Sometime in late March, I had the opportunity to preview an early build of Max Payne 3. The game is set to be released on 18th May on Xbox360 and PS3, and a few days later on PC.
The demo preview essentially centered around two missions, which we spent a little more time on, followed by short sneaks into some aspects of the build. It’s worth noting that at this juncture, the build is still in its development stage, so whatever I see is not finalised and may change when the game goes gold.
With the limited teaser and introduction videos released by Rockstar, I came with a formed impression of what I think the game would be – a standard fare typical shooter with the unique features of Max Payne. Unsurprisingly, I was proven wrong. True to Rockstar fashion, they weren’t just reliving a franchise. They are a lot to be seen in Max Payne 3.
1. One of the things I notice immediately is how the game goes minimalist on its heads-up display (HUD) items. Tucked in the small corner on the bottom right are icons and numbers showing your health, bullet time meter and the number of ‘painkillers’ you have. This provides an unobstructed view of the proceedings of the campaign as the player experiences a seamless transition from cinematic to active view. As in the original, Max’s health does not regenerate. He will have to rely on painkillers which are adequately scattered. If you die a lot or find your character relying too much on painkillers, it probably means you’re not optimising Max’s skills. Don’t worry, read on and you shall be ‘more aware’.
2. I learnt about how Rockstar attempts to bring the third person and first person views together. If you recall a first person view from any other game, your vision comprises of a partial view of the weapon, usually a gun. While this may be immersive, your view radius is limited. In Max Payne 3, the character is made to resemble that weapon view, so as you move the character around with the Left Stick, the Right Stick gives you a lot more room for awareness as you take aim. To describe it in another way, I was able to have Max run forward, backwards, sideways while easily aiming at my front, back, top and below. While doing so, Max adopts a clever animation of shifting his body around to adjust to your controls. If you’re an audience, this is a real pleasure to watch, especially when Max is holding different weapons. Max moves differently when he’s wielding two pistols compared to having a shotgun in one hand and a sub-machine gun in another. It appeared as though the weight of the weapon influenced his mobility, and this realism is much welcomed.
3. While proned, moving the Right Stick allows you to aim within a complete sphere and take on any target. While the controls are flexible for the player, Max is not that flexible for his age. As you move the reticule around, Max will shift from lying down on his belly to having his back on the ground. The camera will accommodate by cleverly shifting the perspective view. This provides a strategic advantage while giving the player freedom.
Let’s say you’re diving into a solid cover in a room. You can choose to take on the enemy ahead, get into cover and then sweep across those charging at you from the sides or at your blind spot; or you could dive and take out anyone from the blind spot, get into cover and take out those charging at you from the sides, take a moment to reload and proceed to shoot those in front of you.
Combine that with Bullet Time (slow motion) while diving and you could take on a lot more targets or pay attention to environmental objects that could be manipulated to your advantage. That’s a big ‘S’ for Strategy and Style.
4. Shooting the last target (within a specific area or wave) always ends up with a cinematic kill-cam, and the freedom of gameplay means a possibility of seeing a different enemy being shot at a different part of the body and sporting a different death animation. In short, the experience will vary with every attempt. For best results, a button press during this final kill-cam allows you to slow down or speed up the bullet, offering a more dramatic and satisfying end to the shootout.
5. Changes in the gameplay also carry over into the cinematics. If your Max Payne character holds a sub-machine gun, it will be reflected in the cinematic sequence. Weapons also have their own traits and deal damage differently to your target. I don’t condone violence in real life, but a shotgun against someone unfortunate is very satisfying. Love shotguns? Then you’ll love this video.
6. Numerous items in the game are modelled separately. Here’s a tip: Pause the game during gunfire and pan the camera around (while in standby mode). Depending on the heat of the battle, you will be able to view bullet trajectory, ejected bullet cartridges, broken down structures and other cool shit (you’ve got to see it for yourself). I recommend doing this while Max is in mid-air, taking a dive on the stairs at a stadium (picture below is a teaser snapshot of the place).
7. Executing Bullet Time is a strategic move. Like in real life, it’s going to feel awkward if you have Max diving from one spot to another too often. Also, if you dive towards a huge barrier, Max is going to feel the hurt, stopping the slow motion process immediately. The key is to be mindful about your surroundings and use it to your advantage. Once you get the hang of this, you will be able to pull off awesome Hollywood-quality dive moves, and it will be very fun to play. We are all not born shooters so I recommend experimenting as much as you can. If you so happen to receive a fatal shot while carrying painkillers, Max will automatically enter into Bullet time, allowing him an opportunity to fire back and survive the fight. If successful, the painkiller is deemed consumed, otherwise it’s back to the last checkpoint. It’s a nice opportunity window for survival instead of letting you succumb totally to that one fatal bullet.
8. Some scenarios allow you to adopt an alternative approach. In one scene, I observed that shooting a stopper on a ramp caused a vehicle to slide into the water, drowning three unsuspecting enemies who were busy chatting about something a few seconds earlier. This allowed Max to make a quieter breach. Of course, I could instead enter guns blazing and these will accordingly trigger a variance in enemies’ reactions.
9. I’m serious when I say “enemies …busy chatting about something..” in the above paragraph. In an effort to create a hostile and uncertain environment, you will not be able to understand (which means there will not be an English translation subtitled on screen) when a native language is spoken (unless you’re familiar with that language). This adds a sense of curiosity and tension to Max and to the player.
10. I don’t need to mention this if you’re familiar with the cinematic standard in Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire. The motion capture and voice dubbing in Max Payne 3 is as stellar as ever.
At this juncture, these are all that I could preview. This video nicely sums up what was mentioned here. There are still a couple of weeks before the game hits the stores for tweaks and additions and I reckon there will be more announcements and reveals about Max Payne 3 in time to come. Stay tuned at Rockstargames.com to be the first to know.
If you wish to know a little more, check out GameInformer’s article, or better yet, experience for yourself when Max Payne is released on iOS and Android devices this month!
Meanwhile, check out the challenging but fun achievements in Max Payne 3!
If an early build of Max Payne 3 looks and feels this gOood, I looking forward to be pleasantly surprised when the game finally storms into stores!