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Max Payne 3 Review

As mediums go, video game narratives are sporadically lackluster, often dependent on elements such as rousing action or tactical analysis to engage players. One of the more popular defenses for this phenomenon explains that the industry is still in its infancy. Unlike books or film, games haven’t had the time to cultivate a grammar of their own; a method to effectively articulate an engaging storyline. Nine years ago, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne relied on comic book panels to express the conspiracy-fueled tale of a sardonic NYPD detective. The recent release of Max Payne 3 reveals Rockstar Vancouver masterfully combining a variety of stylistic storytelling devices to well-crafted set-pieces, effectively demonstrating the burgeoning maturity of interactive media.

Cinemaphiles will quickly recognize the source of some the developer’s unabashed cribbing. From a palette which contrasts smog-tinted oranges against serene blues as well as camera perspective that is persistently fluid, it’s clear that the team studied the oeuvre of a pre-Transformers Michael Bay. Frame flutter as well as cherry-picked bits of dialog that emerge on-screen are the mark of Tony Scott’s Man on Fire– which used similar techniques to transmit an uneasiness on the verge of bursting right through the confines of the medium.

Similarly, Max Payne 3 contextualizes Man on Fire’s storyline of physical and emotional deterioration, as well as a growing isolation in the midst of an over-crowded and increasingly volatile city. As the game opens, we find our protagonist holed up in a utilitarian apartment, swigging scotch insatiably as he overlooks the skyline of São Paulo. Like Fire’s lead character, Payne’s drinking interferes with his contracted guarding duties, allowing members of a socialite family to be kidnapped by ruthless criminals. Smartly, two elements elevate Max Payne above typical melodramatic impetus: the protagonist’s wry monologue and deft characterization.

Payne’s internal dialog doesn’t just add sardonic flavor to the game. Although he expresses his disdain for the people he’s working for as well as the location itself, the narration serves as a method to articulate the elements too delicate to be expressed with in-game cinematics- allowing player’s to peer into Payne’s tortured psyche.  Smartly, dialog isn’t all pre-canned- stumble across a small clue or remain in an area too long, and the protagonist will offer remark on your actions. While the effect isn’t as organic at Bastion’s narrator, Max Payne’s writing is impressively written and expertly delivered. Throughout the single-player campaign, several of the game’s characters reveal a subtle emotional arc, cast with a refinement uncommon for gaming. Impressively, the title rarely stoops for comic relief, maintaining its hard-boiled tone through the storyline’s twelve-hour duration.

Of course, the extensive character development does have its cost. The game’s cinematics can be lengthy and since they are often unskippable, they conceivably serve to mask the game’s load times. Regardless, the title’s whirlwind of locations is staggering, with players proceeding through immaculately rendered discos, restaurants, soccer stadiums, and shanty towns and well as flashbacks which revisit the snow-covered urban setting of the north-eastern United States.

Smartly, Rockstar Vancouver recreated much of Max’s previous repertoire of retribution, while adding a few key moves into his arsenal of assassination. Bullet Time still permits Payne to have a temporal advantage over his foes, with every aspect of the game slowing except the player’s aiming and firing ability. Shoot dodges send the protagonist bounding through the air, although they aren’t the crutch they were in the first two titles; now players often end the leap with Max on the ground vulnerable to enemy fire. A Grand Theft Auto IV-like cover system allows gamers to keep intruding enemies at bay, even granting players the ability to blind-fire. Elegantly, this defense mechanic meshes with Max Payne’s pre-existing moveset, allowing the character to build up his Bullet Time gauge as he thins out the antagonistic crowds.

Each ballistic battle is elevated by satisfying AI, which continually tries to flank the player. Coupled with destructible cover, Max is continually pressured to remain improvisational and react to increasingly more challenging situations. Near the conclusion of the game, body-armored, helmet-wearing foes put up a considerable degree of resistance. Max Payne’s most adrenaline-agitating moments are slow-motion set-pieces which send the protagonist sniping foes while hanging from a helicopter or smashing an enemy through a glass window, shooting combatants as the two tumble toward the ground. While some might take issue with the ability to instantly fail at these sequences, such as mechanic helps sustain the game’s controller-clenching intensity. Conveniently, the title provides three different levels of aiming assistance, from trigger pulls which snap to antagonists to a free aim mode which offers no aid to players.

