Media Blitz and Hands-on: Max Payne 3
In just a few days, Remedy’s much loved Max Pane franchise will be reborn as Rockstar’s latest and greatest 3rd person shooter, Max Payne 3. Upon its release, the internet and gamers of all walks of life will get to decide whether this new version of the classic wise-talking, self-referential cop with a major chip on his shoulder (and maybe a bullet or two in his person) is, in fact, the Max Payne we know, or a Max Payne unlike one we’ve seen before. As with any attempt at refueling a once dormant franchise, some liberties will be taken, some elements will be thrown out, and some new elements will replace certain others that time has rendered obsolete. From what I can gather so far, while Max Payne’s looks and locales may have changed, the essence of what makes Max (and the game around him) “Max” is very much a part of the third installment of the series.
While it’s way too early to tell if Rockstar has a through and through hit on its hands, as only playing the final game will answer that question, Rockstar certainly has a great track record of reviving games once thought dead or abandoned. You needn’t look further than Red Dead Redemption to see the fruits of their efforts, especially when most people regard the prequel to be little more than a novel, if somewhat broken, Western game. With Max Payne, the real issue is that people loved and still love the original games: how they felt, what they did, how fast and furious they were, the sort of dark, macabre, and fantastic humor of such a murky and lousy scenario. Although Rockstar’s new game begins much the same as the previous one ended, a few less-than-peaceful encounters finds Max in sunnier palettes than we’re used to seeing comprised of arenas with a level of depth, scale, and height to them that many gamers have never seen before in a Max Payne game. Additionally, while the self loving, self loathing nature of the protagonist seems, in some cases, to be less tell and more show, and I don’t just mean the baldness, the combat hasn’t lost any of the elements that people loved about the series to begin with. It is still a fast, furious, drug-fueled, and violent experience. That is to say…it is really violent, with an emphasis on making what you do feel like a violent act and not just a reckless mowing down of avatars for the sake of self-gratification.
Additionally, it just feels like a modern shooter. While that may be hyperbolic in some respects, Max Payne took a lot of liberties with what some might consider “reality” in order to convey a heightened sense of action that bordered on chaotic at times. One could even say that was the intent all along, with the slow-down mechanic designed to bring some control into the otherwise manic gunfire. In Max Payne 3, gunplay is wild, but never so out of control that actions can’t be carried out in a precise manner. Sure, you still have the ability to slow down time. But not having it doesn’t wreck the experience, although using it well will allow you to use it more often, and who doesn’t want that. Furthermore, the implementation is familiar enough that anyone who has played Max Payne 1 or 2 will instantly recognize the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of each combat scenario. Last but not least, this Max Payne comes with a “hat trick” of engines: it’s built on a modified version of the Rage engine, which Red Dead Redemption used, it uses Rockstar’s physics engine to fantastic effect, and then there’s the Euphoria engine on top of that to translate AI reactions into realistic body movements. In short, there’s a lot of work being done to make sure the combat stands out and lives up to the expectations of both Max Payne fans as well as the demanding tastes of current generation gamers.
Unfortunately, whether or not Max Payne 3 will be all things to all people is not something that will be swiftly resolved on May 15th. While I have little doubt that the game Rockstar is making will be extremely successful, the real test of Max Payne’s staying power will be how good it is on its own terms. Can it exist in a vacuum and just be a great game as well as a game made by an excellent studio known for making great games? Can it be a great Max Payne game that appears to be related to what came before it, but more like a distant cousin rather than a full on blood brother? I expect that it just might succeeding in doing all of those things, and that, if it does, we’ll all be talking about Max Payne 3 right on through to the end of 2012.
Be sure to check out the videos below to see just what is in store for you when Max Payne hits shelves on May 15th on Xbox 360 and PS3, and May 29th on the PC. Also, be sure to check out our hands-on reaction to the PAX East demo of Max Payne 3 in the audio clip below.
Pax East Reactions
Max Payne 3 – Official Launch Trailer
Max Payne 3 – Multiplayer Part 1
Max Payne 3 – Multiplayer Part 2
Max Payne 3 – Bullet time