- Posted: 6:27 PM, May 24, 2012
I mean, really:
“I didn’t know what to think any more. This town had more smoke and mirrors than a strip club locker room.”
“Sao Paulo is like Baghdad with G-strings”
And that's just two lines of dialog out of God knows how many. The thing is: They're great. They're perfect. I love the heck out of them.
Just like I love the game.
I don't know if it's narrative perfection, but it's close. Real close.
Max Payne 3 shows us a protagonist who, in his words, isn't slipping, but "slipped." Max is a battered shell of a man. He's an alcoholic and addicted to painkillers. He's lost his wife and his daughter and his life as a NYPD Detective.
So, with nothing to lose, Max takes on a gig as a bodyguard for rich kids in Brazil at the insistence of his former police academy pal Raul Passos.
And, of course, things go terribly wrong. The wealthy Bronco family -- who are under Max's protection -- find themselves in the crosshairs of a street gang called the Comando Sombra.
Kidnapping and chaos ensues. And Max finds himself stuck in the middle of what is effectively an endlessly twisting war.
Visually, Max Payne 3 is a treat. It's gritty and realistic, but has enough flair to stand out. Think of it like Denzel Washington's "Man On Fire" but tack on The Video Game at the end.
It is also remarkably brutal. While you won't see limbs flying off enemies, the bullets you put into foes look alarmingly very much like bullet holes.
And, of course, there's plenty of blood spray.
The game controls like Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV. It's a little loose but perfectly serviceable. And Bullet Time makes a triumphant return here, giving you that edge in the middle of combat with seemingly countless enemies.
There will be many bodies by the time you're done.
But, as mentioned, the real star of the show here is the narrative and the delivery.
James McCaffrey -- who is the only voice actor in the world who I ever want to see as Max -- returns, and he's perfect. His acting in particular is what sells the character and the story. The guns and the bullets and the blood would not have the same impact without his voice.
The multiplayer is also a blast. It's deep and robust, with those RPG elements (leveling up your character to unlock cooler stuff/attachments/whathaveyou) that are apparently mandatory in every game now.
It also has a feature called 'Crews' -- which is more than just a clan tag. While searching for games, and if you're in a crew, you're more likely to get matched up with your crewmates. In addition to that, they’re persistent, cross-platform and you get extra XP for helping crew mates. They also work not just across matches but across games, so the crews you make in Max Payne 3 will follow onto GTA V.
Bullet Time also works in multiplayer, though its useage is limited to yourself and whoever happens to be in your targeting reticule.
But there are two things about the game I damn well hated: The load times are frequent and rather long (and hidden behind cutscenes you can't skip).
There are certain parts of certain maps that just become an annoying grind. The bleachers in the soccer stadium come to mind here, where enemies are hucking grenades at you but ... you never get grenades of your own.
I still believe that Max Payne 3 is Rockstar's best to date. And that's a hell of a feat. It's smart and brutal and witty. It's a somber look at a broken man who, with your help, rights the wrongs he sees.
Welcome back, Max. Hope you stay a while.
Final grade: A
Max Payne 3 is rated M for Mature and is available for the Xbox and PS3. It comes to the PC June 1st.