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Customer Review

157 of 197 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More frustrating, less fun than its predecessors, June 3, 2012
This review is from: Max Payne 3 - PC (Video Game)
When Remedy originally sold the Max Payne franchise to Rockstar, I was worried. The GTA franchise is a huge seller; let no one accuse Rockstar of not knowing how to make a popular game, but Max Payne had always been an extremely distinct, special experience, the kind of thing generally best left with the creators, I feared. The game is finally out, and my fears have been realized. There's no question Rockstar made a real effort; Max Payne 3 is absolutely not a quick cash in--but it's also not Max Payne.

Gameplay: Max Payne 3's gameplay brings bullet time along from the older titles. It basically has to; Remedy invented the mechanic way back in Max Payne. It defines the series almost as much as the noir atmosphere. It still works, but I find that it's less useful defensively than it was in previous iterations. In Max Payne 2, I could turn on bullet time and clear a room, coming up smelling like roses. In MP3, I'm as likely as not to come up smelling like the blood leaking from multiple holes in Max's body. Whether this is because I die more quickly, or because I kill more slowly (enemies seem to survive body shots more readily in Max Payne 3 than before), I don't know, but the end result is that I almost always have to save my bullet time for shootdodging. It's not a gamebreaker, but it detracts from the experience.

The difficulty on the whole is drastically higher than previous Max Payne games, something I've seen noted in more professional reviews. Getting shot HURTS. As it should, certainly, but the damage accrues far faster than in the past, and painkillers are MUCH less common. A medicine chest on easy in Max Payne 2 could have 4 painkillers. I've never seen more than two next to each other in Max Payne 3, and never had more than three at a time available. In Max Payne 2, sometimes I actually got up to the cap, 8 bottles. Between taking damage faster, and having fewer opportunities for restoring health, the game becomes substantially more difficult than its predecessors. "Easy" isn't.

The direct result of this is that the player is often stuck watching the same cutscene multiple times, and putting up with death after death after death. (Who in the hell thought unskippable cutscenes were a good idea? You can't even quit the game while one plays!). I won't pretend to be a stellar player, but I don't usually have this kind of trouble in anything. Rockstar's apparent solution to the game being awfully hard is to respawn you with full health, and if you keep dying, throw you a painkiller or two to ease you through. This does help, but to get these nudges, you have to put up with quite a lot of dying.

Cover has been added to Max Payne 3, in the Gears of War sense. Press a button, get into cover. Aim, shoot, kill from cover. This is the first situation in which I feel Rockstar misunderstood what a Max Payne game is. You could call this modernization, but for me, the Max Payne games were fun specifically because I could run, dive, shoot, slow time, and generally kill everything in sight, without hiding behind a wall and picking off enemies from relative safety. Cover is realistic, but the Max Payne series was never ABOUT realism; it was a heavily stylized cross between film noir and John Woo.

The last gameplay gripe I have is simply that your weapon carrying in Max Payne is extremely limited. You can carry one or two pistol sized weapons, and one large weapon. Dual wielding pistols means you drop the larger gun, as it had been carried in your off hand. Again, realism where it's not needed. Having a small arsenal at your disposal in the previous games of the series is a dated style, but it's fun.

Graphics: I honestly have not got a single complaint about the game's graphics. Max Payne 3 is stunningly gorgeous; Rockstar's artists, animators, and engine programmers absolutely hit the ball out of the park. It's possible to grind the game to a very low framerate, even on a high end machine, if you turn on both MSAA and FXAA, but both aren't really necessary. Dropping one or the other can help a lot. Light works like it should, people look like they should and move believably, skin is well modeled. If there's anything about which one could complain it's that during cutscenes, the game can approach the "uncanny valley," where something looks so realistic it's offputting, because it's slightly inhuman.

Atmosphere and presentation: This is where Max Payne 3 really falls flat. Max Payne has always been characterized by really heavy "film noir" elements. These are completely absent from Max Payne 3. You do get Max's occasional self-pity, and drug/alcohol problem, but as portrayed here, they feel more like something on a modern crime drama than something out of an old detective story somehow set in the modern day. Previous games carried the deliberately cheesy, over-the-top element of film noir perfectly. Max Payne 3 makes the occasional allusion to it, but it's just not there. You get a tiny, tiny glimpse of it in a flashback about 1/3 through the game, but it doesn't last.

