Max Payne 3: Gorgeous, Gritty, And Dumb

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Bring the Payne

Let's cut right to the chase. The first and most important thing you need to know about Max Payne 3 is this:  It's not a happy game. In the first Max Payne, you assumed the role of a deep undercover DEA agent tasked with breaking a massive drug ring. On the night of the worst snowstorm in New York's history, Payne finally breaks the case and avenges the murder of his wife and daughter three years earlier. Max Payne 2 was more morally ambiguous, but there was still a sense of being one of the good guys.

Bringing the Payne -
In Max Payne 3, you play a bitter, middle-aged drunk. Max remains unnaturally eagle-eyed and spry enough in combat, but there's nothing like vomiting into the sink after a night of binge drinking to kill your sense of accomplishment. The first two games appealed to the idea of a greater good to justify Max's actions; MP3 doesn't even try. The over-the-top descriptions and film noir atmosphere are both gone, along with any chance Payne ever had at a happy ending.

The sun went down with practiced bravado.

When most game developers want you to hate a character, they load him up with the foulest mouth this side of Jersey, and have him beat a few women and children. Rockstar deserves enormous credit for taking an entirely different approach; the reason it's so hard to like Max Payne in MP3 is that Max hates himself. 12 years after the events of MP2, he's working in Sao Paulo as a security guard for an incredibly wealthy family. He despises them. He despises himself. Then he gets drunk, passes out, wakes up intoxicated, and heads off to work the next morning.  Living the dream, as they say.

Our Hero - Doing the Michael Jackson

A vague sense of duty and an unwillingness to tolerate violence toward women are the two threads of character that tie the Payne of 2012 to his 2003 self, and the former has been badly eroded by an endless supply of cheap liquor and self-loathing.

So no. It's not a happy game. If you're looking for that sense of righteousness brought on by being the rogue cop who delivers the sort of rough justice "the system" can't, you won't find it here.

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