With more and more new video games being released each and every year, it’s clear that not every game on the market these days can be a winner. So Den of Geek has been posing the question in our new editorial series: what’s the worst video game that you’ve ever played? Personally, some of the biggest contenders for my “Worst Game” prize were Assassin’s Creed III and Saints Row: The Third, both of which managed to alienate their entire core fan base in one fell idiotic swoop. Luckily, Den of Geek’s own John Saavedra has recently expressed his seething hatred for the glitchy mess that is ACIII, and I can back up his sentiments wholeheartedly. So as for my number one, killed-my-soul-to-get-through-it worst game I’ve ever played? Well that’s an easy one: Rockstar’s Max Payne 3.
Now before you go jumping to any hasty conclusions, let me make it abundantly clear that I’ve always loved Rockstar’s games: Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire and Grand Theft Auto IV being among some of my many favorites. I was also a big fan of the first two Max Payne titles: so much so, that I would often pretend to be Max and go into slow-motion in the middle of 9th grade math class. Thinking back on it now, that might have been part of the reason why I wasn’t the most popular kid back in high school. But 2012’s Max Payne 3 wound up dashing any love I had ever had for the series, and made me wish the game never even existed. I guess I should have expected as much from Max Payne 3, considering the game’s entire marketing campaign revolved around Max’s shaved head and noisy XXL Hawaiian shirt.
So let’s see, where do I even start with a gaming monstrosity such as Max Payne 3? Hmm, maybe the tiny white shooting reticle that makes it all but impossible to see where you’re aiming in the game? Or maybe I should start with how every dark and dreary level is so visually uninteresting. You can’t honestly tell me that you enjoyed that third mission in the soccer stadium? Oh wait I know! How about those nauseating so-called “visual effects,” coupled with the completely random and unnecessary highlighted words that show up as text on the screen?
But I think the worst thing about Max Payne 3 is the sheer overabundance of cut scenes, and how they interfere with the actual gameplay at regular intervals. We’ve seen this before with games like Uncharted, but Max Payne 3 takes its vision of a “cinematic experience” to an even higher and almost unplayable extreme. I was lucky if the game let me play for two full minutes before stripping away my control and forcing me to watch another long-winded cut scene of Max walking through a door. The entire progression of the game follows this same unwavering formula: shoot a few guys, walk through a door, and BAM! Five-minute cut scene. The extreme linearity of the game also makes it a complete nightmare trying to find all of Max Payne 3’s golden gun collectables, as going through most doors will seal off the previous area indefinitely.
What makes the choppy cut scenes even worse is that gamers aren’t even able to skip through them if they can’t take the boring, interruptive storytelling for another minute longer: you can’t even skip them on subsequent playthroughs after finishing the game for the first time. Especially considering how Max Payne 3 encourages multiple playthroughs (including the ridiculous die-and-start-over-from-the-beginning New York Minute game mode), this is nothing short of a disservice to the loyal Rockstar fan. I know the cut scenes are supposed to mask the game’s loading screens and everything, but I’d rather sit through frequent loading screens than have these “mandatory cut scenes” interrupt the flow of gameplay at every turn.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if the story in Max Payne 3 wasn’t the blandest and most pretentious thing I’ve ever seen in gaming. Rockstar tried so hard to create a gritty and serious cinematic experience that any sense of heart or charm in the game is completely sucked dry. The first two Max Payne games were great because they were so self-aware about their overtly serious nature that they almost became funny in an endearing sort of way. The tone of this game is so completely serious that it’s an absolute drag to watch, and no character in the story is even the least bit likeable. The only somewhat interesting parts of the game are in the sparse flashback levels in New York City, which, you know, is what a Max Payne game is supposed to be like.
But despite everything bad I had seen about the game, I still tried to keep playing it, and to see if I could force myself to understand why it was getting 8’s and 9’s from gamers and critics everywhere that I looked. And then, as if just to add one last slap to the face for wanting to believe or give the game the benefit of the doubt, Max Payne 3’s high tendency of freezing during its cut scenes wound up crashing my PS3 beyond the point of repair. All of my save files since 2007 were gone, and I was forced to bury my beautiful 60GB PS3 in the trash with my Max Payne 3 disc still sitting inside the gutted, lifeless console.
The sad part is that I’ve always been alone in my feelings of Max Payne 3. If the gaming community at large has shown me anything in recent years, it’s that no one can admit a golden child developer like Rockstar can ever make a subpar, let alone terrible game. I guarantee you that if Max Payne 3 had been released under a different name, and without that applauded yellow Rockstar logo in the corner, then it would be regarded as the clunky, generic 3/10 action game that it really is. It’s time that we all stop making excuses for this horrible misstep, as I can honestly say that Max Payne 3 is the worst game I’ve ever played.