Have You Played… Max Payne 3?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

The farther time drifts away from the release of Max Payne 3 [official site] the more I appreciate what Rockstar tried to do with it. I hated the idea when it was announced. “Max in Brazil? BALD?!? WITH A BEARD?!?!?!” I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry at a beard before. Games do funny things to the old noggin sponge, don’t they?

But as Alec succinctly pointed out, Max is a man of his time, and that time has passed. Bullet-time, once a stupendously exciting prospect, is now so common in games we barely register it at all, while Remedy’s aping of cinematic styles and tropes is equally well-trodden ground.

Both these things are baked deep into Max’s character, and Rockstar knew they couldn’t change or remove them. So Rockstar took the idea of Max being a man out of place and time, and made it a focus of the game, ditching the snowy and drab streets of New York for sun-soaked and crime-ridden Sao Paolo, and casting Max as a man trying to fit into a society where he sticks out like a NPC thug’s bonce from behind cover.

Looking back, I think this plan was largely successful, while the traditional mechanics of Max Payne blended elegantly with Rockstar’s technical fortitude, particularly its wondrous animation systems. It’s just a shame Rockstar is so reluctant to let you play the damned thing. There are points where you can’t go five steps without triggering a cutscene, and it obliterates the flow of what could have been the best entry in the series. That said, unlike Alec I’d happily play a fourth, provided someone stood over whoever writes Rockstar’s cutscenes while clutching a big wooden ruler.

79 Comments

Top comments

  1. Anonymous says:

  1. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Yes. A surprisingly boring head-clicking game, but THE best nightclub in gaming

  2. Cyrus says:

    The first game I think is my favorite of all time.
    Regarding the third alteration, as many other sequels, it’s not a bad game per se, but less of a spiritual successor.
    This time it’s more understandable since it’s a different developer involved. I don’t mind another game since I like Max and his shooting, the best thing would to hand back to Remedy but I’m not so sure it’d mean an instant success anymore since time has passed from their latest Max Payne game.

  3. beforan says:

    I really enjoyed it, once I’d managed to detach myself from my expectations of a Max Payne game.

    However I tried to play it recently (about a month ago?) and failed to get it working. Rockstar Social Club was adamant the game was not activated, but I could confirm via the website it was. Really quite annoyed as that’s basically a game in my Steam library I really liked that I can never play again, I guess.

    • Jaykera says:

      I had the same kind of problem when I played it a second time (like a year ago). It took like 2 weeks of exchanging emails to get it to work… A real shame.

    • waltC says:

      Generally, I loathe bait ‘n switch. MP 3 could have been so much better–and many books, movies, and TV series are wildly successful despite the fact that they take place in the near or even remote past. I’m sorry, but a bald-headed MP in Brazil did so much for me that I never bought the game and never will. I hate it when companies use great previous titles to sell a new game that has little or nothing to do with the titles it falsely leads a customer to believe it continues. So many other possibilities for Max in NY–so many others–other than what they did in MP3. It’s like it was scripted by a bad comic-book writer…;)

  4. DeadCanDance says:

    Just a note. It’s Sao Paulo.

    • Ghostwise says:

      São Paulo, actually.

      • April March says:

        I generally find it OK to leave out the tilde, because many keyboard configurations can’t even enter it. But where the hell do people get the O from? One might say it’s because people think Brazilians speak Spanish and Paolo is more Spanish-sounding than Paulo, but Paolo isn’t even a Spanish name, it’s Italian. I’ll die and on my grave there’ll be a big circle and it’ll be the mystery of where people decided São Paulo has that O in it.

      • PizzaMuncher says:

        Nah, it’s San Paul.

  5. Danda says:

    The reveal for this game was awful. That bald, bearded guy wasn’t Max! But then they re-hired James McCaffrey (thank god!) and they showed that they actually cared. Now I think it’s maybe one of the best 3rd person shooters ever made, easily my favourite. It’s just excellent in every sense.

    “Ditching the snowy and drab streets of New York for sun-soaked and crime-ridden Sao Paolo” is a bit misguiding. You actually play some snowy stages in New Jersey with “classic” leather-jacketed Max.

  6. felipepepe says:

    Shame that Rockstar did a bad job with the setting… yeah, the favelas and the nightclub are cool, but the rest of the city barely appears and most actors were Portuguese – not Brazilian.

    Also, the game felt like it was in Rio, not São Paulo.

