Community Review: Max Payne 3

I'm really torn on Max Payn3. Actually, not really torn — 75% of me thinks Max Payne 3 is an incredibly polished effort that pushes the third person shooter in interesting, new directions. 25% of me just wishes the actual core shooting felt more rewarding.

And that's really the crux of it.

There are moments in Max Payne 3 where I get lost in it, as it moves seamlessly from cut-scene to action, I'll be in cover, popping off a handful of goons, before launching in glorious bullet time towards the final head shot. The game will then segue into a (mostly) well written noir monologue. The pacing is frantic, furious at times.

And sometimes, sometimes, it almost makes you forget that the core mechanic of Max Payne 3 — the gunplay itself — doesn't quite mesh together as well as you hoped it would.

The core of Max Payne 3 is hardly terrible — it's mostly clinical and robust — but at times it feels as though it's pulling the player in entirely opposing directions.

Those who played Red Dead Redemption, with its soft lock/cover based gunplay will feel at home here — you can fire from cover, click into slow-motion and take more time with your shots, rinse and repeat. In Red Dead Redemption this felt completely adequate — particularly as it was just a subset of a larger experience — but in Max Payne 3 that is the experience, and that can feel a little problematic at times.

Neither of the first two Max Payne games had any sort of cover. Those games provided more of a 'leap crazily into action and hope for the best' sort of experience. That was the fun of it — the bullet time provided more accuracy, and it felt incredible to pull off multiple headshots before you had even hit the ground. In Max Payne 3 you can do that — but it doesn't feel as though that's how the game was designed to be played.

Default setting in Max Payne 3 is soft lock. This is how Rockstar wants you to play Max Payne 3. I struggled with this, but struggled more when I turned it off. When it was off, the aiming felt difficult, when turned on, I felt as though I didn't quite have the freedom to, say, shoot the exploding barrel to set off explosions — because my aim was locked onto the enemies.

In addition, I felt as though the cover system itself negated any real need for bullet time. It was perhaps too easy to pop and shoot for cover instead of launching out and popping headshots.

Alright, so that's the whinging part over.

Because Max Payne's actual gunplay mechanics are hardly weak enough to override the overall experience it provides. It's hardly as tight as Gears of War, for example, but the presentation is a step above that game, and any other third person shooter for that matter.

Some criticised the writing of Max Payne 3, but I found it teetered brilliantly on the edge of parody. Max Payne 3 takes itself seriously — don't get me wrong — but it also feels self aware enough to labour through some of the more wordy lines of dialogue.

Max Payne 3 flows beautifully from set-piece to set-piece, and plays to its strengths wonderfully. You barely have a second to reflect on the relatively weak shooting mechanics before being flung head first into the next gorgeously turgid environment. The last bullet hits the last goon and it's straight to the monologuing, and the sharp dialogue. Max Payne 3 feels like a wonderfully tailored experience where the shooting is merely a means to an end.

And, for the most part, I was totally fine with that.

What did you guys think?


    Never touched a Max Payne game - what is with that picture? Are they are all in the same spot? Is it a beach? It seriously confuses me.

    Hey KOTAKU an fan's
    A great review, so it's shared via: Game On*`...

    Rockstar doesn't ''want'' you to play it that way, if they did you wouldn't be able to change it. The default soft lock is that way because most people will probably opt for that way. Theres a whole new generation getting into MP now via part 3. Those who are classic Payne fans will do as I did, skip straight into options, set to free-aim and have a much more rewarding experience. Personally I dug the whole new setting intermeshed with flashbacks to the old. I played 2 at the same time as 3, the shooting mechanics are the same, I think theres a whole lot of rose coloured glasses going on with people at the moment. The changing up of weaponry is a little discerning, but making it a bit more realistic, carrying 2 pistols and 1 bigger gun makes Max's situation a bit more dire. The games length is pretty good, 12 hours roughly on medium. Only issue I have, is honestly its a once through youre done for good game. No REAL reason to play again....

      Bullet time/shoot dodge is not the same. It's been explained plenty of times, including this article, but in 2 you shoot dodge into a hopeless situation and while you move in slow-mo, you aim in real time and pull of some amazing room clearing. In this, you aim in slow-mo too and so shoot dodge becomes useful only for smaller groups. That's when it doesn't glitch - graze any object in the game in mid dodge and the shoot dodge fails, you are plonked unceremoniously on your arse in an awkward spot and have drawn the attention of all around you. Don't get me wrong, I love the game and I am going back to the levels to get the golden gun parts and clean up clues, but given the ridiculous amount of enemies they throw at you I would have hoped the shoot dodge would have allowed you to deal with them in some equally ridiculous manner.

