Section 1: Grab some snacks folks, I'm gonna be wordy
I often feel old, when talking about the Max Payne series. When I was a wee lad back in '01, Max Payne was the hottest shit around with it's neo-noir setting and John Woo influenced gunplay, and the effective voice acting plus the graphic novel setup made sure it's still pretty damn awesome to this day. Even if old Max looks like he needs a shot of bear laxative.
Truely the face of a hero.
After the end of Max Payne 2, we were forced to wait nine years for this game and goddamn if we don't deserve something awesome. And in the end, I would say Rockstar managed to deliver, but they did manage to fumble some parts. More on that later.
I guess I should start with the good. First off, the plot is damn solid even by MP standards, and while you never become too emotionally attached to anything it does still manage to be very entertaining to see how it unfolds. Also, it's damn pretty. The enviroments and characters are all very appealing to the eye, and only a few hiccups here and there temper what would otherwise be a very nice graphical showcase. Rockstar also revamped the combat system, but here's where things start to go south for some.
Unlike the previous intsallments, 3 features a gears of War style cover system, with all the good and bad that comes with it. While it is nice to be able to take a few seconds to breathe, it also slows the frantic run n' gun action that I loved about MP 1 and 2. Also in 3, you can only carry types of weapons at a time. You can carry 2 single handed weapons, which can be dual wielded in any combination, a single two handed gun such as a rifle or shotgun, which is dropped if you start dual wielding. And while Rockstar did handle it all pretty well, it might be a bit odd for people expecting to shove infinite amounts of guns up Max's ass like you could before. They also did away with the on the fly difficulty of 2, to both cheers and hisses, instead replacing it with your standard shooter difficulty levels. Max's shootdodge ability also makes a return, now revamped with the Euphoria physics engine which handles things just beautifully. If you slam Max headfirst into a brick wall, he actually crumples on the impact and falls hard. Not only that, diving off high places or ramming yourself into shit causes Max to take a slight amount of damage and be stunned for a few seconds, making it so you can't just dive willy-nilly.
That being said, walking down stairs is for pussies only.
And the enemies in this game do have scaled AI, so even on harder difficulties a low ranking gang member won't have the same level of accuracy or intelligence as say, a hardened soldier.
Finally, they did away with much of the neo-noir element (still shows up, but not nearly as much as before), brightened the color palette and dropped the graphic novel layout in favor of having flavor text pop up in the real time cutscreens as shaky and blurred captions.
So with a revamped system and a prettier finish, Max Payne fell into my sweaty French grasp.
Section 2: Payne's pain is a pain.
The game begins eight years after the death of Mona Sax, and Max is in a shitty state. Fired from NYPD, addicted to booze and painkillers, and feeling a nihilistic rage and sorrow over the deaths of his loved ones. All in all, standard Max Payne manly angst. For reason yet unkown to the player, Max no longer lives in New York, rather he moved to sunny Sao Paulo, working as a private bodyguard for a family that's richer than stink. The family is made up of 3 brothers: Rodrigo, the eldest and a millionaire businessman, middle brother Victor a local right-wing politician running for mayor, and finally the hard partying coke head younger brother named Marcelo who I hoped would die in the first few minutes of seeing him.
You will learn to hate this fuck like I did.
It all starts during an upscale cocktail party at Rodrigo's place, which is being attended by a bunch of assholes that'll be important later, so remember their names and faces. Max is drinking and venting his sarcastic rage against the rich idiots there with his new best friend, Raul Passos, a fellow bodyguard and actually pretty witty guy.
Seriously, he's pretty cool.
So some local gang members break in and shoot up the place and Max gets to go and save everyone. As one would expect. Then, just a few fucking days later, Marcelo decides he wants to go out clubbing with Rodrigo's golddigging wife and her sister. Of course, things go pear shaped and Max actually fails at saving said golddigging wife this time, sparking the whole spiral into what I found to be both the most irritating yet likable stories in the third person shooter market.
*Warning* expect much mangst from Max to ensue because losing the stupid bitch is "all my fault *vomits whiskey and painkillers*"
To get the dumb whore back, Max and Raul get a bag full of money and fly on out to a football field to make a hostage exchange with the gang. And, you guessed it, it all goes wrong. Thanks to the intervention of some local paramilitaries who plan on wiping out both sides and taking the money for themselves.
For the first few minutes, you are unable to do anything except stagger around and get your interfaced screwed by "shock and bloodloss" due to Max taking a sniper's bullet to the arm. Now, I as a gun enthusiast found this laughable because said sniper was using a Barrett M82 Anti-materiel rifle, something the U.S military uses to shoot through fucking concrete and hit the asshole on the other side. That fucker would take your arm right off, but hey, Max payne is just that badass apparently.
After getting a bandaid on his severed artery, max is ready to go again. But this is where the difficulty curve becomes apparent. The mercs are not only better armed than the goons you've been blowing away left and right for the past half hour or so, their AI is better too. They will flank you, use supressing fire, etc. Did I mention the bastards also wear bullet proof vests?
Aim for their balls, headshots are too much effort.
After barely escaping, the boys head downriver to the gang's hideout deep in the Brazilian jungle. During which, Max reminisces on what actually brought him to Brazil. It all started a few months prior, with Max sitting in a Hoboken bar drowning his sorrows when the son of a local mob boss, who happens to look and act a lot like someone from Jersey Shore, comes in and decides to bully Max a bit.
Obviously a smart move on his part.
After an insult results in a standoff, Raul makes the scene and drives off the guidos who vow to return. Guess what? They do. The kid comes back and demands an apology, waving his gun around. After getting emasculated in front of everyone by a guidette, he slaps her and Max shoots him in retaliation.
It's seriously cathartic to waste this little prick.
Now, after fleeing the kid's buddies at the bar, Max is confronted by the grieving dad who vows to make Max suffer for the death of his son. It's actually not narmy at all, the voice actor does a pretty good job conveying the rage and grief of a father who just lost his only son.
After doing some classic Max payne mobster shooting, you're brought back to the present situation. Saving a stupid bitch who you really don't care about.
After doing some "stealth" the player is treated to a labyrinth of annoying enemies and boats that shoot perfectly straight and do testicle crushing amounts of damage.
Cover will not save you here.
Then comes the boat chase which is really just 10 minutes of the player holding down the trigger on his machinegun and, if you're like me, spewing dialogue from Apocalypse Now. After failing AGAIN, Max and Raul go back home to talk about what to do with the Branco bros. Victor calls away Raul and Marcelo, leaving you alone with the grieving Rodrigo who alludes to being involved in some seriously bad shit. And, of course, the mercs storm the place. After gunning through a small army of the assholes, Max returns to find Rodrigo dead with an execution style gunshot wound to the head, in the seemingly secure office.
Truely an M. Night Shayamalan level plot twist there.
After an bomb hidden under the desk blows the office to hell and wipes out the remianing mercs, who were apparently not the ones behind the death of Rodrigo, Max decides enoguh is enough he'll go sober and save the golddigging bitch employer or no employer.
He also decides to imitate Bruce Willis.
Part 3: Bald dudes, boobs, and booze recovery.
Max, now skinheading it, wades dep into the favela to rescue the stupid bitch from the gang. His first act is to follow a kid who knows "sexy girls" into a street party where he's held up and robbed of everything and thrown into a garbage pit.
At least you still have your dignity.
After talking to a bunch of unhelpful locals, Max wanders into a seedy strip joint in the hopes of finding a pay phone. While there, he encounters Detective Da Silva, a fairly straight chain smoking Brazilian cop who somehow knows where Max is at all times.
"I stuck a tracking chip in your drink at Rodrigo's party. It's in your bladder now, have fun peeing it out, asswipe."
