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Critical Reception: Rockstar's  Max Payne 3
Critical Reception: Rockstar's Max Payne 3
May 16, 2012 | By Danny Cowan

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Rockstar's third-person shooter sequel Max Payne 3, which reviews describe as "a game built out of remarkably implemented, masterfully presented parts." Max Payne 3 currently earns a score of 88 out of 100 at

Joystiq's Ludwig Kietzmann gives Max Payne 3 4.5 out of 5 stars. "The shooting is a revelation," he praises. "It's so good it evokes a worrisome existential crisis: Yes, it's another eight-to-ten hours of killing everyone in the world, but what if this is, and will always be, what games are best at? Max Payne 3 nearly makes you roll over in defeat, knowing that Rockstar has harnessed impeccable technology to make people die real good."

"It's a simple process served up with peerless presentation," Kietzmann continues. "You enter one side of the room and the henchmen, who rarely differentiate in their plan of attack, dutifully show up to be blown away. As a grizzled grump who reeks of alcohol and sweat, your movements are rugged but reliable -- and you can forget about the frantic momentum of Vanquish, or the nimbleness of Drake in Uncharted. Max is an expert at falling down with style."

A new recovery mechanic adds significantly to the experience. "Rockstar's Max Payne [...] thrives on second chances," Kietzmann notes. "Take an unexpected shot to the back, for instance, and Max will slowly twist his body around as he falls and take one last shot. Nail your attacker and you'll make a stylish return journey from the brink of defeat, provided you've got some painkillers in pocket.

"It's a gratuitous gimmick, but it preserves the relentless pacing in Max Payne 3. The level design always pushes you forward in a hurried pace, giving you an urgent target or a compelling (see: excessively perilous) reason to escape. The unobtrusive heartbeat of a fantastic soundtrack keeps the whole campaign alive, from beginning to end."

"Max Payne 3 [is] a game built out of remarkably implemented, masterfully presented parts," Kietzmann observes. "Video games live or die by the mechanisms that lie underneath. That's why the graveyards are always full."

Ryan Davis at Giant Bomb gives Max Payne 3 4 out of 5 stars. "Rockstar Games faced no small feat in taking on Max Payne," he begins. "With nearly a decade since Finnish developer Remedy -- long since busy exploring the dark wilderness of the subconscious with Alan Wake -- parted ways with the series, the challenges were manifold. After that much time, did the John-Woo-inspired gun ballet still play? And what of the comic-book-noir aesthetic, which leavened Maxís blackstrap pathos with fleets of self-reference and absurdity?

"Rockstar, of course, addresses both of these issues with no small amount of its own usual panache, discarding large swaths of Maxís established aesthetic and asserting its own set of influences in the process."

The result is a game that feels markedly different from its predecessors. "Thereís still plenty of internal monologue from Max, but like the rest of the game, the language is less flowery and more nihilistic than Remedyís work with the character," Davis notes. "Itís a distinct look and feel [...], but there are times that it overindulges in its own sense of style, distracting from the plotís serpentine double-crossing and Maxís near-constant self-flagellation."

"In bringing the action of Max Payne into 2012, the addition of a cover mechanic is perhaps both the most subtle and significant change in Max Payne 3," Davis continues. "Aside from the addition of some hard- and soft-lock targeting options, the actual gunplay doesn't feel too radically different, and yet for all of the chaos around you, it's an experience that feels much more controlled."

"Rockstar has taken a lot of risks in the ways it has reshaped the series with Max Payne 3, and thereís something to be said for opting out of the easy route," Davis writes. "The aesthetic overhaul is certainly the most noticeable, though there's no understating the impact that certain gameplay modernizations have had on the experience. While fans might have a hard time processing the dramatic change in tone, itís approached with a seriousness and conviction that I respect, and frankly, have come to expect from Rockstar."

Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell scores Max Payne 3 at 7 out of 10. "It seems as though time has been surprisingly kind to Max Payne, the third-person shooter with Bullet Time that first graced our screens in 2001," he says. "It hasn't changed much since then, even with the transition from Remedy to new developer Rockstar Vancouver, and when paramilitaries start violently abducting Max's employers that turns out to be just fine. Max may have piled on the pounds and lost his self-respect, but his iconic Shoot Dodge hasn't aged badly at all."

This defining mechanic proves to be one of the game's strongest points. "Max Payne 3 is at its best when Rockstar contrives interesting Shoot Dodge scenarios, which usually involve jumping off something, like a balcony or a ramp, so that Max can hang in the air longer and puncture more enemies," Bramwell recalls.

The action can become repetitive, however. "Even on the regular difficulty setting, using Shoot Dodge -- the most entertaining thing about being Max Payne -- soon becomes impractical due to the weight of enemy numbers and their pinpoint accuracy," Bramwell says. "We've learned to cope with the occasional balancing issue in a vast Grand Theft Auto game, but the difficulty spikes and checkpointing mistakes in Max Payne 3 betray Rockstar's lack of experience in pure third-person shooters."

"Little niggles quickly start to pile up, too," Bramwell continues. "When cut-scenes finish, the game switches you back to a single pistol, forcing you to fumble with the inventory every time you retake control. Enemies hurl grenades in your direction to force you out of cover, but you don't get grenades of your own. And enemies take far too many bullets to go down. You can understand them getting back to their feet in body armour -- however annoying it is -- but when they're wearing shorts and a T-shirt?"

"You can't escape the feeling that Rockstar just isn't as good at a pure third-person shooter as it is with the open worlds of Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption, and in this linear context it's much harder to put up with its usual missteps in mechanics and difficulty," Bramwell concludes. "Max the man emerges with credit from Max Payne 3, then, but time hasn't been kind to the ropier elements of the game he stars in."

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Jessie Rolan
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Nice article. Congrats Rockstar!

John Flush
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I hear it has 7 planned DLC releases. Let me know when the game gets finished, packaged in case with all of it, then maybe I'll play it. Congrats on hitting your release date though.

John Flush
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@Christian - So true on the fact they just kept pushing the release date.

@Bill - well, that's the catch right... it is a polished experience with 7 planned expansion packs. Some gamers see that as "awesome, I can play this forever" and as such pass up on other games possibly being released. Other gamers see it as half-baked and unfinished and don't bother. Others don't really care and will probably just spend money where they want on a whim.

Is the ROI for the industry improved by stretching out gaming experiences with cheap DLC worth it? or does it eat out of new sales?

How does the gaming industry change the mindset of the second set of gamers? Advertising? providing some of it free? Until they are convinced you have a revolution brewing. Or maybe the industry doesn't care? These gamers are just 'entitled brats' that you don't to hear complain right? So maybe they should just pack up and leave. Unfortunately there is an article about a 25% drop in retail sales year over - I have a feeling they are leaving. Is the industry ready to bleed 25% of its customer base or more?

Eric Geer
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I agree John...they should learn to not even announce DLC if they are planning to do so. It should be a surprise...but when there is 7 planned DLC releases--that sounds a bit like they are just trying to cash out on an unfinished game.

I'm sure that Rockstar did an excellent job..but I would probably play the main game and move on in this case--7 DLCs ranging from $5 to 15. That could potentially be from $35-$105 is extra content that some would say--debateable--that it should have been released with the original game.

I wish there were more DLC packages like that of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West--ie Pigsy's Perfect 10. It was DLC in the same world but held a different story--I felt like this was a worthy DLC purchase. Or even Deadspace 2---Severed.

Now I can't say that Rockstar has done it wrong--as they haven't done anything yet..but if it is MP oriented---Id probably skip anyway.

Michael DeFazio
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I write this message in frustration (and a little bit of relief). I have just encountered my second "lock up" on the 360, and I have encountered numerous glitches and bugs which make me feel relieved I "redboxed" it and didnt buy it (Only played the single player BTW).

In two words, this game is "shockingly mediocre", and to be frank, if it were not made by R* the reviewers and reception of this game would be much more "Meh". It does not compare well to other rockstar games at all in my opinion, nothing here hasn't been done before and better elsewhere. I love the old Remedy games, and I realize this franchise needed to evolve (I'm fine with that) was hoping for so much more but was really let down by the execution.

To summarize my biggest issue with the game it is this: Too many things completely break the immersion in this game, whether its the long drawn out cut scenes (to mask the ridiculously long loading times), which happen far too frequently for an action game, or the glitches and bugs which sometimes have animations break and teleport you several feet in one direction or the other, or the finiky camera (especially noticeable when in"fight to survive" mode).

And the real killer is that it doesn't feel that good to shoot things (I'm not sure why) targetting on free and soft settings still dont feel right (Ugg Dont get me started on the targeting prioritization... to the moon Alice, to the moon!)

Ohh well, $4 spent, $60 saved... now onto Diablo 3.

Michael DeFazio
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@Bill - i was let down, expecting more from R*, hence "shockingly mediocre". how an opinion can be specious is beyond me, but calling someone childish and myopic for having an opinion outside of many professional reviewers is fanboyish. Also note even the professional reviewers' score deviated from 7 to 10, so i'm not the only one who felt this was a misstep.

perhaps my experience is not indicative of the other peoples, but let me ask you:
- have you ever experienced shooting the ceiling when trying to peek and shoot behind cover? (happens to me a lot in this game... that is a glitch)

- ever tried being in the squatting stance and going down stairs? (half the time the animation goes all wacky)

- what did you find unique or best in class for this game? didnt say the game was bad, but just plain mediocre (for a R* game) For me shooting things was much more refined in RDR (also euphoria) and everything all around was better in RDR) so in comparison to other R* games this game was disappointing. RDR was much more a technical masterpiece, this was linear and it still had terrible load times masked by cut scenes.

i could put down a myriad of other bugs and glitches but many of them are already spelled out in reviews of the (single player) game (Many people mentioning the targeting and how it is better in MP and "bad" in SP.) But based on your comments, you won't listen but rather try to defend your impression of the game is the only "correct" impression.