Whereas Max Payne 3’s storyline is unflinchingly solemn, an aura of cheerful rivalry permeates through the title’s multiplayer component. Using an unlockable set of loadouts as motivation a generous set of variations await competitive-minded players. From the five round, team-based matches of Gang Wars, which present a selection of randomized objectives to Payne Killer- where players earn points for keeping the game’s nemesis and partner Passos alive, the title’s oppositions draw from popular deathmatch and team deathmatch game types. Shooting dodging and Bullet Time are even incorporated into the multiplayer areas; although engaging the later only slows those who are in the player’s line of sight. Finalizing the game’s avenues of action are an arcade mode and the return of New York Minute- which challenges Max to work against a persistently dwindling timer.

In much the same way that Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption outshined the contemporary gangster and western film, Max Payne 3 reminds players of the potential of the action film. Before cinema became enamored with the PG-13, CGI-driven spectacle, hyperviolent features like John Woo’s The Killer and Hard Boiled delivered staggering set-pieces which quickened the heart rates of viewers. With a taut storyline and enthralling action sequences, Rockstar’s latest not only delivers a mesmeric experience, but also demonstrates the advancement of interactive storytelling.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. I know GOTY gets tossed around a lot, so I’m not going to say that MP3 will hold the honor. But it’s one hellauva contender.

  2. Wow, it’s been a LONG time since we’ve seen an “A”. (What was the last NIS game?!?)

    But it’s Rockstar, and Deagle seems to have a raging hard-on for them and movies. So it all makes sense.

  3. You know I hate how Rockstar is so damn tightlipped about their games. That’s why I didn’t preorder it.

    Now I hear its the second coming, I figure I really need to get a copy.

  4. Are there any big differences between the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions? If I remember right, GTA IV ran a little bit better on the PS3.

    • Well the PS3 version comes on one disk not two.

      Just saw the graphics of the Xbox version for a minute. They looked pretty much the same. Lighting, depth, framerate, etc.

  5. Deagle, maybe you get get a job at Gamespot. Because their review didn’t make any sense to me.

    “Times change and people change, too; Max Payne isn’t the same man by the end of this game that he is at the beginning. It’s fitting, then, that the gameplay has also evolved, that Max needs to proceed with a bit more caution than he did in his younger days. They say the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

    So do things change or not? Someone needs to change a writer.

    • War never changes, right?

      • “War has changed. It’s no longer about nations, ideologies, or ethnicity. It’s an endless series of proxy battles fought by mercenaries and machines. War – and its consumption of life – has become a well-oiled machine. War has changed. ID-tagged soldiers carry ID-tagged weapons, use ID-tagged gear. Nanomachines inside their bodies enhance and regulate their abilities. Genetic control. Information control. Emotion control. Battlefield control. Everything is monitored and kept under control. War has changed. The age of deterrence has become the age of control… All in the name of averting catastrophe from weapons of mass destruction. And he who controls the battlefield… controls history. War has changed. When the battlefield is under total control… War becomes routine.”

    • Did you notice how Gamespot was advertising Max Payne and reviewing it. Still up to their same tricks after all these years.

      • Well, almost every “gaming journalism” website/ magazine is just a group of marketing shills for the big publishers nowadays (barring this site, of course), so Gamespot is hardly the only one to blame.

        Back on topic, I’ve been looking forward to this game – although since I’ve yet to play MP1 and 2, I’d probably put it off a bit longer. (´・ω・`)

  6. I’m playing this now and I thought the cutscenes could have looked a little better. There’s some stuttering and the graphics aren’t all that sharp. It’s not a deal killer, but other games look way better.

