|System: PS3, PC, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Rockstar Vancouver|
|Pub: Rockstar Games|
|Release: May 15, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Sean Engemann
Several years have passed since Max Payne 2. That statement is true both in reality and in the game's story. The Fall of Max Payne was released by Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment nearly a decade ago, and although it was critically acclaimed, game sales were severely underwhelming. Rockstar has decided to make the game a trilogy and give the iconic Noire character another chance, although if you still remember every moment of the first two games, you'll undoubtedly be surprised at the new direction the series is taking.
Several years have passed for Max as well, whose past adventures have revolved around retribution for the murder of his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, Max has been unable pull himself out of grief, and has become a morose being with little care for life. An old NYPD buddy named Raul Passos (likely a friendship preceding the original game) attempts to convince Max to join him in a private security job for a wealthy businessman in São Paulo. Max is reluctant, but after a group of mobsters bursts into his apartment seeking vengeance for the death of the mob boss's son, Max escapes New York and heads to sunny Brazil.
Although there will still be traces of Max's Noire heritage—such as the internal monologue—the story reflects a more modern drama, rife with attitude, drugs, kidnappings, and cinematics just begging for a big-screen blockbuster. Well, if you remember, a movie was produced off of the series—a poor one with Mark Wahlberg bringing the character to shame. But considering the presentation and smooth storyline fitting into this third game, it may be the closest bridge between Hollywood and the gaming world we've ever experienced. With load times built into cinematic sequences and multiple real-time split screens, the action will never have to wait for a little cursor in the bottom right corner of your TV.
The incredibly crisp and detailed environments you'll explore are largely in part of the linear progression of the game. Despite being a Rockstar title with a look similar to their Grand Theft Auto series, Max Payne 3 will not cater to an open world setting. There may be some alternate choices along the way, but this will ultimately be a story to read from left to right, top to bottom. But because of this linearity, there is a lot more space to flex the graphical muscles of Rockstar's RAGE and Euphoria engines.
We are told to expect the tight controls of an FPS, with the character connection of a third-person shooter, thanks to an incredible attention to precision and realism with regards to combat. Max is not the fit detective from years ago, and his days of beer-drinking sloth will be evident as you feel the weightiness of his movements. The physics of every barrier, fall, and weapon will make each scenario feel different in your hands. Max will adjust his posture while running and gunning, depending on where you move the crosshairs. If he side-jumps down a flight of stairs to avoid a barrage of bullets while unleashing his own, the impact will resonate, making you feel the ribs crack as he lands on his side and is slow to get up. Gun recoil and reload have been researched to account for proper force and time, respectively. One nice new feature is the 360-degree prone attack. After launching himself to the ground, Max will realistically roll and adjust his arm position to effectively manage being flanked by enemies at any angle.
Attention has also been placed on bullet impact and the tactics and morale of the thugs and mercenaries you'll encounter. Depending on where the enemy is hit and the caliber of the bullet fired, the struck enemy with spin and contort or grasp the wound accordingly. Lowly thugs who've seen little action will be quick to flail and flee, while seasoned troops will take more punishment and attempt to rush and flank you more frequently.
Though still considered a cover-based shooter, many of the shelters don't react well to bullets, and will disintegrate if cowered behind for too long. But remember, Max is a man with nothing to lose, so launching himself into a firing squad will be a viable strategy more often than crouching behind a barrel. A useful tool returns for those firefights in the form of Bullet Time, a feature that the original Max Payne introduced to the gaming world. Some of the slow-motion sequences are mandatory throughout the storyline, while others can be instigated by your command. The final bullet of each enemy wave will present you with a camera that follows the projectile to its target in a bloody finale.
After you've tired of A.I. opponents, you'll be able to the take the action to your fellow humans in the first multiplayer venture of the series. All of the now-standard tropes of multiplayer will be included, such as a leveling system, clans, and multiple loadouts. However, according to Rockstar, the maps and modes will not be finite, and throughout each map the environment could significantly change (likely through destruction), as could the objectives.
Over the years, many of us have grown skeptical that we'd ever see Max in action again. Even when we did see glimmers of a new game, the release was continuously pushed back for quality purposes. Now that the finished product is finally drawing near, we've seen what's to come: the rejuvenation of a beloved series and protagonist, which does nothing evolutionary in the gameplay department but looks to have been fine tuned to a pitch few titles in the same genre can match. Will that bold assumption hold true? We'll know come May.
Date: March 20, 2012