Rockstar’s Max Payne 3 is not original. It isn’t groundbreaking – other reviewers have pointed out that the only new feature is that Max holds the same guns in cut scenes as he was using in actual gameplay, which, despite being a nice touch for perfectionists, is hardly revolutionising the industry. It isn’t well written, but more on that later. What Max Payne is, however, is damn good fun, and you can’t ask for much more than that.
The story begins with an aged Max working a private security job in Brazil with fellow American expat Passos, but naturally everything goes swiftly tits up and nothing is as it seems with Max’s employers. The story is nothing new, but offers up plenty of scenarios to a kill a metric ton of indistinguishable henchman. The writing, however, is mostly appalling. Max as a character is whiny and miserable to the point of being dislikeable: the writers cast him as a film-noir style wisecracking, downtrodden alcoholic, but his one-liners are flat and predictable. Normally, I wouldn’t focus so much on dialogue in a shoot-‘em-up, but when the main character spouts crap like “this town had more smoke and mirrors than a strip club locker room” it can really hinder your enjoyment, and the amount of cut scenes lead the game dangerously close to the ‘interactive movie’ trap that Metal Gear Solid 4 fell into.
Luckily, the gameplay more than makes up for these creative errors. The controls are simple, never feeling cluttered, assisted by the small, simple choice of weapons that never feel overwhelming. The whole concept and execution of the shootouts feel derivative- even the ‘Bullet Time’ mechanic that the original Max Payne pioneered- but the whole thing is carried out so well and run so smoothly that you won’t care. The action is cinematic, sometimes superbly so, but sometimes feels like it’s trying to match the high standards set by the Uncharted franchise and doesn’t really survive the comparison. The cover system can sometimes be a little cumbersome too, occasionally keeping you confined to one small stretch of wall or forcing you to stand up into a hail of bullets for no apparent reason. The difficulty curve is well balanced though, and even if you manage not to die too often there’s still a good 10 or 12 hours gameplay in the main story. Outside of that there’s an unexpectedly brilliant online mode, and a host of ridiculously precise achievements to unlock if you’re inclined to replay the story missions.
It might be worth waiting until the price goes down a bit, but Max Payne 3 is an above-average shooter that should keep you occupied for a while. The thrill of flinging yourself around in slow motion firing two guns at the same time, John Woo style, is difficult to beat, even if you then proceed to dive straight into a brick wall.