Max Payne 3 set for Winter release

People have been talking about a third Max Payne game for years, but news that Rockstar Vancouver were actually working on one had totally passed me by.

It’s set for a Winter 2009 release, on PC, PS3 and XBox 360. Formally announced in March, screenshots are starting to trickle out now, and it’s looking nice:

Max Payne 3 Screenshot 1

Yeah, it’s looking nice… but it doesn’t look like Max. “Max Payne 3” is set twelve years after the events of the second game, and a lot has changed. Everything about Max’s appearance, for a start, and the characteristic New York noir locale:

“(Max is) visibly older, more violent, and more world-weary from the events of his own life. Having left the NYPD, Max has been taking odd jobs in security and consulting, and when we find him he is providing personal protection for a wealthy family in Sao Paolo, one of the world’s deadliest and most crime-ridden cities.”

All of which sounds intriguing, and Brazil is an intriguing place to find Max. He’s obviously in the “Man On Fire” phase of his life – American heroes tend to go to South America to die, and if any character in fandom more fits a death-wish, it’s him.

Max Payne 3 Screenshot 2

The screenshots look the part, too, but then, that’s what you’d expect from a Rockstar game.

It’s probably going to be an awesome game.

But it’s probably obvious that there’s going to be a “but”…

Story-wise, there’s a point at which a character or setting in a series is changed so much that they might as well have just started from scratch. It’s the “Lethal Weapon 3” phase, where Riggs is no longer an actual lunatic, but just a quite zany cop, or “Live Free Or Die Hard”, in which John McClane, no longer in the business of running from attack helicopters, wrestles a fighter jet out of the sky. It’s those secret, thankfully lost episodes of “Magnum PI”, where Tom Selleck investigates his way into a new career as a teacher in inner city New York, or that season of “The A Team” that nobody seems to talk about, where every week they were either fighting some supernatural menace, or have a guest star ‘playing themself’.

(Ok, I may have gone off track a bit there).

Max Payne 3 Screenshot 3

Now, Max is no longer a beaten down, trenchcoat wearing undercover cop in the noirest city on earth. He’s a vest wearing, mercenary-style bearded hard-man – it’s no accident that I thought of John McClane – in a dusty, scorched poverty trap. Old Max lived in the shadows, but new Max operates in a place where there literally aren’t any, and I have to wonder whether the contrast will make the franchise irrelevant.

Admittedly, it’s a natural evolution for the character, but there’s a problem with pinning too much on character in a game like this, where the player plays the character first-hand: no matter how much good work you do on the story, there will always be more of the player in the experience than there is the written character. That’s why Gordon Freeman doesn’t talk, and most of the time FPS games don’t bother with any real characterisation. So while the other Max Payne games were about an undercover cop on the edge, they were more about being able to run around places in New York, blowing away bad guys.

Also, “Max Payne” was a massively influential game, and for better or worse, several first and third person action games have borrowed heavily from its gameplay mechanics and aesthetics – most notably the awesome slo-mo – sorry, bullet-time – action, and the bleakness of tone. “Max Payne 2” followed soon enough after that it wasn’t swamped by the wave of similar games, but it’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, will make “MP3” stand out from the crowd.

Max Payne 3 Screenshot 4

It sounds like I’m not excited about this game, but that’s because I’m intensely excited about this game. The earlier games delivered super-addictive gameplay, some glorious and still memorable action set-pieces, and a comic-and-genre savvy black humour to them that was just superbly delivered. They also had infuriating nightmare sequences that still creep me out a little when I think about them.

In a very real way, I can’t wait to hear his gravelly, ridiculous voice-over again.

GS Reporter: Nick!

Source: Max Payne 3 Official Site

2 comments

  1. Kinda reminds me of those movies based on old characters such as Starsky & Hutch where the new movie bares absolutely no resemblance to the old stuff – they may as well have called it Peter and Paul.

    Also although not a big game, I played the original Max Payne and loved, was the 2nd any good?

    • It took me a bit of playing to get used to Max Payne 2 – the gameplay was just as good as the first, but graphically it was just that little bit slicker and crisper, which doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but it threw me. I’d thought the original was a beautiful looking game, with some nice rough and blurry edges, so being able to see everything so clearly was odd.

      There were a couple of much bigger set-pieces in it, too, which were great to play, but felt a little bit “Die Hard 2” as far as the franchise went – too big for Max, if you know what I mean.

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