Blood, bullets and bullet-time: Max Payne 3 Review

Written by guest writer Jia Wei

Max is finally back for the third iteration of the series, Max Payne 3. This time the developer reins have been handed over to Rockstar and everyone is asking: do they have what it takes to satisfy the fans of the originally Remedy Entertainment franchise or is playing through the game just a Payne in the ass?

The Premise

The games starts out showing Max heavily drinking in New York looking for a purpose in life. The scene then transitions into Max drinking at a party in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Max is as cynical as ever, drinking to forget about his past. It is revealed that he is working as private security for the Branco family, a very rich and politically active family in Sao Paulo. The main members of the family are: Rodrigo, the oldest brother and businessman who hired Max, Victor, the middle aged brother and a local politician and Marcelo, the wild younger brother who is just a rich idiot. Max also has his own partner by the name of Passos. Fabiana, the wife of Rodrigo, is what causes a great rooftop party in Brazil to become a horrendous nightmare for the Branco family. A local street gang has kidnapped her and causes Max to become entangled in the web of crime and conspiracy of Sao Paulo while trying to save Fabiana.


The graphics in the game look great with smooth animation and sharp detail. The game makes you feel as if you’re really in Sao Paulo. Whether you are feeling claustrophobic in the slums or exposed in the open urban environments, the game’s Euphoria physics engine only adds to the incredible amount of immersion. Another nice feature is that loading screens are hidden within cutscenes so that your experience is streamlined.


The sound design is awesome, with a great soundtrack that adds a lot to the experience of the game. American rock band Health and Brazilian rapper Emicida, did a great job and really added to the immersion with the music in the game. The theme of most of the tracks is a sense of
urgency because time is always a concern in a hostage situation. The warping of sound during the slow-mo sequences is also very impressive.


The thing that separates the Max Payne franchise from any other generic third person shooter is bullet-time, and it is a much more refined system compared to the first two games. Diving into walls and obstacles actually causes the player to collide and drop out of bullet time instead of simply sinking into the walls/obstacles. This mechanic is both a blessing and a curse, as it may create immersion but limit the player to diving in open areas. The cover system is very reminiscent of GTA IV, which we all know is another game by Rockstar. Max is able to take cover and gain bullet-time to take on multiple enemies. Also present is a “Last Man Standing” mechanic in which if the player possesses painkillers and is killed, they are given a chance to take out the enemy who dealt the killing blow to automatically consume a painkiller and continue playing. The use of bullet time is an integral part of the gameplay and many parts of the game are very difficult to pass if this system is ignored. The game is built around this system and taking advantage of it is expected of the player to beat the game.


Max is now limited to two one-handed weapons such as pistols, sawed off shotguns and machine pistols. He is also only able to carry one two-handed weapon such as a rifle, full-sized shotgun or heavy machine gun. Unlike the first two games, Max is unable to carry more than three weapons at a time. The limit of three weapons makes the game more immersive and realistic. Unfortunately, grenades and molotov cocktails have been taken out of the game and there are no melee weapons. Melee is activated by simply running up to an enemy and shooting them at close range. A collection system is also part of the game in which you are able to collect golden parts for weapons to upgrade their damage and capacity levels.

Score Attack

For replay value, there is a Score Attack mode in which you can play through and try to compete in global high scores. A time attack mode called New York Minute is also included in which the goal is to get through the game without letting the timer get to zero. You start with one minute and gain time for every enemy killed.


Also part of the package is a multiplayer mode that is surprisingly deep. The amount of customization and level up options along with a burst and item system is sure to have the most dedicated fans grinding away to unlock everything. There is also a playlist filtering for whether aim-assist is present or not. The major concern I had was how they were going to implement bullet time for multiplayer. Rockstar opted to make it line of sight and it works amazingly well. The item system also needs mentioning because it also adds to the strategy of multiplayer. Items such as the radio allows you to see every enemy that a teammate spots and gives an amazing advantage, especially if you don’t notice a random enemy that cannot be shot by your teammate due to them being in cover, but you have full view of.

Burst System

The burst system is interesting because it is run on adrenaline. Adrenaline is what you get for killing or completing objectives in multiplayer. Each burst has 3 levels and each level is a more powerful version of the previous levels’ burst. For example, the Trigger Happy burst grants the
player a more powerful weapon. At level one, it grants the player armor piercing rounds for 20 seconds. At level three, it grants the player a grenade launcher. Saving up adrenaline and activating the burst at an appropriate time is a big part of the strategy in multiplayer.

Multiplayer Modes

Besides Deathmatch, there is also an objective mode called Gang Wars, which implements a story for each faction. Objectives include collecting bags of money or taking over control points. Most of the story is shallow, such as a feud involving a drug exchange, but it is better than having no story at all and just a bunch of random people shooting each other.

There is also a mode called Payne Killer, in which two players are randomly selected to be Max and his partner, Passos. These two players will possess powerful weapons and special abilities. Points are calculated by the number of kills whether you are Max, Passos or generic enemies.
The great thing about this mode is that the player who happens to kill Max or Passos becomes them. This can become very chaotic as teammates can switch very quickly. Obviously, killing enemies will be easier as Max and Passos, so teamwork between these two characters can help you to win or lose. Rockstar also plans to support the game with a ton of DLC which can be pre-ordered for a great deal if the multiplayer is to your liking.

The Bad

Although the game is absolutely amazing overall, there are a couple gripes that need mentioning. Even though hiding the loading screens within cutscenes sounds like a good idea, it makes the scene unskippable. If you die multiple times, there is a good chance that you will be watching the same cut scene over and over. Also after every cut scene, Max changes to his one-handed weapons automatically. What if you wanted to hold onto the two-handed weapons? You have to press the weapons switch every time and this is very tedious. Another thing that may intimidate people is the difficulty factor. Even on normal, dying multiple times may cause intense frustration. The game also suffers from situations in which the stream of enemies may seem like they are never-ending. Unfortunately, during my playthrough I encountered
a couple times where the game froze when loading a cutscene. Texture popping is also a problem in some parts, even though I had the game installed.


So does Max Payne 3 warrant a purchase? Absolutely! Although I mentioned some technical difficulties, the vast majority of the game runs silky smooth. Also, the difficulty curve only adds to the satisfaction of beating a level and especially so if bullet-time is put to good use. Max
Payne 3 is an amazing package and a must play for any Max Payne fan and/or third-person shooter fan.

Final Grade: B+

*Version reviewed is the Xbox 360 version

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Narvin Seegoolam
Narvin Seegoolam 712 posts

Narvin's middle name is FPS....ok maybe not, but he's like BOOM!! HEADSHOT!! I'm hungry...

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