  7. Eightball says:

    I thought it was alright. I can’t tell if it was clever or lazy (clazy?) to have a somewhat outdated third person action game and then have the story be mostly about the character accepting that he’s outdated and past his prime.

    • Monggerel says:

      Have you played GTA V?

      It was definitely lazy. Rockstar haven’t managed to turn out a decent story since…

      Saints Row 2.

      BAM
      ZINGA
      RIGHT BETWIXT THE PEEPERS

      • Monggerel says:

        Not that Saints Row 2 is “good”, mind you.
        It’s awful.
        It just happens to be so gleefully uncomplicated, so utterly lacking in elegance and self-awareness, that it achieves “B-movie greatness” by virtue of being so offensively stupid it’s kind of brilliant.

        Kind of a shame that Volition wised up to their own idiocy. Hurt SR 3 + 4 I thought, even though the happy-little-family stuff in SR 4 was fun.

        • poliovaccine says:

          Thaaat’s more true of every Saints Row *but* SR2… SR2 was pretty much the point where they successfully distinguished themselves from being “another GTA clone” but still hadnt fully embraced silliness and over-the-toppiness as being their signature schtick… SR2 is the least farcical of them all. It actually tries for and a few times even achieves some rudimentary pathos.

  8. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    One thing I really want to know is if there is at least one door in the entire game that doesn’t trigger a cutscene when you go through. Just one door.

    Never finished it due to sheer cutscene ennui.

    • Premium User Badge

      laiwm says:

      Yep, my game started refusing to boot when I was 2/3 through and I just couldn’t be arsed to fix the issue.

      The cutscenes might have been tolerable if the game wasn’t trying so hard to be “mature” constantly. I’ve got no appetite to watch a man get burned alive just so a game can position itself as being for grown ups. They should have kept the silliness from the earlier titles.

  9. BaronKreight says:

    yes i did. Couldn’t finish it. Nice game though esoecially for those who didn’t play 1 and 2.

  10. Asurmen says:

    You’re right, bullet time has been done, and noir explored, so what they should have done is simply not made a 3rd game.

  11. ResonanceCascade says:

    It was an above average cover shooter, but the change in setting and tone didn’t do it any favors. I like my Max Payne like I like my eggs: hard boiled and salty.

  12. dylan says:

    I couldn’t get through some sniper sequence, and lost interest. Enjoyed what I played, though. Especially liked the simple mechanic of only having two hands to hold weapons with, requiring frequent swapping out. Good action game, except that damn sniper sequence.

  13. Matt_W says:

    This might be the last game I rented and played through in a weekend. I remember it was serviceable and a fun way to spend the weekend, but the scene that sticks with me is the one where a woman was dropped into a stack of tires and lit on fire. I’m no stranger to violence in games, but this one struck me as a bit more sadistic than most.

    • Unclepauly says:

      A real woman?!

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Actually it’s a fake man.

      • Matt_W says:

        I don’t really know how people can just troll inveterately. I have this innate fear of looking like an idiot that prevents me, but clearly some people don’t. Blocked.

        • ResonanceCascade says:

          That’s a pretty OTT response to a dad joke, my friend.

    • Carcer says:

      I don’t think you remember that scene very well because it’s a guy that gets burned to death in the tire stack. I only remember one notable female death on camera and she was shot in the head.

      • GameOverMan says:

        Isn’t that a scene from the movie Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite)?

        • Zaraf says:

          Yes. That was presumably a popular way to execute people for some favela gangs. I think the movie echoed the fate of a real journalist.

      • hungrycookpot says:

        Ya, doesn’t the rich guy get burned in the tires and Max saves the girl and escapes down the side of the aquaduct in that scene or something?

  14. LennyLeonardo says:

    The gun(s) Max is carrying while you are playing are/is the one(s) he is holding in the (many) cutscenes!!! When will the world take note?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      ?!??!!!!?

    • Beefenstein says:

      THAT’S RIGHT IT’S ME ICE-T

      I CARE NOW

      YOU MADE ME CARE MORE

      WITH ALL DUE RESPECT I’D LIKE TO SEE MORE OF THE GUNS YOU HAVE IN GAME ALSO BEING IN CUTSCENES

    • Unclepauly says:

      Innovation in the industry is kept alive. Ty Max Payne 3

    • Arklay says:

      I too like little things like this.

