Max Payne 3 PS3 review
And ‘Dead. Retry’ becomes a sequence so irritating at times that at one point I actually bit my DualShock. While it’s to be expected that a game will get harder as it goes on, Max Payne 3’s difficulty is ramped up as a result of cheap tricks. Enemy body armour mysteriously seems to become thicker in the last few missions, previously lethal headshots now do little more than knock people’s hats off (honestly, what are videogame hats made of?), and then there are those checkpoints again. Note to developers: replaying a five-minute section 15 times never, ever feels like a pleasingly stiff challenge. It always feels like a displeasingly stiff shard of metal stabbed into your spinal column.
It’s an added shame, because these moments halt the momentum of a story that builds pace nicely, even if it never comes close to matching the emotional impact of either of the first two games. Feeling very much like a ‘one last job’ out-of-retirement Hollywood flick, a washed-up Max is handed a lifeline by old academy buddy Raul Passos. Working private security in sunny São Paulo seems a more pleasant lifestyle than solitary drinking in a New Jersey dive bar – especially when a notorious mob boss gets Mr Payne in his sights – so our man takes to looking after a wealthy Brazilian family.
But before you can say ‘largest city in the southern hemisphere’ things go fubar squared, as what initially seems like a straightforward kidnapping plot is revealed to be much more sinister. The present day is mixed with flashbacks to Max’s escape from New York (sadly Kurt Russell is nowhere to be seen), and although the tone is every bit as dark as a Payne game should be, that this never feels like Max’s own story stops it from being quite as emotive. His previous journeys were deeply personal throughout – this time he feels like one member of an ensemble cast, and things aren’t quite as affecting as a result.
One element of the game that is excellent without concession is multiplayer. Initially seeming a strange fit for the series, given the question of how bullet time could be integrated, it’s been tackled in a manner that results in a frantic, manic and highly enjoyable end product.
Team and standard deathmatches are present, but the more notable modes are Payne Killer (two players take the roles of Max and Passos, using these more powerful characters until the rest of the participants inevitably take them down) and Gang Wars. The latter is the headliner, and with good reason. Two teams fight through a playlist of different game types with varying objectives (such as planting/defusing bombs or killing/protecting a certain player), the results of which give them a headstart or handicap in the team deathmatch finale.
These are all accompanied by cut-scenes, voiceovers and a story thread that gives them a much greater feeling of purpose – it’s reminiscent of Killzone 3’s Operations mode. Across all modes you also get bursts – special abilities such as being able to temporarily see the location of enemy players – and loadouts can of course be customised. (Oh, and bullet time works via line of sight: anyone you can see when it’s activated is temporarily slowed down.)
Max Payne 3 is as impressive an example of well-worked cover shooting as you could hope to find, and there’s no getting away from the joy of blasting in such a spectacular engine. Unfortunately, it also feels like a game that has had its time: a mechanic that was ground-breaking enough to maintain interest ten years ago no longer possesses the same clout, especially when it’s far from unique.
The production values are laudable, as is the visual prowess, but this only makes the overlooked issues jar even harder. It’s also relentlessly one-note, and while a beautifully arced shootdodge complete with last-gasp headshot looks undeniably cool, it looks just as cool after the first hour as it does after the tenth. But these are gripes that partly result from the lofty expectations attached to both the series and developer, and shouldn’t detract too far from the enjoyment of the overall package.
A dark, cinematic single-player campaign lasting around ten hours coupled with a compelling multiplayer offering make this a worthy addition to the genre, even if it can’t quite compete in the very top tier. But for legacy’s sake, we hope that this time Max’s retirement is permanent.