Max Payne 3 review

  • Gunplay that's updated and well-executed
  • Outstanding presentation and setpieces
  • Fun multiplayer designed to keep you engaged
  • Checkpoint system warps pacing in later stages
  • Sometimes, mechanics work against you
  • Plot may feel predictable to some

There’s a fantastic moment halfway through Max Payne 3. The titular hero has reached his boiling point, shaved his head, and gone underground into Sao Paolo’s gritty favelas. Things are looking down. A local gang has robbed him of guns, watch, and even his sunglasses. He’s been kicked into a ditch full of trash and sewage. And as he traverses through a stream of filth and philosophizes about his lot in life, we understand how he’s somewhat complicit in perpetuating this societal imbalance through his steady stream of gunfire to protect the wealthy. It’s a segment that feels like a filth-smeared complement to Uncharted 2’s critically lauded “Tibetan Village” section. And it’s a moment that beautifully epitomizes the experience.

At its most distilled essence, Rockstar’s fabled series is a giant shooting gallery. You move from spot to spot in a rather confined experience, all while largely doing the same activity. But once you pile on the layers of depth –its hallucinatory visuals, exciting locales, gruesome executions, and the ugly consequences of addiction – you’ve got the makings of a phenomenal action title. Even out of the hands of original dev team Remedy and writer Sam Lake, Max Payne 3 updates everything for a new age, and resultantly, it’s a must-play game.

Max Payne 3 finds our hero in Sao Paolo, albeit older, heavier, and scarred from the events of the prior games. He's working security detail for Rodrigo Branco, a wealthy Brazilian banker whose trophy wife, Fabiana, has been abducted by a notorious street gang, Comando Sombra. The Branco family, from hard-partying Marcelo to local politician Victor, are well-off and offer Max plenty of exposure to the city’s elite. And its bottles of brown liquor.

Max isn’t quite the hard-boiled cop or the star-crossed and conflicted hero of the prior two games; instead, he has grown into a self-medicating mercenary. Whereas painkillers were used as a healing device in the prior games, Max not only uses them as in-game healing, but constantly comments about his dependency on pills. On many occasions, you’ll see him in cutscenes with booze in hand, or waking up with a hangover. As every single attempt to rescue Fabiana fails, Max and his partner Raul Passos find themselves getting more desperate, and find out just how deep the motives behind this abduction get. Based on your familiarity with law enforcement, poverty, and blatant civil and human rights violations in large South American cities (or viewings of movies like Brazilian action blockbuster Elite Squad), some of this may not be so shocking. But it’s still well-told.

Along the way, you’ll shoot your way through a variety of colorful and beautifully designed locales – each following the game’s formula of big slow-motion setpieces and opportunities for big action movie-driven moments – from a nightclub shootout that evokes Tom Cruise’s stand-off in Collateral (gray suit included) to a bloody escape from a soccer stadium to the same level of massive moments that drove John Woo’s finest Heroic Bloodshed genre. It’s a fascinating contrast to Remedy’s visually darker, grittier East Coast corridors (and yet, those moments aren’t as far removed as you’d expect). Again, at its core, Max Payne 3 is a glorified shooting gallery. But what a gorgeously laid out gallery it is. The game’s charming and driving achievement is the concept that no matter how similar the gameplay is from moment to moment and beat to beat, the world is so gripping that you can’t help but to feel engrossed.

Aside from the colorful and exciting backdrops, the gunplay has taken on a different style in Max Payne 3. Bullet Time and Shootdodge still allow you to deal death in slow motion, but Max can now stay on the ground and shoot from prone positions. You have the option of three shooting styles that let you choose between traditional free-aiming, semi-assisted target, and full-on assisted targeting, all of which complement the difficulty curve. With the introduction of heavily cover-based gameplay, Max Payne 3 beautifully weds the unique elements that defined the classics with a contemporary feel. Also, in later stages, the difficulty ratchets up as dissolvable cover starts to pop up, and you’ll see flimsy shanty walls and barriers become more susceptible to gunfire.

More Info

Release date: May 15 2012 - Xbox 360
Jun 01 2012 - PC
May 15 2012 - PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: Rockstar Games
Developed by: Rockstar Studios
Franchise: Max Payne
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs, Use of Alcohol
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

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  • Mar27w - August 23, 2012 8:47 a.m.

    this game rocks, although make sure you switch of the crappy bullet fx effect before playing,the game is joy to play and once you unlock unlimited bullet time and bullet cam for all kills it just turns into a beautiful ballet of bullets and cinematic gunplay the likes of which has never been done before in such glorious detail,watching your bullets splinter through a wooden fence then rip through the badguy and finally punture a water tank with the water spouting out all in ultra smooth slo mo is just a joy to behold and as far as im concerned,best game of 2012
  • griever - June 15, 2012 10:17 a.m.

