Review

Max Payne 3

Through A Shot Glass, Darkly

Rockstar’s Max Payne 3 is a red-eyed fable devoted to the appeal of the anti-hero.

By Russ Fischer • May 22, 2012

Max Payne is a worthless S.O.B., a boozy gunman who describes himself as a “dumb move kinda guy.” Hired to perform bodyguard duty for a wealthy Brazilian family, Max drinks his way through the gig and, to use very conservative terms, things go poorly. Yet however inept his approach to life may be, though, there is one thing that Max can do with aplomb: kill. Somehow this aging, faltering alcoholic wields firearms with such skill that he can out-shoot a room full of commandos, even as his veins boil with a level of alcohol that would reduce Charles Bukowski to soup.

Max Payne 3 follows two games created by Remedy Entertainment and a film in which Mark Wahlberg played the title character. Rockstar Games now has the reins of the series, and the studio’s movie-obsessed producer Dan Houser takes over as lead writer from series co-creator and previous writer Sam Lake. Houser’s slightly re-imagined version of Payne is kin to troubled tough guys like Warren Oates and Humphrey Bogart: a sallow-skinned, heavy-lidded malcontent who creates more problems than he solves. His story is like a clear-eyed version of Die Hard, where the Bruce Willis character is revealed to be not a hero but a psychopath with delusions of grandeur. 

Max Payne 3

Rockstar’s approach to Payne is unflinchingly direct. There is no progression or development. Max begins with the ability to briefly slip into a state of heightened perception called “bullet time,” where his movements are slightly faster than those of everyone around him. He exits the story with that ability and no other, and the dozen or so hours from end to end are a single-minded exploration of Max’s capacity to perform on a physical level even as his mental state deteriorates. Relentlessly narrated and over-dramatized by Payne (whose voice and physical movements were provided by series regular James McCaffrey), the story is an exercise in acceptance and patience. We must accept that our “hero” is nothing of the sort, and that living out his dissolution is made bizarrely appealing thanks to his singular ability. 

The gunplay is technically proficient, as the bullet time effects turn gunfights into geometric art, with intersecting projectile paths criss-crossing in air. Grotesque as it is, there is satisfaction in seeing a chorus line of opposing gang members fall like dominoes when Max exits the slow-time mode. A range of weapons are available, built with slightly exaggerated character and a satisfying wallop. Though that doesn’t pass for variety, it does indicate Rockstar’s thorough examination of this single idea. Houser’s tendency is to drive thematic points home with all the subtlety of a shotgun—sometimes to comic effect, but just as often to inanity—and the entire game nearly follows suit. There is an addictive thrill to seeing the pink mist that indicates a definitive kill, however, and a stiff challenge present in each successive area full of enemies.

Max Payne 3

An online suite of multiplayer options is tonally inconsistent with Houser’s insistently dark narrative, but it does offer a change of pace. Rockstar seems to be trying out options for the forthcoming Grand Theft Auto V, and the online modes of Max Payne 3 aren’t likely to be packed with players for years to come. One mode that includes a dynamically generated narrative line for each game does provide a refreshing relief from the relentlessly downbeat primary story, and it provides a good framework in which to grind online stats to new heights. 

Despite the gutter-ballet tone of the story, Rockstar has built a beautiful model game set. It isn’t quite a world, and Max’s movements are just awkward and limited enough to forestall the sense that anything is really alive. But the depth and variety of detail is stunning, and digital background extras are animated in a way that captures nuance not present in the story’s primary script. While the suite of visual influences is obvious—the films of Sam Peckinpah and Tony Scott, the art of Barbara Kruger—Max’s blurry, awful life does feel whole.

Max Payne 3
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Publisher: Rockstar
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Price: $60
Rating: M

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  • RidleyFGJ

    This game has an annoying tendency to conclude otherwise fun levels with mind-bogglingly bad finishes; in particular, there’s one level near the end that tasks you with having to dispense with about a dozen enemies while having something occurs at intervals that makes your aiming far more difficult and puts you under a time limit that the game does not tell you that you have (an aspect made even more ridiculous as the cutscene that plays after you’ve beaten it carries on far longer than the time limit would have allowed you otherwise).

    • RussFischer

      I think the sequence you’re talking about (rooftop, yes?) is emblematic of the character of this game. It is equally challenging and irritating, but in the end I was mostly won over by it. 

      Most games with a strong narrative drive don’t follow through, in the sense that you can take as long as you want dicking around looking for doo-dads, and the person you’re trying to save (or whatever) never gets killed while you do so. MP3 establishes pretty early on that things are a little different for Max. I assumed the insistence of a time limit in the sequence you mention, because I’d had one in a few other parts of the game.

      • RidleyFGJ

        In those earlier sequences, they had the smarts to have Max comment on how little time he has to be messing around. That’s not the case for this part, and unlike those other parts, you have to do this section in one go or it’s back to the beginning. It’s a frustratingly unfair sequence.

        Speaking of unfair, the Last Stand mechanic is borderline broken at times; I can’t count the number of times it’s failed me because the game sees it in itself to spin Max around the opposite direction for unspecified reasons.