        I have no problem with the shootdodging dropping out when you collide with something. It never did it when I went over a bench or through a window, but when I smashed into a wall it was like ''I FUCKED IT!'' making it go from graceful bullet ballet to clusterfuck of epic magnitude. I see your point about the difference in bullet time but there's definitely improvements in areas such as hit locations, responses to tactics etc. The cover system is a welcome addition, in a game of true gunplay, shootdodging shouldnt be your ONLY form of defense, of course you should be able to take cover. It is however going to be interesting to see how the PC version fares with shootdodging compared to the console versions as I put down the difference in controls mainly to that, controllers vs mouse.

    Waiting for PC version...(sound of foot tapping impatiently)

      Watching the credits roll right now... What an amazing game. It is one of the few lately that I couldn't put down, I wanted to see the next part, and the soundtrack is awesome. I came across a few bugs and graphical glitches but other than that it exceeded my expectations. On to multiplayer! :D

        Every major action scene had thumping, amazing music. LOVED the final song in the airport causeway. That had me almost fistpumping! lol

          I also loved that song. Both my girlfriend and I turned to each other and went "Is that Maynard James Keenan?!" (from Tool) and it's very obviously not - but such a great, catchy song.


            HEALTH - TEARS :D

      Me also. Ever since I connected the PC to the TV it is near impossible to go back and play low res 360.

    Can't wait to play this game.
    Yep, that was interesting.

    I played the 1st two Max Paynes but have been waiting for some spare cash to get this one!

    I also played both GTA4 and RDR with "soft-lock" OFF. It definitely made the game more difficult, but I loved the chaotic results it generated.

    EG: In GTA, I vividly remember the first time my SMG exploded the tyre and windows of a car an enemy was behind. Sparks and glass in every direction, then the rear of the car sunk due to the blown-up tyre, exposing the enemies head, which I managed to pop on the 3rd or 4th round of the next burst of the gun. Visceral, to say the least.

    I really think Rockstar's "soft-lock" ON by default is a dis-service to their games, as the RAGE and EUPHORIA engines respond amazingly when everything's getting shot!

      Absolutely agree. I went back and played a few levels with soft lock on. It ruins the experience. The visual carnage that ensues when the gun ballet starts, bullets flying everywhere, glass exploding, bottles breaking, bodies hitting the floor, shells flying everywhere, everything going chaotic, screaming voices, pots and pans clanging as they get shot, doors swinging open from random bullets, holes peppering the walls, vs bullets hitting the mark every single time with soft lock? No thank you sir I want FREE AIM every time!!!

      I agree with you 100%. Turning auto aim off takes Rockstar games to the next level. The default should be 'off' - I worry that alot of people missed out on experiences like yours from having auto aim enabled.

    This game is awesome. Great story, solid mechanics, beautiful soundtrack, looks pretty, and beards. What more could you want?

      Spot on!

    Pre ordered on steam, and hasn't gone live yet.. But the fact I got a free copy of L.A. Noir for pre ordering 10/10

    I'm only four chapters in but I haven't encountered any problems. I was terrible at shooting from thay chopper though. I also find it refreshing to not have regenerating health. The game is challenging in a good way. Havent't played much multiplayer but I like it so far!

    You know what I think. But in all honesty, I am in love with all of it. Best of all for me is that it feels like Max Payne. Found with harder difficulties I am not in cover as much as I was in medium.

    I love Max Payne 3, my goty so far. I love the shooting. I usually mix it with cover shooting & crazy stunt shooting lol theres nothing quite like being on your last sliver of health, thinking f**k it! then launching into a slow-mo dive & clearing out the room by the hair of your skin! Awesome:)

    Loved this game, finished it on Saturday (on the Medium setting). Thought the storyline was great, but for some reason I expected it to get alot 'darker' and 'weirder'.

    One of my favourite parts of the game had to be the seamless intergration of the cutscenes and the gameplay. I loved that they didn't have high-end glossy cutscenes to then pause for a load screen and dump you into a sub standard environment that felt lacklustre in comparison to the cut scenes. This really created a sense of flow in the game and I think this is a technique that more devs should utilise.

