Max Payne 3 Review

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Max Payne 3

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Max Payne is one of the best videogame characters of all-time, and Max Payne 3 is one the best shooters.

We like

  • Unique storytelling from Rockstar with startling production values
  • A believable lead character that draws you right into the action
  • Exciting, challenging shoot-outs across some gloriously detailed environments

We dislike

  • Bullet-time is sometimes a hindrance rather than a help due to questionable hit detection

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

Max Payne is a complete mess. Moving to New Jersey was supposed to be a new start away from the DEA and NYPD, a place where he could finally try to put the brutal murders of his wife and daughter to the back of his mind, and retire from the violence that had so far consumed his life.

With his mental state deteriorating fast, Max hides behind the bottle, drinking himself into a stupor and then crying about how miserable his life has become. Suicide looks to be an easy option, and possibly the only way to really dull out the pain, but when an old friend turns up Max finds himself once again dragged into a web of violence that leads him to Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Max’s new life of violence begins as he starts a new job, tasked with protecting the family of Rodrigo Branco, a wealthy industrialist. When Branco’s wife, Fabiana, is kidnapped and a ransom is demanded for her return, the storyline appears to be following a fairly predictable pattern: rescue the girl and find out who is involved. As it turns out there’s something much more sinister at work and, with a few twists and turns along the way (and a lot of bloodshed), Max eventually stumbles across a disturbing discovery.

One of the many highlights of Max Payne 3 is the storyline, but also the way in which it is told. To give players a sense of his desperation, Max Payne’s depression is reflected visually throughout the game. The screen occasionally blurs and pulses to represent his mental state and his appearance becomes more ragged as the game progresses, culminating in the symbolic shaving of his head in the final third as he prepares for the ultimate battle.


To further compound his misery, Max’s inner thoughts and emotions are relayed through his own commentary in which the game’s original voice actor, James McCaffrey, does a magnificent job of making him a believable character who is both totally out-of-control and immensely likeable.

Despite Max’s negativity and depression often coming to the forefront of his commentary, his humour in face of danger often shines through. “Sao Paulo is like Bagdad with G-strings,” he quips as he’s led to a bikini-clad party in the dangerous ghetto area of the Brazilian capital. Subsequently, you can’t help but like Max and sympathise with him. Rockstar draws you into his dark world and there aren’t many games that have managed to create such a strong lead character. With the help of stunning facial animations and the brilliant voice work of McCaffrey, Max Payne is a really memorable hero.


Rockstar has magnificently built upon Max’s character from the previous games. They’ve taken his back-story and personality and have created a character that’s exactly how you’d imagine Max would be at this point of his life having witnessed such violence over the years. This raw personality gives him a real edge that consequently makes him one of the hardest videogame characters of all time.

It helps, of course, that the character model, facial animations, dialogue and voice is so believable, but Rockstar has also created a world and storyline that stays true to the original games, wrapping around it production values that give it a truly cinematic feel.

Using stylish story-telling techniques, such as static-panels, which give the game a motion-comic feel, and the flashing up of text on-screen from in-game conversations, Rockstar has created a unique way to showcase the story, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. There are also no load times, so gameplay flows and seamlessly blurs with scripted sequences and cut-scenes, and is topped off by an audio and visual experience that would rival any movie.

The high quality of the production extends into location design and the meticulous detail that has gone into every inch of Max Payne’s world. The graphics are superb throughout with interiors of nightclubs and bars just as impressively detailed as the memorable stroll through the dangerous ghetto of Sao Paulo, where you can almost smell the marijuana and gun powder.


Though many of the locations in Max Payne 3 have been seen before in other shooters, with the likes of an airport, abandoned ... (continued on next page) ----

A gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum, Steven Williamson now works as General Manager for PSU. He's supposed to be managing, but if you're reading this, it means he's dipped into editorial again. Follow @steven_gamer
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  • Related game: Max Payne 3

    Release date (US):
    May 15th, 2012
    Rockstar Vancouver
    Shooter - Third Person
    577 of 2,667 Games
    Down 577 places (in last 7 days)

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