  7. A great review written wise, but the score isnt worth it, the game is getting mostly 7’s and 8’s for a reason

    the game just plain isnt that good……..

    • Agreed. nice references and enjoyable read, but no way is this an “A” game. “B+” tops. There’s just not enough action and too many cutscenes that break things up.

  8. Since I don’t have the money for this, I’m going to go home and play my copy of Strangehold.

  9. I’m waiting for the PC version. It will look better and hopefully it will be modable.

  10. Game has guns and lot of bullets=”A” from Deagle.

    I’m calling an “A-” from Ghost Recon right NOW.

    • I’m three stages into the single player campaign of Ghost Recon: Future Solider and can say I REALLY like it.

  11. If you ask me it’s kind of bullshit you reviewed this and NOT Sniper Elite V2.

    I know Rock* is going to turn out a good game and don’t need you to tell me that (although your review was well written) it’s the smaller games I need to know about.

  12. thanks for the contest game looks great I would love the chance to play it

  13. wildbillhickock

    wow they made some huge changes which is great

  14. This game looks and sounds amazing!

  15. I have been looking forward to this game! I played the hell out of Max Payne 1 and 2 on PC.

  16. Oh can I just saw that was a pretty amazing review. You write better than the reporter in my local (Houston) paper.

  17. Just to let you all know TRU is giving away 1600 MS point cards with the 360 version.

  18. Must resist… e3 is around the corner! I loved the first game, minus the dark dripping blood maze bit. It is good to hear that they have done right by the franchise!

    • Oh yeah walking the rope was a pain in the ass. I almost forgot about that.

      Nice review, Des.

  19. can’t wait to play this game!!

  20. AntaraelDulacre

    Looks pretty amazing =D
    DO WANT! ^^

  21. Man this looks awesome and to get an A rating this is a must have.

  22. uncle crackhead

    I played about 3 hours and must have it. Really fun, both the SP and MP.

  23. Awesome review! I want to play the Max Payne 3 because I heard it’s pretty amazing game. I hope I get this game!

  24. Sounds like a good game.

  25. Now that’s a review. You hit this one out of the park, DEagle.

    Glad to hear than Max is back and they didn’t screw things up.

  26. Nice review Desert Eagle, I need me some bullet time! 🙂 It’s interesting how they integrated it into multiplayer.

  27. CosmosTheMouse

    Hopefully somewhere along the line I wind up getting this game. Seeing an A review has me skeptical, but I’ll make my own opinion after playing it. 🙂

  28. Sounds like its got a good storyline, not something you find too often in Shooters these days. Must try it!

  29. DcupsOfJustice

    Nice. I might play the game now.

  30. Nice review DesertEagle.And speaking of “Desert Eagle”, can’t wait to use the DE in Max Payne.

  31. Wow, an A rating! I really wasn’t sure how this game was going to turn out, but now I might have to give it a shot (no pun intended).

  32. Of course, someone named DesertEagle would give the game a “A”. hahaha

  33. Nice review.

  34. I’ve seen videos of the game, color me interested.

  35. Right on, I can’t wait to get this.

  36. It’s looks like a cool game and all, but I really like Rockstar for their open world games. I’m not doubting that this will be a good game, but having not played it yet, can’t say I know of the quality in my personal opinion.

    • I like open world games but they also don’t feel like more linear games. Liner games (to me at least) are better at telling stories. With open world, you kind of create your own story.

  37. Rockstar rarely disappoints. Never really had any doubt they would deliver with this great franchise.

  38. Makes me want to buy it even with my backlog

  39. This is a kool game thanks for the giveaway!

  40. This is one of those games I’d love to play but can’t talk myself into buying. Thanks for the contest.

  41. I have always wanted to play max payne and this definitely looks like where i need to start.

  42. I really hadn’t heard much about this game until the past few days, when reviews started coming out for it.
    It sounds like a cool game. I’d like to play it in the near future. I just need to wade through my backlog a bit first.

