Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3 Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3PC

Double-crossed and a long way from home, Max is now trapped in a city full of violence and bloodshed, using his weapons and instincts in a desperate search for the truth and a way out.

Review Verdict Read Review
8Out of 10
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Max Payne 3 screenshot
Max Payne 3 screenshot

In the past few days I've killed a lot of people. I killed them in the favelas of Sao Paulo. I killed them in a flashback New York graveyard. I killed them on a posh boat.

I shot some in the head. I shot some in the legs. I even nipped a few in the arm again and again with a rifle - until they snuffed it from sheer arm abuse. Oh, and these two other guys? I dropped a bus on them, and then blew it up.

The unifying factor of all these untimely demises was Max Payne looking fundamentally awesome. Whether I'd hurled him left, right or backwards down a flight of stairs - when he takes out bad guys Payne cuts a shape that can take your breath away. The animation, the detail of the gun-fight locations and the oil slick of visual and aural swank poured into Max Payne 3 is quite phenomenal. Besides, you really can't help but have respect for a man who can reload in mid-air.

Beneath the cinematic Rockstar gravitas, however, Max Payne 3 is a somewhat old-fashioned beast. It's a relentless and punishing bullet-chewer with an old school health pack system, and is entirely bereft of today's newfangled rolling XP bonuses and streams of unlocks. Max begins and ends the game with the self-same powers of slo-mo and shoot-dodge, relying on your headshot hunger and a somewhat slow-burning plot to urge you on.

The essential fabric of Max Payne 3 combat is meaty and engaging, and seeing as the game entire relies on aiming and shooting, that's something of a win. You'll dive down the steep steps of a football stadium peppering oncoming armoured goons with Uzi fire, and you'll snipe them as they dash around the roof of a skyscraper nightclub - and it'll all feel rather marvellous. When those kills finish off with bullet-cam and a face wound, or neatly slink into FMV action that's framed with tropes from all the best action movies (a helicopter tumbling overhead from The Rock, Max swimming beneath a burning curtain of oil as Arnie does in True Lies) that satisfaction is doubled down.

There is, however, occasional bullet malaise. Max Payne 3 is a long and punishing game, and is often poorly checkpointed. Even when playing on the normal difficulty level with a soft-lock aim system, there are bottlenecks and moments of extreme frustration as Max dies again and again. Sometimes you'll have to get through an area where you're not so much living on your wits as your Groundhog Day-style recollection of exactly where each enemy will pop out of the scenery. If you're getting killed a little too often the game will drip-feed you extra painkillers, but they'll rarely numb this particular sore spot.

The real issue with this isn't so much the frustration, however - it's the impact it has on the way you play. In former Max Payne games your pleasure often came from choreographing your own action: you would do a death-defying leap and shotgun takedown simply because you knew it would look good. In Max Payne 3 the risk of death and restart is often too great. Why do something that makes you look and feel like an action hero, when holding back behind cover means you're more likely to survive? The shame, then, is that the difficulty encourages over-cautious play.

Something else excised from the record, meanwhile, is the eccentricity that Remedy once laced throughout former Max Paynes. In the last game dream moments and that remarkable non-combat sequence in Mona's funhouse provided natural and fascinating breaks from the action, but the Rockstar blend prefers to concentrate on all-action, all-the-time.

Max Payne 3 screenshot

Replacing that very European streak of nonsense, however, is Rockstar's increasingly familiar super-earnest approach to cut-scenes, character and cinematic chicanery. Remarkably, they pull it off. You only realise it halfway through the game, but when realisation dawns it's stirring. They've made Max Payne a person, rather than an action-cipher. Max suddenly feels like less of a self-knowing cliché, and more like the desperate, forgetful and pill-popping alcoholic he truly is. If the first Max Payne games were a hymn to John Woo, we're now very much in the territory of Michael Mann.

The story posits that Payne is working in private security for a wealthy and obnoxious Brazilian family - hired by a friend called Raul Passos after a reunion gunfight in a deadbeat New York bar. The tale then merrily skips back and forth along a timeline that revolves around kidnapping, drug deals, super-extreme scenes of rudeness in a brothel and (of course) Max both with hair and without. It's only when Payne's Max's curly locks are removed, of course, that the final transmogrification into a modern-day Bruce Willis is complete.

It's fair to say that at first you, and Max, find it hard to feel emotionally engaged with the crowded entourage of melts you're expected to protect - but by the time you hit the third act the story has kicked into gear. It's a narrative with a long fuse, but one made perfectly palatable by a superb script that moment-to-moment certainly tops Remedy's creations. When Max laconically observed he had 'the liver of a French goose', I almost stood up to applaud.

