Game: Max Payne 3
Reviewed: January 2014
Rockstar have got a lot of explaining to do, and I'm not talking about them using Max Payne in a game which should really be called something else, no, that's another story entirely, which I will of course talk about later. No, Rockstar are guilty of a much more heinous crime: stopping me from playing the game in the first place. This isn't what they set out to do, but it sure damn felt like it.
Let's bring everyone up to speed. Firstly, I had issues with L.A.Noire, another game by Rockstar, and another which uses the evil Rockstar Social Club application; a piece of software which should have been binned a long time ago, along with whoever was on the development team for it. I had numerous issues starting the game, with it being stuck on initializing, and never letting me even reach the menu. In the end, I solved it after many hours by blocking the game in my firewall, and forcing it to run in offline mode. Hooray, problem solved!
Now onto Max Payne 3, I was a little worried at first, and to be honest I had every reason to be. The same thing happened again, stuck on initializing. Oh no, not again! There was one problem though, my fix from last time wasn't an option. No, this game forces you to activate with the Rockstar Social Club application, even if you're running the game via Steam. So I'd definitely need to connect to the internet for that. This is also where my route of investigation headed, as numerous sources on the internet showed information and potential fixes that seemed to put down the problem down to internet connection issues.
I spent ages trying every possible fix in the book, forwarding ports in my router, disabling Windows and ZoneAlarm firewalls, running in compatibility mode with pretty much every option at some point, and also running with admin rights. I've reinstalled the game, reinstalled Visual Studio.NET, reinstalled the Social Club Application, reinstalled DirectX, restarted my PC several times, tried three different routers in total, and had Steam verify the game integrity.
All in all, I spent several hours of my precious time trying to get the damn game to work. I was pretty much all set to give up, Rockstar themselves provided no help for me, being completely clueless it seems for the most part, and not answering my request for help. I eventually found one part-fix, that involved running the game outside of Steam, then running the game again from within Steam, keeping the first running. This finally enabled me to log in to the Social Club application, and I managed to get the game activated, but then.... another problem. This time the game wouldn't recognise that the activation had taken place, despite me logging in via a browser to my Social Club account and seeing that Max Payne 3 was indeed now listed amongst my games. Cue more head scratching and a few choice swear words as well.
Eventually, I saw that one random person in a forum posted about deleting the Rocktar Social Club folder itself. I tried that, and, hurrah, it worked, the game loaded fine! Then I restarted the game just to be sure and......okay, this time it was fully activated, but it got stuck on the loading screen and the Rockstar Social Club application still wasn't loading again. Alas, I reasoned that the problem was obviously related to that same folder, the one in 'My Documents', but I couldn't just delete it every time, since I needed to be able to exit the game at some point and I'd need those save games too. Sure, I could try an epic marathon session of gaming, but I shouldn't be forced to do that. No, a more permanent fix was needed. I noticed when I clicked on the folder properties that the read-only section wasn't ticked as such, but was coloured in, so that meant one of the sub-folders was read only. Thinking that this could be a cause of the problem, I unticked it, and did the same with a few sub-folders relating to the game too. Voila! The game loaded fine again, and this time kept on working on every launch. I later got a couple of game crashes that made the game get stuck at loading again, but the same fix worked fine on both occasions (luckily!) so I was able to keep my saves, and thus game progress, intact.
I suppose now, I should review the actual game itself, although I'm getting a bit tired after writing all that just about getting the game to work. It didn't help that the game took ages to download from Steam, coming in at a whopping 30Gb, and also, particularly at the start of the game, felt nothing like the Max Payne game I once 'knew'. The very first time I loaded the game there was also an unskippable intro movie that was both low-resolution, and about as exciting as gruel.
Finally, though, we got to see the Max Payne character at least. Even if he isn't like the one from the past games. No, now he is an aging ex-cop who seems to do nothing but drink all the time and seems to look vaguely like Hugh 'It's not lupus' Laurie. It seems like virtually every cutscene in the first half of the game shows him drinking, and looking utterly pathetic. In the latter stages, you see him drink slightly less, but by then he's turned into a bald, fat, aging, heavily bearded man who looks ever so slightly like Bruce Willis' character in the Die Hard series of films, John McClane. I suppose that all makes sense, as the game has alot of cinematic action sequences and plenty of explosions, aiding the transformation of Max Payne into Max McClane. At any stage, though, the character almost seems to reflect what a player like me has gone through, as no doubt if anyone has the same problems as me, they'll either be turning to drink, or looking pretty battered by the whole saga. Bitterness aside, the game does poke fun at itself though, with Max himself even stating that he's fat and bald.