      Or in RDR, if a cutscene ends with John walking, the transition to gameplay has him auto-walking for a second or two until you take control, ensuring a smooth transition.

    • April March says:

      Ah, that reminds me of how in the mostly forgettable True Crime: Streets of LA you could sometimes have the game show you driving around in a cutscene in the car you were driving around in the world. I rememeber that happening when I was in an ambulance… for some reason… and the exterior camera got kind of weird, and the main character’s hands didn’t quite reach the wheel. Fun times!

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      As I recall the game frequently switches your weapon mid-cutscene then leaves you holding a different weapon than you had before the cinematic which gets SUPER annoying, especially if you keep dying and have to switch back to the weapon you want each time.

  15. fish99 says:

    Haven’t and probably won’t.

    I saw TBs ‘WTF is’ video and the game was all stop-start with no flow, constantly getting interrupted by cut-scenes, just as Rick says above. The game didn’t feel like Max Payne, and that character is barely recognizable as Max to me.

    It’s a shame because I consider Max Payne 2 to be maybe the best action game I’ve played.

    • GGiyo says:

      Good for you. You’re missing out. Just watch Total Biscuit’s videos of videogames than play videogames.

      Stop commenting about the quality of stuff you haven’t played Einstein.

      • fish99 says:

        I’m not basing that on TBs opinion, rather my own observation from watching him play a good 30 minutes of the game. It was a constant repetition of 3 minutes of gameplay, 2 minute cut-scene. Now maybe the whole game wasn’t like that, but looking at these comments it seems to be a widely held opinion.

        Btw you don’t deserve such a civil reply.

    • GGiyo says:

      With all due respect to qualified vidgames critics here, the game flows well from cutscenes to gameplay and chapter to chapter transition. Half of the commenters here probably haven’t played it, like Einstein here.

      • Asurmen says:

        Ah, so presumptions and a dick attitude. Nice.

        I’ve played it. The flow was crap. The setting was crap. Aspects of the gameplay annoyed me.

  16. haldolium says:

    Yeah. Awful successor, yet with just a few things different it could’ve been a much better game in general.

    The constant kill of the game flow with cutscenes (and I usually love them) was awful. At points you couldn’t play ONE SINGLE OFFICE ROOM without interruption. Disgusting really.

    Otherwise it was far from Max Payne, though when you actually could play a few seconds, it was a good shooter with excellent sound and visual design and extraordinary good animations.

    • poliovaccine says:

      “Disgusting,” really! Haha damn dude, I dont even disagree, but I think you must feel it more strongly than I do..!

  17. Flea says:

    I’ve had this game in my Steam library forever and I remember only playing a few hours. The cutscenes killed it for me. It was like you couldn’t move a few steps without getting into another cutscene and when it went on for a couple of hours I said “ok, that’s it” and never went back. I was actually thinking of picking it up again and finishing it, but then I read this article and again remembered the cutscenes and I guess it’ll stay one of those games I never finished.

  18. idiotapocs says:

    I played through MP1-2 with using an insane amount of quicksave/quickload. Now that I think of it, I was striving to make the perfect action movie, as I even replayed parts where I was decent enough not to get hurt, and tried different weapons/techniques with each run. Now, MP3 had a horrendous checkpoint system…

    • Unclepauly says:

      I beat Max Payne without ever saving once. I’m literally a better human than you.

    • Asurmen says:

      That, and the change to shot dodge made it into a terrible action game/movie montage/thingy.

  19. Vandelay says:

    This game was pretty much destroyed by the cutscenes. They were also unskippable (well, it claimed they were skippable, but every time you try it just pops up with a “loading” message.) They were mostly fine, albeit the usual Rockstar wannabe-mature style, but regularly lasted 4 or 5 minutes without checkpoints afterwards, so you were required to sit through them multiple times.

    Surprised by comments saying it was only an average shooter though. The gunfights were some of the best in a third person shooter.

  20. Junkenstein says:

    The further into the game you get, the more you get to actually play it, and when you do, it’s a very good action film ’em up.

    But yeah, those custscenes. I could just about tolerate the really long ones between chapters, but the stadium level comes to mind as just taking control away from me every ten steps or two dead bad guys.

  21. Jaykera says:

    Two times and the first few hours have always been painful because of the cutscenes.

    On one end of the spectrum you have environmental narration, on the other end you have Max Payne 3.

