Max Payne 3: Special Edition  (Xbox 360, 2012) Reviews
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Max Payne 3: Special Edition (Xbox 360, 2012)

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Do booze and guns make a nice cocktail? If you’re Max Payne, yeah

Jun 1, 2012 (Updated Jun 1, 2012)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:shoot dodge, dual weapons, Gang Wars, good story

Cons:controls don't cross over to multiplayer well, long multiplayer load times, unskippable cut scenes

The Bottom Line: If you liked the first two games, you would find a lot to like in this one, and if you haven't, then welcome to Max Payne's world.

Rockstar Games is a hell of a game company.  They’re the masters behind the Grand Theft Auto series, as well as other gritty games like Red Dead Redemption and a series we haven’t seen in seven or eight years; Max Payne.  It’s been a long time since I played the original Max Payne on the Playstation 2, I never played the sequel, and I happened to have a new Xbox 360 in time to pick up Max Payne 3.

Max Payne was a gritty New York Cop whose memories are drowning from the death of his wife and child.  I have not played the second game, so obviously I don’t know what happens in it, but events leading up to MP3 have you assuming that he’d rather die from liquor poisoning in a bar or overdosing on pills while already intoxicated.  Nowadays, Max has got into private security protecting the Branco family consisting of three brothers all involved in their own thing in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  From New Jersey streets to this setting is no picnic for Max though as the family he’s protecting holds secrets, and the game starts with one of the brothers’ trophy wife Fabiana being kidnapped. 

As Max goes through the streets of Sao Paulo you can see corruption all around and warring gangs going back and forth at each other.  The story is great and really interesting, and the change of setting from the east coast of the US to the sunny (and sometimes stormy) Sao Paulo changes things up enough to please long time fans as well as welcome newer ones.  The story is full of deception, street gangs, and even redemption and is very cinematic as the game flows seamlessly from gameplay to cut-scenes through the 10 or so hour single player campaign.  This is mainly due to the fact that Rockstar uses cut-scenes to cover the game while it loads, blending story telling and action without much interruption.  I like this for the most part, however when I just want to replay a certain part of a mission over for an achievement or even during the New York Minute mode there’s no way to skip the cut-scenes before you’ve watched a majority of the cut-scene.  Rockstar did a good job crafting the story as it shoots back and forth between the present and little bits of the past that help explain what’s going on in the game.

Max Payne 3 is a third-person shooter that makes use of the bullet time brought to mass appeal by the movie The Matrix in 1999 (damn I can’t believe it’s going to be 15 years soon), and tinkered with in the original Max Payne for gamers to create their own Matrix scenes.  The bullet time works great in MP3 and the levels were designed to allow heavy usage of it.  Bullet time slows down the game allowing you to make precise headshots and dodge bullets, but only if you have enough bullet time for it which a bar in the bottom right of the screen shows how much you have next to your health indicator.  You earn bullet time by getting kills, headshots, and even while under fire behind cover.  There’s also shoot dodge, which sends Max diving into the air as time slows that allows for some creative and fun gameplay.  There is a cover system, but unless you’re on the hard mode there really isn’t any need to use cover unless you’re trying to refill your bullet time meter.  I rarely used cover on my play through other than recovering bullet time, and when I did it doesn’t control that well.  This becomes very frustrating in the multiplayer because it turns into a game where you need to take cover and shoot from it constantly when the game was clearly built around bullet time and shoot dodge.  This is no Ghost Recon cover control, that’s for sure.  There are three different ways to play the campaign depending on your aim preference; Hard Lock, Soft Lock, and Free Aim.  In order to unlock any of the achievements you have to play with Free Aim which is what I played with and prefer, but to each his own play style.  I believe you can change the aim anytime through the game.  The HUD display is pretty minimal, which allows you to see more of what you’re doing and not having your vision impaired frequently.  Your health is just a white silhouette of Max that fills red as you take damage, and you just have to swallow pills that are laying around the levels or stay in cover for a few seconds to recover. 

There are quite a bit of different weapons and if you look hard enough throughout the campaign you can find gold parts for each gun to show off in multiplayer.  The thing about the weapons is that they’re all about the same.  The AK-47 and FAL were my assault rifles of choice because I am most familiar with those weapons, but the other weapons in their categories handled just about the same.  There are plenty of instances to shoot dodge in a room full of thugs and spray em’ down, but I found myself using dual pistols more than I did assault rifles.  They’re more accurate, easier for headshots, and in most cases plain more effective than an assault rifle.  You can carry three weapons at a time; one two handed and two sidearms, but when you dual-wield you have to drop the two handed weapon.  The shotgun comes in handy when you get into firefights with too much cover for enemies to hide behind, and the sniper rifle only makes an appearance once, which sucks.  The chapter you use it during is fun though and one of my favorites early-ish in the game.  You can’t use grenades during the single-player, however you can in multiplayer.  The mapping for throwing grenades kind of sucks because you throw them using the left bumper, and you can only tap it to throw it you can’t aim it very well since holding the bumper down brings up your weapons wheel.  Throwing grenades is slow and inaccurate, so I rarely used them at all, but there are always the people who will use them trying to throw half way across the map for a lucky kill like in Halo

I had the most fun with the single player, and aside from playing through the campaign again on a harder difficulty level there are other modes that revolve around high scores.  Arcade mode allows you to go through each chapter trying to score as many points as you hit headshots and flashy shootouts.  There’s even a leader board for each chapter where you can see where you stand against the world.  The New York Minute mode is one of the more interesting concepts.  You’re suppose to beat each chapter in a minute.  Each kill you get adds time on to the clock with headshots giving the most reward.  I only played a couple of levels, but it’s fun trying to see your best time that you get.  Some of the top players on the leaderboards have some crazy scores, good luck getting anywhere close.

