The Slow Motion Ballet of Death in Max Payne 3

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Posted by patrickklepek (4623 posts) -
  • Where's Max's signature trench coat?
  • How come the game isn't set in New York?
  • Why the hell is Max bald?
  • If Remedy Entertainment's not making this, what's the point?

The emotional doubt underlying every one of these questions is wondering why Rockstar Games would purchase the rights to develop a new Max Payne game when it's one of the few studios capable of building a new franchise just fine. Between Bully, Manhunt and others, Rockstar is not a company afraid of striking out on its own.

I'd wager Rockstar is actuely aware players are skeptical about Max Payne 3. Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar were involved with the development of Max Payne and Max Payne 2: Fall of Max Payne, but this is an entirely different situation.

Remedy moved on, Max stayed behind.

Have no fear, Max Payne will be doing all sorts of diving around in Brazil, too.

My hands-off demo of Max Payne 3 felt like a direct response to fan anxiety, as if Rockstar was quietly saying it knew the initial unveiling on the cover of Game Informer wasn't its best foot forward. In order to evolve Max, you have to earn the trust of its fans.

This is a different situation from Red Dead Redemption, where Rockstar picked up a Capcom franchise and everyone shrugged. Players love Max's deranged, fourth wall breaking world of sex, drugs, gangsters, graphic novel cut scenes and bloody trails in dark rooms.

Let's put initial fears to rest: for better or worse, Max Payne 3 looks like a Max Payne game. Rockstar hasn't deviated from the basic formula. You're still going to be jumping around in slow motion a whole bunch, which has left Rockstar free to tinker around the edges to make Max Payne game more relevant in 2012, when it's releasing.

I was also told Remedy has seen Max Payne 3 and gave a thumbs up, which should help assure fans.

You will start the game as a battered, alcoholic Max sporting his traditional trenchcoat, taking out pissed off gangsters on the roofs of New York. A good chunk of the game, I'm told, takes place in New York.

A Rockstar representative talked over the demo, pointing out where Rockstar has stuck to tradition and where the company has played around with the insides of Max Payne. You no longer have access to a full array of weapons, forcing players to make choices about Max's arsenal. He can run around with two or three different weapons (i.e. dual pistols and a shotgun), all of which are reflected on the character model itself--you won't have to pull up a menu to be reminded what weapons Max is holding. Duel wielding remains core to the shooting, and Rockstar has included a cover system, which looked very natural.

The bullet cam has returned in this one, as well, but serving a slightly different function. Previously, firing the sniper rifle would trigger the camera to track the bullet. It was stylish but wore thin. In Max Payne 3, the final shot is followed, giving players the satisfaction of watching their handiwork play out and also serving as a useful notification there are no more enemies to kill.

Even with a cover system, Max Payne 3 encourages players to run head first into every situation.

My demo had another Rockstar employee actually playing on an Xbox 360, swiveling the reticle around the screen and taking guys out one-by-one. When the game slowed, it felt similar to Red Dead Redemption, which allowed players to tag specific enemies and have them taken out automagically. Rockstar told me it won't have that exact mechanic, but there will be a manual aiming option, along with other ones, each tailored to cater towards different preferences.

After showing off the basic gameplay, reassuring me this is, in fact, Max Payne, we went to Brazil.

Even in Brazil, the company was quick to point out misconceptions. Max doesn't just wake up in Brazil as a convenient narrative mechanic to set Max Payne 3 somewhere else. Max will start in New York and make his way to Brazil for a very specific reason: he needs a job. And how Max becomes the bald, Walter White-esque character we've seen will also happen naturally, Rockstar explained. That transformation was not shown in my demo, but Rockstar assured it will make sense.

Brazil gave Rockstar a chance to show off another Max Payne tradition that's been maintained here: the graphic novel cut scenes. It's different this time, though. Max Payne 3's aesthetic, partially by natural evolution of technology, is much more realistic. The argument being the transition could prove too jarring, so Rockstar's tweaked their look. Now, the graphic novel portions happen using the in-game engine, with Max, as per usual, talking over them. Sometimes it's between areas, sometimes it's not, but while part of me pined for the old stylization, another part of me realized it probably wouldn't work.

Max can carry up to three weapons, such as two pistols and a shotgun.

