The last time I played Max Payne was when I was on a plane to Hong Kong. I finished about half of it on my way there and, while it was a work trip, I really wanted to play more while I was on the ground. When I was able to come back to the states, this happened during 9/11, I played the rest of the game to its completion, putting this game in my mental archives forever. In one sense, it is locked away because of the events that took place in the world at that time, but also because I was just amazed by how awesome all of it was. Bullet time, the whole concept, was new then and anyone who was playing PC games at the time either had the game or heard about it. And then that was it. There was nothing else for years when it came to the next game in the Max Payne series. Some rumors went out and generated hope, but nothing came to. Then, something awesome happened, word got out on the streets that Rockstar Games was taking over the game and continuing the storyline. In true R* fashion, gold was developed with the release of Max Payne 3.
While Max Payne is famous for giving everyone a virtual mind orgasm with the offering of Bullet time, it also gave users a unique noir-ish perspective on everything. MP3 takes this and advances it further with a list of features and enhancements fit for a full semester in college to properly digest and react to. For starters, the nicest update in the game, as well with other games coming out as of late, the transitions between each level is seamless. As each level is loaded, you are presented with a comic/graphic novel style cut scene as Max Payne talks you through what has happened, how he is feeling, and where he is going. All presented to you using the original voice actor that we all have grown to know and love, James McCaffrey. You immediately get a sense as to what the hell must be like going through the head of Max as you listen to Mr. McCaffrey describe how alcohol and pain pills are the only way he can handle the loss of his wife and daughter from the previous games. As you watch the scenes, you get the feeling of Max’s current mental state by the motion blurs that take place, wobbly camera as he walks, and an overall sense that he is not fully functioning due to his current hangover or intoxication levels.
The game starts off with you looking over someone that appears to have had a really bad day considering he is missing a limb, is bloody, and attempting to crawl away from you, giving you a feel that this game is truly going to earn it M rating. From there you are taken back in time to where you and your acquaintance from the past, Raul Passos, are on a protection detail for a wealthy family, the Branco’s. Your main task is to make sure nothing happens to Rodrigo Branco and his trophy wife Fabiana Branco, since the Branco’s are part of the wealthy upper class elite, things sometimes can do south in São Paulo, Brazil, where the main storyline takes place. Unfortunately, things don’t go so well and Fabiana is quickly kidnapped by a gang called Comando Sombra, who, in the end you find out wasn’t just doing a quick snatch and grab for some ransom money. That we leave to you to find out when you play the game.
The controls and the setting for the game take a little bit getting used to, but it is not bad at all. Of course you can modify these as you see fit, but the default key mappings were nice and made sense for the places that they were already set to. The biggest item you will want to make sure you feel good about will be the aiming mechanics of the game. There are three options: Free Aim, Soft Lock, and Hard Lock. Choosing the Free Aim status, this gives you the maximum aiming capabilities given to you by R*, letting you see the fluidity of “fps reticule movement” while seeing this from a third person perspective so that the Euphoria physics engine is at its best. Soft Lock will have your aiming reticule gravitate towards the nearest bone of your enemy when you press the left trigger, allowing you to get a nice taste of the Euphoria based hit reactions are like. Finally, with Hard Lock, this could be considered the easy mode of the game because when the left trigger is pressed, your aiming reticule will move to the closest enemy giving you a bit of time to enjoy the storyline and not have to worry about placing accurate shots during the intense shootout sequences. This of course all comes into play with Bullet time and the new upgrades added to this familiar feature of Max Payne games. Since each bullet fired in the game is generated real time, the slow motion capabilities of Bullet time are a tremendous help, especially when you need to shoot and dodge at the same time. As you move, the Euphoria Natural Motion system is enhanced allowing you to move between the bullets heading towards you as well as react to your jumps and dodges appropriately. If you get in close to an enemy, you can perform a melee on the character causing you to bring the final kill in a slow motion flurry of lead spraying into the opponent you just knocked to the ground. Of course none of this will look good unless you get to have the full effect, from the bullet’s eye-view of the action by activating the Bullet Cams.
The Bullet Cams will be activated when the last enemy for the section of the game you are in is about to be killed because suddenly your point of view is off to the side of the bullet that is travelling at an amazing rate of speed, but slowed down for your enjoyment. You will be able to slow down the bullet’s speed and watch as it enters the enemy causing a lovely explosion of biomass and fluids. Additionally you can keep firing more shots in this mode showing each shot as it penetrates your victim allowing you to view the Euphoria physics do its wonders. Trust me, you will be pleased when you view these Bullet Cams. You will be able to implement your death dealing with the weapons that you can carry. Either from one two handed weapon or from a single or duel wielded single-handed weapons. Nothing is finer than having an Uzi in one hand and an automatic 9MM in the other. The bullet spray is amazing.
