After an absence of almost 10 years, Max Payne is back. Remedy is no longer working on the series, but they have been part of the creative process, and they are onboard with the new direction for Max. The company that is developing Max Payne is Rockstar Games. The development duties have been spread across all of Rockstar’s various teams, so much so that they have adopted a new moniker for the entire group – Rockstar Studios.
Max Payne’s noire story makes perfect sense for Rockstar. They have more than proven they can tackle the genre with games like LA Noire. If anything, Rockstar’s ability to tell a story should help to bring the series to new heights. The new Max is older, and completely world-weary. I won’t spoil his back story for you, in case you want to go back and play the earlier games, but it is safe to say his life has not gone as planned. The story begins with Max in a Hoboken bar where he has been trying to crawl into a bottle – a shell of his former self.
Things end up going even worse for Max, and he has to get out of town if he wants to stay alive. He ends up taking a job to protect a family in São Paulo. The wife gets kidnapped, which is a common occurrence in São Paulo and Max needs to get her back. Everything about Max Payne 3 is gritty. James McCaffrey is back to play Max, and lends plenty of gravel to the voice. Rockstar’s RAGE engine, which is typically used for open-world games is able to focus on much smaller areas in Max Payne 3, which allows the environments to echo the gritty feel of the story line.
The gunplay feels much better than in previous Rockstar games, which is a good thing since Max tends to express himself through firearms. “Bullet-time” – which was made famous by Max – is back of course. Even in multiplayer! I will need more time with it before I can properly judge, but it seems like Rockstar has come up with a novel way to implement bullet-time without breaking the entire multiplayer match. Basically, if you are making eye contact with another player, then their world will be slowed down as well as yours. They can turn to be released from the effect, but by then, it might be too late.
The biggest impression that I had with my hands-on time with Max was how cinematic it ended up feeling. Staying in cover just doesn’t cut it. You need to keep Max moving, or you will be dead. I could even feel myself being enticed to pull off more stylish maneuvers just because they looked cool, even if it wasn’t the most direct or even the smartest way to take care of a situation. Max Payne will be shoot-dodging his way onto consoles on May 15, 2012 and PC on May 29.