Another triumph of the game is the successful integration of bullet-time into multiplayer. The way stockpiled slo-mo juice can be locally unleashed on anyone you have your eyes on, until they dive into cover, is really rather clever - and leads to some almighty conflagrations. There are peaks of hilarity in Max Payne 3 multiplayer (it's certainly the most solid and engaging online game Rockstar has put out) but there's almost always a lot of legwork to be trodden through. You'll get to that memorable five-player face off, the wall of flame, two bodies hurling themselves through smashing windows and an impending rocket launcher strike - but there'll be trudge and depressing insta-kills in the lead up.

The highlight of multiplayer is the semi-narrative automatic pick'n-mix approach of Gang Wars, which sees rival teams face off in different places and under different circumstances. Payne Killer is also rather special, offering the chance to become the uber-character of either Max or Passos and having the rest of the server communally hunt you down.

There are few 'bursts' that you can include in your loadout that can match the charms of bullet time (Intuition provides a UAV-style enemy pinpoint on the map, for example, and Paranoia messes with who's flagged up as a target to your enemies) but overall Max Payne 3 multiplayer is as balanced as it is engaging. It's unlikely to set the world on fire, but can still bathe you in enough explosive craziness to have you fondly remember it in years to come - just don't expect it to topple Call of Duty or Battlefield any time soon.

So then, Max, how shall we score you? You're not as good as Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, not by a long chalk. Then again, you bind fire-and-forget action with a compelling story in various lavish and interesting locations. When you position me on top of something that's toppling, slow down time and let me pop off a row of headshots, you're fantastic. When I've got one bottle of painkillers left, and it's used up to give me a last chance shot at my almost-murderer - that's almost absurdly rewarding.

On the other hand, the smoke and mirrors of the game's polish, presentation and story only just covers the fact that you're a one trick slow-mo pony. A pony that wants me dead most of the time, and always reverts me to wielding a pistol after cut-scenes. Which pisses me off.

Max, dearest of all my friends, you've got a few issues. I think that much is obvious. You're still a game, however, that I'd recommend all my friends play. You're the closest my console has come to making me feel like an action hero, and for that I'd almost certainly buy you yet another drink…

Version Tested: Xbox 360

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User Comments

mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog@ Wido

Have you finished it yet? I've been waiting to talk about "that bit" near the end, and I can't because no-one else here has played it yet.
Posted 10:54 on 25 May 2012
draytone's Avatar


"Payne a deeper and more compelling character" that scares me a little, he was a manic depressive who used to run down corridors with blood oozing all over the place in the last games. I'm looking forward to playing it.
Posted 09:23 on 25 May 2012
Wido's Avatar


Having a blast with this game. Its a must have game!
Posted 08:20 on 25 May 2012
Hooded's Avatar


I'm really looking forward to Max Payne 3, I'll be getting it tomorrow. Good review, i'll be interested where I agree with you. I think the Multiplayer looks really good, I loved Red Dead's multiplayer and from what i've saw, Max Payne 3's multiplayer looks much improved.
Posted 18:20 on 16 May 2012
Wido's Avatar

Wido@ munkee

Personally, like I said above, is the fact that most reviews now always mention COD or BF. I know and I like both games, though somewhat declining Call of Duty only for my Veteran singleplayer run through, and they are great online not disagreeing with that. FPS games with online that's fine and dandy it really is. I just don't expect it to be in reviews such as Max Payne.

Just that reviews are mentioning them near enough all the time for online in most games. Can't remember what site it was but I clicked the link via metacritic and someone mentioned COD in a Forza 4 review? What? Yeah, I had Stone Cold Steve Austin chants going through my head everytime I read one word after I witness that in the review.

Everyone has their own views and there is something good and bad about it, hey double kudos, check the comment above me. ;)

Nice to see how COD & BF has come if they have defined the multiplayer for that genre or even as a whole. I just don't feel that it was necessary to have in the review in my opinion. I don't want to know about it's longevity compared to the likes of COD or BF. I want to know specifically about that game with games that are viable comparisons. Again, what I just said there will have agree or disagree. It does indeed sound like I am nitpicking though a game like John Woo's Stranglehold would be the well suited comparison, yet many people probably hasn't heard or seen the game, shame really, because they should! :laugh:

PS - Even though I personally didn't like the multiplayer part of this review and saying "killed it for me" a bit harsh and I will take that back. The rest of the review has made my decision to buy the game, so again, VG does indeed do it again for me to purchase this game early than I was planning too, though the original plans was to get Max on day one.... Damn you impulsive buying!
Posted 08:09 on 16 May 2012
MidianGTX's Avatar

MidianGTX@ Wido

Your post just proved to me the CoD/BF reference was necessary. Those two games have a multiplayer I can dive into for a solid six months, RDR's multiplayer didn't last me six hours. I'd rather have a comparison to something successful in the genre than something that's barely worth mentioning at all.
Posted 23:50 on 15 May 2012


Now I'm just waiting for the Football Manager Elite service to be rolled out ;)

Nice review, anyway. Tempted by this but will wait for the price drop due to funds or do trade ins.
Posted 21:18 on 15 May 2012
munkee's Avatar


I understand people not wanting a 3rd person action game to be compared to COD, or Battlefield. But, when it comes to guns and online play thats were the people are. Those games have defined online action for millions of gamers. Surely the comparison is merely a mention that this is unlikely to remove those gamers and get them populating the Max Payne servers instead.


