by Mat Ombler
previewed on X360
New location, new writer, new …
The last couple of years have been tough on Max Payne. After spending the first two games clearing his name and returning to the NYPD as a detective, he has now left New York behind and drifted from bad to worse. Set 12 years after the events of the second game, Max Payne 3 takes place in São Paulo in Brazil, an exotic locale area. The battles take place in urban ghettos instead of the gang-plagued streets of New York in previous Max Payne games. As well as the dynamic location change, this is the first game in the series not to be written by the series creator Sam Lake and to be made by Rockstar Vancouver rather than Remedy Entertainment.
Return of drugs and bullet time
In an approach reminiscent of Splinter Cell, Rockstar has boycotted the slickly dressed Max that we have become accustomed to and replaced him with a look resembling the physique of Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell and a rather aggressive tramp. Ironically, Max is now addicted to Pain Killers, and it has been confirmed that this lethal addiction will effect gameplay, presumably having dramatic effects on the control of your character depending on the quantity taken or not taken. It’s nice to see that the Max’s vulnerability to drugs has made a return, and fans of the previous games will surely see a welcome return of the dramatic Nightmares and drug-related hallucinations that made the first game so unique.
Not everything is new to Max Payne 3, however. The third title in the series also sees the return of the Bullet Time mechanic that dominated the shoot-outs in the first two titles. For those not familiar with the Max Payne series, Bullet Time is a form of slow motion in which time is slowed down to such an extent that bullets can be seen and your character can perform special moves. Although the action takes place in slow motion, you can still aim and react in real time, giving you an advantage over your opponents as seen in The Matrix and in many of the Die Hard games. As well as adding a unique style of gameplay and looking damn cool, it also gives the opportunity for the camera to focus on unique executions and shots.
For example, you are in the middle of a shoot-out. After annihilating a street full of enemies with hot lead, there is one guy left at the top of a building. You go into bullet time, zoom in with your sniper rifle and as well as wiping the guy out in a single shot, the camera may follow your bullet as it exits the barrel of the rifle and enters the guy’s skull. This was seen in the first and second games, but with Rockstar developing the game, I think it’s pretty safe to say that we can expect this grisly idea to be expanded upon.
The Urban Jungle that welcomes you to Max Payne 3 also introduces a cover system and “fully destructible environments.” In surroundings akin to certain maps from Modern Warfare 2, Max Payne 3 sees you taking shelter behind walls, staircases and cheap shacks as enemies try to slaughter you with an endless supply of gunfire. The game will also see cycles of day and night, with gameplay dramatically changing depending on the time. For example, adopting a shoot first, ask questions later approach may work during the day, but at night you will want to take advantage of the darkness and adopt a more stealthy approach to the way you play.
This is where Max Payne 3 differs from its predecessors; it is a completely different game. At the moment, this game looks like it could end up being a grittier version of Grand Theft Auto. Rockstar itself has said “This is Max as we have never seen him before, a few years older, more world-weary and cynical than ever,” which indeed shows in his appearance; he really does look like a bad-ass. Max Payne has always been a third-person shooter, but with the introduction of Rockstar’s new cover system, there could be a duck and shoot gameplay mechanic, perhaps allowing the player to move into first-person.
There will be online multi-player, although Rockstar have given no hints to whether this will involve cooperative gameplay or versus modes. As the game uses the same RAGE technology that was seen in Rockstar’s GTA 4, it’s possible that it could successfully mimic GTA’s popular multiplayer modes.
Something very special
Since the game has now been moved out of the company’s fiscal 2010 year (which ends in October), a 2011 release is looking highly probable. Being an owner of an N64 in the past, I have grown used to game releases being delayed, and only good things coming from them. With this added development time Max Payne 3 could shape up into something very special.