Enemies are accurate and Payne can't take many bullets before croaking it, meaning that later in the game the acrobatics need to be reined in a little. There's nothing more frustrating than ending a Shoot Dodge to find Payne lying on the ground in a room of gun-happy goons. Checkpoints can sometimes be erratically placed with several sequences of varying difficulty between each one. After a few deaths you're given extra painkillers and ammo, which is handy, but is essentially an admission by Rockstar that the game's balancing is not quite right at times, with a combination of bullet sponge enemies and the occasional grenade spammer making some later sections frustrating, even on normal difficulty.
One thing Max Payne 3 can't be faulted on is presentation. From the opening title screen to the way it indicates game over, Max Payne 3 looks slick and assured. Payne himself is a mess, jacked up on painkillers and half-cut most of the time, and this is reflected in the game's visual effects. Blurring, doubling and flashes of colour all mirror Payne's fractured state of mind, and though slightly off-putting at first, its continued application lends the world a nightmarish quality despite its colourful environments. While the graphics themselves won't blow you away, there's never too much going on for the engine to handle and technical issues such as framerate drops and screen tear never rear their ugly heads.
He still looks the business...
The audio is outstanding, from the excellent score and meaty sound effects to the perfect delivery of James McCaffrey. He plays Payne as understated as possible, managing to deliver lines like, 'this place had more smoke and mirrors than a strip-club dressing room,' in a gruff and weary manner without descending to the level of hard-boiled caricature.
In the nine years since Max Payne 2 was released multiplayer modes have become standard, so it should come as no surprise to see one in Max Payne 3. The real surprise is that it doesn’t feel shoehorned in for the sake of it. A lot of time and effort has clearly gone into multiplayer, with Rockstar hoping to see this competing with the big boys for online gamers’ time.
All the usual deathmatch varieties are on offer, but Gang Wars mode steals the show. In a similar vein to Uncharted’s multiplayer, Gang Wars attempts to integrate narrative into proceedings with cutscenes and objectives that change dynamically depending on what happens in each round. After four rounds of claiming territory, defusing bombs and assassinating members of the opposing gang, the final round is a classic deathmatch, made more involving by the rivalries and partnerships developed during the previous rounds.
Perks are called Bursts and though some are straight rips from other games the majority are gleefully deviant in their application. For example, Paranoia temporarily makes teammates appear as enemies, creating pandemonium and confusion among those affected. Unlockable perks and weapons along with Rockstar‘s Social Club act as incentives to keep people playing, but it’s hard to tell right now whether it can wrestle players away from CoD and Battlefield in the long term.
Gratuitous shot of Max firing a gun. You're welcome.
Max Payne 3 is an accomplished return for one of gaming’s unluckiest and most downbeat protagonists. The restraint shown by Rockstar in not tampering with the core gameplay has paid dividends, delivering a simple, yet rewarding shooter with no pretensions of being anything else. Occasional difficulty spikes can be annoying but don’t ruin the overall experience. And the move to Brazil is a triumph, not only working thematically, but injecting colour and variety into a genre typically dominated by muted greys and browns.
In short, Max Payne’s back and he deserves a warm welcome.