    I am in no way interested in playing Multiplayer. I know this probably makes me a minority, but the thrill of games for me is sitting back and pumping through the storyline (while my girlfriend yells "THERE'S A GUY ON YOUR LEFT"). I have no intention of playing Multiplayer and frankly am somewhat saddened that a lot of the achievements are tied to the MP aspect.

    On the whole, The graphics are fantastic, the storyline is great (if a liiiiittle confusing at times) and I loved the feeling of being in a foreign environment, right down to the lack of subtitles for all the Brazilian dialogue. The soundtrack was utterly phenomenal and definitely a highlight of the game.

    I'd give it a 9 out of 10, losing a point because I felt they could have pushed Max's descent into oblivion a tiny bit more. I kept expecting some Grade-A hallucinations to kick in, with the screen glitching being a prominent feature in the game - and I have to say that I was a tad disappointed that they didn't. Gritty realism, fantastic - but for me, nothing will top the 'blood corridors' level from MP1.

      I agree totally, but I would take off 2 points for the lack of weirdness. Blood corridors FTW.

        Agreed. On the whole it was great but I was definitely expecting it to be weirder.

          I was waiting for it to get a bit wierder, agreed, but I guess that was a part of the storyline, that Max has moved past his trauma and is getting on with his life. It's not a case of HEY GUYZ AHM CURED! As you saw in the game, but a very well handled situation I felt. It was what, 12 years since his wife died I think? Or 13 in the game? Either way, a little wierdness would have been nice, but I guess *SPOILERS* giving up the booze, symbolic of shaving his head, changing himself, going through detox etc, the visual cues with the screen artifacting now and then, was the games own 'wierdness'.

    I agree with all the positive comments. MP3 is an excellent game. I was going to wait for the PC version, but I'm so impatient I bought the PS3 version day 1. The graphics are phenomenal for a PS3 game! The setting is great, and the story was a lot of fun. I have to say I really enjoyed the gun play. At first, I was going a bit too "action hero" and getting nailed for it. After a few chapters I worked out my style mixing cover with shoot dodge and generous use of bullet time in the tougher areas.

    I was really worried that MP3 was going to be a let down compared to the first 2, but I can happily say that this is not the case at all. Rockstar really nailed this one. There are some truly epic moments and the final scene of the game is fantastic!

    I'm not sold on the multi player yet, but I haven't given it much time. I'm really excited to see how good this looks on PC because the PS3 version exceeded my expectations. I might have to get the PC version sometime in the future during a Steam sale. I'd definitely play through the game again.

    any word on the PC release date?

      Steam is saying the 6th of June.

    I covered what I thought pretty extensively in my reader review but there were some aspects I didn't go into. I turned the soft-lock off immediately - what's the point? And it annoyed the hell out of me not to have a choice of which enemy to initially target. Rockstar's auto-aim has always been troublesome and I found the shooting mechanics were well up to empowering me to come out on top The slo-mo I loved - I didn't over-use it, and when it worked, it worked extremely well. It added a real sense of peril to the combat - a last ditch leap into gunfire with your last skerrick of health really heightened the sense of, "I'm a bad-arse, now eat my bullets, bitches". I thought think the cover-based gameplay and the slo-mo complemented each other extremely well, but as pointed out above, accidentally diving into a bench or a wall due to a camera mis-alignment REALLY sucked when you're down on health and high on enemies.
    Barring a couple of control and graphical issues I thought MP3 was thoroughly excellent and, by a long shot, the best new release title I've played this year.

    Just finished the game last night on normal. Really enjoyed it. A few frustrating moments though and yes i used cover a lot more then bullet time as my aim is rather poor. I would like to try it on PC.

    One particular memorable scene was turning on bulletime, running up doing a forward roll to pick up a rocket launcher in slow motion, then smoothly switching to shootdodge and firing my only rocket and destroying the target. Quite awesome.

    My main gripe is when you are holding rifle then it goes to a cut scene it automatically switches your main weapon back to a pistol. A minor annoyance.

      HAHHAHAHAHA YES! The weapon switching in the cutscenes was a tad annoying. Didn't notice it too much though and I think that alot of the cutscenes involve Max popping a cap into someone so it's probably a necessary evil to some degree.

    How's multiplayer?

