Rockstar truly did a fantastic job with Max Payne 3. They captured the feeling of the previous two titles developed by Remedy Entertainment and then enhanced the experience with a great story, fantastic gameplay mechanics and good aesthetics. It’s also worth mentioning that the PC release performs exceptionally well unlike Grand Theft Auto IV that preceded it. However not all is perfect in this game as discussed below.
The repetitive and linear designs I see in modern games have been around for many years now. While this characteristic that Max Payne 3 shares isn’t a huge flaw, it does mean that it isn’t trying anything new or different to excel above other timeless classics in gaming. Despite their best efforts to try and dampen some of the linear and repetitive aspects of the game, it is overwhelmingly the weakest part of the overall experience.
The linear level design was the first thing I noticed within the 30 minutes of playing the story. Progression throughout the game is limited to large rooms rooms or open areas connected by hallways with no alternate paths available. Predictably the open areas are used for shooting and combat while the hallways give you a break and provide some sort of story element while directing you to the next shooting sequence. There really isn’t anything else either, you are literally put on a linear path from point A to point B that alternates between shooting and story. Heck there is no need to think or explore any of these areas either, the game spoon feeds you literally everything you ever need about the large areas as you enter them. Sure if you played the game you could mention the various collectibles scattered throughout the levels but the fact remains that they are not a core part of the story so they simply add to the illusion of depth in this game.
The lack of variety is the other issue I had with Max Payne 3. From the instant you start the game it will follow the same formula used in the level design throughout the game, in other words you can predict every single moment right up to the ending sequence. You start off with some story to introduce you to the chapter, transition to gameplay with a bit more story introduction and then the repetition begins. You enter an open area, clear a couple waves of enemies, get some monologue and then a couple other story bits once cleared followed by a in-game cutscene while you go through a hallway to the next open area. The only variety in that aspect is the story driving the game forward and a unique scripted sequence for each chapter. While great fun even the scripted sequences tend to be fairly predictable as the story tends to build up to that moment so there really isn’t any surprises there.
This kind of design isn’t anything new, so why are modern games especially susceptible to this linear path you may ask? Well from a player point of view it makes the game feel ‘action packed’ with tons of instant gratification. Instead of making players build up to a moment by putting in something clever like a puzzle, these games give players the memorable moments or scripted events as we typically call them. Since they also typically lack depth and complexity in a sense, it makes the game accessible to a much larger playerbase which is great for sales and profits. Of course from a developer point of view this is desirable as it helps cut a massive amount of production time and testing. Since you are not trying to create crazy new and complex mechanics and scenarios, you can instead focus on adding lots of spectacular scripted events to make players feel fulfilled when they play through these games.
So overall is this a bad thing? Not really, Max Payne 3 happens to have other strong factors that carry the game. If it wasn’t for the strong story and narrative with a fantastic bullet time mechanic, the game would be a very generic shooter at best. The fact remains that it does degrade from the overall experience and as such it will never reach the realm of near perfection where the few games that excelled far beyond others reside.
- Fantastic story with great depth and pacing.
- Solid gameplay with a perfected bullet time mechanic.
- Stays true to the original work by Remedy Entertainment.
- Level design is linear with no options of alternate paths.
- Scripted events are not enough to offset the repetitiveness.
- The filtering and effects in cut-scenes is quite distracting.
Play time: 8h – Steam.
Completion: Full playthrough – Normal.
Last played: September 28th, 2014 – 2 weeks before review.
Version: 22.214.171.124 – Latest.
Platform: PC – Windows.
Acquisition: Via Steam Sales – 5$.