  22. Hyena Grin says:

    I did play Max Payne 3, and I did like it. I was less bothered by the theme shift than a lot of people were. I kind of enjoyed the juxtiposition – the story-telling and ‘feel’ of the game seemed very much in-line with the preceding games, just laid over top of a brighter, less moody background. In a way it just highlighted the contrast of the ‘Dark Place’ Max is always in.

  23. Premium User Badge

    Earl-Grey says:

    What is Max Payne’s greatest super power?
    No.
    It’s quick saving/loading.
    So like Samson, with the removal of his hair, Max lost his super power.

    While the cutscenes were an annoyance, the lack of quick saving was utterly, bloody, sodding, arsing, cunting, fucking teeth shatteringly infuriating.

    The combat could at times be a Herculean trial of patience.
    It’s fast, brutal, unforgiving and frustrating; death can come in the blink of an eye and the checkpoint system only intensifies the problem.

    -I should add that I still really like the game, though, maybe I’m a masochist.

    • sdether says:

      +100 this
      The cutscenes were annoying, but worse the doubling down on them by not giving you quick save/load and placing the checkpoints generally before the cut scene.
      Not only could you not replay the action while the action is hot to try out different approaches, no you must suffer through the same overacted cut scene each time to completely get dropped out of the action.
      I rage quit a couple of times during the helo-sniper bits because of this before making it through.
      I recall replaying 1 & 2 several times with just handguns and hadn’t realized how vital quick load/save had been for that, because trying that same with 3 just made me quit.

    • Cyrus says:

      I remember the final fight was a hassle for me to finish.
      There were many different techniques and approaches before I managed to pull through. Frustrating? Yes.
      Make it almost to the end and then die and start over again.. *sigh*

      • Premium User Badge

        Earl-Grey says:

        That final fight…Christ.
        By then I was basically just hate-playing the game.
        -like hate-watching and hate-wanking, only gaming.

        • Cyrus says:

          You had to have good set of weapon which packed good punch and a big clip, I don’t think I did so I had to pick up some other weapon.
          I think I even replayed some earlier segment to have a better weapon when the final fight checkpoint began..

  24. Premium User Badge

    fegbarr says:

    I played it, enjoyed it, and promptly forgot about it.

    It felt pretty unnecessary as a Max Payne game. Max’s story was told already, in noir cliches as thick as the snow that fell on a cold New York night and as subtle as the hammer of a pistol.

    Perhaps I don’t remember it right, but it definitely felt like his story was told? In the first game he took vengeance on his family’s killers, then in the second he found redemption and lived in a funhouse or something. Job done.

    • Asurmen says:

      Yep. That’s the impression most people got. His noir story was told. End of.

  25. Danda says:

    After reading the comments, I think a lot of people either didn’t get too far into the game or never got to care about the story. Yes, not being able to skip the cutscenes is a fatal flaw when you are *replaying* the game, but it’s not a bad thing at all during your fist playthrough. I think this was pretty much a Rockstar game (you run errands for assholes), but I think Max was being Max again, a gullible boy scout who got into deep trouble beyond his understanding and shot his way out.

    A lot of people seem to hate the short sniping section, but somebody should some love for the awesome airport level. Or the condemned building, or the boat in Panama, or New Jersey… There are many different memorable levels, and the shooting is just perfect. For me, this game is a classic.

  26. Werthead says:

    It’s an odd game, in no way as strong as the first two (even the first in its janky, Sam Lake-gurning glory), but it does feature one of the worst and best moments in the last ten years of gaming.

    The worst bit is when Max is fighting along the docks. There is no checkpoint, so you have to make it through the whole fight without dying, which is complicated by Max dying if so much as a molecule of water lands on him. It makes shootdodging impossible since you’ll fly into the river and apparently perish. At the end of this enraging sequence…Max jumps into the river and swims off absolutely fine. Logic not so much took a back seat in this section as checked out altogether.

    But then at the end when you reach the airport, “Tears” by Health kicks in and Max goes to work as only he can, and it’s one of the best moments of gaming ever.

  27. Korolev787 says:

    It was decent enough, but as many have pointed out, it was also pretty forgettable. One thing that really killed replayability was the fact that you had to see the cutscenes every time you wanted to play the game. Sure, sometimes after the cutscene was 99% finished it would let you skip the remaining 1%, but some of those cutscenes lasted for literally ages.