I think the problem here is two fold: First, the setting change is ill-suited to noir. Sunny Sao Paulo, Brazil is full of flashy nightclubs, bikini clad women (boobs in a Rockstar game? WHO'DA THUNK IT?), and a culture so far removed from traditional noir that it just doesn't work. Boobs for the sake of titillation and change for the sake of change just don't really work very well. That the game is PACKED with untranslated Portuguese doesn't help either. I'm all in favor of native language use, but there's so very much dialogue that's lost on most players that opportunities for good writing are missed by players who can't understand the language. Subtitles are just captions in Portuguese.

Second, Rockstar's writers just weren't up to the task. Max Payne and Max Payne 2 were deliberately kitschy, as noir generally is, but Max Payne 3 tends to fall back on crude rather than clever. During the opening cutscene, the player hears a line similar to, "I wouldn't know good from bad if good were feeding the poor and bad was bangin' my sister." Remedy didn't feel the need to resort to bawdiness to make the over-the-top metaphors common to the noir style. There's a time and a place for everything, but when continuing one of the best, if not the best, third person shooting franchises in history, a little more respect for origins is called for. If you can't maintain the style, hire someone who can.

Presentation is a real sticking point. Max Payne 1 and 2 did have cutscenes here and there, but much of the game's narrative was carried out in highly atmospheric visual novel pages on screen, with appropriate narration. It's hard to overstate just what staying in this heavily atmospheric style added to the game. If nothing else, they provided the series with a strong sense of identity. That identity was lost with Max Payne 3's presentation. Cutscenes are how ALL plot exposition is handled, and those cutscenes are absolutely packed with some of the most obnoxious camera filters I've ever seen. For no apparent reason, in a scene where Max is completely sober (and even if he weren't, the scene is third person and not from his perspective anyway), colors are randomly separated into red/blue/yellow, looking almost like a shoddy kids' 3D glasses effect. In other places, color is strongly desaturated, or the view is de-interlaced (think scanlines, like a really old arcade game). Words that Rockstar felt were important get plastered on the screen for an instant, but this provides no real impact--like the other effects, it's jarring, and detracts from cutscenes, rather than creating atmosphere.

Overall: The package, taken as a whole, is a relatively playable game, with real bright spots here and there. Unfortunately, those bright spots serve more to show the player what could've been than to truly improve the game. Rockstar took one of PC gaming's most respected modern franchises, and I honestly believe they tried their best with it. Unfortunately, their best seems to have required a "go with what you know" approach that makes Max Payne 3 feel more like a linear, third person shooter Brazilian GTA side story than a true Max Payne sequel. Max Payne purists, those who loved the game for the narrative and portrayal, and Max Payne as a character, should probably keep your distance.
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Showing 1-10 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 3, 2012, 5:51:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 3, 2012, 7:35:59 PM PDT
John Lemon says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2012, 7:32:33 PM PDT
AM says:
I wouldn't go quite so far as to say my complaint is that it's not "super easy," but yes, I remember the adaptive difficulty in the original Max Payne games, and it worked great. My complaint is more like, "Each difficulty is one or one and a half difficulties higher than expected." I started out on medium, which is appropriate for me for most games. I had to restart (oh, hi there, unskippable cutscenes) on easy because medium was really fairly nasty.

The adaptive difficulty you described is something I always thought was great about the older Max Payne games. It's sure not present in Max Payne 3. The little help I described above is better than nothing, but much worse than "Easy" actually feeling reasonable. Something I forgot to mention in my original review: Saves are checkpoint based only, so if you get through a really nasty section and die before the next checkpoint, any progress you made is gone, and you get to watch unskippable cutscenes again.

