As a huge fan of the Max Payne series, I was hugely excited when I found out that Rockstar was creating a new sequel to the series. However, after getting my hands on the game and spending a weekend with it, I am saddened to say that I am left disappointed and empty. Perhaps my expectations were too high, however when I think of Max Payne, several words pop into my mind, words like “classic”, “noir”, “depression”, “seed”, “corruption”, “despair”, “epic”, and “grit”. When I ask myself if these words apply to Max Payne 3, I find myself sadly answering “no”.
There is nothing actually wrong with Max Payne 3. It is visually stunning, bullet time looks awesome, Sao Paulo looks shockingly realistic and the game has all of the components of a fantastic third person shooter. But to me, Max Payne has always been more than just a third person shooter – there is something special about it that makes your spine tingle as you move through the story. So to say that Max Payne 3 is a fantastic third person shooter is one thing, but to me, that fact alone does not make it a fantastic entry into the Max Payne series. In my opinion, Sao Paulo is the wrong setting for Max Payne – sure it’s a corrupt and poverty-stricken city, but does that make it depressing? And then there is the weather. Something about the eternal snow storm of the original Max Payne contributed to its overall feeling. It was depressing and it made you depressed right along with it. The warm climate of Brazil fails to recreate this aurora.
In addition, whereas the previous stories were personal adventures for Max Payne – stories where he was directly affected, his family, his life and all the things that were near and dear to him, the storyline and characters of Max Payne 3 feel empty. I do not care about them, I feel nothing for them and I’d honestly just as soon shoot them myself. And finally, there is the music. The original Max Payne dirge is haunting, tormented and can almost bring a tear to your eye. This piece influenced the entire feel and musical score of the first two games. I cannot say the same for Max Payne 3.
Put simply, Rockstar have tried to transform the Max Payne series from a depressing and heart wrenching tale of personal disaster and despair, into an action packed shooter that honestly has nothing to do with the previous history of Max Payne. The game tries to compensate for these short comings with its “oooo-ahhhhh” factor, and by leading the player into failure after failure, but it’s obvious and shallow and does not stop you from noticing that something is missing from the experience.
So with all of that said, when considering this game as a sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed third person shooter series, it doesn’t work. It tries to take Max Payne into a new setting; its bold, adventurous, graphically fantastic and for me… a failure. It sent shivers down my spine to hear the awesome dirge that is Max Payne and to hear the fantastic voice acting work of James McCaffrey once again, but for me, that is as far as it goes.
Considered as a third person shooter, I love it. Considered as an entry in the Max Payne series, I’m sorry Rockstar, and it paynes (pun intended) me to say this, but it’s back to the drawing board.
Max Payne 3 is released May 15th in North America and May 18th in Europe and Australia.