Max Payne 3 Hands-On Preview: Noir Never Felt So Satisfying

Rockstar’s adding another gem to their repertoire with the upcoming Max Payne 3, the latest installment in the well-known noir series. The Warp Zoned crew had a chance to play the game and discuss the new features with some Rockstar representatives at PAX East. This graduation to next-generation consoles has been beneficial to the franchise, breathing life back into Max and bringing him to new locales. A fresh storyline, intuitive gameplay features, and vibrant graphics make this a game you won’t want to miss.

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Studios
Genre: Third-Person Bullet-Riddled Cussfest
Release Date: May 15, 2012 (PS3, Xbox 360), May 29, 2012 (PC)
ESRB Rating: Mature

First, we got a bit of background about the game and the series. A representative told us that Rockstar was aiming to “create what would be the most sophisticated cinematic action shooter that we could possibly make” with Max Payne 3. By “focusing on very specific elements of gameplay design and presentation that not only stays true to the fundamentals of the Max Payne series,” but also creates a “very run-and-gun, very fluid gameplay experience for people of the current generation.” Bullet time returns in Max Payne 3, in order to “give the players a chance to choreograph their movements,” which allows for “the coolest, most stylish ways to take out your enemies.” It also gives players “a unique strategic advantage,” allowing them to strategize when they are outnumbered… which is bound to happen.

“The presentation of the Max Payne games is very iconic,” he continued. “It’s all centered around the main character, Max, explaining what’s going on around him through an inner monologue…. You’re constantly learning about the story through Max’s narration.” James McCaffrey, the original voice actor, is back to voice Max again in the third installment. They’ve also used his likeness for the character this time around, and even had him do some motion capture, unlike in the previous two games, where Sam Lake, one of the founders of Remedy Entertainment, was used for Max’s likeness. This will be the first game in the series not developed by Remedy. Instead, the game is being worked on collaboratively by several different studios within Rockstar – Rockstar Toronto, Rockstar New England, Rockstar London, and Rockstar Vancouver, collectively called Rockstar Studios.

Storywise, Max Payne 3 takes place several years after the first two games, and Max is a bit older now, and uses alcohol and painkillers as a means to escape his memories. He ends up running into an old acquaintance of his, Pasos, who talks him into taking on a job as a security guard in Sao Paolo, Brazil. This is where most of the game takes place, though much of it is also in the franchise’s usual city, New York. Sao Paolo is the largest city in the southern hemisphere, and Rockstar has taken advantage of that, filling the game with many interesting locales. Max’s job now is working for a wealthy businessman in Sao Paolo, whose trophy wife gets kidnapped. “In a very noir fashion, Max finds out that there’s more to this than a simple kidnapping,” the representative told us. “You’ll find that it’s just as dark and just as mysterious a story as the older games.”

“The game jumps around – it doesn’t follow a straight timeline… it’s kind of built around Max recounting certain memories, triggered by events that are happening,” he said. “From a technological perspective, we’re following that by making the game entirely seamless, so from start to finish, there are no load times, you’ll never see a black screen. You’re always in the action, whether it’s through cinematics or through the gameplay.” With that, we dove right into the game, starting a scene where Max has just killed a prominent gangster, and the mob is now after him for vengeance.

There’s nothing unusual about the button setup, which is very intuitive to the action-packed gameplay. Bullet Time slows down time so you can take out multiple targets, but it doesn’t let you set up your hits like Dead Eye did in Red Dead Redemption. (I find this to be a plus.) There’s also an ability called “Last Man Standing.” When an enemy takes a fatal shot on you, you have a chance to take him out and regain some of your health back at the cost of a painkiller. As you fall in slow motion, your reticule is pulled towards that enemy, making it easier to pick out the one who took you down. Taking out another enemy doesn’t bring you back – it must be the enemy who actually landed the shot on you.

One of the beautiful things about Max Payne 3 is the Euphoria Engine. Used in Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV, the lighting and grittiness in this engine gives them a distinct look and feel. The game looked good enough for us to take it home right then and there and have it look better than many games already out on store shelves.

The gameplay is smooth, and killing bad guys as Max Payne was entertaining and satisfying, especially with Last Man Standing, which I employed more than a few times. The game also has a nice art style, with motion comic-style transitions between certain scenes, taking them from one action-packed moment to another. This echoes the comic book panels from the original game, bringing a next-gen feel to even the cutscenes. Bullet Time builds up quickly, so it’s easy to strategically take out bad guys from scene to scene.

This entry was posted in PC, Previews, PS3, Top Story, Xbox 360 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
Nicole Kline is Warp Zoned's Senior Editor. She first began preparing for the job by climbing a milk crate to play Centipede in an arcade. You can find her on PSN under the name toitle or you can email her at nicole AT warpzoned DOT com.

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