Games: Looking Back At Max Payne 3 – 10 Years Later

With the recent announcement that both the original and 2nd Max Payne games are set to see full remakes with modern graphical overhauls (they’ll use Remedy’s Northlight game engine which is featured in Quantum Break, Control and also the single-player component of CrossfireX), I’ve been both very excited and also fondly reminiscing the original games of the series… That includes Max Payne 3.

Max Payne 1 and 2 are some of my favourite titles ever and although the games are readily accessible even on modern hardware, their graphics are getting a little long in the tooth. Where the first two games shine the most are their wonderful gameplay and storytelling, which are displayed in such an interesting film noir style with comic book panel cut scenes.

Although it’ll be a while before we either see or hear more about either of these games (they are rumoured to be coming as one complete package), I was desperate to revisit Max and fall in love all over again. Step up the black sheep of the family Max Payne 3.

The first two games in the series were developed by Remedy Entertainment and Rockstar Studios, but the third game would see it change to a solely Rockstar Studios development. This change would see some fans fall away but for me personally, 3 is the best in the series.

Although it lost the dark New York almost black and white style previously on offer, what it gained was far better. Releasing in 2012 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, along with a slightly later Microsoft Windows port, it was once again a story-driven 3rd person action-adventure game.  It follows the main character Max working a private security gig in Brazil and getting dragged into a tale of betrayal and gang wars and never knowing just who he can trust.

As I noted earlier the change in setting meant a huge change in the colour pallet of the game, with the favelas of Brazil being way more colourful than the back streets and alleys of New York. Although it was a change from the comic book panels of the story seen before, it’s still pretty unique with the camera cuts and cinematic effects on offer.

It’s heavy on the cuts scenes, but the voice acting of the main character Max carries most scenes. It’s an outstanding performance from James McCaffrey, who returned from earlier games in the series and even provided the motion capture to bring the character to life.

It’s also extremely violent.

I never realised quite how violent it was at the time of my first play thru nearly 10 years ago, but now in 2022 it still stands out as something to be aware of before you jump in. Although the gameplay is a lot more linear than its older big brothers GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2, there were early signs of what Rockstar was going to be able to produce.

This might be a bad take, but jumping back to this game, it actually has much better gunplay that either of those later games. Rockstar really hit the nail on the head in terms of both the cover mechanics and also making guns feel dangerous in every situation. It feels quicker and more responsive than both GTA and RDR and it’s all the better for it.

Other previous features of earlier games in both Bullet Time and Shoot Dodge return, giving the player access to abilities that once mastered can produce some incredibly impressive action set pieces. When it’s all in full motion with the game’s destructible environments, even now it’s still a very good looking game.

Going back to the violence featured in the game, this is much more graphic than what would later be on offer in GTA 5, when Max takes down the last enemy in an area, the game goes into bullet time and he can unload the rest of the remaining bullets from his weapon into some poor old sod. You’ll see bullet wounds appear and blood flow from every affected part of the bad guys (you can even end up shooting them multiple times in areas that you wouldn’t even shoot your worst enemy…..).

The story is a journey for Max and sees him at his lowest point yet, battling both pills and the bottle. Although pills are used as the game’s health packs, it offers an interesting take on whether Max is an adrenaline junkie or even might be on the craziest suicide trip you’ve ever seen.  The story looks at the differences between the rich and the poor and the resentment this can cause in some areas of the world.

It’s deeper than the sum of its parts and if anything I’ve enjoyed the tight 12ish hour campaign even more this time than on my first playthrough.

It does have a slower pace than a lot of other similar action-adventure games that came out around the same time but it feels more cinematic for this rather than heading into Micheal Bay set piece after set piece. It won’t be for everyone, but for those who stick with it, it’s one of Rockstar’s best games.

At the time of the game’s original release, there was also quite a bit of joy to be found in the game’s multiplayer suite. Gang Wars was a great way to waste an evening with you being given a couple of different objectives like assassinations of the opposing gang members or claiming territory, all leading up to the final round of all-out deathmatch. It wasn’t perfect, but it was well thought out and certainly not something that was added as an afterthought.

Unfortunately for all bar the PC version of the game, servers were taken offline in late 2021. Even on PC, the player count is low and you might struggle to matchmake with enough players to have a full game.

That’s a shame but also an unfortunate side effect of the digital world we live in today, once developers decide to pull the plug, there’s not much else we can do than grin and bear it.

Overall Max Payne 3 is a fantastic game that still looks quite special, at least when cranked to max settings on my PC. It’s some of the best cover-based shooting you’ll ever experience all wrapped up in a quick but enjoyable blast thru some beautiful Brazilian settings.

Even if the forthcoming Max Payne 1 and 2 remakes don’t live up to expectations, I’ll be happy to play through 3 at least another few times.

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