The VPH Review – Max Payne 3

There is violence, there is realistic violence, and the there is Max Payne 3. RockStar Games (my former employer) has made a disturbingly gritty game with a cinematic touch.  At NYC ComicCon 2011, ImperviousRex and myself got an early glimpse of what MP3 had to offer.  A quick promo followed by a few short minutes of gameplay footage which showcased the ins and outs of both Bullet Time and Shoot Dodge.  As impressed as I was by the demo and the free stickers they handed out prior to the screening, the only thing I could think of was that awful movie starring Mark Wahlberg.

Regardless of questionable films, the game looks stunning.  The attention to detail on some of the levels reminded me of the Uncharted series, but much darker and much grittier.  In fact, I felt myself comparing this game to the latest Uncharted installment, which may explain why I could just not get into the story as much as I would have liked.  Maybe it was too dark for my liking.  The story plays right down the line and unleashes Max in one action packed territory after another.  The character designs are commendable and the level layouts, especially towards the end, are rich in detail.  Other than a few texture issues and an occasional image pop, RockStar once again does a great job of setting a story.

As I mentioned earlier the game plays much like Uncharted.  The constant color changes, blurry and drunken visuals and thought scrolls across the screen got old for me kind of fast.  It all makes sense though to keep the story rolling along but there were definitely times that I felt like I was the drunk who was addicted to  painkillers.  Some of the most memorable moments are the ones where Max is dangling from a helicopter,  equipped with infinite ammo and just going for broke in a truly cinematic,grandiose style.

Even with Bullet Time, Shoot Dodge and playing on medium difficulty though, I found this game really difficult at times.  One scene in particular,which takes place on the docks of Rio, had me longing for a checkpoint that I thought would never come; painkillers and the cover system are essential.  Many time I thought I was in the clear only to get my head blown off by an unseen foe.  The weaponry is varied and each killing implement has its own distinct look and feel.

Trophies for Max Payne 3 are certainly not a quick and easy affair, as they definitely  require multiple playthroughs to obtain.

Max Payne 3 was just the game I needed to get back in the swing of things after my long vacation.  Rockstar did a fantastic job of creating a game with a tremendous cinematic feel.  The simple gameplay may not have been as satisfactory  as some games I’ve played lately but the story and character development made up for it.  I was not expecting the gratuitous detail in the violence, but was pleasantly surprised to see how far RockStar was willing to go to make a person really feel invested in a games characters, gameplay and distinct style.

(ed. note – The soundtrack was one of the best I’ve heard all year; take a listen)

Currently Playing: Max Payne 3

I don’t care about Max Payne.  Let me back up; before this third installation, I didn’t care about Max Payne.  Now, having just spent 12 hours firing 21 thousand bullets into over 2100 of New Jersey & Sao Paulo’s worst all I can say is that I can’t wait to do it again.

While not as open & sprawling as Grant Theft Auto IV or Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar turns out just as compelling a story with Max. There is definitely portions they could have trimmed towards the end, but Rockstar is generally criticized for the third acts of their franchise series losing the narrative thread a bit.  Honestly, that might just be the only complaint I have about the game.  Visually? Stunning.  Musically? Buying (that’s right, with money) the soundtrack. Story? Gripping. I was invested in Max’s spiral towards destruction & eventual redemption from the opening minutes, which you have to give Rockstar credit for.  Enabling someone new to an entire mythology to pick up the third part of a trilogy and becoming immediately invested in the characters is no small feat.

The biggest surprise, however, was the multiplayer.  I never been a fan of any of Rockstar’s previous multiplayer efforts in either GTA IV or RDR.  They were just too sprawling, the game modes too difficult to figure out, the ability for a new player to pick up and play almost nonexistent.  Additionally, I’ve just never cared for third person multiplayer; even Uncharted’s couldn’t hold my interest for more than a few casual games.  The multiplayer in Max Payne 3 is so good that I can barely stand not playing it now. “So what’s the big difference?” you’re (not) saying to yourself. Brass tacks? Simply, it’s fun and cool. Somehow, and I can’t put my finger on it, Rockstar has been able to freshen up what has become an increasingly stale bolt-on feature to games while making it arguable a better time than the single player campaign.

If you’re not playing this game, shame on you.  Go get it.  I’m a member of the Polygon crew; request an invite and join up!  Or just add me on the PSN; screen name is Savage6000.