Da Silva lets Max in a few secrets. One, the mercs have ties to Victor Branco. Two, they also have ties to the police special forces battalion "UFE". Three, he's not gonna help you at all because unlike you he still has a reason to live. After shooting your way out of the strip joint, you get to fight all the way through the slums where every single man and their grandma wants you dead.
Max finally tracks down the dumb bitch, and it turns out Marcelo decided to take matters into his own hands and come into the favela with dumb bitch's sister and a briefcase of money. Max, being an idiot, charges right in and inadvertantly causes a massive shaggy dog scenario as the gang leader then blows dumb bitch's brains out.
Cue flashback to Hoboken and more classic Max Payne goodness, and now back to the game.
UFE steps in and declares war on the slum, shooting dead anyone who runs and rounding up the rest. Here, is where the real fun starts.
UFE, as I said before, is the special forces branch of Sao Paulo's police. They pack military grade hardware and their armor is even better than the mercs' making headshots your only real option here.
These guys are a hugely fun pain in the dick.
After fighting through UFE, Max witnesses them haul off dumb ho #2 and Marcelo, as well as witness them sell a whole van full of arrestees to the mercs.
But it's not all bad,Marcelo dies, about damn time too.
After saving dumb bitch #2 you fight through a bus depot full of mercs, towing the dumb whore behind you like an anchor. Did I mention she's knocked up and Raul is her baby daddy?
After a fairly amusing bus segment, Raul ups and leaves you. Fortunately, Da Silva's bladder-tracker leads him right to you and he carts you to safety.
More plot is revealed, such as Raul being on Victor's payroll and the mercs holding their prisoners in a condemned hotel. Da Silva wheels you on over and you get to kill more mercs. Yay.
Turns out, the mercs have been harvesting organs from the people UFE arrests and sells them on the black market. Max has the greatest reastion to the operating room.
So you blow the whole hotel to hell and shoot more mercs on the roof, and right as Max is about to have his skull ventilated by the merc leader, Raul steps in to save the day. Like I said, pretty cool dude.
Part 3: International terrorism is fun!
Max has had enough, with da Silva's help he raids the 55th precinct, home of UFE. A handy prison riot allows him to gun through the UFE troops and reach their leader, Becker, who gets saved just in time by Victor's intervention.
Max, undeterred decides there is only one path left. To commit a large scale terrorist operation on an international airport where Becker and Victor are hoping to fly away to safety.
I can safely say this is the best level in the game. Hard as hell, but extremely fun. You fight across the terminals gunning through UFE troops who have had their guns and AI jacked up to the max all while listening to an awesome grunge inspired pop rock song.
In the end, after a slightly irritating "boss fight", Max gets his revenge and he's finally feeling some closure over his past and the future seems bright.
Part 4: Wrap up
In the end, I honestly enjoyed Max Payne 3, I felt it was a strong end (hopefully) to a trilogy. Now, I don't want there to be a Max Payne 4, and I am slightly afraid Rockstar will try to milk Max Payne like they did Grand Theft. While Rockstar did change some shit around, some for better, some for worse, I felt they stayed true to the heart of the series and made a game that is fun for both series newcomers and for oldfag Payners like me.
The combat still manages to be entertaining despite (or maybe because of) Rockstar's changes, the story flows well enough to hold my attention, the ending is satisfying and overall it's just a solid game.
Now, the single player is a wee bit short, maybe 5-6 hours, and like most games these days, the multiplayer is touted as the best part. I didn't touch too much on multiplayer, because I frankly hate it. I feel it was a bad idea on Rockstar's part to ass competitive online multiplayer to what has traditionally been a very story driven series as I feel it steals attention from the actual game.
I would say this game is worth buying (or pirating, whatever), if anything just for the fun story.
TL;DR It's fun. Play it or don't. No skin off my balls either way.
In hindsight, this isn't so much a review as it was just one big spoiler. Have fun guys!