Cue the sad violins -- Max is back.
Not to worry, he's brought his guns and painkillers with him.
"Max Payne 3" is a outstanding update to the 11-year-old series that helped make RockStar Entertainment a gaming juggernaut.
Rockstar Games, maker of the popular "Grand Theft Auto" games released the title on May 15 for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 and will follow with the PC version on June 1.
Our favorite boozing, pill-popping, bullet-dodging cop is back in a tremendous follow-up to the series that introduced Bullet Time to the eager gaming masses.
This is an older, battered, self-loathing Max Payne, living his remaining days downing bottles of brown liquor in a Hoboken hovel just a block from his favorite watering hole, which is frequented by local gangsters.
The game manages to vastly improve on the original, but manages to stay relevant for younger fans (But not too young, definitely not for the tweens). The comic book-like story panels are gone, but the cynical observations and wry, pulpy one-liners remain.
The true marvel of the game is its complex storyline and smoothly textured visuals, all viewed through the eyes of Max Payne, who is both the cool focused center and the broken, out-of-control former big city cop who fell into a bottle.
Major props go to veteran actor James McCaffrey, who voiced the unkillable Max in all three games. His witty introspective narration puts one in the mind of Ray Liotta's Henry Hill in "Goodfellas."
Whether he's in a rumpled suit sporting a five-o-clock shadow -- which you can see in awesome detail thanks to the game's amazing processing engine -- or he's bald, shaggy and sporting a Hawaiian shirt, Max keeps his swagger, as dry as 1940s film noir leading man and as troubled as any cop you've seen played by Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson.
He's Sam Spade with a TEC-9; Wolverine without the metal skeleton or claws.
Fans will likely make their own movie connections with this game, which has the look and feel of a Hollywood creation. But make no mistake, this is worlds better than the flaccid 2008 Marky-Mark, err Mark Wahlberg movie based on the game. To be certain, Max Payne 3 is easily better than anything currently on Netflix.
In a playable re-enactment, we see how a meeting with a former Bronx cop leads to a new gig as an armed --and mostly drunk -- bodyguard for an elite Brazilian family with powerful enemies and a taste for parties.
More than just a shoot-em-up set mostly in exotic Brazil, the game doesn't hide from the abject poverty and extreme lawlessness of the Sao Paulo's sprawling favelas, considered one of the deadliest places on Earth.
You can tell that the designers did their homework in trying to recreate the look and feel of diverse nation that has both burgeoning prosperity and historic violence against the poor.
The game's energy is fast-paced and kinetic, with the bullet time losing none of its charm from the earlier games. There are few things more satisfying than machinegunning the last man in a wave of baddies by blowing his face off in slow motion. Style and gore combined in one loving embrace.
Of course this masterpiece doesn't come without a few kinks, or glitches, to be more specific. The lushness of the game's are compromised by sometimes awkward camera angles.
A player can expect to die several times getting stuck in a wall, falling through a floor, or as I did, being launched through a roof by some imaginary catapult.
The multiplayer is worthwhile, if not standard, allowing you to create and design street toughs who can join gangs and square off against against one another.
Buy this game.