of iconic Brazil locations, from Favelas to the Panama Canal to the back alleys of Brazilian gang territory. Rockstar truly managed to capture the “white man in Brazil” feel with this game as a lot of the vocals are in Spanish leaving you with no acclimation as to what’s going on, just as Max hasn’t a clue either.
The entire game is narrated by Max in a Bastion-esque way, with him nudging you towards the correct goal as you fumble around the Favela. While games like Gears of War highlight an item you need, Max will simply speak in third person as you play saying things like “Didn’t have time to mess around there, I had to get to that boat,” or “I figured a explosive like that could pack a big enough punch.” This really manages to keep you immersed in the game and keeps it more realistic, which is something that carries over to gameplay as well; Where normally characters place guns in there infinitely huge vests or on their Velcro covered backs, when Max chooses to switch to single or double pistols he simply tucks his gun under his arm and goes to town, leaving it to dangle there until he needs it again, which looks truly badass if I do say so myself.
Max Payne 3 also introduces the series first cover system, something Max needs now that he’s growing older in age. You press X to go into cover and from there you can blind fire or peek out of cover to shoot. And while cover may be abundant, the AI in MP3 are very smart and will quickly flank you if you’re not careful, leading to brutal deaths that sometimes put you a little far back in Rockstar’s unforgiving checkpoint system, which will have you throwing your controller more than once in rage. Although the checkpoints are brutal, after a few deaths they’ll start to lighten up, giving you an extra painkiller or refilling your ammo to make the game a little less unforgiving.
This game also introduces a new game mode into the single player titled “A New York Minute.” Unlocked after completion of the campaign, NYM is a speed running mode where you earn time added to your clock with each kill you earn, this is more fast paced and frantic then normal campaign because the more time you earn, the higher your score is.
While Rockstar has done something incredible with the 10-12 hour campaign, the multiplayer is where this game truly shines. You’ll play across 12 customizable factions across 5 different game modes which I’ll break up into sections below.
Gang Wars is Max Payne 3’s crowning Multiplayer game mode. Gang Wars pits two rival factions against each other in a story driven setting spanning around 30-45 minutes and all narrated by a story character and Max Payne himself. The Gang Wars normally begin with a capture the location round with the team who captures more area being on the offensive the next round. Each round has the ability to change the scenery and play space of the map in a new and exciting way and with the tons of variations of gang wars available this game mode never gets old. This 8v8 action especially caters to Rockstar’s new Crew feature, while we’ll get to later.
Payne Killers is the second addition to the multiplayer line up. This game mode has players starting out in a free for all with the first person to get a kill turning into Max Payne and the person they killed becoming Raul Passos. These two carry huge guns, large health bars, and plenty of pain killers. Your goal is to take kill them to then become one of them and rack up points gaining kills. For those who aren’t looking for much teamwork, this is the game mode for you. This is extremely similar to Halo’s Juggernaut mode, but with two Juggernauts and twice the fun.
The other two game modes are your fairly simple Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch varieties, also coming in larger flavors for 16v16 play. These game modes always last ten minutes and go for an unlimited number of kills. When playing the game modes you’re given the ability to set up your own class and pick your own guns, projectiles, and bursts. The amount of items you give a character determines their weight, with more weight equaling lower stamina for running and a slower health recharge. Bursts are a ground breaking addition to the multiplayer space. Bursts allow you to change the way the game acts for a certain amount of time by using your adrenaline bar. Bursts can range from using bullet time to slow down everyone in your line of sight to making the enemy team think they’re all enemies of each other and activating friendly fire. These are very similar to Nexuiz’s ‘Gamechangers’ except they can’t be picked up and must be equipped. These all work very fluidly within the game space and can really help a team come back from defeat.
Another thing I loved about the multiplayer was that no matter what you can always win. In Gang Wars, the final round is a Team Deathmatch with the winner taking all, even when It’s been 25 to 5 at the beginning a little teamwork and a lot of kills has brought games to a very close ending sometimes going up into the hundreds. Unlike in games with a kill limit, Max Payne 3 is never over until the buzzer rings.
Rockstar also has introduced “Crews” with Max Payne 3. Crews are like clans but all the XP and kills you earn are all pooled together and you’re ranked against other crews. This is a great way to show your allegiance to a favorite brand or website *cough cough* and introduces a great way to play together and compare stats.
When all is said and done Max Payne 3 is one of the most addictive games I’ve played in recent years. With a twelve hour campaign plus hundreds of hours to spend in the additional game modes and multiplayer, the game may never get old. After spending ten hours going through the single player campaign and spending 15 hours in the Multiplayer, I still hadn’t gotten bored of the game whatsoever. I’d originally knocked the game for only having eight multiplayer maps at launch – although Rockstar has detailed it’s DLC plans with quite a few new maps but after spending countless hours with the game, the small map pickings never came into play and was seldom noticed. Max Payne 3 is a solid 9.5 out of 10, – the highest I’ve ever awarded a full $60 title – with it’s only problem being that the story dragged on just a tad bit.