  43. I played a bit of this at my friends house and man this game is fun. The style of this game is just pure awesome.

  44. WilliamRLBaker

    I can’t wait to play this when I’m able to get the game.

  45. This looks great! Thanks for reviewing it. I wasn’t sure if I would like Max Payne 3, it’s a new game to me.

  46. Nice review.

  47. Really hope that I get to play this game because I really enjoyed all the other Max Payne games. Glad to see all the positive reviews on it so far!

  48. Nice review. I’ve heard nothing but good things, which doesn’t surprise me, Max Payne has always been great!

  49. Sounds like a pretty solid game. Once my backlog dies down a little I’ll have to pick this up.

  50. Austin Baroudi

    Pretty sick looking game. I think I might actually be picking this up today.

  51. Glad to see the games AI is pretty good.most games these days seems to have horrible AI.I’m also interested in to seeing how bullet time is in MP.

  52. Its cool to be a part of a ten year old franchise and to say I’ve played both previous games. Both were unique fun and just amazing, and ten years later, the third coming out, it’s just wonderful to say that max payne has never looked so bad(in a good way). Im very excited knowing that Rockstar has made another hit. Thanks for the review, it was great and everyone enjoy the game!

  53. Great review!
    Game looks sick!
    I’m a huge max payne fan, just wish i had the cash to get this

  54. Everyone’s saying the visual effects and cinematics in Max Payne 3 are awesome. Can’t wait to play it. Hope the quality on Xbox will be as good as on high-end PCs with this one (though I doubt it, given the experience with other recent titles)…

  55. Great review! 🙂 Max Payne 3 looks awesome, RockStar definitely delivers when it comes to their games! I’m looking for the GTAV review when that comes out!

  56. I’ve never played a Max Payne game before, but this one looks pretty good! Nice review! Thanks for the contest and consideration of my comment.

    Twitter: @PriusGuy2004

  57. Nice Review.

    Oddly, it almost sounds like they remade John Woo’s Stranglehold (not a bad thing, just kind of a surprise).

  58. I am trying to get my buddy to sell me his CE statue. Winning the game from you all would be doubly sweet!

    CAG: DonPantalones
    Twitter: theadamjordan

  59. I’ve been trying to decide if I want the game or not. Your review may have pushed me over to the ‘buy’ side, though. A very well structured review, something I don’t see often enough.
    Thanks for the review (and the contest)!
    Twitter: @eugaet_aux
    CAG: eugaet

  60. I loved the first two Max Payne games and played the hell out of them on my old Xbox (don’t even think of playing the PS2 versions. They are gimped). Hearing that the new one really brings the series up to date is cool. Although I’m not surprised by Rock*

  61. Listen, I need this game.

    My house was built on top of a volcano, and the lava gods demand that I play Max Payne 3 or they will surely burn me to ashes.


  62. The cutscene effects are really overdone in this game and get annoying very quickly.

  63. Wow, an impressive score for a sequel to a sequel! Out of all the Rockstar games I own, somehow I’ve never managed to play a Max Payne title. This might just break my streak after seeing this review.

  64. Looks pretty awesome to me!

  65. I’ve never played Max Payne but this looks really cool. Thanks for the review.

  66. Looks good. I can’t wait to get my hands on this game.

  67. The game looks really nice, at the very least.

    Also, shooting people in the face is just nasty, from all I’ve seen and heard. Not sure how to feel about that.

  68. Game looks amazing, can’t wait to play it.

  69. I have never tried a Max Payne game, I was actually thinkin about getting 2 for my ps2 before i get this one lol To get it free would be even better 😀

  70. So long as there aren’t any blood trail maze nightmares in this one, I’m interested.

    Twitter: @DrScientifico

  71. Never played Max Payne before, but now looks like the to start.

  72. Jared Z (@Darklurkr23)

    Not sure if I left a comment already (don’t see one)

    ANyway I’ve been watching some streams of this and it looks HYPE! Can’t wait to play it! Thanks for giving it away guys!

  73. This game looks really awesome. I always loved the originals! Thanks for the contest, and I would love to win it!
    Twitter: @secretclean

  74. Loved the first two games, this one looks to be better than both

  75. I’ve never played a Payne game, but I’ve heard good things (including this review). My interest is piqued.

  76. Theodore Robert Cowell

    I’m waiting this game since i finish max payne 2, this game looks so amazig, great graphics, graeat gameplay.

    exelent game at all, go rockstar

  77. great review, def will pick this game up soon.

  78. This game looks amazing.. I need to get a copy!! Great review!

  79. I’ll wait until they release a GOTY or Ultimate edition with all the DLC.

  80. Great review! Really want this game! 😀

  81. This game looks so good, I really hope I get to play it soon.

  82. great review max payne would love the chance to try this out, and join the dtoid crew
    cag mowmow

  83. Amazing review. Really good. You should write for Vox.

  84. great review, hoping to get this game soon

  85. I can tell this review was written in bullet time. ;D


  87. This game looks like a lot of fun. I wish I bought it instead of another game I got a couple weeks back.

  88. Nice Review.

  89. Great review!

  90. Glad to hear the game isn’t a Max Payne in the ass, looking forward to playing it!

  91. anything rockstar does is good as gold

  92. i’ve been playing this for the past few days and love it. it’s a challenging game with free aim but it makes it so very satisfying. also hope i win as i rented the game and would love a copy for myself

  93. Great review, I’m playing the game due to renting it and loving it. Thanks for the contest on winning the game. Would be great to own it.

    I haven’t tried online yet but will once I’ve completed the campaign.

  94. Me want bad. Me sick 🙁

  95. From what i’ve seen this game seems to have great potential.
    What more can you ask for? Amazing acting in campaign
    along with outstanding graphics . the Multiplayer is
    explosively addicting. the bullettime is in multiplayer thats crazy.
    i for one need to get this game

  96. I really am looking forward to Max Payne and his bullet time antics. Well written review and hopefully I can play this game soon.

  97. This game looks sick. I hope I get a chance to play it sometime.

  98. Great review! It’s been awhile since the last Max Payne so I was a little worried with how Rockstar will handle this game – thankfully it seems that most people love the new direction. It’s a lot more gritty but glad they kept it noire.


  99. This game looks incredible Max Payne and Rockstar! I can not wait to check it out!!!

  100. William Duncan

    I never got into the max payne series but this seems like a good one to get started with.

  101. Great review, can’t wait to check out the game!

  102. Seems like a really fun game! 🙂

  103. DungeonDweller

    I didn’t expect much from Max Payne 3 besides a few hours of throwaway fun when I rented it from the Red Box. 6 Hours later, I know I must buy this game.

    First, the story is really good. Like the review said, it’s like a kick-ass action flick with a ton of really great moments that you’ll remember after to finish. Originally, I thought one of the characters was a douche, but I actually changed my mind. Max of course kicks ass, some of the things he said are really cool and really help set the scene.

    Only played a bit of MP, but enough to know I really liked what I saw. I know some people didn’t like GTA’s MP, but I did, and this feels the same.

  104. I’ve heard good things about the first two games…& some really nice things about this one.

    I’d like to be entered in to win this contest. Thanks for the opportunity!

  105. Great review, as always Deagle. Got me super excited to play this.

  106. The graphics look amazing! It looks really fun to play.

  107. Nice Review !!

  108. I really enjoyed this game, since it is my first MAx Payne that i played.

    So, great review.

  109. Commenting for the winning entry! This shall be mine

  110. Brilliant review folks, this game has been on my list ever since the first trailer but monetary constraints are holding me back.

    Hopefully I get to dig into this game really soon! 😀

  111. Nice review, Max is Neo on pain killers.

  112. I was into the game at first for the campaign. Now i am really interested in the multiplayer.

  113. Looks good. I’m glad Remedy has moved on to Alan Wake though. Rockstar is perfectly capable of doing future Max Payne games.

