Max Payne 3: Gorgeous, Gritty, And Dumb

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Max Payne 3 is a beautiful game. A lot of titles strive to minimize the difference between cutscenes and in-game footage; MP3 nails this by using exactly the same engine for both modes. The HUD is unobtrusive enough that you'll find yourself trying to control the movie bits, or not realizing for a second that you're back in command.

The Stunning Gloom -
This is easily the best-looking DX11 game we've ever seen, and the DX9 graphics are very nearly as good. The performance hit for activating DX11, at least on higher-end hardware, is minimal. The visual difference between the two is subtle but consistent; DX11 uses more HDR (High Dynamic Range) lighting and shadows are more realistic. In the images below, DX9 is on the left, DX11 on the right.

DX9 Rendering (Left) and DX11 Rendering (Right) - Images captured on NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580

Here's a good example of the difference. The plants in the background are dark almost to the point of being muddy in DX9. The DX11 version is softly lit and much more realistic.

DX9 Rendering (Left) and DX11 Rendering (Right) - Images captured on NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580

Check the shadows on the planter, on the suits of the two gentlemen, and around the door to see the difference between the APIs. DX9 uses hard shadows and strict light/dark regions; DX11 blends and blurs the light to create more natural patterns.

Bullet Time Returns (Hurrah!) -
The major thematic element of Max Payne that does return in MP3 is "bullet time."  Players can slow the movement of the external world to a crawl by pressing a button, giving Max time to pull otherwise impossible feats of accuracy or movement. The original Max Payne was the first game to implement this feature after The Matrix showed it on the silver screen, and it's still a lot of fun. As in the original game, it can be critical to survival.

Early on, it looks as though Max Payne 3 is set to evolve into a Mafia-style 3rd-person shooter with a far better back story. Unfortunately, that's where design elements start colliding...

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Manduh 2 years ago

I always like reading your reviews, I usually have a good laugh or three while reading them. This one is no different!

The graphics look excellent (minus the cut scenes- I like realistic better), and the story line sounds pretty good. I'm not much of a gamer but I do like to sit down and watch the bf play, kind of like sitting back and watching a movie. This one looks like it'd be great to watch!

Thanks for the review

Dave_HH 2 years ago

Glad you like Joel's stuff, Manduh. We do too. :)

Joel H 2 years ago

I'm not sure what you mean about the cutscenes. There are definitely realistic portions interspersed with the comic-book panel style. I think Rockstar handled the transitions well. I don't understand the TV-like vertical lines or the random word flashes, but that doesn't change the overall quality.

Manduh 2 years ago

I guess I didn't word it right...sorry :) I didn't actually mean the quality of the cut scenes were bad, just that I don't prefer the style.  I like cut scenes that feel more like watching a movie. I think seeing the comic book style might take some of that feel away for me. If I was more of a player and not a watcher I'd probably like them. :P  

Monkeysweat 2 years ago

"Now, it's possible that that in Brazil, "street gang" is code for "Three dozen young men with bullet-resistant T-shirts, sniper rifles, AK-47s, Uzis, and Special Forces training."

You should watch Elite Squad, - makes it a bit more believable

karanm 2 years ago

Great review Joel, one of my good friends worked on this game here at Rockstar Toronto. I'll have to play the game now and keep some of your points in mind when I tell him how good/bad it is.

Joel H 2 years ago

It's not a bad game. Just a somewhat schizophrenic one. The chapters in New Jersey feel like the old Max Payne; some of the Brazil sequences have the hard-boiled / gritty feeling that characterizes the primary storyline, and then there's a random sniper shooting that *should* take your arm off (but doesn't), shooting RPGs out of the air multiple times, and just over-the-top sillyness that cuts against the grain of the realistic environments and serious take on Payne's life. 



MMiller 2 years ago

Game is amazing, this review is garbage.

ViceFielder 2 years ago

I think the author was a bit too harsh, and focused too much on the shortcommings.

I'll start telling that I'm from Sao Paulo, Brazil. And a film-noir setting here would not work. We don't have those depressing snowy nights or empty backalleys where your murder can just walk away. This city is noisy all the time.

What we have that is opressive enough to fit a Max Payne game are indeed the favelas and that sense of helplessness caused by authority corruption. But favelas is the opposite of what is usual on film-noir; they're very lively, almost cheerful if not for the constant fear you can almost taste walking up and down the muddy paths. There are always people around, but you can't tell wolf from sheep, and should you get robbed, kidnapped, shot, or whatever, the whole community (as we sometimes call it) could be watching, no one will do anything about it (they won't even think of it as something odd).

