Max Payne 3 review

Max Payne 3 is the perfect marriage of gritty storytelling and stylish shooter action

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Max Payne 3 review
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Max Payne 3 review
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Max Payne 3 review
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Max Payne 3 review


  • Gritty
  • mature plot
  • Super cool shooter action
  • Awesome multiplayer


  • Bullet-sponge enemies
  • Eye-watering difficulty
  • LMS occasionally doesn’t work

Max Payne 3 is finally here bringing with it the usual third-person shooter mechanics along with familiar features like the multiplayer mode and bullet-time

Max Payne 3, and indeed, the entire Max Payne franchise, is famous for a feature that sets it apart from the Modern Warfares and Battlefields of this world: bullet-time. This is the only series of games that allows players to tap a button, and have the character they’re controlling enter a slow-motion bullet-ballet.

When this happens, shell-casings waft breezily across the screen, victims recoil with muffled screams and gun-blasts flower like fireworks. It looks utterly awesome in single-player, but how can this mechanic work in an online firefight?

Max Payne 3: Gameplay

The answer, surprisingly, is very well indeed. Any player can enter into bullet-time, or execute a slow-motion dodge-shoot move so long as they have another player in view. If more than one opponent enters their eyeline, then gameplay slows down for all players concerned.

In bullet-time, players are able to move their crosshairs quickly from target to target, emptying entire clips of lead into their victims. Naturally, those players who have the drop on their opponents have a tactical advantage the moment they activate bullet-time.

Players on the receiving end of such an attack are advised to execute a dodge-roll or find cover – do anything, really to get out of their attacker’s eyeline.

Max Payne 3: Features

Bullet-time works much the same way in multiplayer as it does in the game’s main campaign in that it isn’t in inexhaustible supply. Players are required to fill a meter in order to activate it, and they do this by scoring kills. Gunning down opponents also earns players XP and this allows them to unlock avatar customisation options including tattoos, outfits and accessories.

It also gives them access to new weapons, attachments and Bursts – in-game skills that function in similar fashion to the Perks in Call Of Duty.

Max Payne 3: Multiplayer

Some Bursts are variations on standard multiplayer shooter perks such as faster reloading times, faster movement and the ability to take more damage. Then there are brand new powers, which dovetail neatly with the gritty, damaged aesthetic of the Max Payne franchise.

These include Paranoia, which makes all the players on the opposing team look like enemies and allows them to take damage from friendly fire, and Big Dog, which gives your entire team an adrenaline boost.

Max Payne 3: Match Types

The online aspect of Max Payne 3 includes a couple of classic match types – Team deathmatch among them – but the developers have also included a couple of unique competitions. The most compelling of these is Gang Wars, which follows the fortunes of some of the armed thugs Max runs into in the single-player campaign.

In practice, it’s a pick ’n mix of multiplayer modes where each team is assigned an objective they need to complete, such as defusing a bomb, occupying a piece of turf or capturing bags of money. Each Gang War match ends in a deathmatch where the team who have won the most rounds so far have an edge over their opponents.

The other match type T3 was able to play was Payne Killer, a version of the classic Capture The Flag mode with a twist. The match begins as a Free-For-All, and the players who score the first and second kill become Max and Max’s friend from the campaign, Passos.

The two of them are then tasked with gunning down as many of the other players as possible. If either of them is eliminated, their killers don their avatars and then become targets for all the other competitors.

Players who control either Max or Passos are awarded better weapons and an increased resilience to damage, so it’s worth trying to hang on to either avatar for as long as possible.

Max Payne 3: Verdict

Max Payne 3’s multiplayer is a welcome surprise, given how long the series has existed as a single-player-only experience. Nothing about the online mode feels tacked on or rushed. On the contrary, in fact, Max Payne 3 boasts a multiplayer that feels as deep and layered as some of the best the shooter genre has to offer.

The multiplayer offers a gritty, cinematic and compelling experience. Furthermore, it’s proof that Rockstar, a developer renowned for superb single-player fare, is starting to show some serious aptitude for creating awesome multiplayer games.

If you’re still not convinced, answer this question: what other online mode offers bullet-time?

Max Payne 3 availability: May 2012

Max Payne 3 price: From £39.99

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.