The game takes place mostly outside New York, and concentrates on Max taking up work as a gun-for-hire/security-guy in Sao Paulo, Brazil, working for a powerful and rich local family. Things quickly turn ugly, and while the game mainly stays and focuses on current events in Brazil, you will occasioanlly have some Chapters looking back to the past and focusing on how Max ended up in Sao Paulo in the first place.
Moving on with the show, lets talk about some things that are similar. The theme tune of the previous games is briefly used at certain points in the game, bullet time is back too, so you get to act like Keanu Reeves and do some Matrix-style dives and lunges as you take out several enemies in slow motion. It is very effective, but you'll need to kill enemies in elaborate ways to recharge it quicker. Painkillers also make a return, and function the same as before, providing an amazing antidote to the numerous bullet wounds that Max must be carrying by the end of the game. The game also seems to have the same kind of difficulty system that it had before, whereby the game eases up on you if you are struggling, and I assume, vice versa. It doesn't work in exactly the same way, but each time you reload if you keep getting shot down, it does seem slightly easier, and you eventually start getting extra painkillers after the third of fourth attempt. On occasion, the save game system, being automatic, can be a pain (geddit?) as it sometimes makes you redo some longer stretches of gun-play numerous times, just to add a little more frustration for anyone that had calmed down by now. You usually find that harder sequences are down to not approaching it the right way, and most likely you'll just need to take your time a bit more and use cover more effectively.
You'll get to watch the occasional TV show or advert at various stages, and one of the first times involves the return of Captain Baseball-Bat Boy. The conclusion appears much later on, and I assume being based in Brazil, it's in Portuguese, but you'll still understand what's going on. Even more so if it happens to be your mother-tongue!
Graphically, the game is very colourful, which is nice, and the game world is usually quite detailed, if a little lacking in texture quality in places, which is even more surprising given the size of the game installation. Occasionally, the game will make things fuzzy and distorted in a colourful, almost psychedelic way, which looks kind of cool sometimes, but could also give someone a seizure. At the very least, it is headache inducing, and at best, a fancy effect that gets over-used one time too many. Character models look detailed enough, and Max seems to have a fine beard, which you'll see plenty of close-up shots of. Some of the game is a little bit gory, with plenty of mutilated bodies caused by fire or explosions, and also gratuitous frequent close-ups of bullets that are pulpifying peoples heads. But what else do you expect in an 18 rated game?
Most of the game is linear, with very minor variances in how Max can make his way through the level. Occasionally, you'll find a room off the main route that contains a bonus weapon part, with these being scattered throughout the game. Once you collect three pieces of the same weapon, you get a fancy gold version of that weapon every time you pick up a weapon of the same type. It didn't feel like there was any benefit from it though, so it's more of just a little thing for collecting rather than providing anything useful, at least with me anyway.
You'll get a variety of firearms to choose from, most of which are looted off the corpses of your unfortunate victims, including machine guns, sniper rifles, shotguns, mini-uzi's and a grenade launcher. By default, you'll have a hand-gun of some sort, whether that being a pistol, a revolver or something else. All are pretty effective though, and mostly enough by themselves to take down your enemies. If that's not enough, you can also give your opponents a good whack if they get too close.
Sound wise, the game has a lot of latin beats, due to the game being based mainly in South American countries. Max seems to attend alot of parties and night-clubs, and depending on your personal music preferences, it's either an excuse to get up and dance yourself, or the source of your next migraine. You'll get decent sounds from the weapons themselves, and the voice acting seems to be decent enough too, with Max at least sounding like the Max Payne of old, rather than just being plain old.
Max Payne 3 starts off a little weak at first, and initially I was disappointed with the game as it didn't feel like I was getting much from all the effort that went into getting the game to work. Eventually, you'll get used to the new style of Max. That, along with a decent story and gameplay that is filled with cinematic sequences, makes the game feel like a proper action film, something that the actual film failed to do. I still feel a little miffed about the lost time getting the game to work, the huge size of the game install, and the fact the game just doesn't have the same feel of the old Max Payne games, and could have done with being a whole new franchise rather than re-awakening a long dead, but successful one. But If I put those issues aside, Max Payne 3 is an enjoyble shooter that'll easily keep you entertained for the ten or so hours it takes to complete, and on that basis alone, I would recommend it.
Alas, I must take account of my issues in the scoring though, despite the fact that my fellow reviewer got it working with no problems, and thus, I award this game the following arbitrary final score:
If you like this, you might also like: Spending your life in a drunken state, growing a beard, and the other Max Payne games of course
Was Max Payne 3 a pain for you to get working too? Let us know in the forum!