by Joseph Barron
previewed on PC
The Return of Payne
After a long hiatus, gaming's most melancholic protagonist is returning to our consoles and PCs in Max Payne 3. Always a cult favourite with shooter fans, the Max Payne series brought The Matrix's much-hyped "Bullet Time" effect to video games with thrilling results. Tight, responsive, and violent gunplay was combined with a dark, noire-themed narrative to create one of the most unique and intriguing experiences found in video games. The original developer, Remedy, has left Max behind to focus on new characters, such as Alan Wake, but Rockstar are bringing the Payne back with an all new title that is showing all of the promise you would expect from the publisher behind GTA IV, Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire.
A Long Slumber
Max Payne 3 takes place several years after the events of Max Payne2: The Fall of Max Payne. True to the series, the game begins during winter in New York City, but soon has Max leaving the US in search of a new life and a new job, taking on a security contract in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In order to keep the tone and plot as close to the original games as possible, Rockstar have regularly consulted with Remedy for advice and approval on both gameplay and story. James McCaffrey returns to voice Max and also provides motion capture for the animations and cut-scenes in order to create as authentic a performance as possible.
It has been eight years since Max Payne 2 was released and Rockstar therefore need to bring the gameplay right up-to-date for modern players. Alongside series staples, such as the slow-motion "Shoot Dodge" move, there will be a cover mechanic, similar to those found in other third-person shooters and in Rockstar's other recent titles. As you move through the environment, the game displays some terrific detail which adds to the cinematic feel of the gunplay. Windows shatter, items on tables burst into pieces, cover cracks and bullets fly. During a slow-motion Shoot Dodge this looks incredible and has the potential to make you feel like you're really inside a Wachowski Brothers film.
New Tricks for an Old Dog
Another way that Max Payne 3 sticks to its roots is through the lack of regenerating health. Instead, as in the first two Payne games, Max must find and take painkillers when injured. He can also dual-wield all manner of weapons and mix two different types of weapon at any given time. For example, it is possible to dual-wield with a pistol in one hand, and an Uzi in the other. This could allow for some interesting weapon loadouts and give you the chance to play the game in your own unique way, by using different gun combinations to other players.
As with other Rockstar games, Max Payne 3 uses the Euphoria engine to simulate how characters react to the world around them. This adds a new layer of visual realism, particularly to the Shoot Dodge move, as Max will intelligently put his arm out to soften his landing. You can also choose to stay on the floor after a slow-motion dive and continue to fire your weapons, rolling from side-to-side to avoid gun fire.
Multiplayer is also confirmed for the series for the first time. Rockstar have yet to announce many details for this mode, but it will be fascinating to see how the series trademark slow-motion mechanics are implemented in a competitive online environment.
A Helping Hand
Fans can expect Max Payne 3 to be a set-piece filled action thriller with all of the noire and violence of the original games. Those worried that the original developers are not making this new game should take solace in the fact that they are at least being consulted on the direction in which Rockstar are taking the series. Remedy might not be making Max Payne 3, but they are still working in the best interests of their fans by contributing ideas to the game whenever they can.