MAX PAYNE 3 : playable action movie

You know that thing that movies sometimes do, where one of the characters says the movie’s title, and everyone in the theater looks at each other and groans?
Max Payne 3 does something like that 14 times. After every level, the chapter title appears in the air ominously, foreshadowing some quip that Payne will grunt after killing a few hundred gangsters. “It’s drive or shoot, sister.” Or, “A fat bald guy with a bad temper.” And sure enough, you know somebody’s sister is going to be driving or shooting next to a fat bald guy with a bad temper at some point or another during the chapter.
It’s fitting, given the way the game presents itself. Payne is very much amused by his own observations; his self-reflective inner monologue is almost as sarcastic as it is omnipresent. When navigating from one firefight to another, you can be sure that Payne’s voice will pick up and ramble about the sorry mess he’s found himself in, or how he sure wishes he could have a drink or pop some pills right about now. Even in the game’s cutscenes (which make up roughly one-third of the single-player campaign’s length), most of Payne’s dialogue happens only in his head. Max Payne only opens his mouth to tell people that he’s about to shoot them.
And lots of people will be shot before the end of this game’s 10-hour campaign. It seems that every enemy faction in Brazil has 200 or more soldiers just waiting to be violently shot in the face by Max Payne, usually as he dives sideways out of an exploding explosion and kills 15 people in slow motion before hitting the ground. Payne goes down quick when exposed to fire, but luckily for him, delicious, addictive pain pills that magically heal bullet wounds are scattered all around Brazil.
Sure, there are the expected on-rails segments: boat rides, dangling helicopter fiascos, etc. But mostly, Max Payne is all about walking slowly through beautifully rendered environments, only stopping to take cover and shoot lots of people or sit through a cutscene. Often, cutscenes and gameplay combine for a set-piece moment that forces players into a time-sensitive slow motion shootout with gang members or corrupt policemen.
I’ve played dozens of shooters that claimed to have “enemies that move dynamically to flank the player,” and it’s almost never true, but Max Payne’s enemies really are smart punks. They’re good at taking effective cover and moving to better positions just when you need to reload. As a result, combat isn’t just about waiting for your enemy to pop his head out of cover – taking that strategy will get you killed quickly. Instead, players have to keep a close eye on their surroundings, carefully use the slow-motion ability to take out dangerous targets and move almost constantly to avoid getting swarmed.
Whenever you kill the last enemy in an area, the camera goes into ultra slow-motion and follows the bullet from Max’s gun as it punches through the unlucky gang member/corrupt cop’s body. Then, as the enemy slumps to the ground, the player has the option to continue wildly shooting bullets into the corpse by rapidly pulling the trigger. The result is a gruesome, blood-splattery scene that would instantly earn any movie an R rating.
The plot sags a bit in the first half by focusing so hard on Payne’s alcoholism, but otherwise the dialogue and overall plot feels on par with what you’d expect from a big-budget action movie.
And really, that’s all Max Payne 3 is – a beautiful, playable action movie.
To keep playing Max Payne 3 longer than 10 hours, you’re going to have to get into the multiplayer. Playing through the game’s solo campaign is akin to spending a whole day watching every Die Hard movie: fun, but something you shouldn’t do more than once in your life.
My Rating 9.5/10
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