As his name seems to imply, Max Payne has never been a lighthearted fellow. And even though the ex-NYPD cop has left the Big Apple-based film noir dankness of his first two games for a sunnier Brazilian gig, he's still pretty much the same pain-filled guy he's always been.
The first two Max Payne games focused on Max wiping out drug dealers and all-around scum who had a hand in murdering his wife and child. Now, some eight years later, the hard-hitting officer is older, wearier … and not a bit wiser. After killing a mob boss' son in a woozy bar fight, the grizzled gunman takes a job in Sao Paolo as a hired hand for a rich family.
All he has to do it keep watch over booze-swilling partiers. And on his off hours he can numb himself with a fistful of painkillers washed down by swigs of Jack Daniel's. At least that's what he told himself when he took the job. Truth is, Max quickly finds himself in the middle of a twisting mystery as members of the über-wealthy Branco family are kidnapped. And it seems only he has the wherewithal to find out why. If he can keep sober long enough to stay upright, that is.
No puzzle solving or clue finding here. Unlike past games in the series, Max Payne 3 is mostly a straightforward third-person shooter. And it's left to the cinematic cutscenes to tell the story of backstabbing betrayal and plots that swirl around human organ harvesting and political intrigue. That tale's biggest role? To dramatically justify lots and lots of gore-splattering gun battles. Through office buildings, bars, strip clubs, a soccer stadium, a graveyard, a police department, etc., Max uses pistols, machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles and grenade launchers to slaughter everyone from Jersey Shore mugs to Brazilian cops.
The aging but still tough-as-nails Max talks of his reticence to be a killing machine. And there are times he's all about defending the innocent. He even (kind of) turns over a new leaf by the end of the game. But make no mistake, when he (you) is in the heat of things, the game mechanic makes it easy and even "fun" to kill well over 1,500 enemies in the course of 14 chapters.
You can choose from three different aiming mechanisms that make locking onto foes easier or harder, depending on your preference. "Bullet Time" is a defining mechanic for the series that slows the action down for a short while so you can quickly move your aiming reticle to pinpoint as many foes as possible—taking them out in one smooth and exhilarating move.
Similar is some ways, "Shootdodge" is a leaping move that revels in slo-mo bullets visibly ripping through flesh and bone, leaving holes that spurt gore or mar features as victims tumble over dead. As the last foe is cleared from an area, the bulletcam closely follows your final fatal projectile as it strikes its target.
If Payne is close enough to grab an enemy, he can also switch to melee action with that same slow-motion panache. The bruiser brutally pistol whips his opponent several times before pressing him down with a gun barrel to the forehead and blowing his brains out. And that's only a fraction of the gruesome visuals on display that feature everything from blood-geysering machete wounds to blown-off (ragged-fleshed) limbs to women being bloodied and bruised by their captors.
Need more messy details? The dialogue is frequently raw and obscene. Jesus' and God's names are blasphemed repeatedly. You hear and say f-and s-words, along with "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑," "n-gga," "b‑‑ch," "d‑‑n" and "b‑‑tard." Characters smoke, drink and pop pills—especially Max. Numerous conversations glorify the downing of painkillers, cocaine and booze. Gratuitous sexuality? Yep, there's that too. Women are seen in barely there bikinis and lingerie. They dance naked in strip clubs and straddle male patrons—revealing everything but genitals to the "camera." Realistic sexual motions and sounds are included.
Forget about beaches and the bustle of the big Brazilian city. Max's world here is a grimier, grittier place than he's ever lived before. In this salaciously pumped-up land, Max is a guy who regularly subverts any and all authority to expediently reach the goal at hand. In fact, you could say he's the valedictorian of the end-justifies-the-means school of hyper-violent justice and retribution.