This game brings back a lot of memories. Back in the days when they still released demos I played the Max Payne demo until I knew every nook and cranny. The full game was nearly as good. Max Payne 2 was a slight refinement, but mostly I just wanted to rejoin Max as he took on NYC’s underworld in a drugged haze. Max Payne 3 moves the locales to vibrant Brazil with the grim setting of NYC only seen in a few flashback chapters. I can’t say I don’t miss gunning down guidos, but the change of scenery is refreshing.
So let me start off with the games strongest point: the storytelling. I have yet to see a game with such engaging cutscenes, great writing (I laughed at many points in response to Max’s witticisms)and strong voice acting. This is what Rockstar has been trying to do in their recent games, but only now have they nailed it. The plot is not without flaws. As the game winds down there is precious little seen of anyone but Max and the titular character himself while spending less time drinking his problems away also never seems to confront them. One chapter in an organ harvesting center should have been far more harrowing. Still, the way the story was told could be compared favorably to most movies.
However, the Max Payne games are about shooting mobsters, be they Italian or Brazilian, and shooting lots of them. Here the game again shows its polish with the locations constantly changing and the scenery and enemy placement being spot-on. The major addition to combat is a cover system (what games doesn’t have one now?). I have mixed feelings here. This has always been a game about running and gunning (often in slow motion) and the cover system mitigates that somewhat. Unfortunately, the game throws a lot of enemies at you simultaneously and so you must use the cover system. In fact, this is the hardest game on normal that I have come across in a long time. A side effect of all of this is that the iconic shootdodge is nigh useless. Unless you are dodging into cover, you will get shot up as you stand. Shootdodge had similar problems in previous games, but they were on the whole easier and more importantly you fought fewer enemies and could thus take out the opposition in one shootdodge.
The game also emulates other modern games by limiting your weapon selection. Combined with the low amounts of ammo, you must switch weapons occasionally. However, I miss the versatility of a huge arsenal and some weapons are extremely rare. Finally, I noticed a curious lack of straps in the game so you can not dual-wield and carry a rifle over your shoulder since Max must actually carry it in his hand. This was simultaneously dumb and annoying.
Sadly, I hear this game did not meet expectations in terms of sales. This is a shame because Max Payne 3 far surpasses many of the dreadful shooters that fly off the shelves every year (Halo, CoD, etc.). Part of this is going up against Diablo 3. Deserved or not, Diablo 3 broke sales records and that had to hurt MP3’s launch. The only other thing I can think of is that multiplayer has been panned by the players due to massive imbalances, but I can’t speak from experience on that issue.