    It's a good game. I mean yeah, "good", but I don't think it deserves a 10/10. Yeah Max's monologues are always a treat, but overall the storyline is so predictable. Attention to detail is there of course but the overall gameplay's sluggish. I'd give it at best a 7/10 compared to the first two games of the series.
  • daniel-scott - June 4, 2012 11:57 a.m.

    I was really surprised with the attention to detail in this game. The little twitches Max has when getting shot at, or how he carries a long rifle/shotgun in his hand and drops it to use two guns really impressed me. It feels an older game, but only the best things, everything that was outdated was rebuilt. Their are very little probs, but I agree with this review. Replay value is also very high even without multiplayer 10/10
  • codzprc - May 28, 2012 2:49 a.m.

    So everyone is okay with the scoped weapons using the left stick to aim... no one wants to mention the fact that for 97% of the game you aim with the RIGHT stick, but the moment you grab a scoped weapon you're forced to use the LEFT stick... I'm just curious on the thought process behind that decision.
  • codzprc - May 28, 2012 3 a.m.

    goggled the problem, lots say they can aim scoped weapons with the right stick as normal - anyone confirm that? What do I need to change? I haven't switched any settings, but didn't see anything that would apply to these differences in the options.
  • Imgema - May 22, 2012 3:22 a.m.

    This game has the best graphics i have ever seen so far, i'll give them that.
  • Telekinesis - May 19, 2012 3:56 p.m.

    10/10 and I'm supposed to take this review seriously becuase? That's a score 10 year old fanboys give to a game on metacritic.
  • reach110 - May 21, 2012 7:23 p.m.

    "This game is too good! How dare you rate this well!!! This is preposterous! Your scale should only go to 9! HARUMPH!"
  • D0CCON - May 16, 2012 6:23 p.m.

    This review smelt of pizza and I loved it for that. Impressive VO by the way.
  • XanderGC - May 16, 2012 11:09 a.m.

    CANTISTA! - As if I wasn't already excited enough about the game, he has to go and ramp it up a notch lol.
  • rob619 - May 16, 2012 9:34 a.m.

    Gamesradar finally! A video review please do this for all reviews in the future. You need to do this to keep in their with the likes of IGN, Gamespot etc which always have video reviews. I personally have always prefered gamesradar! You are heading in the right direction!
  • GaryTheGuidoHunter - May 16, 2012 6:47 a.m.

    Excellent review
  • DualWieldingIsNotFeasible - May 15, 2012 9:15 p.m.

    Since D3's servers are so spotty, I was playing this all afternoon. I couldn't have asked for more. Max Payne 1 and 2 were such beautiful masterpieces of overwrought noire, and 3 keeps the streak alive.
  • BladedFalcon - May 15, 2012 8:40 p.m.

    Yay! Glad to see the Antista video Review! been waiting to get it ^^ And yeah, seeing the game in motion again only makes me even more pumped for it. Also, Giant shooting gallery or not, you gotta love those awesome cinematic moments such as when Max slides from that balcony to shoot down enemies in slow motion. Hopefully I'll be bale to get the game sooner than later.
  • Jedipimp0712 - May 15, 2012 2:38 p.m.

    Y u no have super review? Still great review though! Can't wait to pick it up!
  • Fiirestorm21 - May 14, 2012 8:55 p.m.

    I think it's safe to say that mechanics are easily Rockstar's weak point. Still hate the GTA games for theirs; GTA4 was just playable in my eyes. This looks better, but still, come on, checkpoint pacing? Really, Rockstar?
  • addicted2088 - May 15, 2012 1:37 p.m.

    If by mechanics you mean the way the character we controls moves and plays, then yes, I totally agree. GTA4 was a mess, trying to control Niko was a pain, specially when making him turn backwards or forwards. And I didn't see much improvements in the Max Payne 3 videos, the characters still seem to move awkwardly. L.A Noire had the problem as well. Seriously Max Payne 3 is not too irritating.
  • Dadyo238 - May 14, 2012 8:07 p.m.

  • ObliqueZombie - May 14, 2012 6:50 p.m.

    Eh, still don't care enough to play it. Not that it doesn't look interest, but I haven't played the other two and getting a "quick recap" of the previous titles seems shallow and unfun. Unfortunately, I think I'll pass on this for a while.
  • secher_nbiw - May 15, 2012 3:04 a.m.

    It's a video game, not the second act of Richard III. I think you'll be alright just jumping in :)