It has been nearly ten years since the last entry of the Max Payne series, and in that time a lot has changed for the gaming series, aesthetically, symbolically, and practically. But for the former New York Police Detective himself... not so much.
The Max Payne series and its gritty noir presentation, storyline and fascinatingly complex protagonist blew minds back in 2001 and 2003, and its equally compelling and engaging gameplay, storyline and memorable Bullet Time sequences established the game as definitely something to be remembered.
Even though it has been a long time since the last game, Rockstar Studios have committed to reviving Max and reintroducing a little bit of (welcome) Payne back into our lives. MMGN has already asked you if you’re excited, but here are some simple reasons and info on the game to give insight as to why you should get excited, or at least be interested in the return of Max Payne this Friday, whether you’re a long-time fan or new one.
The Power of a Rockstar developer
Rockstar Games are the developers behind the third entry of the Max Payne series, utilising several of their studio branches under the collective name, “Rockstar Studios” to develop the long-awaited sequel. For those of you living under a rock, Rockstar have emerged in the last decade and a bit as one of the most important gaming developers in the video gaming industry, responsible for the extremely successful and influential, genre-defying Grand Theft Auto series. Since their humble beginnings with the GTA franchise, the company’s various studios have produced the gritty street-racing series Midnight Club, the violent and controversial Manhunt, the Western epic Red Dead Redemption and the neo-noir crime thriller L.A Noire.
The general consensus on the majority of Rockstar’s games is that they are undeniably well-made. The time spent on each title is also reflective of extreme polish and quality; rarely do Rockstar release more than one title a year, with 2012 being a notable exception. Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption in particular are two of their best franchises renowned for their overall quality in terms of gameplay, narrative, characterisation and sandbox-freedom. Though they have remained the publishers of the previous two games, Rockstar became the developers of the third entry with Remedy's blessing, and many of Remedy's top-end developers have expressed confidence in Rockstar’s ability to provide a stellar game that lives up to the Max Payne legacy they established, confidence which we gamers can share in from what details and gameplay demonstrations are available to us at the present time..
The Basic Story and the Payne himself
The former NYPD Detective turned DEA vigilante is a fascinating and complex protagonist who has a violent and depressing history. Once a respected police officer, Payne’s life turned upside down when he was framed for the death of his police partner, Alex, and the discovery of the death of his wife and child in a violent home invasion connected with a narcotics case involving a local drug gang who manufacture the deadly drug, Valkyr.
Payne soon decided that the shackles of law could not restrain him from avenging his family, and he waged a single-man war on the gang and crime, forming the basic events of the first game. He later became involved in another shadowy plot involving two groups called the Cleaners, responsible for a grisly series of murders that included many people around and dear to him.
After the events of the second game, Payne relocated from New York City to Sao Paulo, Brazil to escape his dark past and begin anew, albeit while still retaining his cynical and world-weary view on life. Eight years later, an older and weathered Max is still suffering an emotional downward spiral from the death of his wife and child and the memories of all the enemies, killings and conflict he has experienced, being unable to move on. Max instead wallows in his grief and numbs the pain with all manner of alcohol and drugs.
Soon, however, a new chapter of conspiracy, betrayal and loss enters Payne’s life and threatens to engulf him and everyone around him once more when the wealthy executive's wife, who he is working in Sao Paulo for, is kidnapped. Payne is soon forced back into violent action, doing what he does best.
Combined with his own dark background, personal problems and lethal skills retained as a former Police Detective turned private security enforcer, it can only lead to bad things for the kidnappers and good things for us. If that’s not a bad-ass return storyline premise, I don’t know what is.
For Max Payne, the tragedies and sacrifices he has endured as a cop and the wounds inflicted that never fully heal are too much. The decisions he has made in order to avenge his family and friends are bound to him; Max is the perfect embodiment of the cold hard truth that no matter how far you try to move away from your problems, your choices, or your actions, your past stays with you because it's who you are. The only thing that makes you different is what you really go through, how you face it. And that is just one reason as to why he is such a compelling character. Max is an extremely resolved yet ultimately fragile and volatile man, not a super-hero or macho-invincible protagonist.
Taking note that Rockstar’s lead writer Dan Houser, who has worked on most of the Grand Theft Auto series and the more recent Red Dead Redemption and their narrative storylines is also lead writer on Max Payne 3, it’s fairly safe to hope that the gritty, complex, noir feel of the previous stories will make a return... with some added Rockstar touch and twists.
Stylish gameplay mechanics and Bullet Time... all over again.
Every great game or series has their own unique trademark, whether it be in gameplay form or a memorable character. Max Payne’s calling card was not only the titular character himself and all his metaphorical monologues and paradoxical traits, but also his ability to cap goons in slow-mo style, a.k.a. Bullet Time.
Bullet Time is a gameplay mechanic that, when triggered, slows time down to a halt. In Bullet Time, the movements of bullets are visible to the naked eye; this allows Max to perform special moves and slick dodges in a heavily stylized and exaggerated, but extremely cool manner reminiscent of The Matrix in some instances.
The newly improved third iteration of Bullet Time will include a number of additional features that have to do with animation and interaction with the environment to ensure the third game’s gameplay feels fresh and distinct. One of these new features is environmental bullet time, which is essentially a variant mechanic of Bullet Time which will allow the player to have full control of Max during a firefight or action situation. It is akin to quick-time events in other games, and will add an extra layer of intensity and desperation to any fight.
When not in Bullet Time, the classic run-and-gun, shoot-dodge gameplay along with a new cover-system and over-the-shoulder zoom aiming will be available to the player to create stylish and hectic carnage. There will also be a “Last Man Standing” mechanic which will see Max avoid death if he has access to a painkiller. If the player manages to kill the dangerous threat which caused the "Last Man Standing" mechanic to kick in, the player can recover from their wounds.
With Rockstar’s advanced utilisation and application of their Euphoria engine, Max Payne 3 will have more realistic-looking character movements, shooting sequences and death reactions, making the already engaging Bullet Time even more impressive and dynamic. New cinematic cutscenes with player-controlled actions within the cutscene, which seamlessly transition into normal gameplay, will also make the game and the third saga of Max Payne as interactive as ever.
Multiplayer Crews and Social Club Intergration
Multiplayer is a big selling factor of games these days, but many developers utilise or implement multiplayer into a game that may or may not benefit from it or be the right fit for its existing fanbase and gameplay. Rockstar are known for making dedicated multiplayer modes alongside extensive and compelling single-player storylines and what has been revealed of Max Payne 3’s multiplayer so far is impressive and reassuring that we are getting a fully-fledged and supported multiplayer mode.
Max Payne 3’s online multiplayer will allow players to establish private or public “crews”, or join existing ones of up to five players and take the fight online as a collective, gaining more XP and tasks to accomplish while in a group. An implemented “Feud” system will see such crews battle it out against others when one player from one crew kills an opposing one, and so on, facilitating an on-going battle for dominance and keeping things competitive and fun. The maps and game modes that players play on will also dynamically change within a match to keep players on their toes. Individual player and crew statistics, the sharing of screenshots and so on will be available to players. Finally, players will be rewarded in various ways, and a dedicated ranking and clan system will be integrated.
Rockstar are also introducing their Rockstar Social Club platform to the title. The exciting thing about this is that the company is integrating connection between Max Payne 3 and future titles of Rockstar, like Grand Theft Auto V. Essentially, the multiplayer “crews” established by players within Max Payne 3 will be able to be carried over into Grand Theft Auto V’s multiplayer, adding another layer of complexity and competitive play to multiplayer, and more incentive to get involved in the online multiplayer for those who don’t traditionally do so. It establishes a great community feeling for adopters and reassures fans that the multiplayer won’t be a tacked on experience, as it may feel with other previously single-player only games turned both.
Max Payne 3 is scheduled for release on May 18, 2012 for Australia on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and June 1st for PC.
Are you a returning or new fan of Max Payne 3? What aspects of the third entry are you interested in?
By Nathan Misa- Writer Bio