PAX East 2012: Max Payne 3 Preview & Hands On

When I first heard that Rockstar was making a third Max Payne game, my reaction was more than skeptical. Even after seeing the trailers and screen shots, I was still unsure about how I felt about a third installment for this series. The original Max Payne is one of the few games that I have beaten more than twice, and part of me was afraid that a new installment might tarnish those fond memories in the same way Jar Jar Binks did with Star Wars. I was so very fond of the past, that I feared for the future (and I wasn’t alone). But, I am happy to say, after my hands on time with Max’s third blood soaked adventure, I am feeling much more optimistic; excited even.

Max Payne 3 has been developed almost entirely by Rockstar using the Rage engine, and it looks gorgeous (especially on the PC). The entire game is said to run seamlessly, without ever forcing players to stare at a single loading screen, which is impressive. Loading screens are now hidden behind cinematic cut scenes meant to draw the player deeper into Max’s dark story. After voicing my concerns about the story’s premise, and its similarities with the Denzel Washington movie, Man On Fire, I was assured that the story goes far beyond the initial kidnapping and quest for revenge. Yet, whether or not this third story will be able to compare with the complex narrative of the original remains to be seen.

Tap right bumper to dive in bullet time, or hold it down for real time

However, story and graphics aside, the gameplay is what won me over the most. As I stated above, the original Max Payne has been ingrained in my mind, and after I started to get the hang of things while being talked through two of the later levels of Max Payne 3, I couldn’t help but excitedly exclaim, “now this is the Max Payne I remember!” While there has certainly been some minor changes and additions, much of the core gameplay experience has remained the same. Everything from the dark, gritty environments of the New York slums and bars, painkillers which regenerate health at the press of a button, to the in your face style of bullet time gun play pays tribute to the original. James McCaffrey has returned as the the rough, familiar voice of Max, along with Max’s signature leather trench coat. Can’t have bullet time without at least a little trench coat action… am I right?

New changes, such as a very satisfying meele system which prompts you to eventually shoot baddies in the face at point blank range, and a basic cover system were welcome additions. But speaking of the the new cover system, it was made clear that this new mechanic is only meant to be used to give players a quick break from the action, to plan their next move, reload, or pop some painkillers. The game’s AI has been programmed to be very aggressive whenever Max dives for cover, flanking from the sides and charging up in order to flush him out of hiding. Max Payne isn’t a cover game like Gears, it’s all about bullet time and fast paced action. Who wants to watch Max take down a room full of baddies while hiding behind a wood crate anyway?

In yo'face!

The multiplayer mode sounds like good fun as well, though I wasn’t able to actually play it for myself. Yes, bullet time does exist in multiplayer, and has been centered around the line of sight mechanic. If you are in a multiplayer shoot out, and someone activates bullet time, then everyone who has line of sight on that player will also go into bullet time as well. However, if you have your back to that player, you will not be affected. While this sounds a bit fishy to me, I am more than willing to give it a try. Players will be faced off against one another in various game modes, such as classic death match, dynamic gang wars, and painkiller mode. In painkiller, the first player to score a kill becomes Max Payne, and is given painkillers and other goodies, while the first person to die becomes Max’s partner. From there, other players will try to hunt Max and his partner down for their chance to become Max.

In closing, I was very thoroughly impressed by Max Payne 3 and was very happy to see that at least the first impression of the gameplay was able to compare to the game’s lush graphics. Even the story sounds like it should be pretty sweet (but don’t quote me on that). Fans of the series should be pleased with what Rockstar has put together for this third installment, and can look toward the future with high hopes. If you are a third person shooter fan, but have never played a Max Payne before (blasphemy!), then you should also keep an eye out for this game when it releases for Xbox 360 and PS3 on May 15th, and May 29th for PC.

Is that John McClain?

Stay tuned to Platform Nation for more news straight to you from PAX East 2012!

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