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Reviews: Max Payne

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3 = So Bad, It's Horrible
When Rockstar first announced Max Payne 3, fans were outraged and fearful. A bald, bearded, fat Max Payne in the slums of Brazil? Serving as a bodyguard for the rich? What nonsense is this?

Those fears were completely justified.

Max Payne 3 is Max Payne In Name Only. At best, it's Rockstar's attempt at a video game version of Man on Fire. The cast is completely made up of petty, vain, Grand Theft Auto style caricatures who die horribly. Max himself is little more than a Man Child awash in his own Wangst who lacks any of the self-awareness or morals he had in the last two games, nor does he look or sound anything like how he did before. That's bad enough coming off of Max Payne 2's story, which was close to True Art as video games go, but unskippable cutscenes make it utterly insufferable. The gameplay also suffers from not knowing if it wants to be a cover shooter or remain true to the laughably outdated gunfighting styled after The Matrix, and ends up unfocused and overly difficult. The soundtrack dumps the Awesome Music of the second game for grating electronic stuff and the graphics and animation are just okay, but don't hold a candle to the groundbreaking graphics of the second game. I'd probably hold them in slightly better regard if it wasn't for the constant Interface Screw the game throws at you.

Rockstar claims that Max Payne 3 was developed with input by Remedy, but there's no sign of Remedy's Signature Style to be found here so I'm convinced they were lying. Max Payne 3 is easily among the worst games made in the past 5 years and an insult to Sam Lake's nigh-peerless writing. Rockstar didn't even have the guts to give Max the tragic death in the snow he deserved! Fans of 3 should be ashamed for defending this garbage and its appalling to see most of the tropes on the page be for 3 instead of 2 or even 1.

If you want the real Max Payne 3, play Remedy's Alan Wake. It even contains the true ending of Max Payne as an Easter Egg!
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One thing Yahtzee didn't exaggerate...
... is just how much of a fucking buzzkill Max Payne is as a character. Playing Max Payne 3 made me think that if I was following the story with a character like John Marston or even Cole Phelps as the lead, then I'd enjoy it marginally more. But he makes for such a downer with his shitty noir-detective narration, constant fucking up throughout the entirety of the story, and generally being a completely inept loser whenever a cutscene starts playing.

Gameplay wise things are better, but not by a whole lot. Gunplay is solid with a wide array of weapons to use, and a bit of edge in the gameplay comes from the constant need to scavenge new weapons when your ammo runs low and it adds to the tension. The issue with the bullettime and diving mechanic is that Max is far too squishy to pull that gameplay off. His durability is profoundly pathetic where a few stray bullets can flatten him. You can fly through the air in slowmo and cap three guys, but as soon as you land on your belly and try to awkwardly clamber to your feet well it becomes open season for every other asshole on the map.

And then there's the last-stand mechanic... oooooh boy is that awful. Say you run out of health but still have a bottle of painkillers, then you can land a killshot on the person who downed you to save yourself. Assuming they're not in cover, or too far away, or directly behind you, or Max isn't out of ammo. If that happens then you need to wait for what feels like an eternity for the slowmo to end and give you a game over screen. If you do kill them, then Max will be flat on his ass and you have to wait for him to get up at an ungodly slow pace in which he can be filled with more holes than Swiss cheese and immediately get downed again.

Oh yeah and those ugly neon flickers just make the game a pain to even look at.

A low-point in Rockstar's canon. Just go get Stranglehold instead.
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Max Payne 3: Halfway Decent, but Disappointing
Max Payne 3 starts off strong, but gradually shifts into unpleasantness as it goes on, eventually wallowing in despair by the end. With some modification, a sequel to this could be good, but as it stands now, Max Payne 3 is a different creature from it predecessors that doesn't quite hit the mark.

Easily the biggest issue is the drastic shift in tone from the first two games: it's just so fucking dark. Cardboard cutouts get killed left and right with little time for characterization, while Max himself spends a good portion of the game drinking and talking about what a piece of shit he is. This is not helped by the setting change; the tone of the previous games was moody but not relentlessly so, while this game seems determined to constantly throw the worst São Paulo has to offer at us. Eventually, it just becomes a nonstop cavalcade of grimness, and it's hard to root for anybody. Leaving the darkness aside, cutscenes are lengthy, often unskippable, and punctuated with annoying effects: colors randomly breaking apart like a bad TV screen, words characters have just said hanging in the air, and sudden split screens. This is possibly an attempt to emulate the comic panels of the originals with none of the style.

The gameplay is... a little off. The actual shooting and flying through the air work fine, although the game is incredibly stingy with bullet time, for some reason: simply going into slow motion for an easy headshot is rarely an option. However, the cover mechanic isn't as good. This game shows that a cover system works best with regenerating health of some kind; if you get caught behind cover with only a sliver of health left and no way to get it back, you might as well reload your game — from a checkpoint, as there is no quicksave option. Painkillers are also rare, which means having low health is pretty common. The Euphoria system can actually be a detriment at times, making it hard to tell if a bad guy has died or just fallen over. There are flashes around the crosshairs to show if you kill someone, but they're easy to miss.

There is some fun to be had here, if you're willing to sit through a grim slog to get to it. Some of the levels are pretty well-designed and have some entertaining moments. However, if you dislike excessive thematic darkness, you should give this game a pass.
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