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Max Payne 3 (PC) Review

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The original Max Payne is one of my favorite PC games. I played it so much that I didn’t even mind those “frustrating” blood trail dream sequences. As for its sequel? I didn’t devote as much time to it. I recall it being fine but it didn’t click with me like the original did.

Now with Remedy out of the picture, the weight of the Rockstar development machine behind it and enough time passing so that a sequel by a different developer wouldn’t be weird: I was ready for a Max Payne 3.

Max didn’t have much to live for after the events of Max Payne 2. Family? Dead. Lover? Dead. Career was shot to hell. I can see why Max couldn’t move on and how he ended up Sao Paulo, Brazil. He was wandering through life trying to drink his way back to the past. Max was at odds with himself; he didn’t want to live anymore but he cannot off himself. So I guess that’s why he took so many ridiculous risks and placed himself in such precarious situations.

The very core of Max Payne’s game — shoot dodge and bullet time — remained as solid as it ever was. Rockstar’s additions to the core mechanics included the ability to keep shooting after performing a shoot dodge and the ability to continue shooting while getting off the ground. They essentially honed in on the shooting and made it as detailed as possible. Not since the Killzone 2 TV spot have I seen such attention put into a single bullet.

It wasn’t just the details of Max and how handled the mix of two side arms and a rifle that was so impressive, it was also the wealth of Rockstar’s resources funnelled into a linear game. The results were locales that were believable and detailed enough to tell their own stories. The pigsty known as Max’s apartment was just as sad as I’d imagined it to be. It wasn’t all old apartments and shit holes though. There were soccer stadiums, airports and chop shops that were meticulously crafted as well. I’ve seen my share of video game clubs and Max Payne 3’s was by far the most convincing.

As with most Rockstar titles, music selection and voice performances were top tier. They get it. Rockstar have a knack at queuing the up the right track for every moment. They also seem to get how to bring out the most stereotypical characters without making them sound too hokey or cheesy. I also appreciated how Rockstar left the Portuguese sans subtitles. It didn’t bother me because if they’re yelling at Max and firing guns, I suspect they’re not the talking type anyway.

The language barrier didn’t get in the way of the story because Max often recapped events and made assumptions through his internal monologues. However, they weren’t portrayed in the graphic novel style the series was known for. Instead Rockstar chose in-engine and pre-rendered cut scenes with plenty of color separation and filters to reinforce the fact that Max’s booze filled mind wasn’t recalling everything with vivid clarity.

Having witnessed Max’s adventure, I don’t blame him for trying forget. Max has seen some disturbing and unsettling things in this adventure. His previous adventures were noir with an air of absurdity that garnered a few chuckles along the way. Max Payne 3 was more serious in tone, delving into acts of brutal violence and hinted at the grim fates of kidnapped wealthy women in Sao Paulo. These princesses were not simply kept in bird cages.

At the opposite end of grim was the state of this version of the game. It may have weighed in at 30GB or so but the PC version of Max Payne 3 ran very well at my usual 1600 x 900 resolution. I also played it with the Xbox 360 controller and had a pleasant experience doing so — I even played it via free aim. My only complaint was with the sound mixing. They went a little too deep into the bass territory for my liking.

I really enjoy the idea of shoot dodge and bullet time. So much so that I even considered  picking up games like W.E.T and Stranglehold, just so I can get my fix of slow motion pistol shootin’. I’m glad I didn’t seek out those substitutes because they just can’t compare to the likes of a Max Payne 3. Rockstar did a wonderful job bringing Max Payne into 2012. They may have added a cover system, shaved Max bald and had him wear Hawaiian shirts but those don’t get in the way of being able to dive into a room full of hoodlums guns blazing. For me, it was like playing the first game all over again and that’s a very good thing.

Highly Recommended

Ratings Guide

For more information on Max Payne 3, visi the official website.

2010 PC Rev. 1.1 was used to play Max Payne 3.

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