PAX East 2012

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  • Max Payne 3 Preview

    7 April 2012 | Written by Maxxum

    In preparing for events like PAX, I try to avoid viewing information regarding new games to be released so I can maintain my surprise and enthusiasm when I see something unexpected. So, when I saw that Max Payne 3 is being released in waves starting May 15, I was probably the only photojournalist in attendance to whom this information was new, and I received a number of a quizzical looks when I confessed to being entirely in the dark about the game.

    After waiting an hour in line for the MP3 booth, I was able to test the PC edition of the game, and was coached by one of Rockstar's marketing coordinators during gameplay. However, rather than playing, for the first few minutes I inspected the game's graphics since it was immediately evident that there was a substantial amount of effort put into the detail of the game's environment. The coordinator we'll call "R," asked what I was doing as I stopped to peer around the level. "Oh, you're looking at the graphics - a lot of time was spent working on the details," he says as he seemed to realize that I'm here to review the game as more than a fan.

    R explains that Rockstar developed the version for each platform separately to avoid the problems associated with porting. Good news for gamers, but I was still distracted with the game's visuals. I zoom-in on a keyhole; no tumblers, but the internal casting is visible - I see R grinning as I point out that fact. Satisfied, I proceed with murdering AI.

    While still not on the level of a human, the AI does take steps to ensure its survival: hiding behind obstacles, making coordinated flanking maneuvers, using surprise. However, the AI wasn't particularly aggressive. During combat, it's possible for Max Payne to fall on his back, and to fire from that position - which would be a good time for an opponent to change angles and attack, but the AI didn't capitalize on this, and I was able to kill multiple stationary AI's from a supine position - it's definitely cool, but not realistic. Since this was a programmed demo, we had no way of knowing what difficulty level the game was using, so I leave this out as an observation that may or may not be dependent on game settings.

    R tells me the game has tried to stay true to its roots (controls are the same), with a number of key improvements in the area of gameplay. The first change is that deaths can be caused through overwhelming damage, or instantly; it's entirely dependent on where one is shot. The second important change is that if one is not instantly killed, but on the verge of death, and any part of the enemy who took the final shot is visible, you can shoot that AI during a slow-mo sequence and live - and, I do mean any part. In making a successful bid to live, I shot an opponent's toe underneath a banner.

    During one slow-mo survival sequence, I noticed something unusual and approached the dead body of an AI... and, shot him. The body moved appropriately, and a new bullet hole was visible, as were the objects of my previous observation; answering two questions with this seemingly unnecessary mutilation of a corpse. R seemed confused (maybe even a bit disturbed?), and asked what I was looking for. "There are bulging veins on this character's arms, and you can see hairs here too," I replied. "Oh, yes - all of the character textures have been improved." Further still, I could see fine creases in the AI's palm - we both marveled at that for a second. Then he tells me, "Shoot the glass over there and see what happens." Predictably, it shattered, however the pattern varied depending on angle, and impact location.

    If "details" weren't the dev team's guiding principle, "OCD" certainly would be, and to great effect. The game was fun and immersive. While not giving away any secrets, when I asked R how many hours of gameplay to expect, he said that he had played the entire game, and that it wasn't a quick play, but he couldn't give me specific numbers. He further explained that while some of the humor from the previous game was still present, it would be in smaller doses compared to the last, and that more emphasis had been placed on the story driven drama.

    From a technical perspective, I can recommend this game without reservation. Whether or not the plot will be engaging remains to be seen; that assessment will largely be dependent on the gamer once the game hits shelves.

    End of line.