NYCC 11: Max Payne 3 Preview

Shut up. All of you, just shut up. You curmudgeons, sourpusses, and whiners. Let me drop a knowledge bomb on you before we get into the meat of this thing.  “Noire” does not mean “New York”, “L.A.” or even “Urban”. Noire at face value is a French word meaning “black”, but when brought into the context of storytelling in the United States relates to crime dramas containing sexual themes (haven’t you ever heard of a femme fatale?) and most importantly, lots of cynical bastards. That’s it. You can have the sunny backdrop of São Paulo, Brazil and still have “noire”.

That being said, the Max Payne 3 demo we saw at this year’s NYCC started off with Max in his New York City apartment. So again, shut up. Max Payne is here, with his hair and his whiskey. He’s got a buddy trying to convince him to get out of Dodge and make some money elsewhere when they’re both confronted by an angry, yelling gentleman. This fella brought along an entire police force because, what do you know, Max killed his son.

They draw weapons, but from that point on I didn’t actually see the other guy throughout the level. I think he ran away while leaving Max to deal with a row of sniper lasers down the hallway. What a pal. From this point on, it’s clear that this is a Max Payne game. You’re running, you’re shooting, you’re using bullet-time to take down bad guys, and to regain health, you’re still using painkillers as there’s no health regeneration. Of course, Max also can dual-wield his signature 9mm Berettas.

Static graphic novel panels from Max Payne and Max Payne 2 are gone, replaced with a more modern approach to the story telling. While still being narrated with voiceover, “panels” are created during in-engine cut-scenes, freezing certain elements and picking out specific key phrases and words to display on-screen. It looks great and certainly keeps the same feel of the originals.  From what I understood while speaking with a Rockstar representative, the story will be told through a series of time-jumping flashbacks. You’ll start at the end with a sort of “I guess you’re wondering how I got here” monologue.

This first New York section was straightforward, giving us plenty of glass breaking and head shooting, as well as a glimpse of the strangely morose. One of Max’s certifiable neighbors decided it was time to become “clean” by strapping explosives to his body, taking down a pair from the assault squad, then blowing himself up, and charring the entire hallway while being held at gunpoint on his knees. It was darkly comedic and Max’s “WTF” face pretty much said it all.

After some time in New York, we were brought to Brazil where the John McClaine / Travis Bickle version of Max is leading around his girlfriend in a pretty dire situation. They’re being hunted by a local gang and need to get away, but it’s clear his lady isn’t feeling so hot as she pukes in a trash can. Knowing how Max Payne games work, I can totally see where that’s going. OR CAN I?

At this point, the focus of the demo now was more related to the animation systems and some of the environment destructibility. Max was able to shoot down some gas station pumps, which soon exploded into large fireballs taking bad dudes with them. Whatever you’re targeting, Max will keep his weapon affixed at that point. Running backwards, strafing, diving and rolling around on the game, he is able to point at the same spot not by crazy flexibility, but through some interesting animation techniques that seem very lifelike. Even enemies had their own animations instead of using a set routine applied across all baddies. It’s clear a lot of work went into the locomotion of this title, and it’s very impressive.

Despite running across multiple shotguns, the demo-giver didn’t pick them up. I love video game shotguns. That was really my only disappointment throughout the fifteen minutes we saw. Well, that and during the climax, the projector cut out as we were diving for a crane hook. D’oh! Max Payne 3 appears to be shaping up to be one hell of an action game that stays true to the series’ noire roots.

Ben Daniels -
One of the highlights of this year’s New York Comic Con for me was getting a chance to check out Max Payne 3. Being my favorite Rockstar franchise by a long shot I had very high expectations walking into the demo room.  The Internet has been guzzling massive amounts of Haterade and attempting to piss all over the game long before it arrives, so let me set the record straight for you here.  Max Payne 3 looks INCREDIBLE. As the demo started, the team from Rockstar explained they wanted to take Max into 2012 while still retaining the fundamental elements (gritty story, inner-monolgue, and grandiose “bullet-time” firefights) that made the first two games so memorable.  I nodded in acceptance.

So guess what? So far it looks like they are delivering on this promise in a big way.  The demo started in New York City and played out a huge gun battle between Max and a group of mobsters. Broken glass, head shots, and empty bullet casing everywhere. Totally fantastic.  The audience was then treated to a later level set in Brazil, where Max and his girlfriend encountered what appeared to be a drug cartel. The newly implemented full cover system was on display along with the upgraded bullet time system that showed cinematic executions when the final enemy in a group was killed. The character detail and animation was insane.  Max’s movements are incredibly fluid; whether he’s running down a sidewalk, or flying through the air mowing down drug dealers with an UZI while a gas station explodes (that happened).

To reiterate, I really REALLY dig Max Payne when he’s not in Mark Walhberg form. Luckily, after checking out the demo this weekend it looks like this three-quel will be doing grand justice to the previous installments in the series.

Art Deetu -
Amidst the nerd flu incubating confines of the New York City Comic Con’s show floor resided something special; familiar but new. Rockstar upped the ante with GTA IV; redefined what a western was with Red Dead Redemption; and provided a unique and genre defining take on police action drama with ground breaking facial and motion capture animation in L.A. Noire. While Max Payne 3 is unfortunately not bringing the motion capturing along for the ride, it does provide a much more polished look at the series with a heightened production value that is noticeable down to the finer details.

The gritty and mature world that is a staple of Rockstar was on full display throughout the demo of MP3 and two particular segments caught my eye the most. A tattered clothed war veteran with some questionable mental stability makes an impact that won’t be forgotten for some time. With no pants on and fully disheveled he makes his way through the apartment building taking out as many of Max’ foes as possible that have infiltrated the multi-floored building. As you make your way through the hallways you can hear his maniacal banter while he makes quick work of the initial wave. Ultimately, when the odds are stacked against him, the crazed man sacrifices himself by detonating dynamite strapped to his chest leaving you with an escape route. This entire scene took me by surprise and only reinforced how the bar continues to be raised across the board in each new Rockstar title.

The second part was focused on the technical and aesthetic aspects, which was easily the most interesting part of the demo for me. In many third-person games, you control an individual and maneuver around by strafing. You look like your hips and leg movement is independent of your torso and aiming angle. MP3 revamps this entire process by making your body position relative to the direction you are moving. If you’re running away from a target, your arm may point the gun around the side of your armpit or even over your shoulder. This is especially apparent during bullet-time as you can see your body contort with your aim as you land in a genuine way which lends a lot to the overall realism of Max.

The only disappointment as far as the demonstration was concerned was the lack of their superb L.A. Noire facial capture technology being included. Here’s to hoping their creativity bleeds into the multiplayer mode that hasn’t been clearly defined, and it doesn’t feel tacked because this is shaping up to be something special. Overall, Rockstar seems poised to deliver yet another must-have title with Max Payne 3.

Max Payne 3 is set to release worldwide in March of 2012 for PC, 360, and PS3.

About Jim Hunter

Jim Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Splitkick and host of the Rocket Jump podcast. He has three kids and is constantly cranky, but also highly awesome.
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