        • RussFischer

          I took the general state of the environment as evidence that I had to stop messing around and get to it. Playing through it many times was a little frustrating — I got to the damn machinegunner a good half-dozen times before I was able to kill him — but it also meant that by the time I got through the level, I was really good at it. There’s a certain bygone PC gaming spirit in MP3, and I could accept that. (Though that starts a different conversation about the aiming system, and preferences for soft-lock vs free aim, and how that factors into the difficulty level.) 

          As for the Last Stand mechanic, I don’t think it’s failing. Max might be shot and spun around in a bad way, yeah, but that’s the physics modeling at work. You can’t shoot the guy that shot you if you can’t bring your weapon to bear on him. and sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

        • RidleyFGJ

          But that’s the point: it’s a comeback mechanic that often goes out of its way to ensure that you can’t come back. I shouldn’t have even qualified as being borderline broken; it is broken.

        • RussFischer

          We’ll have to agree to disagree; I like the way it works here. Personally, I’d be more irritated if I could magically shoot through a pillar or a jeep or my own body, just to make the mechanic work. I can see why you might want that; if the Last Stand mechanic is there, you want it all the time. But in the same way that you can’t use Last Stand if you’re out of ammo, I think not being able to use it if you can’t get a legitimate shot is just fine.

        • hastapura

          Last Stands should have some kind of exit button – if you’re empty or Max is taking way too long to turn around, just press A to die already and reload. As it stands, it’s obnoxious, along with the hideous checkpointing.

        • Aaron Riccio

          @hastapura:disqus : Totally agreed. I actually wondered if they were hiding load times in that, too, because in the multiplayer, you can totally commit suicide if you don’t want to bother trying to last stand someone while bleeding out.

        • Aaron Riccio

          @RussFischer:disqus @RidleyFGJ:disqus : To chime in, I’d have to say that the Last Stand mechanic works relatively well to me — god-mode without the omnipotent part. That said, the difficulty of the game (or my skill) is absolutely brutal at times, and I dislike being forced *into* Last Stand mode: sometimes I’d rather just die, reload from a checkpoint with my health replenished, and keep my painkillers.

          And I’m dying a lot. Chapter IV (the tenements) is the first level where I actually felt competent, so I’ll let you know as I progress if I’m getting better or if that area was easier.

          Additionally, for a game that’s very much about cover, the maps are a bit too linear for you to exploit it. There’s often only one way for you to go. (Excepting, of course, the annoying tucked-into-corners nature of the Golden Gun parts and the evidence.) The online mode has wide and varied levels (like the Favela or Bus Depot); have I just not gotten to their equivalents in the story mode?

        • RidleyFGJ

          My favorite level in the entire game is the last one, as there’s one very, very specific section that’s nothing but classic Max Payne badassery: it’s wide open with few obstructions, cover is worthless for both you and the enemies, and it’s long for good reasons. It’s a deeply satisfying scenario in a game that doesn’t do them all that often.

          On top of that, they could not have scored that encounter any better.

        • RussFischer

          @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus No, the single-player game is pretty linear with respect to level design. There are a couple places — makeshift arenas, more or less — where you can experiment with paths to some extent, but not many. 
          The use of cover is a good thing to bring up, because it undermines the shootdodge. That is, the most practical way to play the game is to turtle in cover and rely on bursts of bullet time. But there’s a suggested preference on the part of the designers that shootdodge should be used more often — it’s the cool part of the game, after all. Some risk/reward system would push the use of shootdodge rather than cover. Even a small reward or buff beyond the ‘cool’ factor would have had me using it a lot more. As is, I played much of the game from cover, because that’s obviously the best way to go. 

        • Aaron Riccio

          @RussFischer:disqus : Yeah, I don’t know how extensively you’ve played the multiplayer for your review (or now that it’s done), but most players online haven’t figured out that cover is absolutely necessary. That said, way too many grenades and RPGs being used to compensate for bad aim, unfortunately.

          Shootdodge, however, seems to be really powerful online. At least, I keep getting smoked by people who use it successfully against me — when I try, I tend to just flop on the floor like a soon-to-be-dead fish.

        • Mike Ferraro

          Last Stand works fine, it’s frustrating when you can’t get a bead on your killer (pretty rare circumstance — less than 5%), but that’s the price you pay for not managing your painkillers manually.  Risk/Reward.

    • TaumpyTearrs

      That rooftop section was even more frustrating because my game crashed twice while reloading the checkpoint. Arrgh!

      Also has anyone else noticed that if you die 3 times at the same checkpoint they give you more health and ammo? Its frustrating cuz it makes me feel cheap, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary when a checkpoint leaves you with 8 bullets and no painkillers.

      Also, the laser sighted weapons suck ass and seem to make it harder to aim which is stupid. I still like the game alot, but there are a number of irritating elements.

      • Stingo the Bandana Origami Pro

        Oh my god do the laser sights suck in single-player.

        In MP you get both the laser and the crosshair, so it’s not insanely more difficult to aim, and the laser is used to increase the accuracy of the first shot. Don’t know why they didn’t use that system for SP also.

      • RidleyFGJ

        For anything with an attachment, you can press Back/Select to disable it. It was the first thing I did when I discovered how shitty laser sights were in the single player.

  • Mike Mariano

    I watched the Giant Bombcast of this game and was really annoyed by the constant cutscenes.  Max Payne 1 + 2 had many goofy narrative moments, but they didn’t take control away from the player.

    I really don’t understand the Hauser mentality of “stop everything and listen to my story.”

