Max Payne 3 is not a good game

NOTICE: Hi. What you’re reading is an old review from when I was using a different template. It was kind of ugly, so I switched. If I make a mention of spoilers going to be blacked out, they won’t be. Sorry. It’s just so long ago I wrote this and it’s a bother to go back and edit it extensively. Sorry if you get spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t put any major spoilers in anything without giving big warnings about it first. Cheers.

This will have some plot spoilers for Max Payne 3. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

So, after putting it off for the longest time I decided to finally slo-mo throw myself into Rockstar’s attempt at the Max Payne franchise. However, after playing it, I regret ever pressing start.

Allow me to bring up some old MP-memories. Max Payne was awesome to me because it was so very self-conscious about how stupid and outright ridiculous its plot and set pieces were at times. The game-play was tight and encounters were pretty damn awesome. There are not a lot of situations that you couldn’t solve by leaping head first into a room and bore holes through heads with the assistance of gun-propelled-bullets. Also, Max always looked like a huge tool when throwing himself around.

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Another thing the game did so well was the cut-scenes. While other game companies prefer exquisitely pre-rendered scenes where characters throw words at each-other (granted, I do like beautiful cut-scenes at times, as long as they move the plot forward), Max Payne had these awesome comic-style cut-scenes, giving colour and substance to the characters and looking incredibly stylish at the same time.

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To Max Payne 3, then. The beginning of the game fits the character pretty well. Max is almost constantly on drugs, having taken a terribly shitty job in Brazil protecting a rich family that he’s disgusted with. This is very Noir, which is a theme involved in the original games as well.

Noir is a theme that I’m very high on at the moment, even running a campaign of the Swedish RPG Noir for my group. Noir the game is a terribly dark world where the players are horribly oppressed by the big bad government of the war-machine that is The Empire. Anyway, a common theme in Noir (French for “black”) is that the characters are shit out of luck. Most dudes are drunken failures of corrupt officers of the law doing bad stuff and getting into fights. It’s not uncommon for characters to go crazy or depressed in a Noir-style game.

Max is obviously right there with other Noir characters. In the first game, his wife and child are killed by druggies and he punishes the thugs he faces, so its firmly established that it’s a fairly dark character off the get-go. This keeps up through the second game and into MP3, where he is now this drunken shell of a man.

So Max is drunk in Brazil, working for a rich family he doesn’t like, as he spends minutes pointing out. The family he’s protecting is the Brancos, a rich elite family in Brazil clearly aware of the potential danger they face just going out to dinner, but still going out of their way to extravagant parties. So there’s Rodrigo, Victor, Marcelo and Fabiana. Rodrigo does real-estate things, Victor is a politician (and acting like he’s obviously the antagonist from the first scene, god damn it, Rockstar), Marcelo is a retarded incredibly dense party cat and Fabiana is Rodrigo‘s trophy wife. We’re given no reason to like these characters or even get some shallow attachment before some random gangsters burst in through the elevator (because personal security in Brazil means nothing) and grab Rodrigo and try to make off with him. So Max and Passos (Max‘ bodyguard partner and buddy, and also the only character who’s consistently good through the game) chase after them and Max makes the save after some craaaaaAAaaaAAAzy slow-motion action. Seriously, Rockstar managed to make the slo-mo stuff useless later in the game, but here it works decently well. Max Payne was always more fun when going up against few opponents at a time. However, a cover mechanic is implemented to show how little creativity was invested in the product and also a stupid “Last Stand” mechanic, where when you go down with a pain pill available, you get the chance to shoot back at the dude that downed you and if you get him, you get to continue breathing and shooting peeps. Oh yeah, the story; Some paramilitary guys show up and execute some of the favela gangbangers that tried to kidnap Rodrigo. Big whoop. It’s actually funny, because no one in the scene seems to care that they blatantly kill people in plain sight.

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So onwards, The Brancos (Marcelo and Fabiana + Giovanna, who is actually a good character and later revealed to be Passos‘ girlfriend) head to another party a little later (I think it’s a week or something, but I really wouldn’t out it past them to go and party the same day as the attempted kidnapping), with Max and Passos as their bodyguards on duty. Everything goes as planned and everyone goes home happy. LOL, as if.

Max is drunk as hell and fails to help those he’s supposed to protect when favela gangbros pop in again to kidnap the Brancos and company. He chases after them though. There’s a rather funny cut-scene where Max speaks to some retired American cop hiding in a toilet stall. After some crazy chases and Max hanging from a helicopter, killing gangsters like it’s his hobby, they get back Marcelo and Giovanna, but Fabiana is kidnapped. Max is sad about this, and indulges in some alcohol.

