Feeling The Payne: Hands-on with Max Payne 3
April 25, 2012
When I first heard about Max Payne 3, I was excited. Then I saw the first screenshots of a bald, beat up Max in a place that definitely wasn’t NYC in the winter time. This worried me. I saw more screenshots and videos that helped ease my fears, but still, I wasn’t convinced. I finally got a chance to go hands on with Max Payne 3 at PAX East, and at last, my fears had been silenced.
The thing that was instantly addressed in the preview I received was environment. I was worried that the dark and gritty nature of the first two Max Paynes wouldn’t translate so well in tropical climate. For those like me who felt the same, we have nothing to worry about. Max Payne 3’s demo took place at a dock where you need to go through several warehouses before finally reaching the boat you’re looking for. Trust me, that dark gritty feeling translates just fine in Brazil. It was a dark atmosphere with dirt, grime, and rust you would expect from a building that’s been un-kept for so long.
The Max I played with was an updated version of what we are used to. That hair, the black coat; all the good stuff you remember. Those who remember the difference between the versions of Max in MP1 and 2 shouldn’t be surprised by this. It appears that it’s later in the game when Max decides it’s time to get a bit grittier and he becomes the Max we first saw in screenshots.
Besides Max’s looks, his movement has received a major upgrade. Depending on the shape and weight of the weapons, Max will move and reload his weapons differently. If Max is carrying a heavier weapon, you will see him shift his weight to adjust. In terms of reloading, if Max is carrying a larger weapon on one side but a pistol in the other, you may see him take a clip and slide it into the gun using the side of his body and one hand so he can keep his finger on the trigger of the other. As unrealistic as it may be in some cases, it’s still pretty cool to be in the middle of a gunfight and doing that.
Max’s movements are very fluid based on control input. If you’re running in one direction and then instantly decide to switch directions, Max will move instantly as well, but his moves are way more realistic than what we have come to expect in video games. Everything from how his leg will extend out to stabilize him switching directions to how natural his movements are when reaching ammo or turning his torso in different directions are very detailed. Even while he is on the ground, he will naturally turn his body in certain ways so that you get a full 360 range for taking out enemies. The action is so fast that you may not notice it immediately, but in bullet time you have no choice but to notice.
It appears they went back to using the standard bullet time from the original Max Payne (with a few adjustments) as opposed to bullet time 2.0 we saw in Max Payne 2. For those who don’t know the difference, in Max Payne 2, killing enemies in bullet time would slowly speed Max up while enemies remained in bullet time. If you killed enough enemies, you would find Max running around at regular speed while his enemies floated in the air. It added an element of style I liked and was hoping they would pull it through to Max Payne 3. The bullet time in Max Payne 3 is standard fair but is now replenished in more ways than before. Killing enemies, the risks you take killing them, the precision of your shots, and your overall skill all contribute to this end. Bottom line: be more awesome; get more bullet time .
You’re going to need that bullet time, too, because enemies are plentiful and are no joke. Running out into the open is a great way to die. Unlike many games, enemies here actually know how to aim. There is a cover system, but don’t get comfortable. If an enemy feels you’ve been in that cover spot for too long, they will throw a grenade or something else equally unpleasant to flush you out.
Enemies will lay down cover fire for their allies as they try to escape from cover. Enemies also appear to be more aggressive if their numbers are greater and more conservative if not. When enemies are wounded, they will also try to call for backup or crawl away to cover if they can. Enemy AI will definitely keep you on your toes and helped me realize how lazy of a gamer I’ve become over the past few years with shooters being so cookie cutter-like. This demo snapped me out of that lazy slump really fast.
One element of game play that’s foreign to the Max Payne series is stealth. I’m not talking full on Metal Gear here, but instead of going in all guns blazing, there were times where I could silently take out an enemy. This wasn’t the easiest thing to do because within a few seconds of me popping up and setting up the kill, I was spotted and all hell broke loose. I guess it’s good to give those options, but I’m pretty sure I’m going in balls out every time.
This Max Payne is looking to be more of a cinematic experience than its predecessors, so the storyboard narration that we are used to appears to be gone. I didn’t miss it, though. The story appears to be mostly narrated through Max’s thoughts and can be extended by interacting with certain objects. You may want to explore a bit because these objects aren’t always in your path. Real fans of the series will definitely want to find them to get that full Max Payne story that we love.
Visually, the game looks great. Character models, environment, guns, and even bullets are all very detailed. The setting is a very dangerous place in Brazil and, trust me, it felt like a really very dangerous place in Brazil. The movement definitely helps with making the game look better, but the way bullets tear through flesh also stood out for me. Every headshot was unique and satisfying since I was able to see exactly how I was splitting my enemies’ wigs. I started playing it on console, but moved to a PC soon after. I’ve very happy to report that Rockstar did not hold the PC back because of console limitations. There is a noticeable difference in quality, detail, and frame rate. Sorry to tell you, but the console boys are missing out.
After getting my hands-on at PAX East, I can’t wait for Max Payne 3 to release on May 15th. I was going to pick up Diablo III which releases the same day, but the dark lord is going to have to wait.