Rockstar Games has a problem. You don’t reinvigorate the Western, like it did with Red Dead Redemption, then follow it up by pioneering LA Noire’s astonishing new face-capture technology, without raising people’s expectations. So the problem is how can it possibly keep this run of form going?
The answer: by resurrecting a missing-in-action franchise last seen during the death rattle of the original Xbox. That’s right — 2012 will see the return of Max Payne. And he’s a changed man.
A little recap: originally a New York cop, at the start of the first game Max’s wife and child were killed in a break-in related to one of his cases. He did fall in love again, but she was murdered in the finale of the second game.
For Max Payne 3, a painkiller-dependent, shaven-headed Max has relocated to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and is working in Man On Fire-style personal security. Our exclusive first look consisted of three levels — the first of which was set while he was still living in the US. Max is forced to fight his way out of his flat as the Mob boss father of a man he killed turns up with a small army to take revenge.
The original Max Payne was a third-person shooter that popularised ‘bullet time’ in video games. It returns here, allowing you to pull off impressive acrobatics as you launch yourself into the air in slow motion and pick off your enemies before you hit the ground. In the demo we were shown, Max leapt head-first over a balcony into a stairwell, initially twisting left to shoot a man coming up the stairs, then turning a full 180 degrees to shoot an enemy on the floor below, before landing on his back.
We also saw two levels set in Sao Paulo — one a shootout in an office building, the other in a bus depot. Here we saw how the environment can be used to your advantage, as a couple of carefully aimed shots brought a bus, which had been lifted to be worked on by a mechanic, crashing down on Max’s adversaries.
With its flashy effects and cinematics as you kill your final enemy, Max Payne 3 is big on style. But, with its thrilling gun battles, detailed environments and Max’s noir-style inner monologue, it looks to have the substance nailed too.
Max Payne 3 is released in March 2012 on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360