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Max Payne 3 – Xbox 360 Review

Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Studios
Platform: Xbox 360 (also available for PlayStation 3 and PC)
Genre: Shooter
MSRP: $59.99
ESRB: MA (Mature)
Release Date: May 15, 2012

Review By: Eduardo Zacarias

It has been a long while since we last seen Max Payne, a man that has lost everything he loved and has spent his days punishing himself by taking on the criminal underworld with nothing more than a few guns and some pills. He has been through a lot and it shows as we catch up to Max once again in Rockstar Games’ Max Payne 3 – a booze-soaked, bullet-slinging shooter with more than enough action to keep Max Payne fans more than satisfied.

Nine years has passed since the events of Max Payne 2 and Max has decided to trade the streets of New York City for the more colorful, sun-soaked streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil working private security for an affluent businessman named Rodrigo Branco. Despite his new life and a different setting, Max still finds himself haunted by the ghost of his past and drowns his pain with hard liquor and pills. Working for the Branco clan, Max is forced to see the world as seen through the eyes of Brazil’s elite as well as the poor. Then, Rodrigo’s sexy wife, Fabiana, is kidnapped and Max is determined to get her back as he dives back into the world of bloody violence, corruption and something even darker.

Like the first and second game in the series, Max Payne narrates his descent into a bullet-fueled quest for redemption, revenge and – in his mind – save a man’s wife and thus keeping somebody from experiencing the hell he went through and still goes through every day. Back are the graphic novel-like sequences but these are just to reminders of the series’ hardboiled film-noir flavor that saturates the narrative. This is a story that is well-written, which doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with this publisher, and believe me when I say that the story will make you want to see it through to the very end of its 12 hours or so single-player mode.

Also like the first two games, Max Payne 3 doesn’t offer much freedom to explore your surroundings and there are several moments throughout the game that you will want to do just that and that is mainly due to the exotic locale. Sure, there’s a sequence that will take you back to New York City but it is sun-baked Sao Paulo that is so inviting that you will want to run through its favelas or explore the hot nightclub scene.

It’s the shootouts that make this game so thrilling as Max displays his brand of gunplay and, this time around, it has been tweaked enough that you now have three different aiming options to cater to your own individual preference. You can have Max lock on to the nearest enemy if you like or have him keep track of an enemy he locked into or you can choose to freely aim and shoot at the enemy yourself. Either way, the gunfights continue to have that spectacular John Woo-esque action style with the exception that now you can literally sling hot lead at multiple enemies.

The game is also ultra violent as bullets tear into flesh and shots to the head are deliciously gruesome to the point that you will find yourself savoring each kill. Add destructible environments and you find yourself taking advantage of weak cover the same way the enemy does as well. It’s the return of Bullet Time that will have you pulling off stylish moves and the fact that the Bullet Time meter is easy to fill up you will get a view of the bullet as it leaves the gun and hits its target. Then there’s the return of the Shoot Dodge move that has Max diving and shooting at the same time in slo-mo. This isn’t just a visual feature but rather a tactical one that can give you an advantage in a particularly difficult situation.

There are a number of situations where you will not only feel overwhelmed by the enemy but come to realize that you can’t charge into the fray with guns blazing expecting to shake off the damage you sustain by waiting Halo-style in hopes that your health with return to normal. Sure, you can pop some pills but the supply isn’t unlimited. This forces you to approach a fight with cover and your Shoot Dodge move in mind. The fact that the environment is destructible means that pillar you’re hiding behind could crumble away or that table you just ducked behind could be turned into Swiss cheese until it breaks away.

Sadly, as I mentioned, you will feel like the game is leading you by the hand from one action-packed scenario to the next and if they weren’t so damn fun I’d be really complaining. The truth is that the fights will keep your adrenalin pumping in the best possible way as each scenario adds something unique whether its sliding off the titled rooftops of a favela or grabbing on to a helicopter in flight. It’s fun stuff, indeed, and – as I mentioned – the story is a good one with more than enough colorful characters. My only real complaint besides the lack of freedom is that the game didn’t add any other new features to the gameplay.

What is new, however, is a multiplayer component that is just as much fun as the single-player campaign. It is here that you can on other players in game modes such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Gang Wars and Payne Killer. Gang Wars offers a five-round team match that has you completing fun objectives that have you either protect/kill a VIP or one where one team plants a bomb and the other team tries to defuse it. Payne Killer, those who become Max Payne or his friend, Passos, is hunted down by the other players.

The multiplayer portion adds the Shoot Dodge move that makes the entire experience rather lively and challenging at the same time. It’s chaotic fun and the reason you will still be playing this game after finishing the single-player mode. Add some great maps and more than enough crazy shootouts and you will definitely not be disappointed by it.

Visually, the game looks great on the Xbox 360 with some gorgeous backgrounds and the visceral eye candy being the bloody kills and destruction. Some effects range from awesome (I love how things shatter) to occasionally annoying (the blurred effects of popping pills and chugging booze) but, overall, the visuals are good but not as amazing as it could have been a lot better. Then there’s the sound that is excellent as it plays up the amazing score and the brilliant voice-acting make this a truly cinematic experience.

Max Payne 3 is an exciting and action-packed shooter that is a fitting sequel worthy of the Max Payne franchise. Sure, the game’s single-player mode leaves no room to explore Max’s new setting or offers anything new to the gameplay but it does the action sequences right and tells a great story to boot. Add a delightfully wild multiplayer mode with enough to do and we have a game that is certainly worth playing even if you’re new to the series.

GAME REVOLVER RATING

Gameplay: 8.5
Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 9.0
Appeal: 9.0
Overall: 9.0

Review copy provided by Rockstar Games

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Categories: Xbox 360 Review