Max Payne 3
Max Payneâs home has always been on the PC. TheÂ original 2001 gameandÂ its sequelÂ debuted on the PC, and though they received console versionsâ"some of which captured the excellence of their PC counterparts and some of which didnâtâ"it was on PC that he first made his mark. Times have changed for Max, and his latest outing hit consoles first and PC second, which may raise concerns about whether, this time around, itâs the PC version that feels secondary and the console versions that feel definitive. As it turns out, such concerns are unfounded. Max Payne 3 is just as gorgeous and intense on PC as it is on consoles, and the pinpoint precision offered by a mouse makes the PC version the best way to enjoy this brutal and haunting shooter.
He takes cover these days, but Max can still put bullets into brainpans with the best of âem.
Wherever you go, there you are. Itâs a truth Max Payne knows better than anyone. Fleeing his New York life to take a job working security for a wealthy family in Sao Paulo, the hard-drinkinâ, pill-poppinâ Max finds that his demons come along for the ride. Though the details of the plot add up to your typical story of conspiracy and corruption, of the rich and powerful preying on the poor and helpless to become even more rich and powerful, the writing, acting, and presentation elevate this tale well above a boilerplate video game crime story.
Itâs hard to stay ambivalent once you see the horrors being suffered by the innocent here, and youâll likely want to see Maxâs quest for vengeance through to its conclusion just as badly as he does. Max reveals a complexity here not seen in earlier games, as he hits rock bottom and must either stay there or face his demons head-on and make himself anew. Other characters, too, reveal a surprising humanity. You might be tempted to write off Marcelo, the youngest brother in the wealthy Branco dynasty Max is hired to protect, as the shallow playboy he often appears to be. But in moments of disarming honesty, he reveals to Max a depth that lies beneath the facade he presents to the world.
Cutscenes use multiple moving panels to pay homage to the graphic-novel-style storytelling of previous games without feeling beholden to it, and the considered use of blurring and other visual effects echo Maxâs state of mind, perhaps making you feel as if youâre the one who has been hitting the bottle a little too hard. James McCaffrey does an excellent job reprising his role as Max, bringing a wider range of emotions to a character who has previously often been one-note. The writing is terrific; Maxâs world-weary wit is as bone-dry as ever, and as he ruminates on things like loyalty and loss, much of what he says has the sound of hard-earned wisdom. Subtle touches throughout the game make Max seem convincingly alive, such as the complex look that crosses over his face at the start of one stage when bloodshed seems inevitable; itâs as if he dreads whatâs coming, but does his best to mentally prepare himself for it.
Max Payne 3 has far more sunlight and color than earlier Max Payne games, but the menaces Max faces here are at least as dark as those heâs faced before. The locales Max has to gun his way into or out of are alive with authenticity and detail. Nightclubs throb with dance music and light shows; children play soccer in the favelas; run-down hotels are packed with leftover junk from their earlier days of luxury. And itâs not all tropical locations and bad Hawaiian shirts for Max Payne here; a few great flashbacks that take place in Hoboken, New Jersey, reflect the snowy weather and urban atmosphere of earlier Max Payne games, as well as Maxâs previous fashion sensibilities, and connect his new life with his old one.
Max hasnât lost his ability to blow bad guys away by the hundreds, but in Max Payne 3, reflecting modern sensibilities and perhaps his own age, he takes things slower and makes judicious use of a new cover mechanic. Yet the addition of this currently common element doesnât mean that Max Payne 3 feels like every other third-person shooter. Far from it. The game is differentiated from its contemporaries by several qualities, not least of which is its unflinching violence. Bullets visibly tear through bodies, leaving holes that spurt blood as your enemies die. Each encounter with a group of enemies ends with a bullet cam, showing your final, fatal bullet soaring through the air and striking its target in grisly detail, and giving you the option to pump excessive, unnecessary ordnance into the poor bastard. Itâs a cathartic and satisfying way to end each firefight.
Bullet time, the defining mechanic of the Max Payne series, lends gunplay a cinematic intensity that remains exhilarating from the start of the substantial campaign until its finish some 12 hours or so later. When bullet time is enabled, you can see every pellet that bursts forth from a shotgun, every bullet that whizzes past your head. Windows break apart beautifully; concrete shatters to reveal the rebar underneath; and all other sorts of believable destruction to the world around you takes place as you and your enemies try to gun each other down.