Rockstar Games has taken over and re-invented the way you will look at Max Payne. Now leading the development of the third installment in the series, the franchise that was almost buried in dust after eight long years is back with an old but definitely new chapter in the life of Max Payne. After frequent changes and push-backs of expected release, few people actually believed another Max Payne would happen. However, it pulled through, and it looks as though all those delays might have just given the developers enough time to perfect what could possibly be the most finely-tuned game to be released. Read on for a full preview of Rockstar’s latest masterpiece, Max Payne 3.
Several years after the exhaustive events that took place within a disabled yet, manipulative senator's New York mansion, Max Payne is still desperately dealing with the demons of his past. His methods of washing away these painful memories have resulted in self-destructive alcoholism and pill-popping; with any attempts of cleaning up and moving on being complete failures. In hopes of finally leaving his troubles behind him, Max is convinced by Raul Passos, a long forgotten colleague of his days with the NYPD, to put his skills back to good use and take up his offer for work; ensuing him to pack his bags and head south to begin the escapades that are Max Payne 3.
We find our disheveled Max and old colleague in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Now employed as a private security guard for the patriarch of a very well-connected and wealthy family by the name of Rodrigo Branco, his duties are to protect the family as well as protect innocent citizens against the gang and para-military forces that are present in the city. But as soon as Max starts to think that he might once and for all have a new start on life, Rodrigo's wife, Fabiana, is kidnapped on his watch and held for ransom. With the guilt of her kidnapping eating away at Max, he suddenly spirals into pits of the past, re-living events he was hoping to bury away. However in a sudden burst of motivation to make things right for the Branco family, he sets his mission to once again play detective and fully investigate Fabiana's kidnapping.
Being in a different country, knowing little of the language, Max appears to be and feels that he is way out of his element. Although throughout his investigation to find Fabiana, he finds himself to be caught up in a much more convoluted scenario than he had expected, and soon realizes troubles in Sao Paulo aren't much different than those he left in New York.
There has been a plethora of speculation over how the latest entry in the Max Payne series will differ from the previous installments since word of Rockstar Games taking over development and also the switch of lead writer Sam Lake to Rockstar's Dan Houser. (Lead Writer for most of the Grand Theft Auto series and Red Dead Redemption). My answer? Not much. Max Payne 3 still carries on the favorable factors of 1 & 2, but at the utmost level of improvement. The look and feel has slightly differed, but again, in a great way. As you read above, Max’s story doesn’t have much to do with his previous narratives, and the setting has changed seeing as you are in a different country, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t still get that traditional Max Payne feel.
Max Payne's iconic graphic novel styles of cinematic are still in play, if you were getting ancy about that. Although now, instead of a static panel or page; in-game footage, text, and Max's monologue blend together in an in-engine motion-captured revamp of the "comic book" feel that previous games of the series made a classic, and a must.
If there is an outstanding difference to make note of, it would most certainly be the change in combat, and absolutely the improvement within the controls. When I say that Max moves more fluidly and realistically than any playable character I have ever controlled, I mean it! A combination of the RAGE engine and Natural Motion's Euphoria system have made all the difference in creating the seamless gameplay you will soon witness. Max is completely grounded in the psychics of the environment he is in, for example: instead of jumping and hitting a wall then landing to his feet - he now jumps alongside them in a swift motion, (as any combat-efficient badass normally would), almost as if he is actually aware of what you're "telling" him to do. The controls, otherwise, still grasp those of Max Payne 1 and 2, only updated.
The newfound and incredible realism of the animations and movement don't stop with just basic control of Max, though, the combat improvement is what has gamers raving. Anyone who has played Max Payne in the past knows the one combat feature that differentiates it from any other game on the market: Bullet Time.
Bullet Time is "the choreography of shooting and manipulating time to create the most precise, action-packed gunplay possible." says Rob Nelson, the Art Director over at Rockstar Games, in an interview with IGN last year. He also stated that they [Rockstar] "want players to get a sensation of placing and reacting to every single bullet with precision and style, and getting to savor the results." I can say that Rockstar more than achieved their goal, as Bullet Time is one of the most notable advancements of the game.
As usual, Max is frequently outnumbered by his foes… and we rely on our precious Bullet Time to get us through those difficult battles. Replenished based on the risks you take, your level of skill and the accuracy of your shots, Bullet Time builds up after each use. The improvement? What appears to be flawless blends of motion, animation, amount of control over Max, and the ease of precise targeting. Max’s other ability, to “shoot-dodge” is a lot similar to Bullet Time with alike factors such as slo-mo mode, and it also expands his range of movement greatly, thus allowing him to pinpoint and avoid gunfire, or even gain an advantage on an enemy.
The killcam featured at the conclusion of Bullet Time certainly spices up this little recipe for disastrous fun. Watching the individually modeled (yes, you read that right), bullets pierce the skin and crack the bones of Max’s enemies in slo-mo is definitely a treat. What’s even better is that the reaction your enemies act out from the shot(s) you just demolished them with will always be unique.
Say again, you ask? Okay, okay! With each individual weapon there are unique reactions from your foes as you pelt them with bullets. Not only that, but each cinematic reaction you see is assembled by a string of very life-like aspects, which are not normally present in a shooter. If you shot a man in the leg in real life, you wouldn’t expect him to start bleeding from his chest and fall backward clutching it would you? No, because that would be weird. Rockstar isn’t oblivious to this and as a result of their weird-combat-mechanics-awareness they made sure nothing of the sort would be present in Max Payne 3. The response of your enemies pain is shown in the most beautiful way possible, and the uniqueness solely depends on the weapon, force of blow, angle of shots fired, surrounding environment, animation pose, and the placement of the bullet into Max’s foe itself. Neat, eh?
Throughout your play-through you will see that certain enemies fight differently than others… This isn’t a result of playing hours on end and mildly hallucinating, mind you… but solely because Max Payne 3 has one hell of an enemy AI.
A great example seen and mentioned to me at PAX East should help you grasp this concept: Say you’re fighting gang members as opposed to Spec Ops forces. Gang members will obviously be less trained in combat than Spec Ops would, correct? Correct. This rule applies to the various styles of combat Max will be up against throughout his journey to find Fabriana. Spec ops would take cover and fire shots precisely whereas a run-of-the-mill gangsta would probably run out into the open firing blindly in hopes of hitting you with one of the many bullets he just wasted. Apparently, it’s not that great to be a gangsta.
I was only able to play through two levels at our meeting with Rockstar at PAX East, but both of those levels looked marvelous. In the first glimpse I got of the new and improved Max Payne, he was in the midst of a shoot-out in what seemed to be a very nostalgic New York bar. The second, he was being gunned down by baddies late night at a Brazilian soccer stadium. These are the places I got to test out the finely-tuned features that Rockstar Games should be nothing but proud of. In a sense, they have built upon a popular series with today's level of design while keeping and enhancing the elements that made the game so great in the first place.
We all won’t know our true opinions until we can actually sit down with the game and let loose of course, but my feelings towards Max Payne 3 are of high quality and admiration for the time being, and who is to say they won’t stay that way when I can get a full insight into the game? I think it’s safe to say that Max Payne 3 seems to be one of the most gorgeously detailed and entertaining games I’ve seen in a while, and I definitely cannot wait to put my perspective to test and tell you all about it. In the meanwhile, check out some of the gameplay videos on YouTube, and don’t forget to pre-order a copy of Max Payne 3, which will be released on May 15th, 2012 for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC!