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Max Payne 3 review

Tom Morgan
29 Jun 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
28
inc VAT

Brutal yet beautiful, Max Payne 3 is a gritty action shooter that’s great fun to play

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Embittered New York detective Max Payne first introduced PC gamers to the slow motion gun ballet known as bullet time back in 2001. Having spent the best part of a decade at the bottom of a whiskey bottle, he finally makes a long-awaited return this month. Handing in your badge and relocating to sunny São Paulo for a new life as a private security guard might sound like the ideal retirement, but kidnappers, ransoms and double-crossing former allies are more like a recipe for the perfect hangover.

Despite moving from the mean streets of New York to sunny Brazil, Max Payne 3 will feel instantly familiar to anyone that’s played the original games. Partly told in flashback, with comic-book style story sequences interspersed with in-game cut-scenes filling in the gaps, the gritty story is every bit as dark and twisted as Max’s first two outings. As before, it’s the narration by Max himself that gives the game its unique feel. Between unloading countless bullets into his enemies and necking fistfuls of painkillers to regain health, Max constantly comments on his downwardly spiralling life with a series of film noir clichés, in a gravelly voice that embodies manliness.

Series creator Remedy Entertainment is no longer at the helm; development duties have passed to Rockstar, the studio famous for its controversial, yet slick, Grand Theft Auto games. This transition brings with it a significantly upgraded animation model – as well as accurately modelling every bullet fired within the game engine, Max now has complete freedom of movement when aiming, moving in a lifelike way that’s rather startling the first time you swing around to target an enemy directly behind you. He’s as gymnastic as ever, despite having gained a few pounds since his last outing, so you’ll frequently be diving to the floor in glorious slow motion.

This new level of interaction also brings new dangers. Misjudge a bullet time dodge and Max will crumple as he collides with the wall, throwing your crosshair off its target and bringing you out of slow motion, leaving you vulnerable to enemy attacks. There’s a new cover mechanic to help you keep out of the crossfire for as long as possible, but it doesn’t significantly affect gameplay as you still have to break out into the open before activating bullet time.

Max Payne 3

In a rare turnaround for a multi-platform game, the PC release of Max Payne 3 is by far the superior version. Rockstar has worked hard to create an exceptional level of detail in both characters and locations, with high resolution textures taking up a considerable portion of the massive 30GB install size. DirectX 11 effects such as tessellation look stunning, even if the difference isn’t quite as striking during a frenzied gun battle. You’ll need a hefty PC to run everything on full, but stick with DirectX 9 and even older PCs should run Max Payne 3 smoothly.