Up Up Down Down: Max Payne 3
Before people's pants regions were burning up in anticipation for Grand Theft Auto 5 in 2013, Rockstar's big game was none other than Max Payne 3. Released in 2012, the game put an end to the years of speculation and development hell talk that had been going around in regards to the series. It's sold over four million copies, but Max Payne 3 is still largely considered a sales failure. That's actually a tad on the depressing side, because this is a quality shooter worthy of the Rockstar name.
Well, whether you bought the game or not, we're going to take a look at some of the things that make it one of Rockstar's finest endeavors in terms of quality. We'll also discuss a few glaring issues that aren't necessarily deal breakers but stand out nonetheless.
Up Up: Shoot all the dudes
The Max Payne games of old were no-nonsense third-person shooter affairs with one main objective: shoot all the fools that get in your way before they shoot you. The same holds true here, though a bit of modernization has been employed to ensure that Max Payne 3 doesn't feel archaic. You've got moments where you need to take cover from the intelligent AI offense, but even then, what you're doing the majority of the time is diving in sexy slow motion and shooting up all the dudes. This frenzied action is true to the series' roots, and it just feels right.
Down Down: Not exactly evolutionary
Despite the sweet Bullet Time gameplay, not a lot separates Max Payne 3 from other third-person shooters. That's not to say that the game is anywhere near bad. In fact, this is a truly impressive effort, and Rockstar's knack for making genuinely enjoyable and undeniably riveting games shines through. Unfortunately, Max Payne 3 can be considered something of a victim of its own genre. While it's certainly a nice evolutionary leap for the series, it's not an evolutionary leap for third-person shooters.
Up Up: Max is his usual depressing self
I've always thought that Max was one of the better written characters in gaming. He lives a horribly tragic life, and it seems like he can never win. For two entire games, Max suffered the loss of his wife and baby, was betrayed by people he was close to, got shot in the head, and fell off a building. At the end of Max Payne 2, there was a glimmer of hope for our dark hero, but Max Payne 3 proved that was more wishful thinking than anything else.
The Max we see in the third game is very much the same brooding protagonist from the previous installments, but now he's much, much worse. He's developed a drinking problem, his addiction to prescription pain medicine is insane, and he's more bitter and miserable than ever before. You can't help but want the poor guy to turn his life around, and the deeper in he gets, the harder it is to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For some reason, though, this intense level of misfortune makes for a character you can totally care about.
Down Down: Mona Sax is treated like an afterthought
Regardless of whether or not you beat Max Payne 2 on the highest difficulty and got the ending where Mona Sax lives, the lovely femme fatale isn't a major part of Max Payne 3, and that kind of blows. I'm not necessarily saying she needed to be in the game, but the fact that she's treated like more of an afterthought than actual important component in Max's life is really disappointing.
Mona was one of the most interesting video game characters of her generation, and she was vastly unique and superior to the crop of other female characters in games at the time. She also gave Max a reason to go on, and she was almost like a beacon of hope for what the future could hold for our otherwise hopeless hero. The way she's handled in Max Payne 3, with Max essentially calling her a big mistake, is a total letdown. And I'd like to note that I still totally think Mona should get her own game, because she's awesome.
Up Up: Soundtrack is excellent
One of the most standout features of Max Payne 3 is without a shadow of a doubt its original soundtrack. Composed almost entirely by noise rock outfit Health, the music of the game captures the noir essence of the series faithfully and beautifully. There's a magnificently atmospheric vibe from the melodically dissonant sounds of the various tracks heard throughout, and much like Max himself, the music is gripping and a bit on the depressing side. That's not a bad thing, though, especially when you've got incredible tracks like “Pain.”
Down Down: Difficulty may frustrate some players
In the older games, you pretty much knew what you were getting based on the difficulty setting you chose. Easy was ridiculously simple. Normal was, well, normal. And the higher difficulties were unrelentingly brutal. In Max Payne 3, even if you go with the normal setting, you're bound to encounter some crazy difficulty spikes. Some folks will rightfully tough it out, but others could potentially experience bouts of frustration. Just hope you have plenty of painkillers.
Up Up: Multiplayer is simple but surprisingly fun
I'm 100 percent certain that I spent more time playing Max Payne 3 than any other game back in 2012. While 12 to 15 hours of that time were spent on the campaign, I sunk in dozens upon dozens of hours just getting online and enjoying the hell out of the multiplayer component. It's simple, yes, but even then, it's pretty slick and just so much damn fun to play. Throw in the series' patented painkillers and Bullet Time mechanic, and you've got a multiplayer offering that's fairly loyal to the Max Payne name.
Down Down: You might not care too much about the multiplayer either way
It may be fun, but with such an overly saturated multiplayer shooter market, it's impossible for the online component in Max Payne 3 to really stand out. It just doesn't have enough bells and whistles to help it shine against other more successful franchises like Call of Duty and Gears of War. The multiplayer in Max Payne 3 is good, no doubt, but it's not the kind of thing that sells this particular game. On the plus side, the campaign is a total blast and worth the price of admission alone.
Left Right Left Right: Max Payne 3 is a satisfying shooter and worthy entry in the series
Max Payne 3 ended up being a great game that didn't get the attention it deserved. Mechanically, it's arguably the best game in the series thus far, and despite its sunny Brazilian setting, it's totally true to the noir spirit of the past two titles. The pros outshine the cons here, and none of the negatives listed above are reasons to ignore this game. Like Max himself, though, this game suffered from a tragic string of misfortune. If you haven't already, you should totally shell out $20 to experience this severely underappreciated shooter.
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