Rockstar went a long way trying to make an impressive multiplayer and they do a good job overall, but I don’t see it being as big as Gears of War or Call of Duty.  First of all, the movement and control is way too slow.  The controls are fine for the single-player because it was built around jumping in and out of bullet time and shoot dodge.  Multiplayer however is much faster paced, but the controls don’t get any better.  Maneuvering in and out of cover and around objects is clunky and sloppy, but if you can get use to that then it can be fun.  Same as the single player, there are playlists under both Soft Lock and Free Aim.  Soft Lock is a bunch of crap, so I primarily play under the Free Aim playlists.  If I’m having a bad game in free aim, I’ll switch to a soft lock game to feel better about myself but even then not very often.   There aren’t a lot of different game modes; mainly shooter mainstays like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Big Deathmatch and Big Team Deathmatch.  There are also some hardcore playlists that limit the use of the map and other gameplay tweaks, but they’re not unlocked until you reach 5,000 kills in multiplayer.  FIVE THOUSAND.  Be prepared to put a good amount of time into multiplayer before playing these playlists, I’m sure most casual players will never see a game in those playlists.  It doesn’t bother me too much, but the steep unlock requirement is sure to throw some shooter fans off who want access to hardcore playlists immediately.  I rarely play in hardcore playlists in other games so it doesn’t bother me very much. 

There are two modes that are distinct to Max Payne 3:  Payne Killer and Gang Wars.  First Payne Killer, which starts everyone against each other at first and whoever gets the first kill becomes Max Payne, and the first death becomes Raul Passos.  Then it’s everyone against them.  Whenever you are Max or Passos, you have more armor and do more damage.  I’ve played some furious games in this mode, but it’s not really my favorite.  Gang Wars is my favorite mode and Rockstar’s smiling moment for MP3.  There are five chapters in gang wars, each ending with a team deathmatch.  The other chapters will tell a bit of a story about the two gangs going after each other through different modes like turf wars or a capture the flag like mode with bags of money.  The modes are fun, especially the turf wars.  It’s similar to domination from Call of Duty and is definitely inspired by it.  You have to control the turf, either one central one for a certain amount of time or three separate ones.  Depending on the outcome for the first four chapters, a handicap is given at the start of the last chapter, and the final winner is determined by straight up team deathmatch.  Honestly the way this mode works, I think that they should have changed having team deathmatch at the end of it.  You play through four chapters of interesting and fun game types, and then the end is just deathmatch.  If they’re going to include a deathmatch then it should be first or in the middle; it just feels weird having it as the final chapter of each gang war. 

You earn experience for getting kills, headshots, assists, etc., which unlocks weapons and abilities for you to customize your own characters.  There are four basic starter classes like the light armored and quick Snitch (the names make me laugh).  You unlock equipment as you level up, however you have to purchase them to use them.  You earn money when you level up and when doing things like looting characters, or even placing wager bets at the beginning of matches in Gang Wars like “who will die the most?” or “who will have the first defense kill.”  The aiming reticule in single player is just a red dot that makes aiming a little difficult (for me anyway), but there are normal reticules in multiplayer.  You have to level up your weapon to customize it with better scopes and stuff, but that’s as easy as using it a lot.  The special abilities in MP3 are called bursts.  There are different kinds of bursts that you can unlock to use like one that gives you a super fast fire rate and powerful bullets for a certain amount of time or confuses all the players to think that they’re on their team.  Each burst has three levels of effects, which are activated by clicking the right thumbstick for bullet time.  You can see where you’re at by your adrenaline bar, which is basically the bullet time bar from single player.  The first level is the weakest, only affecting you, but the second and third levels have more powerful effects of your equipped burst that can help your teammates around you and last longer wherever you are on the map.

I have not got very far in multiplayer, because the leveling system takes forever.  It’s not like Call of Duty where leveling up can be quick.  You definitely have to put a lot more work into Max Payne 3, which is okay because it is a good game.

Graphics and Sound
The graphics in MP3 look great.  Not just great, Rockstar did an excellent job with the game, even the character models like realistic and move fluidly.  I haven’t known them to do very well with character models, mainly for the worlds they create and the gameplay.  MP3 does all three beautifully.  The action doesn’t really slow down (on purpose) that I noticed, and gameplay and story scenes flow seamlessly together without any issues.  The bright colors of Sao Paulo and beautiful scenery provide an interesting backdrop for MP3 and are a welcome change from the drab east coast scene (no offense east coasters).  Rockstar had a lot more freedom with the environments they were creating and it looks good.

The sound retains the feeling that the game is giving off, whether it be sound effects of bullets whizzing by you in slow motion, explosions, or gang members yelling at each other.  The same guy who voiced Max in the first two games returns, and the voice acting compliments the story telling.

Max Payne 3 is a solid game and if you’ve played and enjoyed the first two, I’m sure that you will enjoy this one.  The single player is fun and interesting to play, with modes like New York Minute and Arcade to keep you occupied past one or two playthroughs.  The multiplayer is also fun; if you can get over the clumsy and slow controls.  Gang Wars is a really fun mode, and the inclusion of “Crews” or clans to the game that can be carried over to Grand Theft Auto V should have team shooters fans busy for awhile.

Recommend this product? Yes

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