Rockstar Games faced no small challenge by taking up development on Max Payne 3. After nearly a decade since Remedy made the last entry in the series, could they live up to expectations? Was the series’ signature Matrix, slow-down mechanic and noire style even relevant anymore? Lucky for us, Rockstar took up that challenge and has created a game that lives up the game’s legacy while moving it forward.

Max Payne 3 looks very different than its predecessors. Gone are the dark alleyways and tunnels of New York in favor of the luxurious penthouses and rundown favellas of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Max is working as a private body guard. Mixed with Max’s addiction to alcohol and painkillers, things only snowball from there. The change of setting is not the only aesthetic change, however.

The graphic novel style storytelling from the orignal games is replaced by dynamic multi-frame cutscenes interlaced with flashes of light and distortion with the occasional random highlighting of words. These help give the game a true sense of style. However, in trying to illustrate the world through Max’s over-drugged, intoxicated eyes, Rockstar may have gone a little too far. While it certainly sets the game apart from others, it can become tiring and distracting during one of the game’s many long cutscenes.

Max Payne 3 a gritty, all-out action game and makes no apologies about it. The gameplay retains the style of the series with the mechanic of diving and slowing down time still intact. Rockstar has made a slight addition with a cover mechanic. While this may seem like a small change, it makes a discernable difference in how the game is played. In many fights, it is to your advantage to utilize cover instead of the stylish bullet time jumps. While the addition is helpful in bringing the game up to modern standards, it is still a shame that the game’s initial hook is almost put on the back burner.

Unlike many modern titles, Max does not regenerate health. Instead, you rely on painkillers to replenish yourself. Not only does this make the game a bit more interesting as you can’t just sit back in a firefight and wait to get back to full strength, but it also fits the narrative of Max’s addiction.

Rockstar has done a terrific job with the writing and sound of Max Payne 3. Dan Houser’s script is one of the best examples for good writing in a video game. Max is not a good person, he abuses pain killers and alcohol and ignores the duties of the job he has been paid to do. Despite this, you start to feel sympathetic towards his character because Rockstar has done such a good job of humanizing the man.  The voice acting is spot on throughout as well and the soundtrack always manages to capture the moment on screen.

More than all this, it’s the small details and polish that make the game such an enjoyable experience to play. Little touches like holding a large weapon in one hand while you have a handgun drawn instead of slinging it to Max’s back bring a sense of realism that you don’t get with many other games.

Like many games recently, competitive online multiplayer has been added for the first time in the series. It’s set in the same world with many of the same factions as the single-player, but it’s a very different experience. You can still trigger slow-motion that will affect the entire map in multiplayer, though in much smaller quantities. Overall though, it’s pretty standard with deathmatch, team deathmatch and objective-based modes. It’s well thought out and fun, but it’s probably nothing special.

Rockstar has continued its string of excellent titles with Max Payne 3. Despite a few small annoyances, the game is solid throughout. It’s one of the year’s best and I’d be hard pressed not to recommend it to fans of the old series and newcomers alike.

Grade: A-