    • RidleyFGJ

      Unfortunately, the constant cutscenes are the result of very, very lengthy load times that they decided to hide behind them. We’re talking a matter of minutes for some of them.

      I mean, this is a game that takes nearly 30 seconds to boot after you press start just so it can load a model in the main menu.

      • Mike Ferraro

        I don’t buy the “still loading” message…if you use the Chapter Select the gameplay appears way more quickly than when you’re forced to watch a video at the same time.  Maybe it’s because streaming video can murder the background load times.
        Unfortunately a bunch of the chapter selects load you into a cinema that loads you into the game…so it takes forever.  If you’re collectable hunting you’ll find that you trigger a chapter completion when you just want to immediately get back to chapter select, but you’re trapped in the giant cinema ending and pre-load for the next chapter.  Since the only pause menu option when not in battle is “resume”, it’s actually faster to quit to system dashboard and relaunch the game than sit through the unskippable/unquitable flow.

    • Orange_Wedge

      The cutscenes aren’t incredibly long or boring, they always advance the story in some way without wasting too much time, unlike GTA IV. I may have not minded them so much because I finished Metal Gear Sold 4 not that long ago, a game where cutscenes feel like they are about 80% of the experience..

  • dreadguacamole

    Got it as a rental, luckily enough, because I’d have been pissed off if I’d paid for it. The game just didn’t feel right to me with a gamepad (and I often play shooters in consoles); I’ll reserve full judgement until I can play it on the PC, but the impression I got is of GTA4 slightly optimized and tweaked to offer more of a shooter experience, but not nearly enough.
     It’s overwritten, as always, and Max remains fun (“they shot my second-best drinking arm”) but not quite as good as the other two games, I think. The overall visual style is horrible – all empty visual flourishes, pointless split-screens and dialog bits displayed as words for no reason at all. There’s a reason why everyone mentions Tony Scott when speaking about this game.
     Finally, as others have pointed out, lots and lots of cinematics or sequences where you have very little control of your character. By the third mission I’d had enough of the game, and returned it. I think I’ll wait until it’s on sale on steam.

    • hastapura

      There’s an “aiming acceleration” option that mucks things up. I’d disable it, but you’re right, the feel of the game is off. The cover system can be finicky, and even with the vaunted Euphoria implementation it’s ironic that Remedy offered up a much more solid shooter with Alan Wake – and one with a better sense of humor.

      • Aaron Riccio

        I dunno, Alan Wake irritated me quite often, and I wasn’t satisfied by the ending. That said, the psychic breakdowns, terror, and pacing were just fine, and I’m looking forward to the eventual sequel. (Should I bother with American Nightmare?) But Max Payne is just fine in my book.

        • HobbesMkii

          I’d recommend you get American Nightmare if you thought Alan Wake was a good game. It’s got some flaws (it’s obviously padding out its length to keep development costs down), but I found myself getting really wrapped up in the story.

  • JokersNuts

    Haven’t played it, but seems like a big departure from the Neo-Noir of the original.  Fun to see “Bullet-Time” is a still a thing.  

    • RidleyFGJ

      It’s still very much a story in the noir mode, but it’s a lot less overt about its influences if only because of the drastic change in scenery. I think what made the original games work a bit better in that department was that they also maintained this wonderful dream-like atmosphere that made both the bizarre humor and the shocking violence a lot less dissonant from each other. That’s something that Sam Lake excels at with his writing, and it’s even present in the tamer Alan Wake.

      Dan Houser opted to go for a much harder-edged reality for Max Payne 3, and it shows as there’s no attempt at associating the proceedings with dream logic and precious few attempts at humor, outside of a good running gag with a former cop that may or may not actually be there.

      • hastapura

        The writing is generally awful, to be honest. Houser’s attempts at Chandleresque similies are overblown without any sense of irony, and the relentless parade of self-loathing from Max makes no sense when the dude has just sailed through the air while doling out dozens of headshots.

        Trying to turn the pastiche dialogue serious (but somehow making it even more overblown) and putting it into a po-faced setting does not work. Most of the time I’m waiting for Max to stop his grumbly extemporizing so I can shoot more men.

        • RidleyFGJ

          I never got the impression from the earlier games that Max particularly enjoys the killing, so in that sense, Houser doesn’t really deviate from what’s already been established when it comes to the self-loathing.

          That being said, the attempts at grounding the narrative in reality do grate, especially since there’s such a disconnect between Max the narrator and Max the character. I honestly had no problem with Max’s dialogue (I rather did like the assessment at the beginning of chapter 5 that he gives himself: “I ain’t slipping, man; I’m slipped.”), but his internal thoughts do come across as being very forced for someone who’s painfully aware of the reality that’s lying there in front of them.

          I’m probably not as down on it as you are, since James McCaffery goes a long way to selling even the worst of it.

        • hastapura

          Ahh I should be more specific – Max relentlessly refers to his own incompetence, when the gameplay is nothing but a parade of superb marksmanship. Any mistakes he makes are in cutscenes and out of the player’s hands. That’s not an airtight criticism, but it nags me.

          I do like the voice work and McCaffery gives even the most purple, long-winded lines a weary authenticity. I just miss the self-awareness of the earlier games; it’s harder to buy this Max and his world.

        • Aaron Riccio

          @hastapura:disqus I don’t know, man. The way I play Max Payne 3, I wouldn’t say Max’s marksmanship is all that terrific. ;)

        • http://twitter.com/Daftmouse Mikel Kjell

           I agree with this considering the fact that the ending of Max Payne 2 made Max sound beginning to get back on the right track in terms of coping with his wife’s death. This though? The plot acts like the first two games didn’t even happen, there is one single line reference to Mona and nothing more.

          The original games stories were so great and memorable since they were strange parody and love letters to the noir genre. It was so overwritten it was hard to smile at some Max’s lines and the plot. This though? This is just a straight crime story with Max randomly tossed in there. This could of easily been the plot to any other rockstar game since it feels go generic.

        • http://www.facebook.com/sean.payne.5439 Sean Payne

          When he refers to his incompetence he is speaking of his inability to see the obvious bigger picture and to plan ahead instead of just shooting his way through. He never stops and thinks and is just a homicidal maniac. Also, this game seems to be scrutinized more deeply than others. Don’t let you losing the game influence your opinion. The game is old school hard and it’s refreshing in my eyes.

        • hastapura

          @facebook-100000524892900:disqus He does make some spectacular blunders, sure, and the game never lets you forget that for a second. Anything it wants to tell you, it hammers on forever. 
          And who said I was losing the game? I don’t quite know what you mean there.

        • CivilizationHasFailed

          I’m super late to this thread. But to reply to everyone and @twitter-108328913:disqus in particular, I find this Max to be slightly disappointing because the plot is so impersonal. His wife, then Mona were women close to him, women who represented bringing him back to the light etc. they were redemptive (since angelic figures were so heavily used in the first two games). This time, it’s just a hired job for some woman he doesn’t have any relationship for. The only motivation is for Max to prove to himself that he’s not completely incompetent. The past games were poetic (if often campy) and tragic. There was a romantic aspect there. Here it’s very plain. Although I do like aspects of Max’s character, that they actually incorporated pill addiction (since he’s been chomping them three games now), I do feel like he’s more of an empty vessel with no real purpose this time around.

  • Effigy_Power

    I have nothing but good memories of the first two games and Dan Hauser has been okay in my book since his work on GTA3, where he wrote the best ever sound-track (the radio channels) with Lazlow. The age-progression is a great feature in a world where action-heroes or protagonists in general seem to be stuck in time from game to game. The Noir-ish story has always been fun and the inserted graphic novel sequences were well done.
    As such I am looking forward to playing this on the PC when it then finally made enough money on the consoles, which of course could be a while.

    That said, Max Payne never really achieved the kind of fun I had with Hitman, the probably most comparable tragic-figure, gun-totin’, somber-voiced anti-hero. Gamewise there are the obvious differences between the balls-out bullet-fest and the sneaking, wardrobe-switching gameplays, but the characters clearly have some correlation. Both are in essence shallow characters, scrap-book-pages of decades of action-movies and graphic novels, but both have their appeal because the source-material was chosen well. Still, Hitman, despite being almost annoyingly emotionless, gets my vote.

    PS: Both games were graced with movies that had no connection whatsoever to the over-arching story and both games weren’t done any justice in them. Whenever I think of a movie that would have fit Max Payne, I think of the Clive Owen vehicle “Shoot’em Up” and smile in acceptance. It’s more Max-Payney than Max Payne ever could be.

    • Aaron Riccio

      I liked the scenarios of Hitman, just like I enjoyed those of the original Rainbow Six, but I never had the patience for either. The same applies, more or less, to the original Splinter Cell games, which felt like a fusion of both, or to Metal Gear Solid, which was a slightly faster, arcade version with a story that compelled me to keep playing, ridiculous as it was. 

    • hastapura

      Comes out the 29th for PC.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Don-Lime/100003152173451 Don Lime

    I enjoyed this game but I think it’s just another case of Rockstar using a lesser title to test out the tech for GTA V. Another example of this being the shoehorned sandbox in LA Noire. I think it’s okay for Rockstar to do this but it does sort of cheapen the game, I mean they are decent time-sinks (great in some parts) but they both lack any real replay value. On the other hand however, if they implement the lessons learned on these games into GTA V it’ll turn out excellent   

    • RidleyFGJ

      I don’t think you can blame Rockstar too much for LA Noire’s useless backdrop; Team Bondi was founded from the ashes of the team that did The Getaway, and it had the same exact problem with its rendition of London.

      • Mookalakai

         Yeah my understanding of LA Noire’s developmental woes was that Team Bondi was dragging out the game for many years, and Rockstar finally came in and actually finished the damn game.

        • HobbesMkii

           That would explain why Team Bondi imploded shortly after the game’s release.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Don-Lime/100003152173451 Don Lime

        Really? I always assumed the sandbox came with Rockstar but if The Getaway people were involved it would make a lot more sense… 

      • KidvanDanzig

        Yeah, Rockstar published (or at the very least, did not handle core design duties for) LA Noire, they didn’t develop it. The whole Team Bondi thing is just the latest indie studio disaster story, I think Gamasutra had a feature on it that made the owner out to be the next generation Herve Cain, just a complete twerp.

  • Aaron Riccio

    From reading the comments and Russ’s observation that the multiplayer modes “aren’t likely to be packed with players for years to come,” I’d advise those of you who *are* thinking about trying it to join the GLOG crew. Heck, even if you’re not going to play MP3, you should join if you’re going to play GTA5 and want to help the Gameological Society bring a little art to these online savages.

