Oh, Max. It is darn good to have you back. Time… well… it hasn’t been kind. Addicted to booze and painkillers and down on your luck, you’ve got another chance to make things right.
If only it were that easy.
I had the opportunity to take the grizzled ex-cop through two different stages. First, we landed in a New York City bar with one of Max’s old cop friends, Raul Passos. The language, much like the action, was as gritty as you remember it. All of the core Max Payne mechanics return. Bullet time? Of course. Limited health? No regeneration here. First aid? Painkillers, of course.
Bullet time has permeated the entire development process, I was told by a Rockstar representative. It’s a big part of accomplishing the team’s goal of creating the most cinematic, sophisticated action shooter ever. More importantly, when bullet time kicks in, so does an additional level of detail that will astound you.
Animations you take for granted, like Max pulling the trigger or the expulsion of smoke and fire from the barrel are all accentuated. Each bullet is modeled independently and the game is powered by the Rage engine (Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption) and cranks up the Euphoria-powered ragdoll physics to intensely realistic levels.
Be warned, this game is HARD. Thankfully, a new “last man standing” mechanic has been implemented. As long as you have a painkiller to burn, if you take a fatal shot, you’ll have the chance to exact revenge on your would-be murderer. Kill him and you’re back on your feet. This will limit your restarts significantly, and also makes for one of the uses of a very cool cinematic effect.
If you kill someone in last man standing or pull off the final kill in an area, you can slow the camera down, continuing to riddle the lifeless corpse with lead. These are all rendered in-game and dynamically. Like snowflakes, each one is unique.
Some additional things you should know: Max carries his weapons realistically. If you are carrying a pistol and a shotgun, but using the small firearm, he’ll lug the two-handed weapon underneath his arm. Where else would he store it? Ya know what… don’t answer that. Oh, and one other thing… no load times. That’s right. The final game will not feature a single loading screen.
Additionally, Max’s health is modeled realistically. If he takes a bullet wound, you’ll see the blood. His jacket and clothing will keep their holes and scratches. He’ll pick up grass stains and sweat during bullet time, which will stick with him, even in cutscenes.
In an evolution for the series, these sequences aren’t static anymore. Instead, they are motion-comic styled, with creative use of text and the traditional Max Payne inner monologue. These, too, are edited on the fly.
The second sequence, which helped show off how materials are modeled. In the stadium, we were able to shoot through thin materials, with heavier construction chipping away rather than crumbling. I was told that in the more downtrodden areas of Brazil, wood will splinter easily, making it possible to shoot enemies that are under cover.
Finally, it looks like the detail and little touches are what will make Max Payne 3 great. James McCaffrey is back not only as Max’s face, but also his motion capture actor. The man IS Max Payne… but thankfully, he’s looking far less constipated.
Max Payne 3 is going to shoot dodge onto PS3 and XBox 360 on May 15, 2012, with a PC release coming May 29, 2012.