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Max Payne 3 brings back the gritty, gory fun

Consumer Reports News: May 22, 2012 09:08 AM

The Max Payne series of games are known for their comic-book-style expository cut scenes and use of "bullet-time" effects, which slow down time so that you can, for example, see bullets in flight. It's been almost a decade since Max has been featured in a new game, so I was excited to see how Max Payne 3 would stack up. The fun and visual flair haven't diminished—and neither has the violence.

Max Payne, the titular character in this popular noir series, is a former NYPD detective and DEA agent who turned vigilante when his family was murdered. Max Payne 3 (from Rockstar Games) opens with Max's internal monologue, which sets up the story. He has moved from New York City to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he is working as security for a wealthy celebrity family. When gangs begin to attack the Branco family, Max is forced to protect his clients while also battling his inner demons and trying to move on from the death of his family.

Max is older than in the previous installments, and he's more cynical and detached from the world. The setting change helps to keep things fresh, but the tone of the game is every bit as dark and gritty as ever.

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I was impressed by the graphics and overall visual style of the game. This is especially noticeable during bullet-time sequences, which really let you appreciate the mayhem you're causing. And the addition of destructible environments raises the game's level of realism.

The story is well supported by cut scenes and quality voice acting. There may actually be too many cut scenes, though: While they add depth to the story and are visually impressive, they made me feel disconnected from the game. I would have enjoyed it more if some of those scenes had been integrated with the game play.

The game's controls are simple and work well. The number of guns you can carry is limited, but this actually keeps you from being bogged down by swapping weapons in menus. Instead of having automatically regenerating health, you regain health by popping painkillers that you find as you play—which adds to the player's panic level when you're near death.

One of the cooler features is the game's "kill camera": When you kill the last enemy in an area, the camera follows entire journey of the bullet. And since time is slowed, you can fire off several more rounds before the body drops.

There is not much replay value in the main game, outside of looking for clues that you may have missed the first time through. But the multiplayer mode really adds to the game's replayability. Featured modes are Death Match, Team Death Match, and King of the Hill, but the Gang Wars mode is a little more interesting. It's narrated by Max and provides a story, so the killing is not quite as mindless as in other modes.

The only downloadable content currently available for the game is the Gorilla Warfare pack—but it's free. Among other bonuses for the multiplayer mode, you'll receive a gorilla mask. This is a good start to the multiplayer support for the game, and you can't argue with the price. Expect more packs like this to become available in the future, but I wouldn't expect them all to be free.

Bottom line: Anyone who's a fan of shoot 'em up–style action games and movies will enjoy Max Payne 3. But there's plenty of gore, violence, and foul language, so while the game is fun for the older crowd, it's definitely not for kids. Even some adults may be turned off by the mature content, but for fans of the series, it's offers exactly what you've come to love about Max Payne.

I played Max Payne 3 on a Sony PlayStation 3, and it's also available for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and as a PC game ($60 retail for each version). The game is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB.

Matt Ferretti

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