Max Payne 3: Out of Rehab and Off the Wagon

Once, he’d toppled criminal empires with nothing but a gutful of bile and a burning need for vengeance. Fire had coursed through his veins. Time had slowed at his command. Death had poured forth from his hands on artfully rendered spirals.

But he’s older. He’d found love and lost it. Twice. Now he’s just a drunk with a pain pill problem. He can’t move his bowels if he throws them off the roof of his dingy Hoboken tenement.

Through the haze of an eight-year long bender, a thought had bubbled through his curdling brain more times than he could count (if he bothered to give a damn) and more times than he could remember (if he didn’t scorch through neurons like a douchebag through hair gel). He didn’t want to admit it, but he knew why he hadn’t used his trusty nine-millimeter to paint a Cobain rainbow against whatever wall his corpse slid down.

That reason? Sequel.

Max Payne 3

Definition of noir: Being suicidally depressed about landing a gig as a high-profile bodyguard to the rich, indolent, and promiscuous

Max Payne 3: Out of Rehab and Off the Wagon

That most depressing of attempts to cash in on a previously established franchise since branded breakfast cereal. And no franchise is so hardboiled as Max Payne, the eponymous granddaddy of acrobatic third-person shooters.

Dual wielding.

Bullet time.

Throwing yourself through the air, guns blazing.

Max made them all famous.

Now that the creative property has been wrested away from the series writer Sam Lake, Dan Houser (Red Dead Redemption and GTA IV) of Rockstar Studios has attempted to breathe life into Max’s brooding, noir-encrusted corpse with befuddlingly confusing results.

For one thing, Max Payne has always been the protagonist of a film noir series—a storytelling style epitomizing the unsentimental portrayal of violence, sex, and the nihilistic facts of life with a strongly reflective internal monologue. In Max Payne 3, making Max a tough, bitter ex-cop with a substance abuse problem and a death wish might as well be taking from the dictionary definition of the genre, begging the question of just what the hell Rockstar was playing at when they released a statement in September 2011 saying they would be abandoning the film noir style of portrayal that characterized the two previous installments of the series.

Max Payne 3

Y’know, the philosophy of most shooters is to keep the camera on your character so you can see what’s happening. Not so here.

Despite Rockstar’s assertions, Max Payne 3 is just as noir as its predecessors. A change of scenery does not a genre shift make, people.

As I watch the game beginning, I cannot help but comment on the masterful quality of the cinematics. But:

What the deuce?

Why is my screen breaking up into red, blue, and green blurs every few seconds? Hi-def flatscreen cost my right nut and it’s tweaking out on me like a skeezer after her third line of OxyContin (It’s the Tylenol that drops them like flies).

Oh, I get it: It’s the artistic representation of Max’s near constant inebriation. Confusing considering none of the cut scenes are presented through Max’s eyes. I’d say Houser had himself a film instead of a game since the visuals, narrative, and attention to storytelling are definitely better than what’s shit out of Hollywood these days. If only I could see the fucking thing without having to cross my eyes like it’s a Magic Eye book.

Max Payne 3

Funny how the better graphics developers come up with, the less they want to show them to us.

The introduction, for all its sulking appeal, is formulaic. Getting the beat up, suicidal protagonist ready for a fall is the order of the day. And we don’t really get beyond setting Max up with a reason not to gargle a round from his Beretta and sally forth for one last hurrah until the second disc.

Ultimately the theme is no different than the story’s predecessors: It’s a war against institutionalized evil and capitalizing on the misfortune of the masses. But with the death of the Aesir Corporation in the second game, which was responsible for the series of unfortunate events that comprised Max’s life, what we get in terms of story is an afterthought in the saga of Max Payne. A well-told and engaging afterthought certainly, but still just as much an afterthought as the republished unabridged Hunger Games novel including several graphically detailed pages of Katniss trying to pinch a loaf in the woods—and, no, I don’t mean her stealing bread from Peeta.


About The Author

John Richard "Chrysophase" Albers
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John Richard Albers, an author, armchair psychologist, amateur historian, freelance, peacemaker, dragonslayer, warmaster, and part-time herald of the apocalypse, hunts ghosts when he isn't hunting crazy people. He holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and English Literature, is working toward a degree in parapsychology, and is acting CEO of Prior to Print Proofreading LLC, where he gets to torture editors instead of them torturing him for once.

5 Responses to Max Payne 3: Out of Rehab and Off the Wagon

  1. Santa Claus says:

    Seriously you should write movie reviews instead of game reviews! Who the hell are you trying to impress, your peers? Your review is almost unreadable. I have no friggin clue what the hell you just reviewed! Seriously start reviewing movies, you will fit in with the rest of the movie critics. Leave reviewing games to those who understand what we gamers are looking for-sorry that is definately you.

    • Santa, I stopped believing in you when I was five, and now I know why. Hilarious of you to immediately assume that I am not a gamer. At the same time, it’s gratifying of you to think my peers are somehow on a different social circle than you and yours. I’m in my mid-twenties, picked up my first NES controller at the age of four, and never looked back. My brother works as a freelance graphics designer and is currently pitching to a team at EA. And I wrote the scripts for two PC games produced in the early 2000s. I live and breathe games, but I am on the side of things that must look at what was done wrong in order to prevent mistakes being made the next time someone develops a game. Saying it was great or it sucked only benefits those who passively accept what’s being sold to them. Figuring out the why of it is what a modern, thinking gamer can benefit from. So, I choose to do my audience the courtesy of not talking down to them or holding their hands.

      It’s fine if you dislike the review; I haven’t bothered to appeal to the lowest common denominator in years, but don’t assume that just because you lack the capacity to understand what you just read that you represent the majority of gamers, know what they’re thinking, or are even a “peer” to them, since apparently you think other gamers are part of a different social strata.

  2. Nocturne says:

    This review, is total crap, its like he’s written it for an exam and tried to impress by using as many elaborate, unnecessary words as he can, in doing so, taking their eye completely off the ball and forgetting what the review is supposed to do, critique the game inform the reader and give its high and low points, not ponce about trying to be a wordsmith. FAIL.

  3. Nero says:

    Wordsmith? Are you seriously admitting that you may have had to look up any of the words in the review to understand them? Go watch some Zero Punctuation reviews and after rewinding several times, (fast talker reviews) tell me you understand anything Croshaw’s saying. He must be doing something right, the guy’s pretty famous so far. Don’t worry though, barely literate people still outnumber the well-read (don’t even start on how you write for so-and-so and educational background; no one’s convinced after you just bitched about “words” you didn’t understand). I did notice how aspects of game coverage was rather brief compared to the severe bashing it got. Metaphors-a-plenty, but I thought it was funny even though it got off track a bit. I played the game, so I already know what he was talking about, so I can’t say if it would be clear enough for someone looking to buy, rent, or skip it personally. All in all though, if you didn’t come here to actually READ then just google the review and look at the pretty little stars that sites give it.

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