After an absence of nine years Max Payne is back and still down on his luck, what is supposed to be a nice private security job in sunny Brazil quickly escalates into a morality war for the morally bankrupt. A simple kidnapping reveals the darker side of Sao Paulo, where crime and corruption run rampant, and a deeply damaged Max Payne can somehow be considered a white knight. The game takes you from the penthouses of the rich to run down favelas, but it is never clear which is more deplorable. Max Payne 3 takes a departure from not only the location of the first two games but from their film noir tone as well. The story itself may not be that great, but the journey you go on is well worth the ride.
The cinematic effects used throughout the game, such as chromatic aberrations and scanning lines, may seem a bit overpowering at first, but help illustrate the state of Max’s psyche and how dependant on alcohol and drugs he has become. For much of the game Max is a sorry sight as the weight of his past has crushed him. It’s not really apparent what his motivations to keep going are; does he actually care about the people he is trying to save? Or is he just looking for a way out with meaning? The writing is terrific with Max’s sardonic inner monologue keeping you company throughout the game; flawlessly performed by James McCaffrey. Max may be a drugged-up alcoholic shell of a man, but he sees the world more clearly than most.
Game-play hasn't changed greatly since previous instalments; the series’ signature bullet time returns to create stylish, if somewhat simple, combat. Cover is a new feature that incorporates well with Max’s other moves and gives you time to recharge and reload during combat. Stylishly despatching enemies is extremely satisfying, especially during some of the most over the top, slowed down sections that occur every chapter or so. My main grievance with Max Payne 3 is with its enemies, who seem close to omnipotent, and in possession of x-ray vision; when one of them sees you, they all do and no amount of moving behind cover will stop them from knowing exactly where you are.
The game is unapologetically violent and nor should it be, the whole tone of the game is geared towards making a dark and mature experience, which it definitely achieves. Your last kill in a room always results in a kill-cam that slows down the violence and shows every bullet wound and blood spurt in gory detail. I don’t want to ruin it but the last chapter contains a Max Payne pushed beyond all limits delivering some of the best lines and harshest punishments. At first Max Payne 3 may seem less forgiving than many modern games with its lack of a regenerating health system, but this is not the case. If you die in a fight you restart with full health, after a couple of deaths you start to generate more and more pills every couple of deaths until you succeed. However, there are five difficulties and an arcade mode if you are looking for a real challenge.
The multiplayer component acts as an interesting addition to the game, but is not the main draw. The single player is standout whereas the multiplayer is decidedly average. The multiplayer is much the same as other modern shooters, in that it contains a rank system based on XP and new weapons and bursts are unlocked with each level. Bursts are special abilities, like bullet time, that give you and your team brief advantages over the opposing team. There are only four modes available; a free for all Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Payne Killer and Gang Wars. In Payne Killer one member of the group takes on the role of Max and everyone else has to try and kill them, the person that kills Max becomes the new Max. Gang Wars is a team based shifting objectives game with five rounds. The multiplayer is solid enough that it will keep you interested for a while, but you won’t be playing it a year down the line.
There is also an arcade mode where playing stylishly and efficiently will net you a lot of points, whereas body shots will leave you at the bottom of the board. This mode is for leader board junkies who want to compare how good they are with everyone else. The problem with this arcade mode is that the long cut-scenes from the campaign continually interrupt and brake up the pacing of the mode. Very little separates the campaign from arcade mode except for your score, so as someone who plays for the story I found that it offered very little to me.
From what I have seen 10-12 hours seems to be how long people generally take to complete the single player aspect of the game, but I completed it in just 8; I didn’t rush through the game, I collected a good proportion of the secrets and I died a fair amount of times, so I don't know where this disparity in time comes from. For this type of game 8 hours is a bit short, but I really enjoyed my time with it and the multiplayer and arcade modes server to extend the game time further for those that want it.