  • http://twitter.com/Clarknova1 Jason DeMarco

    I hated this game. Crashed my Xbox over and over, AWFUL script you are forced to sit through. Add that to the cinema/gameplay ratio (60/40? 50/50 at best) and it’s easily my least favorite Rockstar “game’ in years. Stop trying to make movies, Rockstar, make games.

    • RussFischer

      I had a couple PS3 crashes, too. And I think you and I have talked about the “stop trying to make movies” angle a few times in the past. Cinematic and gaming narrative impulses can clash in big way; other commentors here have talked about how there’s a real disconnect between what the script tells us Max is, and what the gameplay tells us. 

      I do think there’s an effort here to deliberately engage that disconnect, if only because Houser and Rockstar aren’t stupid. They know the script and gameplay are telling us different things. That said, I think far too much weight is given to the filmic angle of the narrative, and so whatever commentary or ironic observation is meant to rise to the surface rarely manages to do so. 

      • http://twitter.com/Clarknova1 Jason DeMarco

        Yeah agreed. Certainly the cinemas did feel a bit meta at points. But fundamentally, does anyone need a videogame version of “Domino”?? 

        • Aaron Riccio

          How about a videogame version of Smokin’ Aces?

      • Aaron Riccio

        I’ve had one PS3 crash so far, but it was a result of multiplayer — which appears to break down very often, and really needs to fix its game-matching design. 

        Haven’t finished the game yet, so I can’t say how I feel about the divide between gameplay and filmmaking; was Red Dead Redemption better because it allowed you to waste more hours removed from the story? Is Max Payne worse because it forces you to stew in a worsening situation, with no way out, no real relief except for cut-scenes. (Thankfully, no QTEs yet — just some bullet-time sequences to break up the other scenes.) 

        If you just want to play, there’s multiplayer: single player is called STORY mode for a reason.

        And on a side-note, I admire the level-design of Max Payne; linear or not, the range that they’ve shown me of Sao Paolo and Hoboken so far . . . that’s pretty good. 

        • TaumpyTearrs

          I’ve had a number of PS3 crashes in single-player, usually when trying to respawn at checkpoints. I’m used to multi-player game crashes from Battlefield, but one player should not be crashing (unless i am causing a 20 car explosion in GTA).

        • http://twitter.com/Clarknova1 Jason DeMarco

          I never said I wanted PURE GAMEPLAY from Max Payne. I like a good yarn, but Max Payne ain’t that. This is not a game anyone should play for its story. Besides that- Skyrim, Fallout, GTA etc etc all find ways to tell long and engaging stories (with varying degrees of success), yet leave plenty of time for, y’know, actual gameplay. Which is the point of a GAME, right? If I want to watch a 15 hour film, I’ll call Bela Tarr. Perhaps more to the point- does anyone on earth want a 15 hour Tony Scott movie? Maybe, but not me.

        • RussFischer

          DeMarco gets points for the Bela Tarr mention.

        • KidvanDanzig

          I think RDR was good because it indulged Rockstar’s Film Appreciation 101 impulses but imposed stylistic restraint. It felt like a proper revisionist western.

        • Aaron Riccio

          @KidvanDanzig:disqus : I dunno, I feel as if there’s some stylistic restraint applied here, and I’m really enjoying the set pieces, from the stadium to the office to the winding streets of the Favela. And, as should surprise no-one, the music is excellent (particularly in the introduction to Chapter VII). Likewise, to those bemoaning the lack of humor, watch the TV clips whenever you have a chance. Good times with devil babies and super-heroic Baseball Bat Boys.

        • KidvanDanzig

          @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus Restraint applied in what sense? I would look at the gorecams or the flashing talk bubbles added for emphasis and consider them indulgent.
          And fwiw, I thought the TV segments were (a) not successful at being funny (though they certainly tried) and (b) incongruous with the game in the same way the fake talk radio stations were in GTAIV – their hyperbolic black humor (kittens delivered to your door in a box!) didn’t jibe with the fundamentally self-serious tone of the narrative.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-John-Agnello/1362601810 Anthony John Agnello

    Question: What would you think if Rockstar made a game devoid of dialogue? It can still tell a story, but it has to do it without characters talking to each other at all. It’s not Houser’s plots or his characters that are the problem, it’s what comes out of their mouths. I think his dramatic ambitions would be better served by trying to let the action speak for itself. Do you need dialogue in the ending of Red Dead Redemption to get the impact of that moment? Does Max need to prattle on for you to know he’s falling apart?

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      I think it would be really interesting to do a video game in the vein of WALL-E. (No, I don’t mean the movie tie-in game.) No dialogue, just bleeps and bloops. I guess Journey fits the bill, but not being a PS3 owner, I haven’t been able to experience it for myself.

    • KidvanDanzig

      That’s a question worth asking of any narrative designer. It’s sort of cliche but you could definitely point at something like Shadow of the Colossus as a game that conveys narrative content without any dialogue at all. 

      Probably the most brilliant thing about Bioshock is its immersion-building through everything that isn’t dialogue. The first time you roll up on a toilet and realize you have to pay money to use the bathroom in Rapture conveys more about its nature as a fully realized product Andrew Ryan’s objectivist philosophy than any audio diary.