Remember that, after discussing the Max Payne multiplayer on its own merits, the quote only says:

"just don't expect it to topple Call of Duty or Battlefield any time soon."

I would also add that if Football Manager had an online component that allowed players to compete in realtime, surely then it could be compared.

"Sure, Football Manager 2013 has done an admiral job of trying to incorporate online, real-time, multiplayer this year. But, its unlikely to persuade people to stop playing Fifa."
Posted 19:35 on 15 May 2012
Wido's Avatar

Wido@ squidman

I agree with multiplayer being a more personal taste. What gets me is that not only this review but others also mentioned BF and COD towards the multiplayer part of the reviews. Sure they are top games in their own right and blitzing the online side of things, but do they need to be completely referenced all the time?

Max Payne is completely different than compared to BF & COD. Its like comparing FIFA online towards Football Manager, again, completely different.
Posted 19:23 on 15 May 2012
M93R's Avatar

M93R@ squidman

Fair enough, mate. I didn't mean to review the review, lol. But I do hold Videogamer in higher esteem than other sites, so expectations, etc. :)
Posted 17:55 on 15 May 2012
squidman's Avatar

squidman@ M93R

It's a good point - and I'll certainly keep it in mind for future articles. But I must say that I feel like the multiplayer was judged on its own terms independently of the two FPS games; there's over 250 words dedicated to it before the other two games are mentioned, and when we do talk about CoD/BF I think it's being angled more as an aside rather than anything else.
Posted 15:48 on 15 May 2012
M93R's Avatar

M93R@ squidman

Well, gamers like to be given credit for the fact that they know their tastes well enough to appreciate that Max Payne and Call of Booty are two different styles of game, separated by a lot. The multiplayer assessment would have been more meaningful if it had been judged on its own terms, but it's like you're trying to appeal to a gamer type who probably doesn't care. 'Most people' is a pretty loose generalization. If you're going to put it that way, you might as well say "The Call of Duty audience." And in my opinion, 'most gamers' will be familiar with more multiplayer titles than just COD/BF.
Posted 14:11 on 15 May 2012
munkee's Avatar


I presumed that the COD/Battlefield reference could be a hint towards how long you'll likely be playing lively multiplayer matches before the servers start emptying and people return to their shooter of choice.
Posted 10:29 on 15 May 2012
squidman's Avatar

squidman@ Wido

I actually asked Will to put this in - it's not that we're using COD and BF as the standard-bearer for 'all games with a gun for multiplayer' but that there's a rather serious economy of time when it comes to MP games and nobody has time to play them all.

I think the BF/COD comparison (which we'll continue to use) is valid because they are the current 'big guns' of the MP scene and I think any other multiplayer game needs to be judged as to whether you're likely to put those down for longer than a few days.

MP is always more tricky because I think it's a very personal thing, but ultimately I think most people are mostly interested in knowing if it's good enough for them to stop playing their current crop of games, and at the moment that pretty much means COD and BF.
Posted 09:15 on 15 May 2012
Wido's Avatar


Oh dear, the Call of Duty & Battlefield multiplayer reference killed the review for me. Looking at the multiplayer videos it comes across like Red Dead Redemption, John Woo's Stranglehold would even be more fitting as a comparison towards Max! The multiplayer for both games mentioned was solid, stable and thrilling at the same time. Saying that, I still haven't come across a review which hasn't used Stranglehold as a comparison throughout or near enough, as the game foundation bases itself from Max. Regardless of that little hiccup or annoying fact that FPS's such as COD and Battlefield is being auto-filtered reference for all games with a gun for multiplayer in reviews from journo's is disturbing.

I'll be getting this and it seems my "not getting a game till such & such" has bottled once again. I applaud you videogame industry, you sure know how to easily win me over you fecking ugly bugger! Max Payne 3 will = my last game I will buy till Borderlands 2 releases with FIFA 13 following soon after, Halo 4 and BlOps 2 and finally the mother chicken dripping Wii U!
Posted 06:05 on 15 May 2012

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Max Payne 3
Out of 10
Max Payne 3
  • Multiplayer occasionally hits the right side of frenzy
  • Engaging action in vibrant surroundings
  • Payne a deeper and more compelling character
  • A punishing and relentless game. Frustration can lurk.
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 15/05/2012
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Rockstar Studios
Publisher: Rockstar
Genre: Action
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 257 8
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