      Multiplayer is good fun - it's well balanced, the bursts are useful and Gang Wars is fantastic fun. Get a crew of friends together and they'll persist in GTAV , too.
      The bullet-time is well implemented, it only affects the two people engaged in the firefight. If you randomly come across two people in bullet-time you enter it as well. There's nothing so satisfying as turning a corner and seeing one guy slowly sailing across the room focussed on someone else; popping him mid-dive and then engaging your own to take out their target. When I played it (basically on release) everyone was around the same level so there wasn't one dude with everything unlocked dominating everyone else. Give it a go if you like the gameplay; it's fast, frantic, fun, and balanced.

        Thanks, it looks really fun, and I'd love to get my mates into a group to play in a crew

        What if you don't have any friends? Like me....

    Tempted to cancel my order of the pc version and run down and grab it on ps3...but the controls discussion might make me wait, also new graphics card on the way :)

    I too would like to know what MP is like... is it laggy as shit like RDR and GTA4 were for us Aussies? I am tossing up between this and Ghost Recon: FS...

      I experienced some very, very minor graphical lag in one of the more enemy heavy areas (the airport) towards the end of the game. Aside from that, it flows really well and the AI is great.

    I'd also like to add that I found the 'golden gun' feature in the game a little confusing. What's it for? Why should I care? The in game tutorials and prompts were very intuitive but for someone like me who really couldn't be bothered reading the instruction book, I think it needed a little more explanation.

      You just get a 10% damage bonus, so far as I can tell

        Oh right, thanks Stu. Would've been helpful to have that explained in-game somewhere I think.

          Also a gold skin for multiplayer weapons, if you've bought the weapon

    I'm about 75% of the way through, playing normal with free aim (no soft lock for me)

    I'm enjoying it mostly, but the action is pretty repetitve. I love how fast each checkpoint reloads though when you have to try again!

    I have encountered a suprising amount of bugs though, (I'm playing on 360). I've had invisible enemies shooting me, I've fallen through the floor of the world to my death 3 times. I've obviously walked further than the usual trigger point for a cutscene to find myself in a large unfinished and unpoplated city, (not unlike the left over assets from GTA games in the past)
    I also got stuck in cover and couldn't move at all, I was getting shot to hell, but Max didn't mind, he just stood in cover taking every bullet. Had to reset to fix basically all of these bugs when they happened.

    i played this on hard with free aim and completed it. it is so rewarding playing it this way. i enjoyed this game a lot. now for GTA 5, im hoping the presentation and look of the game is the same as MP3.

    Max Payne 3 came out recently? *goes back to diablo III*

    Seriously, I was actually really interested in this game because I really liked max payne 1 and 2, why would they try to go head to head with the biggest release of the year?!?!?!

    I have played though the story once, and played a few of the chapters on arcade. I think it's a great addition to the series. I did notice myself that this one is less about crazy shootdodging firefights and more about cover shooting, but I think there's a decent balance. This is one game where I don't mind dying as it doesn't bother me to replay sections (cause they're fun!). It does get pretty hard towards the end though. I have only played on soft lock, I'm a bit scared of free aim, but I'll have a crack at it!

    I have been playing online multiplayer for the last few days and I think it's great. I don't usually play multiplayer online games as I tend to suck quite a lot, but this one makes me feel like I'm on a more level playing field.. I even won a round against dudes on much higher levels!!!

    This game is excellent in many ways and terrible at the same time. The story was pretty good. But the online multilayer needs some serious shaping up. Sometimes ur gun doesn't shoot, the grenades get thrown Fucking underhand causing them to ricochet off a wall or whatever right in front of u, the bullets sometimes don't even do anything when ur soft lock is on the target enemy sometimes. You could spray and spray dudes and then they turn around and one shot you, snipers should def. Not be unlockable all the way at level 20position that's just dumb. Idk the mechanics just don't make sense to me alot. I feel they should've fine tuned it a little more or put out a beta for testing before release. And another thing, half the Fucking time it spawns u right in a crossfire or right in front of enemies. Its just garbage. All in all its a straight game, but you'll definitely get mad alot online. Unless ur a camping Bitch that is. But seriously if somebody from rockstar reads this, please fix the Damn game, make some patches, Idk what u gotta do, but at least make it fair. I can't see me unloading almost 30just rounds into

      An enemy and then he turns around and pops me. Its just horseshit. Plz fix. Sincerley a dissapointed gamer and faithful max payment fan. >:(

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