Max Payne 3: Making the most of multiplayer

Rockstar Games unleashed Max Payne 3 last week, bringing back the bullet-time-fueled third-person shooting action of the 10-plus year old series. The single player-driven narrative is an exceptional effort, wrapping a solid noir story around some very tight gameplay. The game also features a compelling wild card in the form of a fully blown-out multiplayer mode. Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne featured online multiplayer, but it’s been completely rethought and redesigned for Max Payne 3, injecting ideas like multiplayer character progression and custom class creation that are so popular in today’s shooters.

I explored all of this last week in my Max Payne 3 review, but my playing didn’t end there. All through the rest of the week and on into the weekend, I accepted the grim task of gunning down scores of fellow players to get a better sense of how the new game’s multiplayer works and how to find success in its various modes. All so I could report back to you here today with a rundown of some helpful tips that ought to give you an edge in the online side of the game.

Lobbying for Success

There are two kinds of lobbies in Max Payne 3‘s multiplayer mode: soft lock and free aim. The free aim rooms deliver your standard twitch-based multiplayer experience. Holding down the left trigger brings up your targeting reticule, which you must then move around using the right analog stick to line up your shots. Soft lock, on the other hand, will automatically lock your reticule onto the opposing team’s players, provided that they’re in view and close to the center of your field of view. Once you’ve got a lock, you can then use the right stick to make fine-tune adjustments to your aim.

It’s easy to write off those soft lock lobbies as “noob play only” zones, but choosing one lobby type over another really just amounts to a different focus in your multiplayer game. The free aim rooms feel, as I mentioned above, like straight forward twitch-based multiplayer. Soft lock, on the other hand, de-emphasizes the need to have perfect thumb-eye coordination, putting the focus instead on smart tactical play and teamwork. You’ll still need to be quick on the draw, but it’s much more valuable in soft lock rooms to play smart and stick with friendlies whenever possible. You’ll also want to avoid equipping any scoped weapons, since soft lock doesn’t work with those.

Soft lock is also a great option early on if you just want to score a huge number of easy kills in a short amount of time. The bulk of Max Payne 3‘s playlists don’t unlock until you complete the training challenge that requires you to score 100 kills in multiplayer. Abusing soft lock lobbies is the quickest way to do that. Free aim and soft lock matches tend to play very differently, but you’ll generally see higher kill counts across the board in the latter.

Building a Better Gangbanger

Once you hit level 4 in Max Payne 3‘s multiplayer level progression you’re able to start customizing classes. Five custom class slots are initially available, though you can pick up more by becoming a “Legend” after you hit the game’s level cap, with “Legend” being the Max Payne equivalent of Call of Duty‘s Prestige mode. There are a lot of layers you can tweak for your custom loadouts, including two one-handed weapons, one two-handed weapon, Bursts (which amount to special abilities, such as Bullet Time), and an assortment of “items” that bestow different perk-like benefits. There’s also a three-tiered meter at the bottom of each loadout selection menu that indicates which weight class your build falls into.

The trick with creating a loadout in Max Payne 3 is balancing your desire to equip lots of stuff with your ability to recover health and sprint. The more you’re carting around, the longer you’ll wait for your health to recover and the less time you’ll have to sprint. The lightest loadout class can sprint indefinitely and heal quickly, but with the tradeoff of only being able to equip one weapon (or two very light one-handed weapons) and maybe an item. Those who ignore the meter and just kit their class out with everything end up in the heaviest class, which loses the ability to recover health without a painkiller.

Your best bet is to build a class that suits your particular style, though bear in mind that the heaviest loadout’s “no health recovery” drawback puts you at a serious disadvantage. Dipping behind cover and letting your health recover is a big help in keeping you alive longer in Max Payne 3‘s multiplayer, and that’s simply not an option when you’re running around with a fully decked out loadout. Fortunately, the weight restrictions get a bit looser as you level up. Not to the point where you can realistically equip every slot and end up with anything other than the heaviest load, but a welcome boost all the same.


Leveling up is only part of the multiplayer unlocks equation in Max Payne 3. Just about everything you can equip to your custom classes must also be purchased once you’ve unlocked it. For that you’ll need money. You earn your biggest chunks each time you level up, but there are other ways to boost your cashflow as well. Wagers can be placed at the start of any match on an always-random objective, such as which player will score the first kill or who will end the match with the most assists. There are also vendettas; kill someone or be killed by someone enough times, and a vendetta can be placed during the respawn phase. Once the vendetta is in place, the first player between you and your marked target to kill the other scores a cash and XP boost.

There’s yet another way to earn cash as well: looting corpses. Any downed body that you see in a multiplayer match can be looted (unless someone else has already done so). Looting corpses is the only way to pick up painkillers during a match. You can also earn spare adrenaline to fuel your Burst with and, more importantly, cold hard cash. You’ll typically only get very small amounts, in the $10-$75 range. The Lucky Coin item, which comes as part of Max Payne 3‘s free Gorilla Warfare DLC pack, boosts your cash pick-ups by a small amount as well. Loot as often as you can, however, since you’ll very occasionally be gifted with a bigger stash; I once scored $2,000 from a single body. Payne Killer is a great mode to play if you’re short on cash, since you get $250 every time you search a Max or Raul corpse.

The exception to spending cash on loadout loot is weapon attachments. These you unlock for ranking up your individual weapons, and you do that by using them. The more kills you score with your chosen weapon, the more quickly you’ll rank it up and unlock the various attachments. It’s best to pick one or two weapons that you want to focus on and stick with them, at least until you unlock something that you’d rather be using.

Story and Arcade Unlocks

All of the useful multiplayer tools that you can earn in Max Payne 3 come from leveling up your profile and your individual weapons, but there’s also some cosmetic stuff that you can get outside of the multiplayer mode. Thoughout each of the chapters in Story Mode you’ll come across golden gun parts. There are three parts per weapon in the game, and once you’ve got all three you’ve unlocked the ability to equip the “golden” version of that gun in multiplayer.

Beyond that, there’s also Arcade Mode. A chunk of each of the story’s chapters can be replayed in Arcade Mode using one of two options: There’s Score Attack, a straight-up score-based mode in which you earn points for killing, killing with style, not taking damage, and not using painkillers, and there’s also New York Minute, which unlocks after you complete the story. It’s exactly like Score Attack save for the fact that you’re working against a constantly ticking timer that you can extend by scoring kills. You earn medals (bronze, silver, gold, and platinum) in both of these modes in addition to points. This feeds into the leaderboards, but it’s also your only way to unlock unique character skins for use in multiplayer. You can tweak the look of each of your gang avatars in the multiplayer mode, but for non-gang-specific matches you can use more character-specific skins once you’ve unlocked them.

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