    It also doesn’t help that there is a severe dissonance between Max’s attitude and his actions. He’s such a sad-sack, saying how he can’t do anything right, that he’s a wash-up, that he’s hopeless and incompetent – and that’s after jumping through a window, killing 10 guards with headshots as he falls two floors, rolls and promptly kills another 25 heavily armed mercanaries. Yeah, I mean, what a hopeless washup, right? And that the villains would say “hm, yes, we need a patsy, a fall-guy, someone who we can kill off quickly – let’s pick this nigh-invincible gun-man that we have seen kill countless, countless, COUNTLESS goons”

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      Being really good at murder isn’t exactly a shortcut to a happy life.

  28. draglikepull says:

    I played Max Payne 3 and stuck it out to the end, but this was the game that made me realize how done I was with “gritty” hyperviolence in games. The whole thing is just so grim and cynical, and I found it exhausting. I just won’t play games like that any more. Life is too short to take part in things that don’t have at least a little joy.

  29. nimbulan says:

    I found this game to be a franchise insult on the same level as Aliens Colonial Marines, and just a plain bad game on top of that so I consider it overall worse than ACM. Everything about the way the story’s told, how they altered the mechanics from the previous games, how the camera and controls work (or don’t work in this case,) the game balance, and so on were just so horrendously broken. And then to top it off Max constantly nags you to continue while you’re looking for collectibles… The game got so infuriating near the end I actually used cheats to finish it up, something I haven’t done in about 20 years.

    The ONLY redeeming quality of this game is those slow-mo action dive sequences that are interspersed throughout the story. I haven’t played any other games that have attempted something like that and it worked very well.

  30. maninahat says:

    Played it through, but was very disappointed by it. It wasn’t the change in setting or character’s facial hair, it was just how he was such a god damn misery guts all the time. From beginning to end, Max is out to rain on everyone’s parade – I get this is Mr Hardboiled, but I don’t remember him being such a downer in the previous games.

    Also, the game punishes you for shooting your guns too much; by only letting you carry a max of three guns at once, you can’t faff around, spraying bullets. That’s a shame.

  31. DavishBliff says:

    The attempts at aping Man On Fire were pretty embarrassingly obvious, I thought

  32. Iskariot says:

    I really enjoyed this game. One of the best shooters I played in recent years.
    I also played the other Max Payne games, but did not try to force my expectations upon this sequel. I have played mp3 three times so far and there will certainly be a fourth time.
    I loved the dark atmosphere.

    Of course there’s stuff I could criticize, but that is true of every game I play.
    I never encountered any of the technical or gameplay problems others talk about. I always played mP3 on hardest difficulty and never needed to use cheats to finish it.

  33. dskzero says:

    I thought it was a memorable game, if only it was not so in the middle of the way of being a cover or a mobile shooter.

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    Why is is the Top Comment spam? Unless this is some kind of commentary on the quality of comments in this thread there might be something wrong with your WordPress there.

    • unacom says:

      I read it as a riff on Max quitting his old job,
      leaving behind the drudgery and repetitiveness that made his life a miserable blur of booze, bullets and painkillers – and finally being able to live his life and choose his work as he wishes.
      I find it hilarious.

  35. tur1n says:

    The constant cutscene interruptions were terrible, but the even bigger crime was turning it into a cover shooter. Sitting behind a pillar, popping out for bullet-time headshots and blindfiring when out bullet-time – that is not Max Payne. Totally killed the feel of the game.

  36. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Way too many cutscenes and the game went on too long, repeating itself rather a lot, but it had some good moments. I think my favourite bits were the flashbacks and the favelas as they were closest in spirit to the original. Cared less for the storyline or the characters. It didn’t feel noirish like the originals and it lacked their over-the-top poetic ridiculousness, replacing it with more of the Rockstar/Houser misanthropic “all people are assholes” take on the world, which just gets kind of exhausting. Still, it was an interesting game and the combat could be pretty great.

  37. Lampshade says:

    Max Paaayne…yes Max Payne 3. Is the best game of the yehehear, the yehehear… 2012!!

  38. Zaraf says:

    I enjoyed it as much as the first two, despite its flaws (the constant cutscenes, the Max Payne character who has little in common with the original). I actually liked the new gunfight gameplay even if I can understand that one could miss the more arcade gameplay based on shootdodging of the first games. I usually don’t like cover systems, but the one in this game actually requires the player to move as popping out of the same cover means death in higher difficulties. It particularly shines in destructible environment such as office level.