Preview: Max Payne 3
It’s been a few years since we last saw Max Payne and since then a lot has happened in his life, not least of which was a terrible movie and a portrayal by Mark Wahlberg who will go down as the only action hero who favours a side-parting. Besides that, our mentally tormented hero has left New York and taken to the warmer climes of Sao Paulo where he works private security. When me first meet Max in the new game, he’s protecting a wealthy family and as luck would have it, they’re being attacked by a gang just as the game opens, don’t you hate it when that happens?
Title: Max Payne 3
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Players: 1 – 16
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Expected Price: R605 (PS3, Xbox 360), R325 (PC)
Release Date: May 18 (PS3, Xbox 360), June 1 (PC)
It’s been 9 years since we last saw our favourite pill-popping hero with psychological issues and I’m not talking about Gregory House, I’m speaking of course about Max Payne. The guy who hurts so much, he’s made it his last name. Max Payne 3 will follow on in much the same vein as the previous 2 with Max on a mission of sorts as he deals with his own issues and demons while popping pills, delivering intelligent dialogue and jumping through the air in slow-mo a lot. What won’t be the same is the developer, old developer Remedy is out in favour of Rockstar Vancouver. Presumably because Remedy is so in love with all things Alan Wake right now.
Anyway, it’s not like there are any hard feelings between the two and Remedy has actually been keeping tabs on the game’s progress with their latest statement giving Max Payne 3 a resounding thumbs up. Remedy CEO, Matias Myllyrinne had this to say:
“It’s f***ing brilliant. I’ve had a chance to play it and we’ve worked with Rockstar a little bit – obviously, they’re doing the heavy lifting. They’re doing the development. But they wanted our input on a couple of occasions and we’ve had loads of our people, our core group, who worked on the first two games, give input and it’s awesome.”
However, fear not because Rockstar has kept the formula pretty much stock albeit with a bit of modernisation and interim character development. What they’ve done is age Max Payne the way you would a cow’s ass to get prime-grade lazy aged steak. He’s older, rougher, podgier and balder. There’s also a beard that totally makes him look like Walt from Breaking Bad. Max has also become somewhat consumed by his own demons and seems to have taken up alcoholism which should go great with his pre-existing addiction to pain pills (Panado or Myprodol, depending on how hardcore you are). Expect this internal struggle to be a feature of the game’s narrative as with the previous two games.
All the gameplay that you’ll remember is returning including the series’ hallowed and treasured bullet-time. Max Payne 3 is best described as a cover-based third-person shooter and will have a variety of guns on offer so you know what to expect there. Fully destructible environments will also be a new feature that is, in part, thanks to the new and improved Euphoria engine which when combined with full motion capture of the characters allows for more realistic interactions with the environment as well as other characters.
As you will see from some of the screenshots down below, Max hasn’t left NYC behind entirely in this new game. What you’ll also notice is that he’s slimmer, has a full head of hair and is clean shaven in the New York shots so it’s safe to assume that we’ll play through the streets of NY during flashbacks as Max tries to reconcile his past or simply bury it and the fact that he’s loaded up on booze and meds can’t possibly lessen the chances of hallucination-type daydreams.
The signature comic-style panels will make a return albeit with a bit of a facelift but the game will also have what it claims to be seamless blending between cutscenes and gameplay as demonstrated in the video below. Judge for yourself but I think it looks pretty good and flows nicely.
What might not please series fans is the fact that MP3 has lost that noir atmosphere that the old games had, opting more for a more typically Rockstar third-person action title with some fancy mechanics and a solid narrative. It surely won’t be bad but don’t expect it to feel like your old Max Payne games. It still use many of the same gameplay elements and structures and remains linear but it won’t be quite the same.
Rockstar has gone to great lengths to recreate not necessarily the city of Sao Paulo but rather the atmosphere and feel of the city. Specifically the way its law enforcement and criminals operate. A team from Rockstar actually went down to the Brazilian city to pound the pavement with local cops and local gang members/criminals. The city will also have a number of varied and diverse sections which you play through from the squalor of the favelas to more traditional slums and ghettos, the urban city centre etc.
Big news though is the addition of some real online multiplayer because what’s better than getting a headshot in awesomely slow-mo bullet-time? It will come in two flavours, namely Gang wars and Payne Killer.
In Gang Wars players will find themselves as part of one of the factions from the main campaign facing off against a warring faction. They are essentially story-based team deathmatches with branching storylines which depend on the outcome of each match.
Payne Killer may sound like the title one of the most fun games you can ever play but it is in fact Max Payne 3′s co-op mode featuring our hero Max and his compadre Raul Passos. To make it through co-op, Rockstar claims players will need a mixture of teamwork, good use of bullet-time, a combination of the two players signature weapons and lots and lotsa pills, or at least that’s what Max needs to get through anything.
You can also create a crew (aka clan) which opens you up to a slightly different multiplayer experience and thanks to Rockstar Social Club, you can use this clan in any Rockstar game post-Max Payne 3. The way it works is that in addition to your normal multiplayer bits and pieces, you now get PvP vendettas and crew feuds. A PvP vendetta is initiated when someone kills you more than twice after which they will appear on the map as a black cross and you will be awarded bonus XP for dropping them in cold blood. Crew feuds are a little more spontaneous. If you see two or more members of a feuding crew, the game will enter ‘skirmish’ mode where the first team/crew/clan to 10 kills walks away the winner.
It’s one of those systems that sounds like it has great potential but really needs to be put in practise before we can see how it fares and that certainly won’t happen with the lack of a Max Payne 3 demo. On a related note, the new crew system is rather cool because while you can’t carry XP over between games, feuds do carry over so you can have cross-title feuds or inter-dimensional gang warfare as I like to call it.
So, to recap. New developer, new setting but with bits of the old in there too. Podgier, balder, more bearded protagonist who still loves his meds but loves the bottle just as much these days. Lots of shooting, lots of slow-motion flying through the air, a Brazilian partner and there’s now multiplayer with cross-title clans. Did I mention Max Payne is losing it a little and is a little unhinged?
Max Payne 3 may not be the exact threequel fans have been looking for but it certainly doesn’t look like a slouch and Rockstar rarely puts a foot wrong, they even made table-tennis an enjoyable gaming experience and on the Wii no less. The game still retains the series’ signature characteristics just with a slightly different filter over it all. Here’s hoping Max Payne 3 isn’t one we’ll want to forget with the help of prescription drugs.