  114. I agree with the review… Im about half-way through.. and reminds of the old-school days of gaming.. with some next gen flair.

  115. Never played any Max Payne before, but this looks pretty good.

  116. This games looks awesome. Will pick it up after I’m done loosing my life with D3

  117. Great review, played max payne 2 on the pc when I was a kid and loved it. Was quite suprised with all the good views this sequels getting tbh

  118. This game looks well cool

  119. How do I not own this yet?

  120. Great Review, makes me want to go out and buy it right now! I may have to wait though :/

  121. By far, this is the best Max Payne 3 review I’ve read. Great writing!

  122. Great Review! Great game! Can’t wait to try it!!

  123. Please send me a copy, I’m in Lviv, Ukraine and finding a copy of this game is really tough! Hook up a gift for a die-hard follower of Tech Gaming!!!/BindasAndy

  124. Been waiting a long time for the return of Mr. Payne. Glad to hear that he has aged well!

  125. Rockstar is rocking with this release. But I remember, in previous releases, max payne the person didn’t look like the one on the 3rd.


    Need a copy of this

  127. Ha… I don’t think that can be called a head shot… thats a face shot, killer picture. Good review, seems this game might just be worth the wait.

  128. Jeremie Patawaran

    they said this game was good!
    hoping to get this game soon!

  129. beast game!

  130. Big fan of the first one, looking forward to trying the third.

  131. Rodney Elswick

    Great review! I need to get a copy!

  132. I loved the other ones hopefully this one is just as good!

  133. Great game. Good length of campaign with different collectibles/modes, and a decent multiplayer. Any fan of the franchise should buy it.

  134. I’m such a sucker for Rockstar’s pedigree. This makes me want to go back and replay the first two.

  135. Rockstar still makes the best games. Now seeing really makes me want the game.

  136. Bout time for another sequel

  137. Brock M (@SpeckV)

    Looking forward to this one. And maybe winning it.

  138. Not sure whether the story will sit well with me, as I really liked 2’s ending.

  139. Man, this game looks AMAZING.

  140. Pretty solid review, would love to buy it but I hope to win it instead 🙂

  141. Looks fun hope I win can play with men friend,.

  142. Looks amazing, by the way good review.

  143. Looks awesome

  144. Man, I gota get this game, too bad I lost my job a little while ago and tight on funds 🙁

    Nice review, game looks awsome, I’ll get to play it some time or another !

  145. I was expecting more of the same from the third one but from the review it seems like they added some really nice ideas/mechanics and the story sounds interesting.

  146. Nicely written review, and yet another reason to push me towards ignoring my backlog and playing this ASAP. Loved Max Payne 1 and 2 on the PC back in the day.

  147. Great review! Glad to hear the game lives up to the Max Payne pedigree, yet having Rockstar instill their own well known creative style and identity into the game.

  148. Been looking forward to this game since it was announced but never had the chance to buy it since I need the money to pay for classes and such. Well here’s hoping it’ll drop price so I’ll have a chance to pick it up. Nice Review!

  149. Looks wicked good!

  150. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this game.

  151. Cool review, sounds like a great game to pick up!

  152. Looks amazing great review

  153. Great review, might have to pick this game up!

  154. Well-written and articulated review. I went from being disinterested in the game to interested.

  155. May consider this game.

  156. Good review. I probably would be more interested in the game if it didn’t come out when Diablo 3 did. But I’m more interested in it now.

  157. Game looks pretty sweet

  158. This is a good looking game

  159. This game’s getting solid reviews, may have to give it a chance.

  160. I came into the series late and didn’t quite care about it but now that Rockstar has control that had me put it back on my map.

  161. I loved the first and liked the second, hoping the third will surpass them all. Thanks for the solid review, looking forward to playing this one.

  162. Awesome review of a awesome game

  163. MP3 lot of clans allways know they modders anyway its allready been proven they brag about it on the forums they have yet to confirm but what modders do TLOP meaing The League Of Payne hates modders and hackers.