You choose your weapons by the use of the weapon wheel, which is brought up by using the LB button and selecting from there. Because weaponry and the bullets they deliver are paramount when it comes to detail, expect to see every weapon highly detailed and accurate in all cut scenes and on Max himself. When the firing happens, you will see the hammers and slides move along with the expelled casings flying through the air. R*, you sirs have outdone yourselves in this arena. Sadly, a few bullets will be hitting you every now and then and as such the only way you are going to help yourself by staying alive is to take your medicine. Since this Max Payne will allow you to use cover actively, instead of just hanging back in previous games, you can duck behind a barrier of your choosing, pop some pills, and then proceed with your life stealing fun until you need to do it all over again.
If we haven’t mentioned it before, visually the game looks amazing. The locale and everything around it is meticulously detailed from the high-class homes you will be protecting your clients in, to the slums of the Favela’s you will be doing whatever you can to make your way through. Time was well spent here and it shows. This isn’t a two-disk game just because it can be one. The audio of course is also very well done. You have your typical environmental sounds you would expect in the areas you are working in, but also the sounds of your guns are phenomenal. Hearing bullets fly past your head and feeling the impact of bullets in the body parts of your enemies could only be better if you were actually there. Just not on the receiving end of course. R* also put in a lot of design and structure with the music used in the game. The choices made by using real world local bands along with commissioning music from the group HEALTH, all adds up to the emotion you feel as you play. All of it truly gets you in the game.
There are a few more game modes that are available with the game as well. For starters there is the Arcade mode which will allow you to replay the levels you have already beaten in the game so that you can try to score as many points as you can in as little time as you can. Your scores will be integrated into your R* Social Club account, thus giving you a chance to show off how good you are, or truth be told, how crappy you really are. Keep this in mind friends when it comes to playing this mode of the game: Kills are 3 seconds to the clock, while headshots give you 5. The main extra mode that everyone will be talking about, and playing, is the multiplayer mode of the game. So far, after playing this a bit, looks like it’s going to be a huge winner with the masses. Bullet Time against your friends, live, how awesome is that!?
The biggest mode of all that you will notice has come with Max Payne 3 is the multiplayer mode. It’s massive and it is completely insane. You may be thinking that this is just another run of the mill decision to where the developers were in their little SCRUM and were like “Hey..are we going to be putting in multiplayer?” To which their managers replied “Yes, yes we are. All shooting type games have them regardless if they are good or not”. Be thankful that a conversation like this in some shape or form took place because R* was able to solve the most awesome of challenges: Bullet time during multiplayer matches. One of the three main aspects that R* wanted to make sure was done right, Bullet time was implemented in a very complex way, yet to the players themselves, is totally fluid. Essentially it is based on line of sight and only affects those players that you see when it is activated. These players in turn who are affected by it can break Bullet time by moving to get out of sight. When that happens, they will be able to walk/run/dive in real time. The ability to use Bullet time in multiplayer is used by the Burst systems, which are special abilities you can use as you increase your adrenaline. Bet you cannot guess how adrenaline is gained? Correct, through the massive abuse of your enemies which entails shooting and killing them, and from looting their bodies. Bursts range from conspiracy, paranoia, betrayal and heroism and these can affect your weapon loadouts you choose before the game or they can affect your entire crew. As we mentioned previously, you can choose your loadout before each round and as such, you will be able to carry the same weapons you could while playing as Max in the single player game.
Because the characters you play are from the game, and depending on the game mode itself, some of the multiplayer modes will work in conjunction with the storyline. For instance, besides the normal Deathmatch modes there is the Payne Killer mode, which is essentially a king of the hill version made specifically for Max Payne. The game will run in the beginning as a normal deathmatch mode, but then a single player is chosen as Max and a victim is chosen as Passos. Whoever is chosen as these two are given extra weapon loadouts because there are now a large amount of players out there trying to kill you. The game plays until all is done with the last person dying and will then restart with the next persons being the chosen ones based on how well they performed from the previous match. Considering you may be running around with your custom created crew members that can be recruited by the R* Social Club website, a major effort that will carry over into Grand Theft Auto V (remember this folks!), you will soon see who your friends really are when you are suddenly Max or Passos and your team mates are out for your head.
Max Payne 3 is a fantastically executed sequel to help rebirth the Max Payne series. Rockstar Games totally outdid themselves and whatever time it took to gather the resources, plan it out completely and develop all of it was well worth the effort. They should make the original developers from Remedy feel good because not only did they deliver a beautiful piece of storytelling and multiplayer franchise, they also didn’t forget the lengthy downloadable content that will be coming out in the following months. Containing massive amounts of new stuff, multiplayer levels, and single player missions, Rockstar Games is in this for the long hall. We can’t wait to hear in the next year or two that the next game they will be releasing will in fact be Max Payne 4 allowing us to get in line for the special midnight release. Well done Rockstar. Well done.