Written by Mark Del Rio, aka PieMonster Tuesday, 26 June 2012 11:00
Poor dear old Max. He really has hit rock bottom at the bargain bin in GameStop. It’s been nearly 10 years since his last outing. All of the people that he has ever loved have eventually died in some horrible way. His life is in shambles; all he wants is to be left alone. Now Rockstar is bringing him out of retirement and into his final (really, final?) outing.
The console version of Max Payne 3 has been out for a few weeks now; for the most part its contents are identical to that of the PC version. Due to this similarity, I won’t waste your time reviewing the following content – story, gameplay, and multiplayer – which you can read about elsewhere suffice to say that they are most excellent. Instead, I’ll focus more on the things that are PC related. Whether you downloaded the game off of Steam or purchased a retail (off the shelf) copy like me, I’ve got you covered.
My review copy of Max Payne 3 arrived in a double sized amary case box (the likes of which I haven’t seen since the mid 2000’s). Inside lay an instruction manual with CD key, a “Rockstar Pass” flier (so I can get excited about upcoming overpriced DLC), and 4 (yes 4!!!) installation DVDs. Yikes! This game requires an insane 35GB of hard drive space! I carefully put in the first disc nervously thinking about those 35GB I’ll be saying “goodbye” too.
Installing the game I realize that the retail version of Max Payne 3 doesn’t activate on Steam. You’ll have to purchase the game through Steam to get the full SteamWorks list of benefits – achievements, stats, cloud saving, etc… The retail version only gets you access to the “Social Club”, Rockstar’s in-house matchmaker and stat tracker. I suppose it’s better than nothing; however it is annoying to have my fellow Steam brethren gaining twice the achievements and experience simply because I chose to purchase my copy elsewhere.
If you purchased the Steam version, you have your own set of annoyances to deal with as well - specifically, that 35GB download! If you have a monthly bandwidth limitation, then expect to exceed it (unless you download it in bits every few months with the expectation to actually play the game for the first time sometime later this year). If bandwidth is not an issue for you, then it’s still 35GB of downloading. For most people in America, that’s going to take more than just a couple of hours. You might as well use that time to run down to the store and purchase a retail copy. Then you miss out on all of those SteamWorks perks, remember?
It’s an endless dumb cycle that could have easily been avoided if all copies of the game were accessible through the same services regardless of where they were purchased. Why Rockstar chose to release the game like this is beyond me. They did the same thing with L.A. Noir PC. Let’s hope they don’t do it again with GTAV.
After a 55 minute install (35GB, remember?), I’m ready to launch the game but first I have to type in my serial number. The serial number you type in is tied to your “Social Club” profile so forget about trading it after you’ve used it. The benefit to that is that you don’t need the disc in your drive to play the game.
Because I had previously played other Rockstar games on my computer (GTAIV, L.A. Noir), the “Social Club” client (which runs in the background) automatically detected my account and signed me in. Convenient.
A small patch updates the game to its latest version and soon I’m at the main menu.
The game does a decent enough job detecting the best setting for your system. Being a bit picky, I dig into the options and tweak them further. The first thing I do is increase the resolution to match my television - 1080p (yes, I PC game on a TV). Next, I crank every graphical setting up to maximum from texture quality to tessellation (a Direct X 11 effect).
What’s it look like?
Max Payne 3 is very stylistic from its opening cutscene onward. Text effects and overlays fill the screen. Details in objects are very sharp and everything looks crisp and clean. Colors are bold and beautiful with highly detailed textures. Bloom and Blur effects are also used to impressive results. Max Payne 3 is simply a sight to behold.
Rockstar Games has one of the highest standards for game design and it clearly shows. Unlike other developers who create and object and clone it a few hundred times in a level, every object in Max Payne 3 from wine bottles to stacks of paper look unique and part of the environment. There is so much different “stuff” lying around and none of it looks cloned. Cover realistically breaks and crumbles with gunfire. In heated battles it’s sometimes hard to make out what’s going on with papers and dust flying all over the place, but it looks so damn cool! With all of this going on its amazing the game doesn’t stutter.
