In short

Max Payne 3 is a mature, brutal and thrilling action title that marries a great series to one of gaming’s finest studios. The result is an absolutely thrilling and memorable ride that will surely please both fans of the series, and fans of Rockstar titles. A technological triumph wrapped in the quality of package that we have come to expect from Rockstar.

Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Publisher: Rockstar
Distributor: Megarom
For fans of: Action, third-person shooters, Rockstar games and Max Payne series
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: Playstation 3, PC
If we had to give it a numerical score: 9.5/10


Max is down and out in Sao Paulo, doing a security job for a rich Brazilian mogul and his family who hired him on his reputation. The ex-cop is drinking the harsh reality of his life away, popping pain-killers on cue, escaping the distress of the tragedies that happened to his loved ones years ago. The job heats up when local gangs come at the mogul’s family and Max is caught up in the brutal path, while finding the truth as well as dealing with his own issues.

What I loved

  • Visuals and sound
  • Neo-noir narrative style
  • Bullet time
  • Memorable characters
  • Control mechanics
  • Ability to tweak the control mechanics
  • The storytelling style
Not so much
  • n/a


Gameplay and features

The attention to detail is evident from the word go – scrutinising the options will reveal the ample possibilities to customise your experience. This impressed me because at first the series’ famous ‘bullet time’ felt a bit off to me. It wasn’t quite ‘auto-lock’ on to your target, nor was I able to completely ‘free-aim’. Not only can you choose whether you want to play with the quick-aim locking onto your target, but you can choose to free-aim or somewhere in between. From there you have the normal options to adjust the sensitivity of your Y and X axis, invert aim etc. which shooter fans will be accustomed to. So I was able to get the entire control mechanics spot on to my taste instead of needing to adjust to how the mechanics were designed. You can even choose which shoulder to look over in-game by hitting left of right on the d-pad, something I can’t remember seeing in a third-person shooter.

The control layout is fluid and works brilliantly for the action and shooting, and while the shooting mechanics are not as ‘meaty’ as some of the more traditional shooters, they work well and just have that feel-good quality about them which Rockstar fans will recognise. Your input also looks good, natural and life-like, no matter what you do with the sensitivity or speed of the controls. The button layout is familiar to action games until you get to the ‘bullet time’.

Fortunately the ‘bullet-time’ feature was fleshed out nicely and is not quite hit a button and take everyone down with no effort. Firstly you have a gauge which depletes the time in which you can use the slow-motion feature, so you will need to replenish the gauge as opposed to it at will. You can also dive out of cover using the feature but by using a different button to engage the dive. Then for a bit of eye-candy there’s the new ‘last man standing feature’. If you are shooting the final foe on that level, you can hit a slow-motion camera to watch the bullet travel and also fire off more rounds to watch the gore as the bullet hits the target. Like the rest of the game, the difficulty in the ‘bullet-time’ is quite challenging. You can still get shot when using the slow-motion, so the ‘bullet-time’ doesn’t water down the action. Usually these slow-motion features in games require little effort, but it is no free ticket in Max Payne 3. New to the headline feature is the ability to shoot from prone positions. You dive realistically, over objects etc. and are bound to end up on the floor, and now you can just keep firing away from the floor– a classy touch of realism. This includes when you get shot to the floor and do not die. Either keep firing away or hit ‘bullet-time’ to give you some breathing space to aim.

The Max Payne 3 package is not just about the epic story mode, but you not only get extensive multiplayer options, but an arcade mode for the singleplayer experience too. The ‘New York Minute’ mode returns which as the title suggests, is a time-attack mode where you have one minute to rack up as high a body count as you can muster. The second arcade mode is new to the series, ‘Score Attack’ lets you replay completed chapters while competing for score which increases depending on your accuracy. Both the arcade modes are good fun and add to the singleplayer experience.

Max Payne 3’s multiplayer is extensive and was well designed. It is clear that the multiplayer modes were designed to keep you progressing, and therefore interested. It does not feel like something that was just thrown in to give a little more value. You can choose to play in either free-aim or soft lock-on, and from there there’s plenty to unlock as you progress in either mode; from the characters you use to the multitude of game modes. There’s some rookie deathmatch modes to get you started and from there you unlock plenty of modes and features – from big team matches to the excellent ‘Payne Killer’ mode, which resembles ‘juggernaut mode’ for those that are used to online shooters. The ‘bullet time’ feature has been watered down as not to give players too much of an advantage. You can only slow-motion dive and for a lesser period of time. This does still give a new dimension to the action while not making it “the only way” to take town the enemy.

The multiplayer is best when you either foster up a crew or join one to take to the ‘gang wars’, which can be played in private or public lobbies. Here you can create a playlist of mixed objectives that you and teammates will need to achieve. These objectives or events recreate objectives or events from single-player mode. Rockstar games that include multiplayer modes in the past have never been shallow and always fun, but have not enjoyed a mass following. I believe that Max Payne 3 has a genuine chance of sticking around in the multiplayer arena.

Sound and visuals

The presentation is simply one of the best I’ve seen – modern, neat and a pleasure to navigate through. The title screen gives you the choice of game options and access to the Rockstar events and news via the Rockstar Social Club feeds. From the word go it is evident that every aspect was designed and crafted, nothing was just slapped together.

With Rockstar games you know you are in for a superior gaming experience. The titles are not just put together by a talented bunch of coders, no, a Rockstar title is ‘produced’ by not only a talented team, but a talented team with state-of-the-art technology to employ. Max Payne 3 is of the highest quality visually, and at times difficult to differentiate between the pre-rendered cinematic scenes and the gameplay. The animations, facial expressions, the detail is as good as you will see this generation. The experience was so atmospheric and realistic, that I could almost smell the Scotch on Max’s breathe.

The scenes or frames play out in neo-noir style that can be compared to a Tarrentino or Guy Ritchie film – with frames sliding on to screen in picture-in –picture style, cropping the previous full-screen frame. The multi-frames on the screen add to the drama with some freezing or going into black and white while the next frame on the same screen continues with the action – all so modern and all so stylish. Since Max is recalling most of the scenes, and if heavily liquored for the most part, the is lots of camera bluring or going off focus. There‘s load of clever use of angles and instability with the camera work, recreating frantic visuals to reflect the mood.

The Max Payne 3 score and audio quality was also crafted with absolute care and is too of the highest quality. Max is in a distressed state of mind and the score and soundtrack compliment the almost ‘dark’ mood of the game. The soundtrack features tracks from American rock band, Health and the Brazilian rapper Emicida who recorded tracks exclusively for Max Payne 3. The dialogue and voice-acting compliment the rich narrative, it’s clear that Rockstar didn’t just pick someone off the streets and asked them to read out some choice Portuguese phrases. No, the dialogue is authentic and adds to the strong narrative, engrossing you in the rich story. Max Payne narrates his memories in the game and even his gruff voice suits his broken-down persona.

Not all things are created equally and this is so true when it comes to Rockstar titles. The grand production values that goes into their titles is evident with any of their titles, which just seem to get better, and Max Payne 3 is probably my favourite in this department from the studio.


Closing comments

I am thrilled that Rockstar were acquainted with Max Payne, one of gaming’s great characters, and brought with him his best ploy. This ‘bullet time’ mechanics that Max Payne games were famed for were modernised while still remaining true to their origin. Max Payne 3 is a masterfully reproduced action title that again demonstrates Rockstar’s attention to every last detail, and it tells Max’s new story in the stylised manner the studio has become known for. The game also delivers on every front making it a title that I can wholeheartedly and highly recommend – absolutely brilliant!

Zombiegamer rating:



Read about our ratings here.