The feeling of Max Payne 3 is all in the name. The game is extremely character centric, continuing Max's story from the previous two games. That said, the game does do a brilliant job of developing and exploring Max's character. Story elements are enhanced with many cut-scenes, both short and long, and these are not just glossy cinematics, in fact they are always meaningful and relevant, and effectively enhance the story and the character of Max.
Max Payne 3 is a violent game, gory right down to its very core. The graphics depict the full horror of the damage done by modern weapons, showing in detail bullet wounds, flying limbs and charred flesh, ensuring that fans of blood and guts action will get all they need. It stands out from other such action shooters by emphasizing the vulnerability and desperation of the character. Yes, Max is certainly a badass who never thinks twice about killing hundreds of enemies or blasting rockets from helicopters, but he is not some invincible superhuman who wades trough hailstorms of bullets or shrugs off grenade explosions.
The game mechanics artfully develop this mood throughout the game. The bullet-time and shot-dodge mechanics present the constant feel of narrowly escaping a lethal attack, but they still give players the tools they need to cause serious mayhem. Unlike many other shooters, which cheat realism by providing players with a constant supply of health packs or health bars, that slowly regenerate overtime, the game has no health regeneration mechanics. It is impossible to duck behind a wall and return to full power while the computer enemies wait around haplessly. The AI in Max Payne 3 will keep the pressure coming, and a highly destructible environment means that walls, doors, crates and pillars may not remain dependable bullet shields for any length of time.
Weapon choice is also a serious deal in Max Payne 3. Max may only carry two side-arm weapons and one two-handed weapon at any one time. Players may find they have to make do with whatever weapon choice they selected throughout a level, facing some challenges that such weapons may be suited to, and others that will punish, their choice. This adds yet another layer of realism and desperation to combat. How many real humans would be packing two pistols, an assault rifle, a shotgun, a sub-machine gun and a rocket launcher all at the same time? Max may not have the perfect weapon for every scenario, but he must adapt and endure anyway.
While the story-telling, realism, graphics and characterization of Max Payne 3 is top notch, level design and pacing may irritate some players. The game is intensely linear, and players will constantly feel themselves nudged toward the next objective or cutscene. While the game provides a variety of weapons to choose from, there is rarely more than one or two ways to approach a combat scenario. The game has a distinct emphasis on direct assaults and mayhem, and it may leave players who enjoy stealthy, tactical approaches wanting.
Taken together, Max Payne 3 is an amazing addition to the action-shooter genre and sets a new precedent for characterization and drama in the video game medium.