Max Pyane 3 is very different from the first two installments in the series. And by very different I mean a world apart. First let me define what makes a Max Payne game a Max Payne game.
The great idea about Max Payne is the noir setting – the game is story rich, the journey is simultaneously internal and external, with retrospection that gives us the background of Max Payne’s pain and explains his daemons. The protagonist is a narrator in the sense of Philip Marlowe’s novels, cracking jokes, sometimes sarcastic. Between levels there is more narration in graphic novel style, making the atmosphere denser and darker, but every sentence is a gem, a beautiful quote worth remembering. Still it can be skipped. Cutscenes are not obtrusive and not very frequent. And most importantly, although you would think this is somehow obvious, after a cutscene you don’t switch to a default weapon.
Now Max Payne 3 has nothing in common with all this. I probably sound harsh, but it is honest to say that there is no game called Max Payne 3, there is a movie with occasional user input. If there is something overdone here this is the cutscene thing. You can not skip them, they are not interesting and on top of that are very long. They do not build the story that much and have I already told you that they are long and boring? But that’s not all. Because you have a cutscene every freaking 2 minutes. From every room to the other there is a cutscene with a incredible voice-over intoning “I have to go to the next room” or something of the sort.
About that dark atmosphere. The original was set in New York in the winter and the gameplay was during the night only. The third part is set in Brazil. Tropical, colorful, sunny and with a ridiculous language you don’t understand. Retrospection does not add to the story. Why is Max drinking and chased by personal daemons is not explained in any convincing way.
Max Paine 3 vs. original – 0/10
The great innovation in the original was the bullet time. In critical moments you can slow-down the time and make shot(s) that are otherwise impossible. Bullet time was controlled by the user and because of that and its use in critical moments it was very easy to start – just press the right mouse button. And if you want to jump in slow-mo in some direction and make a shot in mid-air just jump in some direction while starting bullet time. Easy. But in Max Payne 3 you can take cover behind objects, so you peak behind your cover with the right mouse button. You start bullet time with a keyboard button and can dodge-jump-fire only in one direction. The good thing is that you can fire behind your cover without exposing, which of course is less accurate, but somehow I always forget about this option. And this spends much more ammo. But the stupid thing is that in order to make the game more cinematographic there is game-initiated bullet time, always after a cutscene, which makes is really annoying. So that is why although there is still bullet time in the new Max Payne, it is not like in the original and IMHO it is not an improvement.
Max Paine 3 vs. original – 4/10
The soundtrack of the original two Max Payne games was great. It helped the dark setting, but it was also beautiful. This is one thing where the third game is no different than the original. Actually I write this review while listening to Tears.
Max Paine 3 vs. original – 10/10
The graphics of the original were really something for its time. In Max Payne 3 the graphics are really good but there is nothing spectacular. Still the details and the levels are well done.
Max Paine 3 vs. original – 7/10
In Max Payne 1 & 2 the gameplay is a standard 3rd person shooter. Bullet time and dodging mad it a real cinematographic experience, but in an unobtrusive way, so the gameplay is fluid. You can explore and stay in one place as long as you want. In Max Payne 3 the cutscenes and special action sequences are so numerous, it is more like a rail shooter. All this zipping, chain hanging and firing from a boat/SUV/car/whatever is actually just that. Rail shooting. Dropping you in a place you would not go in your right mind is just that. So you have much less control. This change again is not a positive one, IMHO.
The really annoying things (yes, it is not one thing) about cutsenes are though:
* you are dropped from a cutscene usually behind the most stupid and exposed “cover” in the middle of a room, so you are fired upon from every corner.
* you can’t always understand when the cutscene ends and you have to take control, which is fatal. Literally (for the game character I mean 🙂 )
* After every cutscene you are reverted to the default weapon (the least powerful pistol).
So to visualize all this: Going through a firefight you go near the door of the next room. You lose control and a cutscene starts that just shows how you enter the next room. Behind a cover you see a bunch of bad guys. You go behind the corner, are seen by the bad guys, take cover behind something small and stupid in the middle of the room. Maybe bullet time switches on. Well armed goons are running toward you. You have a tiny amount of time to react before they come behind your cover, but you are not sure when the cutscene ends and if you are already in control. You start shooting only to realize that you return the fire with a 9 mm pistol, although you have a big freaking gun in your OTHER hand and you of course were equipped with it just before the beginning of the cutscene. Result – you are dead in a second, shot from an unknown direction. You are returned before the cutscene to reiterate the here described procedure.
Max Paine 3 vs. original- 0/10