  • ShitMcFuckensteinAVC

    Kind of surprised at the negative reaction. Thought this game was awesome. Also surprised no one has mentioned how unsettlingly brutal it can be. It starts out with a terribly burned man missing an arm struggling for his life.

    • ElDan

      Yeah, that caught me off-guard. The amped-up graphics mess awkwardly with the Bullet Time mechanics to offer you a gameplay experience where you can control the speed of a very graphic gunshot-to-the-face and really bask in the gore, if you choose to do so.

      • dreadguacamole

         There’s a sniper game that shows you people’s testicles being blown up.
         Here you go – at around 0.45:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XeP2t6dSzk

         You’re welcome!

        • HobbesMkii

           Sniper Elite sucked so bad. I can’t believe they made a sequel.

        • dreadguacamole

          @HobbesMkii:disqus I never played either game, but it’s apparently implying that the testicles are bones. Best Game Ever!

        • Mookalakai

           Correction, there’s a sniper game that let’s you shoot Hitler in the testicles.

      • jondavid666

        Off-topic and all but I hate this Gameological font. What’s with all the spacing? Gamers are used to reading badly translated wall-of-texts.

    • dreadguacamole

       That scene was incredibly cringe-inducing, and I consider myself to be very jaded to videogame violence at this point. Well done, Rockstar.
       The other thing I’ll praise unreservedly is the soundtrack. just awesome.

    • Stingo the Bandana Origami Pro

      Yeah, I’m having a huge amount of fun with the game, single- and multiplayer both, flaws be damned.

  • jimboch02

    I guess I never played original Max Payne when it came out, so I picked it up for iPad.  Ton of fun, highly recommend.  And only $5!  

    • ElDan

      WalMart was giving away the first one on XBOX Live Arcade if you bought 3 there. I got it, but haven’t played it yet.

      I hate supporting Walmart, but they usually have some pretty great launch-week package deals with their game releases.

  • Brian J

    I think it’s a terrific game, but I definitely would have upped Max’s ability to take damage on Normal to the same level as in MP1 and 2 because really using any of his superpowers outside of ‘hide behind an object and pop up’ exposes you to getting ripped up by enemy fire, of which there tends to be a lot of it all the time.

    It’s definitely the most satisfying gun porn that I’ve seen in a really long time and I’ve found that I really enjoy games where you play a complete disaster of a person (with the only other ones coming to mind being Metal Gear Solid 4 and The Witcher games, but I’m sure there are others.)

    • Aaron Riccio

      Catherine. (I just like to squeeze that in whenever I can.)

      But yeah, the flawed hero is a terrific one. And if you think taking damage on Normal is bad, I’m playing through my first time on Hard. I am looking forward to breezing back through on a second playthrough to collect the evidence and golden gun parts that I missed. 

      Also, has anybody said anything about Arcade mode yet? @RussFischer:disqus ?

      • hastapura

        I’m doing my first playthrough on hard…it’s incredibly frustrating but I’m on Chapter VII and can’t stop now. I’ll just have to rely on the booze and the pills to get me through.

        • Brian J

          I’m actually already looking forward to my second playthrough and I just started Act III. I guess I’m just another washed up piece of shit has been who can’t lift his eyes from the bottom of the glass to see any other way out but by the bullet.

        • Aaron Riccio

          Yeah, on hard I really do feel as if my nerves are as frayed as worn-out shoelaces, my rhythm is blood-shot, and my heart is as thick as whiskey. So there’s that.

      • RussFischer

        I like the arcade mode. Granted, all the assets thrown at the Story mode suggest that’s what Rockstar really cares about, so it’s what I prioritized. And I felt like I got most of what I wanted out of the gunplay in that mode, so I don’t know if I’ll go for a 100% run on Arcade. 

        It’s frustrating to not be able to always skip through the cutscenes in Arcade, since they’re still disguising load times. The score function helps push the use of shootdodge somewhat, and I like how hardcore the game is about tallying points. (You’re docked for using painkillers, for example.) But when I can see a global leaderboard high score that I know I’ll never beat or even approach — I just don’t have the time — I’m discouraged rather than pushed forward.

        I guess it is a good way to explore the pure solo action of the game, especially with the difficulty cranked. Maddeningly difficult at times, but that’s the point, right? There are a couple golden guns I still need (still not really sure what the point of those was) and I might get them from Arcade rather than replaying single levels in Story.I’ll join the GLOG crew for online, though my upcoming schedule means I’ll barely be able to play until about mid-June. 

        • Aaron Riccio

          By the time you’re ready to play with us in the GLOG crew, we might even actually be decent! ;) But yeah, all are welcome. As others have said, the crew feature itself is cool — I designed a logo, which is more than I’ve done for any other game — and extends into other Rockstar games, so even if it’s all just prep for GTAV, it feels worthwhile.

          EDIT: Thanks for answering about the arcade mode, though if I’m going for high scores, I’ll certainly NOT be wasting time there trying to hunt them down in every nook and cranny. (And especially not in the returning “New York Minute.”)

          As for the golden guns, they’re a tint you can put on your weapons in online play. Like your experience rating, all it really shows is just how much time you’ve spent playing the game.

