Max Payne 3 | Games To Play Before You Die

Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3
Release Date
15 May 2012
Original Platform(s)
PS3, Xbox 360

“…if you want the best Max Payne game in the series, you’ll want Rockstar’s Max Payne 3.”

The Matrix’s effect on the video game industry cannot be overstated, as the movie franchise ushered in a whole genre of games where people look cool shooting guns in slow motion. Colloquially referred to as “bullet time” games, titles like Wet, Total Overdose and the upcoming El Paso, Elsewhere all owe a debt of gratitude to The Matrix. Even slo-mo connoisseur John Woo ventured into the bullet time world with the game Stranglehold, his collaboration with Midway in 2007.

Still, perhaps there’s no bigger game that was spawned from The Matrix than the Max Payne series, which effectively pioneered the creation of bullet time games as a whole. Their implementation of slow-motion shoot dodging, paired with a gritty crime noir story, made for a formula that many developers have been borrowing from ever since, but if you want the best Max Payne game in the series, you’ll want Rockstar’s Max Payne 3.

That’s probably a controversial take for a lot of people, but I stand by it.

While Remedy helped in parts during Max Payne 3’s development, the third installment is a much different beast to previous games, and it works to the game’s benefit. Instead of Max diving 20 feet across the room every time he’s looking to dodge bullets, there’s a real weight to Max’s dives, and each landing feels like a bone-rattling crash that you’d kind of expect to happen when a middle-aged alcoholic ex-cop high on pain meds starts leaping around the room. He’s still more athletic than me though. I’m 29 and I can’t stand up without some kind of awful creaking/groaning.

Max Payne

Rockstar’s use of Euphoria and Bullet engines help give Max Payne 3 much more realistic physics, making the game feel more realistic as a result. Instead of diving at a wall and watching the animation play out, Max reacts to the world around him, as do the enemies you’ll be filling with bullet holes. It makes the whole of Max Payne 3 feel like a physics playground combined with a bullet time shooter.

That’s without getting into the weapons themselves, which all feel incredible to use. From just the basic pistols to the shotguns and assault rifles, the entire arsenal in Max Payne 3 is incredibly satisfying to wield. The audio design alone gives each weapon a pleasing punch anytime you pull the trigger, while visually you can often see the amount of damage done to the enemies and environment. There’s a fine line between brutal and over-the-top gore, but Max Payne 3 manages to walk it with ease.

As for the character of Max Payne, he’s at his most compelling here, even if he might be a bit too sardonic for some. James McCaffery’s gravel-voiced delivery pairs brilliantly with Rockstar’s trademark dry witticism and cynical writing. The whole script is filled with quotes and moments that would probably fit well in some edgy dude’s manifesto, but they’re memorable and constantly provide entertainment between shootouts.

For a lot of fans of the series, the first two games sit on the mountaintop, but between the gameplay improvements and the fantastic writing, Max Payne 3 is absolutely the one game in the series you should play before you die. It’s worth playing just for Health’s work on the score, honestly. That airport shootout to the song Tears is better than most AAA set pieces today.

Reading the rest of GTPBYD really isn’t a payne whatsoever. Go on.

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