Max Payne 3 PS3 review
Max Payne 3 PS3 review screens here.
Roughly halfway through Max Payne 3, our lead man changes from a bearded addict in a leather jacket to a baldy, bearded addict in a cabana shirt. It’s a transition that roughly reflects how the series has changed in its almost decade-long leave of absence.
While the presentation has been given an overhaul, the substance remains largely the same. And this is both a good thing and an issue – on the one hand it’s what Rockstar has aimed for, a continuation of the franchise rather than the ever-fashionable reboot; on the other it roots the game in a past where one cool gameplay hook was enough to get by on.
Due to the game’s difficulty – which becomes a teeth-grinding chore towards the end, particularly thanks to the ill-conceived checkpoints – this is more of a cover shooter than Max games of the past. Enemy fire is so deadly and health packs (which take the form of painkillers found throughout levels) so rare that running and gunning is something that can only be done successfully against limited enemy numbers, even with liberal use of the game’s signature bullet time.
So be thankful that, on a purely mechanical level, this is probably the best cover shooter on PS3. Aiming is tight and responsive, each gun type is unique and possesses real heft, and enemies react like Swiss cheese radolls as you hole-punch them with bullets in real time or slo-mo.
Of course, the latter is where cinematic sexytimes lie, and there are few games out there with similar potential to elicit orgasmic moans as you coo over just how John Woo everything goes when it all comes together. Bullet time – slowing down everything but your capacity to aim and shoot, for those who’ve been comatose since The Matrix – is controlled by a meter, filled over time and by nailing kills.
Once you’ve got some juice in your bar, a click of R3 brings everything to a crawl, allowing you to squeeze off headshots in peace. Just as fun, and even more Neo-aping, is Max’s shootdodge. Activated using R1, this flings the homicidal brute into an airborne arc, again slowing down time – even if your bullet time meter is empty like a Fast Food Rockers comeback gig.
This all combines with a visual prowess that puts Max Payne 3 among the very best-looking games out there. Engines that were built to handle vast open worlds now ‘only’ have to manage linear levels, freeing up a whole heap of grunt that helps push this towards Nathan Drake levels of prettiness.
Facial detail is excellent, character models are robust and realistic, and enemies react dynamically to every single bullet you pump into their evil carcasses. Just as impressive is the physics system, which is a step up from every other game in the genre. Firefights are often dynamic affairs, with Max diving, rolling, moving between cover, and the like. And all of this is realistically modelled: he authentically braces himself and slumps as he crashes into a wall, transfers his weight as you change direction to avoid a hail of gunfire, or even flips head over heels as you clumsily shootdodge straight into a fence.
It all works towards creating an immersive atmosphere and the feeling that you’re playing through a big-budget noir action film. This is helped by liberal use of cut-scenes, both between and during levels, Max’s ongoing internal monologue, and the impressive fact that from start to finish you won’t find a single loading screen anywhere along the game’s ten-plus-hour stretch.
It’s clear that a lot of attention has been paid to presentation and atmosphere, and so it’s unfortunate that the façade slips on too many occasions. Individually the irritations are minor, but added up they subtract from the overall package – particularly as they seem like such easy things to fix. For instance: Max can carry three weapons, two single-handed (which can be dual-wielded) and something bigger such as a shotgun or assault rifle. Often, particularly during tough sections, you have the latter equipped. However, after each of the mid-level cut-scenes – many of which lead directly into another frantic firefight – you’re defaulted back to holding just a single one-hander. Thus, when you pop out of cover to take on the world, you’re woefully outgunned as a volley of shot comes flying at your head. Dead. Retry.