Max Payne was one of the first games I ever played on PlayStation 2. My older brother owned it, and it made an impression. It instilled a love of gritty noir-style detective stories. This was the first game I remember being adult themed, not just for violence, but for the story. It felt like it climbed out of a book or R-rated film. I played Max Payne 1 and later Max Payne 2, but Max Payne 3 alluded to me until now.
I saw it on the virtual store for Xbox and thought, what the hell? Let’s complete the trilogy. The game originally came out in 2012, so it wasn’t new, but it was cheap. I picked it up for $20 and felt I’ve dang sure gotten more than $20 of entertainment. Max Payne 3 continues the legacy of our hard-drinking, one-liner issuing, and ass super cop, Max Payne.
Max Payne — Modern Noir
He is an action hero, but he’s more in the realm of John McClane or Rambo 1 than Rambo 2 or Die Hard 4. I mean, he’s grounded, and he’s under no pretense that he’s some white knight. He monologues to himself—or well, the player—as if he’s writing a book. Those monologues often focus on the negative image Max has of himself and his screw-ups and failures.
As a character, he fails a lot throughout the story. He might never lose a battle or gunfight, but he fails at plenty of objectives. The story is dark and grim, which stands in great contrast to its setting. Max has left New York and Jew Jersey for Brazil. He fled after killing a mobster’s son and took a job as a bodyguard beside a former cop named Passo who might or might not have been a friend of Max’s.
While Max chews through hundreds of bad guys, he’s admittedly not much of a bodyguard, and again, he ends up failing more than succeeding. These failures drive Max to drink, and he spends most of his time between missions getting hammered and abusing painkillers. You like Max because he tries hard to do the right thing, but you never want to be Max. He’s a man tormented by the death of his wife and child, as well as by his failures.
The game sets up and explores the gritty underworld of Brazil. From high-end clubs with helicopter landing pads to the grimiest favelas they can throw at you.
Max Payne — The Bodyguard
Max Payne is tasked with protecting the Branca family, a very influential Brazillian family. The family is made up of three brothers. One is a businessman, one is a politician, and one is a drug-abusing partygoer. The businessman has a trophy wife, and she has a sister, all of whom max protects from a gang bent on kidnapping them.
What seems like a simple ransom gets tricky fast, with a great conspiracy unfolding as you explore the main story. Most of the story takes place in Brazil, but some flashbacks take us to New Jersey and show how Max got involved with and shot his way through a branch of the New Jersey mafia.
The pacing is constant, with barely any room to breathe. The story ticks along nicely, and the characters are often despicable or, at the very least, annoying. For all of Max’s drinking and drug use, he is compelled to do the right thing and has a strong sense of justice. Even when he could just flee, he doesn’t and keeps pressing forward to do the right thing.
The story is grim and dark but always interesting, with shifting bad guys and villains.
Shoot ‘Em Up
Max Payne 3 is a cover shooter. You’ll constantly be clung to the cover in your environment, duking it out with wave upon wave of bad guys. Your cover varies and depending on what it is, it might not be the best cover as it will deteriorate and break apart, some faster than others. The environments can usually be shot to pieces, and it’s fun to see what bullets interact with.
If you don’t use cover…well, then you won’t last long. The game requires you to use it, or you’re dead meat. You will die quickly in this game, even playing on normal. Health can be rejuvenated through painkillers found throughout the levels, and if you get dead and have a painkiller bottle left, you can shoot the guy who killed you for another chance.
Max Payne also has the trademarked bullet time. This allows you to slow down time and take careful shots or dive through the air, taking carefully aimed shots. This meter recharges slowly and is one of the most useful tools you have in the game.
The game has a number of cinematic moments to break up the run and gun. There is a helicopter sniper mission, a boat chase, car chases, and more. They add a little fun and spice things up a good bit.
The Guns of Max Payne 3
Rockstar did their due diligence with Max Payne 3 and its Brazillian setting. They changed Max’s favorite Beretta 92s to Taurus PT92s, a similar firearm made in Brazil. They used a lot of weapons native to Brazil, including the FN FAL and Imbel 97, as well as the .40 S&W MP5 clone.
We see Taurus revolvers and submachine guns, as well as a number of other believable imports you could find in brazil. From ratty .38 Specials to M1911s, there is a bit of everything. The game has a ton of different guns you can try out, although the variety seems to be locked between levels. I really love the double barrel sawn off, but it seems to only be in a single level.
Most of the guns feel different. The various handguns feel different, the various shotguns feel different, and the occasional LMG certainly feels different. However, the rifles and most of the SMGs all feel the same. I can’t come up with a noticeable difference between the FN FAL and the G36 or the AK 47. They all just feel the same, which is a waste of so many cool guns.
Max Payne 3 is a ton of fun. It takes about ten hours to complete. The game takes you through diverse environments, and the shoot-everything-that-moves attitude never gets old. The dark story and dark characters are a little more believable and real than most video games. It’s a refreshing take that we don’t often get in video games.