In a favela, it doesn't matter the time of the day, and it's not like danger could be crawling behind your back, danger is always there, and the tension is caused by the possibility of being noticed or not (and Max shirt in that chapter is just like... wtf).

The city feels right, the favela feel right... the voice acting is sometimes a bit awkward, but overall good, and at times dialogues feel too much like Elite Troops (Tropa de Elite) movies, and the disco at chapter II, as well as the music and people in it feels more like Rio de Janeiro, but I guess Rio is in fact Brazil's face for the rest of the world.

As far as character goes, I do like the progression through this game. At sometimes I just felt like if I died at some point it would be part of the story, and like Max, I was surprised how that never came to happen. I confess I was a bit tired of playing a character that was indeed someone special, despite past ghosts and regrets, and w/e bs writers come up with. I dont think Max was ever about getting around his past as much as accepting the idea of dying, and just refusing to simply die and not shoot back.

Shooting RPGs down I aggree is silly (but looked awesome with a punchline in R.E.D) but we're talking about a guy that can distribute a glock's full clip among 6 people's head in one dive, and that part, we all love.

Anyway, thinking about it now, this review is utterly shallow, and while I understand I inherently have a better understanding of the setting, author could have went deeper into the elements criticized.

Btw, the multiplayer is awesome. The idea rockstar had to deal with cheaters is gold (not sure if it'll work, but the concept is brilliant).

MiQ 2 years ago

This is one of the worst review I’ve ever read.

I am so glad I didn’t come here before buying the game or I could have missed on one of the best action shooter ever. It ain’t perfect, but it sure is miles ahead of any other action shooter out there. The core gameplay is addicting and the story is great. Also, it is one of the most beautiful game on the market. Saying this game isn’t worth any more than 20$ is beyond stupid and a proof of how retarded this review and whoever wrote this garbage is.

This was the first, and needless to say, the last time I come here for anything game related.

Dave_HH 2 years ago

Sorry you feel that way. MiQ. This is just one man's opinion of the game and he didn't totally trash it, just that it wasn't a hit like it could have been.

Joel H 2 years ago


I stayed away from commenting on the favelas precisely because having never seen them (and not being native to any part of Brazil), I couldn't speak to how accurately they captured the environment. I'm glad they got that part right. I was torn regarding the Portuguese -- I, like Max, had no idea what anyone was saying for most of the game -- but I wish there had been an option to enable English subtitles or dialog after the first playthrough at the very least. That was a decision that simultaneously enforced realism but made it harder to get into the game.

(Collectible books that taught you the language as you progressed? I'd have been all over that).

I don't mind that the game left film noir behind, so much as I felt jarred by pacing and sequence construction. The scenes with Max sneaking through the favela, I thought, worked really well and speak to your "can't tell friend from foe" statements. But then I walk into a garage and find it full of 30+ punks, all of whom have sniper rifles, carbines, and act like Special Forces? That breaks the atmosphere the previous segment built.

Also, I agree with you on Rockstar is doing with cheaters. Great idea. I hope it works (or produces some really interesting content).


I'm glad you liked the game. Don't worry about not coming back. If your response to disagreeing with someone over a video game is to grab your toys, hurl insults, and run home like a cranky toddler, you aren't the sort of reader I'm interested in interacting with -- and I won't miss you.

JMcBride 2 years ago

the first Max Payne was a LOT better than the second one. The third entry has been delayed a few years after I expected it so I don't really have high expectations and am holding off in a purchase until a few friends I trust give me their opinions on whether or not it is even worth the bother (thinking of Duke Nukem Nevermore)

JMcBride 2 years ago

yeah I don't see Maxie in a favela setting. He could not talk to anyone without a translator.

Unless at his age he retired and took over for Tony Bourdain and is there to review some of the great food in which case he may just stay and eat all the time

MaximilianKohler one year ago

Yeah, this game is pretty bad.

Bad mouse/cursor control(in a variety of ways), crosshair disappears at times when you need it, can't duck in cover mode and even changing directions is glitchy, can't tell when getting hit - you just die all of a sudden, annoying forced walk at times, movement is sluggish and overall control of character is poor, annoying in and out of control(for preset scenes), sometimes graphics look nice sometimes look shitty, excessive gore, half of the game is cutscreens, pretty unenjoyable game overall.

Metro 2033 was $5 on steam and is a much better game.

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