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Max Payne 3 looks and sounds great, but leaves little else to be desired

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“This place had more smoke and mirrors than a strip club locker room,” Max says at one point in the game. I feel that statement sums up this game nicely. Max Payne 3’s presentation is great, especially for a third-person shooter, but other parts of the game feel tired and laborious.

The art style of Max Payne 3 is reminiscent of other Rockstar produced titles like Grand Theft Auto. Blurry, layered images lay atop one another to reflect Max’s coherent and incoherent state. Since Max is usually always getting shot, taking pills, drinking or all three at once, you become used to this blurry state he lives in and at times you might feel sorry for him. As the dialogue takes shape, key words are placed on the screen for emphasis with tile-cut transitions in the images. It’s an art style that’s entertaining to the eyes whether you’re creeping through the environs of Brazilian favelas or complaining about the busy nightclub that’s bumping the music Max can’t stand most — house music.

Max Payne 3 - tiled presentation

Speaking of the music, the licensed tracks and the score are fantastic. Whether it’s the upbeat and funky Brazilian club tracks or the subdued ambient tracks near the end of the game, HEALTH did a great job of producing much of the score for this game. But that’s where the game starts to show its flaws.

The style of gameplay shows its age when you go from scene to scene only shooting mobs of enemies. Occasionally, you’ll be forced into a slow motion or “bullet time” sequence where Max is either diving through a window, sliding down a rooftop, or rappelling down a zip line. The object is still the same; shoot the enemies as fast as possible before they shoot you. There really isn’t much else to the game. Numerous collectibles are scattered throughout each area, but if you take too much time finding them, either a timer you didn’t know existed will cause you to fail the mission or you’ll get a constant barrage of messages from Max or his partner hurrying you to the next area.

Battling with the controls is another challenge in this game. Movement feels stiff and transitioning from one point of cover to another is a struggle compared to similar titles like Sleeping Dogs that makes taking cover, moving to different cover, and vaulting over cover feel smooth and fluid. Even worse, on multiple occasions, Max would get stuck in cover unable to move or shoot. This always resulted in the enemy flanking my cover and killing Max — and a barrage of profanity from me.

Max Payne 3 - taking cover

The previously mentioned smoke and mirrors statement from Max makes so much sense. This game is polished both in its presentation and music, but the core concept of the game hasn’t evolved. There’s no variety in the gameplay other than to shoot the guys in front of you and the sheer brutality of shooting a guy through the face with an assault rifle in slow motion doesn’t make it any more entertaining.

After many of the mass killings that have occurred throughout the United States recently, there were a few times when I almost didn’t finish this game out of sheer disgust… and boredom. Perhaps I’m one of those gamers that need something more to my games than just killing; perhaps some brainpower on solving puzzles is also needed.

Max Payne 3 is a game that has great potential in a storytelling aspect and it’s paired well with a fabulous score. Unfortunately, the gameplay feels dated and the sluggish controls don’t help either, especially with the technical mishaps that the game allows. It’s one of those games where I’d rather watch all of the cut scenes on YouTube and skip the gameplay. Unless you’re a big Max Payne fan and know what to expect with a game like this, I’d recommend skipping this title.


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