      • Staggering Stew Bum

        I started playing on Hard difficulty but got stuck on a bit in Chapter III. I reasoned this game should be played arcadey run and gun, and this was impossible to do on Hard. Plus it wasn’t any fun, which is the important part. So dialed back the difficulty to Medium and kept free aim and it’s been much more enjoyable since. Have just got to the bit where Max prepares to enter a Heisenberg lookalike contest.

      • LennyLeonardo

        New York Minute is awesome. It really encourages you to charge into fights and leap around like a mental. It’s a nice change of pace from story mode, especially if you played through it on hard.

    • Mookalakai

      I think you tend to play a horrific sociopath in just about every video
      game nowadays, and only a few games really acknowledge that.

  • supercrotchinator

    Any chance that games will start getting a letter grade?

    • Aaron Riccio

      That comment took longer to arrive than usual; did it travel via slow-motion effect? 

    • Mookalakai

       When will comments start getting letter grades? I’d give you an A- for being frank and humble in your request, but dock you a bit for asking an oft repeated question..

    • http://www.onelinetaxcode.com/ root (1ltc)

      Any chance you’ll be able to form your own opinions and not need a letter grade to explicitly tell you how the reviewer felt about the game?

      • blue vodka lemonade

         I like letter grades because they’re generally easy to interpret. A review can express all the highs and lows of a game, but having a rating next to the review helps to get across the balance of highs/lows, if that makes sense.

  • JReich

    I’m not a big online play guy, but I am really digging the multiplayer in this. It’s actually the first time I’ve played deathmatch in anything and felt like I had half a chance (I’m playing in Rookie “soft lock” aim mode, which is great for n00bs like me). The multiplayer seems to really reward smart use of cover, and the team modes naturally encourage strategic team play instead of just devolving into free for all shootouts. I’m still regularly getting picked off by 13 year olds, but at least I’m enjoying it. The grinds and achievements work well, and Gang Wars is cool too.

    And as @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus said, check out the GLOG crew. I haven’t seen any fellow GLOGers online yet (I’m on Xbox but I think most of the other crew members are on PSN) but the crew system is pretty cool. Already getting me excited for GTA5.

    • Aaron Riccio

      The one problem with team play, aside from being lumped in with uncooperative thirteen year-olds is that few people have mics, and fewer still *communicate* with their mics. I also don’t see an option to talk only to your team, so coordinating and planning strategies is tough. More often than not, I just follow my allies around, waiting for one of them to die so I can avenge them. 

      Incidentally, I haven’t come close to unlocking hardcore mode, but I imagine I’ll have to buy ID Cards and/or Goggles by that point. With friendly-fire turned on, Sneaky and Paranoia are going to lead to a lot of unfortunate deaths!

      • JReich

        Yeah, I don’t use a headset either so I’ve been using a similar strategy. I was just impressed that I could actually get through a multiplayer game with an only *somewhat* embarrassing kill/death ratio. It just feels like rookies can still get a lot out of multiplayer without it just being an exercise in frustration.

        As a side note, I had to Google search to figure out what the hell the “bursts” actually do. I still think there are some features of multiplayer I’m missing simply because they aren’t explained. Like, is the “Intuition” burst actually useful?

        • Aaron Riccio

          Yes, although some are geared more for Hardcore mode than others. Intuition makes all the enemies visible on the map, useful when they’re using Sneakers and Camo Vests to drop off your mini-map, but especially useful in Hardcore mode, which ONLY has a mini-map when someone uses Intuition. 

          The easiest bursts to use, though, are the offensive ones. Bullet Time and the armor-piercing ones are obvious, and Sneaky and Paranoia can be devastating on large maps on which you haven’t memorized everyone’s name.

          The leveling-up of these skills, though, makes some of these difficult to use as novices.

        • ryanthestormout

          I’m always pretty terrible at multiplayer games, but yeah, Max Payne’s multiplayer is a lot like Uncharted in that it’s surprisingly layered and user friendly. It’s also ridiculously addictive at times, although the best modes don’t come until you’ve killed your first fifty guys, so I can see a lot of people who aren’t so good at multiplayer games throwing in the towel pretty early.

  • KidvanDanzig

    Besides the fact that its best tricks were nicked from that John Woo / Chow Yun Fat game “Stranglehold” from way back (which wasn’t all that great itself), this was a huge disappointment. Remedy had created MP as a tongue-in-cheek noir sendup, which was its biggest strength, and probably the biggest strike against MP3 is that it entirely jettisons the form, save for the purple narration.

    It’s got the same problem that GTAIV had and Red Dead Redemption avoided solely on the virtue of its novelty – Rockstar as a developer is slavishly devoted to post-Tarantino crime pulp, and they’ve acquired sophisticated enough tech that they can just recreate the look and feel of it and drop the (admittedly Sam Kinnison-esque) humor of their earlier games for Very Serious Weightiness. But rather than recalling Tarantino or even Troy Duffy their games resemble the sort of direct-to-video crap that Harvey Keitel started making after Reservoir Dogs. MP3 is dour, lifeless, and in love with itself in the same way GTAIV was. They didn’t even get the humorous TV segments right. It feels like playing a latter-day Frank Miller comic. It sucks.

    That said, the ubiquity of cover mechanics in third-person shooters is not for nothing, and it’s a welcome addition to the series here. That’s about all I can say for it. The death-cam bullet time trick wears off quickly, the environments are varied until you get to the shipyard at which point everything blurs into the same rusted tin shantytown / dilapidated industrial milieu, the narrative is slack and lacks forward momentum (Max keeps saying the same goddamn things over and over and over but it never feels like it explains what’s happening in the plot). It’s a big shiny mess. What a disappointment.