Then, there was shooting. So much shooting. If I'm to describe the most basic difference between the way Max Payne 3 and what's come before it, it's less the shooting itself and more what's happening around it. Much attention has been paid by artists and designers to the world around Max. Balconies are falling apart, gas cans are exploding, boxes are ripped to pieces, etc. In one instance, Max was able to shoot out the pieces holding up a bus inside of a warehouse, causing the bus to come tumbling down on everyone. Max's options for toying with his enemies are hidden all around him, and based on the demo I was watching, many times it's triggered by accident, causing total madness--in a good way.

Rockstar has given Max one new way to play with time. When Max is nearly dead, time will slow and he'll have a chance to get one last shot off at an enemy. Success means a chunk of health.

If Max Payne and Max Payne 2 made shooting look like a ballet, Max Payne 3 makes shooting look like a ballet directed by Michael Bay.

And this is to say nothing about how the work Rockstar has put into Max himself. He sweats over the course of a level, his animations in bullet time are different from his animations otherwise, he's able to swivel 360 degrees on the ground, and depending on how Max is standing, you can actually tell where his weight is shifted. For a game this surreal, it felt awfully real.

What I didn't see much of was the story, and what I did see was out of context. Rockstar wasn't willing to disclose much about what's in store for Max. When asked if this was the foundation of Max's future in Rockstar's hands or a way to bring Max's character arc to a satisfying close, the company said nothing.

Those questions will be answered next March.

Oh, but I did ask if we'd get another dream sequence with baby screams and trails of blood. Rockstar said no.

Darn.

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (4623 posts) -
  • Where's Max's signature trench coat?
  • How come the game isn't set in New York?
  • Why the hell is Max bald?
  • If Remedy Entertainment's not making this, what's the point?

The emotional doubt underlying every one of these questions is wondering why Rockstar Games would purchase the rights to develop a new Max Payne game when it's one of the few studios capable of building a new franchise just fine. Between Bully, Manhunt and others, Rockstar is not a company afraid of striking out on its own.

I'd wager Rockstar is actuely aware players are skeptical about Max Payne 3. Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar were involved with the development of Max Payne and Max Payne 2: Fall of Max Payne, but this is an entirely different situation.

Remedy moved on, Max stayed behind.

Have no fear, Max Payne will be doing all sorts of diving around in Brazil, too.

My hands-off demo of Max Payne 3 felt like a direct response to fan anxiety, as if Rockstar was quietly saying it knew the initial unveiling on the cover of Game Informer wasn't its best foot forward. In order to evolve Max, you have to earn the trust of its fans.

This is a different situation from Red Dead Redemption, where Rockstar picked up a Capcom franchise and everyone shrugged. Players love Max's deranged, fourth wall breaking world of sex, drugs, gangsters, graphic novel cut scenes and bloody trails in dark rooms.

Let's put initial fears to rest: for better or worse, Max Payne 3 looks like a Max Payne game. Rockstar hasn't deviated from the basic formula. You're still going to be jumping around in slow motion a whole bunch, which has left Rockstar free to tinker around the edges to make Max Payne game more relevant in 2012, when it's releasing.

I was also told Remedy has seen Max Payne 3 and gave a thumbs up, which should help assure fans.

You will start the game as a battered, alcoholic Max sporting his traditional trenchcoat, taking out pissed off gangsters on the roofs of New York. A good chunk of the game, I'm told, takes place in New York.

A Rockstar representative talked over the demo, pointing out where Rockstar has stuck to tradition and where the company has played around with the insides of Max Payne. You no longer have access to a full array of weapons, forcing players to make choices about Max's arsenal. He can run around with two or three different weapons (i.e. dual pistols and a shotgun), all of which are reflected on the character model itself--you won't have to pull up a menu to be reminded what weapons Max is holding. Duel wielding remains core to the shooting, and Rockstar has included a cover system, which looked very natural.

The bullet cam has returned in this one, as well, but serving a slightly different function. Previously, firing the sniper rifle would trigger the camera to track the bullet. It was stylish but wore thin. In Max Payne 3, the final shot is followed, giving players the satisfaction of watching their handiwork play out and also serving as a useful notification there are no more enemies to kill.

Even with a cover system, Max Payne 3 encourages players to run head first into every situation.

My demo had another Rockstar employee actually playing on an Xbox 360, swiveling the reticle around the screen and taking guys out one-by-one. When the game slowed, it felt similar to Red Dead Redemption, which allowed players to tag specific enemies and have them taken out automagically. Rockstar told me it won't have that exact mechanic, but there will be a manual aiming option, along with other ones, each tailored to cater towards different preferences.

After showing off the basic gameplay, reassuring me this is, in fact, Max Payne, we went to Brazil.

Even in Brazil, the company was quick to point out misconceptions. Max doesn't just wake up in Brazil as a convenient narrative mechanic to set Max Payne 3 somewhere else. Max will start in New York and make his way to Brazil for a very specific reason: he needs a job. And how Max becomes the bald, Walter White-esque character we've seen will also happen naturally, Rockstar explained. That transformation was not shown in my demo, but Rockstar assured it will make sense.

Brazil gave Rockstar a chance to show off another Max Payne tradition that's been maintained here: the graphic novel cut scenes. It's different this time, though. Max Payne 3's aesthetic, partially by natural evolution of technology, is much more realistic. The argument being the transition could prove too jarring, so Rockstar's tweaked their look. Now, the graphic novel portions happen using the in-game engine, with Max, as per usual, talking over them. Sometimes it's between areas, sometimes it's not, but while part of me pined for the old stylization, another part of me realized it probably wouldn't work.

Max can carry up to three weapons, such as two pistols and a shotgun.

Then, there was shooting. So much shooting. If I'm to describe the most basic difference between the way Max Payne 3 and what's come before it, it's less the shooting itself and more what's happening around it. Much attention has been paid by artists and designers to the world around Max. Balconies are falling apart, gas cans are exploding, boxes are ripped to pieces, etc. In one instance, Max was able to shoot out the pieces holding up a bus inside of a warehouse, causing the bus to come tumbling down on everyone. Max's options for toying with his enemies are hidden all around him, and based on the demo I was watching, many times it's triggered by accident, causing total madness--in a good way.

Rockstar has given Max one new way to play with time. When Max is nearly dead, time will slow and he'll have a chance to get one last shot off at an enemy. Success means a chunk of health.

If Max Payne and Max Payne 2 made shooting look like a ballet, Max Payne 3 makes shooting look like a ballet directed by Michael Bay.

And this is to say nothing about how the work Rockstar has put into Max himself. He sweats over the course of a level, his animations in bullet time are different from his animations otherwise, he's able to swivel 360 degrees on the ground, and depending on how Max is standing, you can actually tell where his weight is shifted. For a game this surreal, it felt awfully real.

What I didn't see much of was the story, and what I did see was out of context. Rockstar wasn't willing to disclose much about what's in store for Max. When asked if this was the foundation of Max's future in Rockstar's hands or a way to bring Max's character arc to a satisfying close, the company said nothing.

Those questions will be answered next March.

Oh, but I did ask if we'd get another dream sequence with baby screams and trails of blood. Rockstar said no.

Darn.

Staff
#2 Posted by Afroman269 (7387 posts) -

I'm cautiously optimistic.

#3 Posted by Chias (81 posts) -

Interesting, I have never played the first 2 games though.

#4 Posted by rjayb89 (7722 posts) -

Damn, Max Payne, you lookin' good, girl.

#5 Posted by xaLieNxGrEyx (2605 posts) -

Holy shit you guys are fast

#6 Posted by billyhoush (1192 posts) -

I have a strong feeling this game will be great.

#7 Posted by Delta_Ass (3279 posts) -

He kinda looks like bald Zach Galiafinakis now.

#8 Posted by Sanj (2390 posts) -

@Delta_Ass: Oh god now I can't unsee it.

#9 Posted by GreggD (4505 posts) -

@Chias said:

Interesting, I have never played the first 2 games though.

Go play them. Like, right now.

#10 Posted by takua108 (1479 posts) -

@Afroman269 said:

I'm cautiously optimistic.

This, exactly. Everything about this seems great on paper.

#11 Posted by tgammet (93 posts) -

A lot of fans of this game are really ignorant of neo-noir or hell just noir in general. The setting of Brazil fits totally fine within the bounds of some of the new-noir stories.

I am excite!

#12 Posted by mbr2 (566 posts) -

Both Max Payne games have the best writing in video games of all time so that'll be pretty hard to top.

#13 Posted by Eribuster (491 posts) -

Looks like it will be a great third-person shooter like the last two games. It's a shame that you won't be able to carry around an arsenal in your trench coat this time. Also, I assume there won't be modification tools for the PC.

#14 Edited by Undeadpool (4941 posts) -

Ask Ninja Theory how much the original devs/publishers giving the thumbs up helps "assuage fans."

Still, this DOES bode well and I've moved from skeptical to optimistic. I'm also amused by all these so-called noir fans who say noir can't take place in the tropics/bright, sunny places but seem to fully forget Casa Blanca.

Ultimately, Rockstar has an incredible track record and I'm just going to sit back and trust that they know what they're doing.

#15 Posted by Ronald (1368 posts) -

No balancing on blood trails in an ever extending hallway as you hear your family get murdered in a real time nightmare sequence that takes as long as Max is actually asleep? Then why bother.

#16 Posted by G24S (281 posts) -

Max McClayne.

#17 Posted by Emiel (607 posts) -

Nice. Can't wait.

#18 Posted by Anlino (80 posts) -

I started out skeptical, but Rockstar are slowly making me come around. As they always do.

#19 Posted by ValiantGoat (376 posts) -

This is encouraging news.

#20 Posted by DrPockets000 (2859 posts) -

Now I'm excited.

#21 Posted by Absolute_Zero (242 posts) -

@Undeadpool said:

Ask Ninja Theory how much the original devs/publishers giving the thumbs up helps "assuage fans."

Still, this DOES bode well and I've moved from skeptical to optimistic. I'm also amused by all these so-called noir fans who say noir can't take place in the tropics/bright, sunny places but seem to fully forget Casa Blanca.

Ultimately, Rockstar has an incredible track record and I'm just going to sit back and trust that they know what they're doing.

I agree wholeheartedly with all of this. People can be too quick to judge.

#22 Posted by ItBeStefYo (1020 posts) -

@GreggD: I recently did, They are on games on demand. Both are really great games especially the first one. They definitely hold up well.

#23 Posted by bybeach (4829 posts) -

nu-noir,...that ain't like nu-metal is it? Naw, I'm giving this a chance, but story means something to this franchise...

#24 Edited by xbob42 (513 posts) -

Sounds good, but does every third-person game need only 2 weapons and a cover system?

#25 Edited by zaglis (910 posts) -

Can carry only 3 weapons...?

OF-FUCKING-COURSE.

#26 Posted by AlexanderSheen (5008 posts) -

"You will start the game as a battered, alcoholic Max sporting his traditional trenchcoat, taking out pissed off gangsters on the roofs of New York. A good chunk of the game, I'm told, takes place in New York."

Good news.

#27 Posted by Milkman (16791 posts) -

@zaglis said:

3 fucking weapons...?

lolconsoles.

This should be good...

What does this have to do with consoles?

Online
#28 Posted by MooseyMcMan (11020 posts) -

Good. Those dream sequences were terrible.

Moderator
#29 Posted by GreggD (4505 posts) -

@MooseyMcMan said:

Good. Those dream sequences were terrible.

The first game's, yeah. Max Payne 2's dreams were fine, though. None of that thin blood line jumping puzzle nonsense.

#30 Posted by leejunfan83 (967 posts) -

Euphoria

#31 Posted by MooseyMcMan (11020 posts) -

@GreggD said:

@MooseyMcMan said:

Good. Those dream sequences were terrible.

The first game's, yeah. Max Payne 2's dreams were fine, though. None of that thin blood line jumping puzzle nonsense.

Confession: I haven't actually played Max Payne 2.

I should go do that.

Moderator
#32 Posted by croww (1 posts) -

Wow wasn't too sure on this one but now it's lookin up. Can't wait to see some gameplay.

#33 Posted by Jasta (2217 posts) -

Awwww shit, he got a bus!

#34 Posted by SuperCycle (332 posts) -

Everything sounds great, I do hope that Rockstar changes their minds and allows players to have the full array of weapons. I like having all possible weapons at all times. It's more fun.

#35 Posted by Agent47 (1896 posts) -

@Milkman: More like lolidiotelitists, don't waste your breath on them.

#36 Posted by Jeffk38uk (715 posts) -

Having read a number of previews about MP3, I am a lot more excited for this third iteration. I think it's bold of them to shift the setting completely, but the fact they are keeping the core elements of what made Max Payne great should be an interesting combination.

#37 Posted by gbrading (2033 posts) -

I adore the first two Max Payne games: They're definitely placed amongst my all-time favourites, the second game especially. Max Payne 3 still worries me increasingly. I can't get past the bald Max look because in my mind, it's just not something I could ever imagine Max doing, unless he had a specific reason to do it. I'm happy to hear that there will still be graphic novel cutscenes with Max narrating (and I'm really happy that they got James McCaffrey back to voice him), but it's disappointing that these won't have the hand-painted look to them which made them so memorable.

I'm still skeptical, but maybe... Just maybe it'll be alright.

#38 Posted by Wrighteous86 (3782 posts) -

Patrick's writing seems better suited to features and news, rather than previews, but then again, this was a hands-off demo, and I'm sure they're not easy to write about.

#39 Posted by BlatantNinja23 (930 posts) -

Max Payne is the one rockstar series i really enjoy.... lets hope this one is as great as the others

#40 Posted by Hitchenson (4682 posts) -

Come on, it's Rockstar. They know how to make good video games. It'll be a great Payne game, I'm sure.

#41 Posted by Gordy (204 posts) -
If Max Payne and Max Payne 2 made shooting look like a ballet, Max Payne 3 makes shooting look like a ballet directed by Michael Bay.

That's not helping.

#42 Edited by ghostNPC (777 posts) -

I've hated the idea of this from the start. However, I feel like I'm warming up to it if I think about MP3 as a straight up action film aesthetic, not a film noir aesthetic they used to go for; less stylization, more grittiness, 'realism' and gun play.

I've sort of given up on the story at this point, but at least the game sounds like it will be fun to play.

#43 Posted by GreggD (4505 posts) -

@MooseyMcMan said:

@GreggD said:

@MooseyMcMan said:

Good. Those dream sequences were terrible.

The first game's, yeah. Max Payne 2's dreams were fine, though. None of that thin blood line jumping puzzle nonsense.

Confession: I haven't actually played Max Payne 2.

I should go do that.

You really, really should.

#44 Posted by UnrealDP (1222 posts) -

Cool, should be good.

#45 Posted by SimonM7 (129 posts) -

This'll be the game that once and for all exposes whether Rockstar know how to sort genuinely good gameplay. Lord knows they've been let off easy with the unwieldy spaz fests that are GTA all these years.

#46 Posted by GreggD (4505 posts) -

@Agent47 said:

@Milkman: More like lolidiotelitists, don't waste your breath on them.

Honestly, my first experience with Max Payne was on the PS2, and then later on the Xbox. It had been cemented in my mind as my favorite series of all time, but it wasn't until I played them on PC that I really saw how good they were. Especially considering the first Max Payne on PC still featured the Twin Towers in the graphic novel scenes, which I'm pretty sure were absent by the time the console versions came out. They are era-appropriate because of the time frame the first game takes place in. But other than that, the way the loads are structured in the PC versions make it a much more fluid experience.

As to the multiple weapons thing, you could carry the full arsenal in the PS2/Xbox versions as well, so that person really needs to pull their head out of their ass.

#47 Posted by MrKlorox (11209 posts) -

MAX ISN'T BALD. HE HAS A SHAVED HEAD. MEGA DIFFERENCE. CAPITALS.

#48 Posted by RandomInternetUser (6789 posts) -

@MooseyMcMan said:

Good. Those dream sequences were terrible.

Seriously, they just took the flow of the game out back behind a cabin made out of planks and decapitated it with a rusty axe.

#49 Posted by emergency (1193 posts) -

I'm glad, I would fucking love to play another max payne game. Fun as hell, and quite engaging.

#50 Edited by CornBREDX (5285 posts) -

I was really put off by everything they were showing before.

I'm super happy you were able to give us an explanation, Patrick. You really deserve a medal sometimes.

I will continue to be skeptical but you have put me more at ease and I accept Rockstars apology for the initial cluster of "WTF are you breaking this for" images that came out before.

I really should have known Rockstar wasn't trying to mess it up, but Max Payne is such a great game, for them to mess with it would be absurd. That's just my opinion though.

I am more inclined to give this game a chance. The explanations seem reasonable.

@MooseyMcMan: to be fair the second games dream sequences were fantastic. The first you could skip the stupid maze if you knew which direction to jump ;)

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