In their ever-present idiocy, the Brancos send Max and Passos with a ton of money to a football stadium in a supposed ransom exchange. Obviously things go to hell in a hand-basket. Some paramilitary dudes show up and intercept the exchange. Max gets shot in the arm and bleeds a lot. He and Passos fight their way through a ton more faveladudes and militarybros before failing, as the militarymen make it off with the money and then inexplicably decides not to shoot down Max and Passos as they escape.

Max then decides to sneak into a camp of baddies, which obviously turn into a huge battle and a following boat chase, utterly ridiculous in set pieces and bland shooting. It goes on for so long that it just becomes a tiring chore. The gangers escape with Fabiana.

Max discusses things with Rodrigo and Victor, as well as some other dude, when the paramilitary guys (Crachá Preto) show up. Max fights off the paramilitary guys and goes back to Rodrigo, who has been assassinated, even though he’s locked himself inside his armour-protected office. Sigh. A bomb goes off as well and Max somehow survives. He then walks through the burning and collapsing building (which is becoming a moronic set-piece trend these days) and finds out from a dying Crachá Preto guy, that the reason they attacked is that they are mad at Max for killing their guys, which is ridiculous as they had the chance to waste Max a ways back, but apparently it’s a conspiracy so it’s all right. Ugh.

Max decides to lay off the substances and shaves his head for some reason. I’ve read it’s because he wants to remain incognito, but it’s been firmly established at that point that Max is slightly below Terminator-class, being able to take out paramilitary squads on his own so the entire thing is really stupid and the shaven head thing was obviously so that Rockstar could get some publicity for their game (HEY GUYS LOOK AT MAX PAYNE’S HEAD! HE SHAVED IT! WOOOOOOOOooooooo!).

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Max gets robbed by some random thugs and walks into a bar, where a random Brazilian cop called Da Silva walks in and tells Max some stuff. Apparently Victor is probably evil, which we all figured out in the first minute.

Max kills some more favela citizens and then finds Fabiana. However, Marcelo and Giovanna has shown up with money. Sigh. Max thinks for a few seconds and decides to do something about the situation, and I swear he chose the worst decision possible. Whoever thought this was a realistic and good part of the story needs to be sent to Game Purgatory. Max just walks right into the room and gets disarmed because he’s obviously helplessly outnumbered. I get that the writers had zero creativity left at that point, but I swear, by then they just decided to have Max walk through terrible dramatic scenes to the next, marred by horrible choices and extremely stupid actions. Max pleads with them not to shoot the girls, so the favelabro kills Fabiana. Nice.

Max chases after the live remaining people he can actually help, and on the way fights militarybros and gets to witness some corruption. The game-play at this part is actually one of the better segments of the game, but it’s hard to suspend your disbelief as Max takes on entire military squadrons and walks away alive. Max finds Giovanna and Marcelo, who is killed in a process apparently called necklacing (forcing one or more rubber tires filled with a flammable fluid around a person and putting them on fire) in front of Giovanna. Max rushes out from cover and of course fails to help Marcelo, but avenges him by killing the man who put him on fire with a machete or something. Max then hides with Giovanna and after sleeping they intend to leave the place they’re at and attempt to get picked up by Passos.

The next arc of the game is by far and away its best. Max protects Giovanna from paramilitary and straight up military groups as they try to get some place safe to try and get picked up by Passos. Yes, it’s basically an escort arc, but it features the best storytelling in the entire game. Giovanna is pregnant with Passos‘ child and Max is determined to protect her. There’s such excellent character moments and nuances to the arc that it’s hard to stop playing. Opposition numbers are generally held to an appropriate number, which is rare in this game as every opponent is extremely accurate with lightning reflexes and always do incredible damage. Sadly for Max, the arc ends with Passos flying off with Giovanna, while Max is left as bait to cover their retreat.

I quit playing shortly after. The story just became so incredibly melodramatic and predictable I just couldn’t take it any more after that point.

Some positives? Yeah, sure. It’s a very beautiful game and the cut-scenes are gorgeous. The story is good, but at times going full retard which is very saddening. There’s probably more, but I can’t be arsed to remember.

So that’s it. That’s why I don’t like Max Payne, and I guess a run down of the game’s story. Hopefully it’s a good read. Just feels good to type out my disappointment.

See ya’ll later!

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