Max Payne 3Overview -
It’s been nearly a decade since Max Payne, the grief stricken, pill popping, steely voiced, noir-infused NYPD detective graced the console of gamers around the world and much has changed on both sides of the screen: gaming technology has advanced tremendously, for Max himself, the days of New York City streets are long gone, replaced by the chaotic world of South America, and one question is on the mind of longtime fans: why the hell does Max have a full beard and a bald head?
“Max Payne 3” doesn’t make any huge leaps forward in terms of graphical prowess. The game is best described as visually competent in categories, with a few technical hiccups, but a number of little flourishes to the presentation that make it standout in a sea of truly revolutionary visual experiences.
Character models are fluidly designed and Max in particular is animated proficiently; however, occasionally while in shootdodge mode, Max gets stuck on environments resulting in momentary animation errors. NPC characters aren’t as detailed and as a whole only varied depending on which faction you’re going up against at any given time. Death animations can suffer hiccups from time to time too. None of this is game crippling and infrequent as a whole, but when Max stops for a second or two on part of a chair, it does break the immersion factor.
The framerate of the game is absolutely astounding, holding up even with large numbers of enemies and in some cases intense scripted explosions and flame effects. Multiplayer does experience the occasional hiccup and its worth noting, things online, visually looks just a tad scaled back from the single player portion. What is most impressive though are those previously mentioned visual flourishes which are a sign of Rockstar going the extra mile to pull you in Max’s world. The most apparent visual flourish is Max himself, his clothing becomes damaged where appropriate, bullet holes and blood stains appear the more damaged he becomes and in one set of levels a wound to his arm bleeds more heavily after key set-pieces and when bandaged through a cutscene, there’s eventual blood seepage. It makes the player care for Max and particularly in the final levels, question whether our tired hero will make it out alive.
“Max Payne 3” represents what companies should do when they don’t have the time or prowess to reinvent the wheel. It takes what works, makes sure it works smoothly and finds a way to add a few key signature elements. The journey into the Brazilian underworld we follow Max on is heavily visual and the solid presentation on Rockstar’s part makes it a little more believable despite the stylized antics of Max himself.
It’s easy to falsely claim “Max Payne 3” sports flawless sound design, since James McCaffrey’s pitch perfect narration dominates a large portion of the game, but one voice actor doesn’t carry the whole weight. McCaffrey aside, the other talent fit into their roles nicely, however, in the flashback sequences, the over-the-top hammy performances from those voicing members of the De Marco mob, while appropriate for the past two games, feel slightly removed from everything else here. Sound effects are realistic but with so much chaos, overall sound design can become an auditory jumble; thankfully surrounds are used effectively to try and track unseen assailants. The game’s dark, brooding score provided by the band Health is perfectly mixed, with an amazing electronic track making a final level set-piece make the game make a seamless leap into living action movie.
“Max Payne 3” is a dirty, mean, and intense third-person action epic. It’s the rare sequel that surpasses its predecessors in every fashion. It’s quite fitting for the series to evolve as much as this entry has, given Max’s own nature to try and reclaim the past. It’s refreshing to experience a thoughtful, multi-hour single player campaign, even though on repeated playthroughs the lengthy cutscenes can grow tedious as many mask level loading times. The game is simply put, a living action movie and a fitting close to a series many gamers have either not experiences or sadly forgotten, but one that will hopefully stay alive through its unique online multiplayer experience.
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