    • hastapura

      *low growl* “Standing in front of another dead girl that needed my help.”

    • dreadguacamole

       Stranglehold was the follow-up project from the team that made Second Sight.
      Man, was I disappointed…

    • TaumpyTearrs

      How did they take game mechanics from Stranglehold when Stranglehold took those same mechanics from Max Payne 1 and 2?

      Also, the cover system often screws up the fast paced gameplay the previous games were known for. To many sections of the game force you to use cover or you get shot to shit, preventing the bad-ass bullet ballet this game should embrace.

      I felt the narration was just as over-the-top and funny as the previous games, i laughed out loud a number of times and so did my fiance who was sitting by me playing sudoku.

      I still have some problems with this game, but apparently they are the exact opposite of the ones you have.

      Fuck the ubiquitous cover mechanics of modern games, they make for boring gameplay. Atleast they ignored the regenerating health of modern shooters.

      • ryanthestormout

        I like the cover mechanics. They make the game feel more John Woo-ey. I only wish there was a “have melodramatic conversation with your enemy while you’re on opposite sides of a concrete pylon” button.

        Also, jumping from behind cover in slow motion and acing dudes at just the right moment is ridiculously satisfying.

        • TaumpyTearrs

          After some reflection, i agree with your statement, but I am still wholly against the many sections where you are stuck in cover and there are to many enemies to far away for you to jump out without being killed.

  • http://twitter.com/SeannyBoy Sean Smith

    Was all that angel/demon stuff happening in the Max Payne movie really happening, or was that just Max being crazy or something? I watched it and honestly can’t remember.

    What I really took away from the film is Mila Kunis in all black leather rocking two MP5K’s. That worked for me.

    I never played the first two games, but the ads for this installment couldn’t look more different than the movie. Which is probably good.

    • http://twitter.com/MRB37 Marc R. Barrington

      I’m pretty sure they were drug hallucinations. I remember seeing it in the film trailer and thinking while it looked cool as hell, it didn’t make much sense in a Max Payne film.

  • Thurston Capps

    I thought it was a pretty good game, both the single player and multiplayer. While I enjoyed Gang Wars, I actually had more fun with the Payne Killer multiplayer mode.

    I think the last chapter of the single player is probably going to end up being one of my favorite final levels (I didn’t really enjoyed the boss fight too much though.) It has the only really large and open arena in the game, and its all set to “Tears”

    Simply great.

  • Abernati

    This didn’t really feel like a Max Payne game to me. I felt like I was playing a less cartoonish version of Uncharted, or a long, extended and hyper-polished GTAIV mission.
    The sometimes frantic and incomprehensible action, along with the rail-shooting moments made it even feel like a third person Call Of Duty.
    I guess Rockstar got too influenced by contemporary games, and forgot to stay true to the first two games.

  • Abernati

    Love the music, though. The one that goes with the loading screen is great (thankfully…), so are “Pain”, “Birth”, “Panama”. And the theme, of course.

    • LennyLeonardo

      The music during the final shootout is astonishing. What’s it called?

  • hastapura

    Interesting catch with the Kruger reference. 

  • ryanthestormout

    I got this game on the first day, mainly because I love John Woo movies and Michael Mann. I’d played a little of the first two games and I liked them a lot, but I never finished them for whatever reason.

    Here’s the thing, I’ve played through it twice now and have been wrecking my ass on Arcade mode and multiplayer. It hasn’t left my XBox since it came out. I never get that into games, but there’s something really tactile and simple about the game mechanics that makes using them in creative ways a real pleasure.

    Basically, what I’m saying is that this is the first time since Vanquish that just the basic mechanics of a game gave me a huge erection.

    • ryanthestormout

      Also, while I missed the weird psychedelic craziness (although I didn’t miss the blood maze and, in fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why I gave up on the first game) I like the theory that (spoilers) the cop from North Dakota and the skeezy pervert are both parts of Max’s psychosis. The cop represents what could have been if Max had taken his wife and daughter somewhere safer and the douchebag is what Max would have been if he’d never gotten married at all.

      • LennyLeonardo

        I feel more or less the same about this game as you do, and while it’s very different from Vanquish, I agree that it fills a similar sort of hole.

        Plus, Passos is totally Max pre-wife murder, and Max’s chance to help someone have a better life than he did. And thus become Rockstar’s latest grizzled old psyco-man to redeem himself through shooting guys.

        • ryanthestormout

          True story. I hadn’t really thought about the whole Passos thing but it works. I had just thought of him as that “betrays the main character but isn’t a bad guy and underlines the moral ambiguity of the story” grey character that’s so important to stories like this that are, in all actuality, pretty black and white as far as the moral concerns are… concerned.

  • GBoxW

    Hey everyone!  

    So this thread is probably old news, since it’s one from off the main page, as I type.  BUT, anyone who reads this should join the Gameological crew on MP3.  Just go to    http://socialclub.rockstargames.com/crew/gameological_crew

    Even if we don’t play together, it’ll be good to have a common ground for XP and game tips.

    Xbox Gamertag: GBoxW

  • GBoxW

    And thanks to illogicaljoker for setting it up and making a killer emblem.