Posted on Jun 4, 2012, 6:33:48 AM PDT
Marcus says:
I thought the difficulty in the first two games were much harder than Max Payne 3 and I played both of them about a month ago. Max Payne 3 is still fairly difficult tho. There was a couple parts in the end where I would die a LOT, but overall I loved the game. Wish the story was longer.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2012, 11:32:52 AM PDT
John Lemon says:
In Max Payne 1 you would die from a single shot gun blast. You could only get hit 2-3 hits before you were killed. 3 is more like 2 where there is more enemies, but you can get hit more.

If you are playing on easy and still find it hard then this kind of game isn't for you.

Posted on Jun 4, 2012, 12:08:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 4, 2012, 12:14:34 PM PDT
I mostly agree with your review, but I would have given 3 rather than 2 stars. Max Payne 1 was hands-down the best of the series. this game cannot compare. The other thing Max Panye 3 is missing are the mini bosses. Remember "I HAVE FEASTED ON THE FLESH OF ANGELS!"? Some of the set piece battles and bosses really required a planned strategic approach, in contrast to part 3 where you just need to hang behind cover and use bullet time over and over and over and over again. The selection of weapons is much less exciting than in previous versions (no m4, WTF?), and all weapons within a given class feel pretty much the same (AK 47 doesn't seem much different from FAL etc). It is also pretty lame that when you do get a cool weapon, you usually only get to use it for about 30 seconds before you are hit with a cut scene and end up losing it.

Also the story is rather incoherent and just plain uninteresting. Max Payne 1 had an amazing story chock full of interesting personalities. I am becoming more and more disappointed with newer games (ie Diablo 3), they tend to be all flash and no substance. The last truly GREAT game was Dragon Age Origins....they just don't make 'em like they used too.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2012, 3:41:56 PM PDT
Vappour says:
@Epi PhD student --

Thanks for your last two sentences above. Finally, somebody has said what is becoming so obviously true.

Posted on Jun 5, 2012, 7:54:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 5, 2012, 7:54:40 PM PDT
John V says:
I'm an older pc gamer and I have to agree with AM's review, not so much the difficulty factor, I don't mind if the game is hard, as long as I'm having fun. And in MP3 it was a chore to finish this game. It had "some" bright spots, but they were few and far between. Bullet time, which defined the first two games was a poorly implemented in MP3.

Posted on Jun 7, 2012, 1:10:32 AM PDT
Mike Rua says:
Quite honestly, i didn't have the same problem with the game and i've poured countless hours into MP1-2, even beyond the originals with mods. While i do miss the comic strips, nightmare levels, ridiculous amount of guns and the overall noir, I still enjoyed the game and i still felt this new realistic approach is a good one even after the credits rolled. The cutscenes didn't bother me one bit, quite honestly id rather have them than: Die, wait 2 minutes for load screen, back to the game like other games. Of course quicksaves would've been great to have for the harder difficulties, but it still doesn't detract me from playing the story over and over. I absolutely agree on the cutscenes being a little crazy with the camera, the effects should have only happened when he used painkillers or filled up with booze, but its still an original style for cinematics. The one thing i loved in this game the most was McCaffrey's narration through the game, as i've always had through the Payne series, i didn't thing it went overboard at all, i mean sure it went a bit more crude to suit Rockstar's wheelhouse but we saw a different side of Max, a pissed off, bald, old guy, surviving through so much hell and is still going through it after the death of his family and *SPOILER ALERT* Mona. I would be pissed too. So i wasn't so surprised of the crudity, in fact, I loved it. So overall, i don't think you give these guys enough credit, they created an amazing game, even though it deters away from the Noir from the first two and i wouldn't tell old school fans to steer clear.

Posted on Jun 8, 2012, 6:02:40 AM PDT
E. Powell says:
Thank you for your exhaustive review. However, I flat out disagree with your two star rating. This game is a 4 Star at minimum and 5 Star at best.

The game is beautiful, mature, honest, and fun to play. It took me a week to beat the game while playing after work. I enjoyed it so much that I plan on playing the single player campaign again from scratch.

Posted on Jun 14, 2012, 8:45:51 PM PDT
Thank you for your review this is exactly what I was concerned with I will save my $60 on your review alone.
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