It's taken nine years for Max Payne to return. The wait has been long and, at times, a little worrying.
When development moved from Remedy to Rockstar, it became clear we'd be getting something different - especially considering their last game had been 'L.A. Noire'. The final product would be visually stunning, but could it match the action shooter experience of the first two games?
We kick off in Brazil as Max has left New Jersey to take a job working private security for a wealthy Sao Paulo businessman and wife, Rodrigo and Fabiana Branco. Long story short, all hell starts to break lose as Fabiana is kidnapped and Max fights his way through a horde of baddies to get to a much darker and more sinister plot.
In terms of narrative, this game is on another level. It starts with you popping pins and swigging scotch, reminiscing as you wallow in your thoughts of the family you've lost. Not much difference there then. But even though Max doesn't really undergo any character development, the depth of every character and the range of emotions you experience while playing are amongst the best ever seen in this genre.
While all the characters are well rounded, James McCaffrey as our anti-hero delivers one of the best standout gaming performances of all time.
He's helped by the dialogue - peppered with "Maxisms" like "Sao Paulo is like Baghdad with G-strings", "I had a hole in my second favourite drinking arm", and "So this was it. My easy retirement money. My blood-stained 401k" - but there's something more to Max. He's more bitter, twisted and lost in a cause of doing what's "right" but not knowing what's right anymore. It's genius.
While you do get the odd flashback level in the dingy and gritty side of New Jersey, the dark alleyways and bars have been replaced with the lush, colourful environments of penthouse clubs and speed boats to derelict hotels and the favelas of Sao Paulo.
Each environment boasts stunning detail and realism - from Max's growing beard, to him putting his rifle gun under his arm while he reloads his pistol - adding just a little something to take the repetitive edge off a shooter.
And while 'Max Payne 3' doesn't really do much to advance its predecessors' gameplay, what it does is simple and done well. Heavily accented by cinematics, gameplay is fluid and logical - although some sections that initially seem to require a stealth approach turn into a bloodbath within seconds.
'Max Payne 3' does make the player focus on taking cover and being cautious, rather than completely relying on the Bullet Time and Shoot Dodge all the time. But, you can't completely rely on a duck and shoot tactic as the environment is destructive and often requires a crafty blend of tactics.
The new Last Man Standing dynamic - if you're shot and about to die, shoot the guy who hit you before you hit the ground to save yourself - can also make things interesting and does reward you with killer cinematics. The only problem: this can be a little frustrating when in cover and being shot at by multiple enemies and you can't swing your gun around.
While the enemy have grenades (and you don't) and the weapons you do get are limited, this isn't a tragedy. It's a realistic, gritty shooter and makes no pretence at chasing after the military/futuristic shooters - if you love 'Battlefield' and 'Modern Warfare', 'Max Payne' probably won't be for you.
There are a few other issues. Every time you start a new level or section, you begin with your regular pistol, which can be rather irritating when you really need that rifle or shotgun on hand. And for a game that you feel could have offered more open-world play, there is always a distinct path that you're led down.
The single player campaign lasted me a good eight to nine hours, while additional Arcade and Multiplayer modes add some good time on this. Arcade modes are quick, fun and do add some great anxiety. Multiplayer is a good riot too - it's not a complete afterthought but the strength is the single player campaign, no doubt.
Overall, 'Max Payne 3' is gritty but polished. It's not going to be everyone's favourite - it may not even be a die-hard fan favourite - but it's a great immersive gaming experience.
Score: 9 out of 10