Cover as a major gameplay mechanic may be a necessary evil, but it was just about the only thing that slowed down the action and the cinematic nature of the game, which doesn’t just come from the cutscenes, but is also woven very naturally into the gameplay. When you kill the last man in a group of enemies, for example, the camera will either follow your bullets to their final destination, or it shifts perspective to behind the enemy and the player can slow down the passage of time to a near stop, should they so desire. At this point, the player can continue to pull the trigger, loading up the enemy with as many bullets as possible before he hits the ground. It’s messed up, over the top, and completely unnecessary, but it’s also Max Payne.
And the game makes it easy for players to create these ludicrous, action-hero sequences on their own. When shooting at an enemy, a small X pops up in the reticle when the target dies, indicating in a simple manner that Max can start targeting his next victim. This was especially helpful when in bullet-time or shootdodging, allowing me to dive and, when I was efficient enough with my retargeting, take out a good three or four enemies before hitting the ground.
Even when I did hit the ground, I was able to keep Max there and twist and turn, allowing him to shoot multiple enemies without having to get up. So imagine diving into a room full of enemies, shooting the man in front of you, hitting the ground, and then rolling over onto your sides to hit the targets on your right or left. That happens in Max Payne 3.
As I played through the demo, my mind just kept going back to what the rep had said: everything in the game is about getting Max through the environment — and killing his enemies — in the most stylish way possible. And between the user-friendly design, as well as the tightness of the controls and Max’s movement, that was an effortless and enjoyable task.
But easily my most stylish moment was during the demo’s second level, when I was at a football stadium in Sao Paulo, amidst a firefight with a paramilitary group that had crashed a cash exchange between Max and the captors of his employer’s wife. At one point, I busted through a set of double doors to find myself at the top of a set of bleachers. The Rockstar rep offered a suggestion, but my god if it wasn’t obvious what needed to be done: shootdodge forward, diving head-first in bullet-time and sailing over the entire set of bleachers as I rained down bullets on my enemies from above. Epic.
Though Rockstar was not showing it off at PAX East, the game will also feature multiplayer, with 16-player team deathmatches and a mode called Gang Wars, which features five rounds of play that shift dynamically based on the events of the previous round. So for example, the first round could be a Team Deathmatch, and if one player on the winning team does particularly well, the next round could be a VIP-type scenario in which the winning team has to protect that high-scoring player. And perhaps the most unique aspect about Gang Wars is that it has a narrative (which is based on events in the single-player campaign) that’s seen from different viewpoints, depending on which character or faction players are using.
The last multiplayer mode is an 8-player mode called Painkiller, which the rep described as “sort of a co-op experience,” as the first player to get a kill and the first player to be killed team up and become Max and Pazos, respectively. All other players in the match fight against them, and as the two lead characters are killed, whoever was responsible for their deaths assume their roles.
So there’s a little something to draw everybody into Max Payne 3, not that it necessarily needs any more attention or publicity than it’s currently getting. But all the hype is well-deserved; the game has been in development for years — some even feared it cancelled at some points as it dipped under the radar — and it shows. Clearly, a lot of care has been taken to bring us a true follow-up that rewards everyone for waiting over eight years for the next entry in the series. Here’s to the return of Max.
Max Payne 3 will be released by Rockstar Games on May 15 for Xbox 360 and PS3 and May 29 for PC.
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