Running Max Payne 3 on a quad-core Core2Duo, with 4GB of RAM and a Geforce 480 the game ran flawlessly within 30 to 60FPS (Frames Per Second) which is more than acceptable. I swapped out the 480 with a 260 and ran it again in DX9 and also noticed no performance hit as a result (not even a hiccup). This game is clearly optimized for the PC.
What’s it sound like?
In the opening cutscene, Max Payne enters his apartment. There are 2 things you immediately notice. The first is voice actor James McCaffery reprising the title role again after a 9 year absence. Max may look different in every game but his voice remains the same. It’s comforting to hear it again. The second thing you notice is that iconic music motif. Those lonely, desolate notes remind you that this is Max Payne’s story and it’s going to be another sad one.
The sound work in game is excellent. Every gunshot is great. Every object breaking apart from gunfire sounds real. Even the sound of your own footsteps is amazing. In 7.1 surround sound, bullets whizzed by me, voices could be heard behind me, and the general environment was just “real”. Rockstar’s level for sound quality is just as high as their graphics department. Without question this is one of the best sounding games of the year.
Any bugs, issues, crashes?
Unfortunately, Max Payne 3 PC is riddled with some serious (game-breaking) bugs. I experienced a number of crashes mostly at the main menu and during boot-up. There was also a crash somewhere in the middle of the second chapter (common, according to the forums). Launching the game in Administrator and/or Compatibility mode (recommended by Rockstar) didn’t seem have any effect on stability. The worst of these bugs is a game-breaking one that completely erases your saves and “Social Club” stats.
I launched the game for the first time and played up until half way through the first chapter/level. I quit the game to write down my initial impressions and to get this review started – crash upon exit. After restarting the game I was surprised to discover that all of my progress had been erased. “No big deal I thought to myself. I’m still in the first chapter.” I start the game from the beginning again. The only issue with this is that you must sit through a long 10 – 15 minute unskippable opening cutscene (complete with movie style credits) before you begin playing. Fine, I watch it again admiring the graphics and motion capture. I am in-game. I play the first chapter and complete it. This whole time I am seeing the “saving” icon on the screen reassuring me that my progress is being saved. I play the second chapter and it crashes mid-way. I re-launch the game again! Guess what? Saves gone!
At this point I turn to both the Rockstar and Steam forums for help. It turns out I’m not the only one with this problem. As a matter of fact, a lot of users seem to be suffering from magically disappearing saves and stats. It seems the root of these issues are related to the “Social Club” client which MUST be installed with the game and MUST be run similar to the equally despised (though not by me) GFWL. Unsurprisingly, Rockstar has no official words as to what the issue is or if there is an upcoming patch on the way. There are community workarounds but they involve editing the Windows Registry which is not something I recommend to novice/casual PC users as they can render your computer inoperable if you don’t know what you are doing.
After studding up on the issue and its various solutions, I come up with my own. It seems like the saves and stats get wiped at launch and not exit. This happens randomly and sometimes the saves aren’t deleted. After exiting the game, I decide to manually backup my saves (found in My Documents>Rockstar>Max Payne 3) to my desktop and recopy them to My Documents folder when needed. So far it’s worked fine though it is dumb that I have to resort to this kind of preparation simply to play a game.
Should you buy it?
NO! At least not at full price and definitely not until they release a patch.
Max Payne 3 PC is a mess in more ways than one. On the one hand it’s a really great action game with incredible graphics and sound. On the other hand, because of its style and location, it really doesn’t fit in with Max’s two previous adventures. If the purchasing and downloading options don’t bother you, the game saving bugs and crashes will. There’s nothing here you haven’t experienced in other games though Rockstar does manage to keep it fresh and exciting. If you don’t need to play this game right now, then I’d recommend waiting for a price drop and a patch. If you do need to play it right now, then I’d recommend getting the console version. It won’t look as pretty but it won’t crash. Max Payne 3 PC is the equivalent of serving fine wine in a Dixie cup. In its current state it’s wasted potential and that’s just not good enough for us PC gamers.
UPDATE: A new patch went live on 6/26/2012. I had a chance to play some of the game with the new patch. To my surprise, I experienced one crash. My saves remained fine though.
If you are still so inclined to purchase Max Payne 3, you may do so by ordering it here from amazon: