Back In Bullet Time: Max Payne 3

He is back. With practiced bravado.
We sent Agent Smee back to Rockstar HQ with another mission: to uncover Max Payne 3. This is what he found.

First things first. The main meat of the game may be set in Brazil, but the preview begins familiarly enough with Max trapped under gunfire in his shambles of a New York apartment, a furious mafia mob boss screaming Max’s name hysterically into the winter night’s air in a nasal Italian-American accent. It’s unmistakably Max Payne, complete with battered trench coat and crap tie. The sudden attack interrupts him from drowning his sorrows in a whisky bottle, the mafia thugs positioned at the end of the corridor shooting out his windows. But Max is unconcerned as he’s basking in the impervious safety of a cover system, hunched up to the side of his front door, gun in hand.

So yes, Max Payne 3 is going to have a cover system, Rockstar apparently not trusting us to position ourselves behind a wall without wanting to engage in a passionate embrace with the plaster. It’s a sad sight to see such a classic hero of twitchy action gaming cowering behind a doorframe, peaking out to pop off a few timid shots at the men a few doors down. I let out a quiet sigh. “Oh dear,” I think to myself. “It’s going to be one of those games.” Slouching down in one of Rockstar’s plush sofas I resign myself to disappointment. Then Max uproots from his drywall home, turns the corner into the corridor, begins running toward the hitmen and slams into bullet time.

Slam being the operative word: the bass oomph of the bullet time effect roars out of the sub-woofer and punches me in the gut, colour saturation bleeding the world into a hyper-focused sensory rush as Max pounds along the corridor in glorious slow-motion, no cover in sight, firing his gun at the underworld thugs as he weaves side to side, their bullets whizzing haplessly past his shoulders as a rippling trail follows his movement. The corridor cleared of enemies, Max warps out of bullet time, quickly bending down to pick up an uzi off a dispatched foe before turning to shoot out the corridor windows to focus on thugs on the rooftops. Max steps back and launches himself bodily into his infamous bullet dodge, the sound again dropping bass-note deep, the high pitched chattering of the uzi in his hand dealing out swift explosive death to the rooftop goons and I’m sitting forwards in my chair, leaning closer to the screen, eyes wide. When did that happen?

The audio is incredible. Most flashy triple-A titles make me feel like it’s time to upgrade my PC, but this makes me want to buy an entirely new set of speakers and bask in surround sound heaven. The chaos that bursts forth, the symphony of crisp gun mechanisms chattering as the air flies with bullets: Max Payne 3 is looking and sounding seriously good. It’s running on a totally overhauled Rage engine with Euphoria animation confidently plugged in. Aided by this technology, Max now seems aware of the environment, positioning his body as he runs and dodges in a strikingly believable fashion. Even when leaping straight into a wall, Max’ll bend his back to protect his head before he connects and falls in an undignified heap on the floor. Though I should watch what I say about that – Max can now lie there quite comfortably shooting his guns at any poor fool who had the tenacity to not die during Max’s slow motion dive.

Perhaps to toy with me, the Rockstar rep playing doesn’t take cover again for more than half a second during the entire demonstration, instead relying on bullet time and physical placement to do the covering for him. You know, like back when games expected you to be able to take out a dozen enemies coming from different entry points on multiple elevations without having to hiding behind a chest high wall and sucking your thumb waiting for your health to regenerate if you so much as bruised your little finger. Because there’s no regenerating health here either, crunching painkillers like in the original games the only way to regain health. Max is actually addicted to painkillers now, though that wasn’t present in any specific dialogue I saw during the demo.

Some concessions to modern expectations are rather more prominent: Max can only carry two guns with him at any time, three at a push: wearing a double pistol holster around his chest, Max can pick up and dual wield any pistol-sized guns he finds, mixing and matching when the situation arises. Picking up a two handed gun like a shotgun holsters the two pistols, and if they’re reselected, Max unceremoniously drops the shotgun to the floor. If just one of the handguns is selected however, Max carries around the shotgun in his other hand, ready if you want it back. I’ll grudgingly admit its realistic behaviour, and being able to see Max physically holding whatever guns you’ve picked up around his person during the in-game cutscenes is a continuity that is pleasing and one usually all too lacking in games.

All the same, it’s great to see Max back, dealing with crazy New York mobsters. He’s not a fresh slate however, as the Max we’re presented with is nothing more than a worthless drunk with a storied past, no longer a police detective but an unemployed hack who spends his days stumbling from bar to bar. The performance is given unusual clarity from James McCaffrey, who has provided the voice of Max for all three games but is featured here in Max Payne 3 as the full McCaffery experience: the voice, the basis of Max’s facial appearance and also the full-body motion captured performance. The Rockstar rep on hand enthused at the lengths they had gone to achieve the effect, building the in-game levels at full scale as motion capture sets only part of the development.

McCaffrey is immediately believable as Max, presenting a haggard man who just wants to crawl away and hide from any responsibility. With him in the apartment before the mafia turn up is an old NYPD friend who works private security for the rich, and is counting on their past friendship to help convince Max to join him in this new line of work. The reasons why aren’t apparent, much of the story spoilers having been removed from the demo, but nevermind that because we’re going to Brazil.

A quick load of the new level away and we’re in Sao Paulo, for a level set in and around a sunlit bus depot. This is late in the game, and Max has already undergone his transformation into a baldy beardy string vest wearing action hero, complete with a couple of mildly outrageous muscled arms. Combined with the daylight, background Portuguese dialogue and sunny location, the effect is somewhat jarring, to be honest. The only way I’d have known it was Max Payne if I wasn’t already familiar with the look is due to McCaffery’s constant hardboiled narration, though the first cutscene’s particular presentation helps. Rendered in-game, it’s nevertheless an unmistakable comic book panel layout, freeze framing Max with dialogue overlaid as onscreen text. It feels good, looks good too, a stylish opening to the level.

Here there’s the added worry of an escort. Max is with the girlfriend of his partner in Brazil, the fellow who was meeting Max in his apartment back in New York, and they’re both on the run from a private military company for spoileriffic reasons. The action returns, louder than before and Max immediately looks more at home with the location. The unrelenting shooting moves from wide open parking lots to claustrophobic offices to cluttered maintenance bays, and every single environment is an eye candy treat. It’s a bright game, to be sure, the Brazilian setting popping with colour. Obvious care has been taken with the environment as the bus depot feels real, the spaces existing not for a video game but how a bus station should be laid out. It all feels lived in and used.

The PMC lackeys are co-ordinated in their attacks, in a way that the New York mobsters weren’t. They move from cover to cover, trying to flank Max. They’re very almost his match, too – those of you who played the first two games might remember the unforgiving damage enemies dealt out if you didn’t dodge them quickly enough, and the same looks true here. The demo wasn’t running with developer cheats on, there was no cheeky spawning of extra painkillers and the seasoned Rockstar rep still only just managed to scrape through most of the battles, constantly running out of pills. The fights were tense affairs, Max’s godlike powers only just giving him a slight edge over the groups of soldiers coming after him and the screaming girlfriend. Who, it must be said, hid herself between cutscenes, so at least there was no worrying about looking after her while the air was filled with lead. With constant cajoling from Max to move and running around like a headless chicken during those cutscenes however, Mona Sax she ain’t.

In a standout moment during a cutscene, Max and the girlfriend are on a high walkway above the bus maintenance bay and a squadron of goons burst in through the door below. Resuming Max’s viewpoint, the game punches into slow-motion as he automatically leaps out off the walkway to grab onto a crane’s hook, swinging through the air with an uzi in hand, dispatching all oncoming foes. There’ll be little cinematic sequences like this peppered throughout the game, from big showoffy ones likes like to a small one I saw soon after, the girlfriend in mortal danger from a lone soldier and Max leaping out of a cutscene to allow the player to smoothly execute him in slow motion.

Interactive cinematics over, he pops to his feet and resumes battling the backup, running in and out of buses and one time shooting out a lift to drop a bus on one particularly unlucky man. Max and his companion make their final escape during a dramatic hotwiring of a parked bus, the girlfriend driving while Max leans out the door like a crazed conductor armed with an assault rifle. It’s an explosive sequence, but it’s as on-rails as an on-rails vehicle section can be.

But that’s no matter. It’s clear that the shooting has retained the original games’ unique sense of twitchy danger, the presentation just dialled up to hyperactive modern standards. Cover and chest high walls are present but could evidently be easily ignored. Max’s hardboiled narration is there, bullet time is definitely making its presence known and Max is just as messed up as ever. The weapon restrictions is a concern, but from what I’ve seen even in sunny Brazil Max Payne is still Max Payne. Rockstar have, more than anything, managed to get the feel of Max’s grumpy gunplay right, and they didn’t even have to eat the flesh of any fallen angels to do so.

Max Payne 3 is slated for an early-to-mid 2012 release.


  1. simoroth says:

    This article has caused the entire of twitter to explode in a fountain of bile. :D

    I don’t need to hide behind a crate in bullet time.

    • Andrew Smee says:

      Woah there. As I say in the article, almost no cover was used during the entire demo. The Rockstar rep was adamant that you can play the whole game without ever going into cover.

    • Doesn'tmeananything says:

      And in any case cover system isn’t intrinsically a bad game mechanic. It’s just that most implementations of it are horrendous.

      Add to that the fact that it isn’t quite possible to judge whether Max Payne adheres to the ‘standard’ or not, and that player seems to have the possibility to completely disregard hugging walls and crates.

      That twitter guy sure is touchy.

    • simoroth says:

      I’m really looking forward to the game, don’t get me wrong. :)

      Just additions like that smack of design by focus group, and we all know what that leads to. Not to mention a cover system, however minor, requires balancing and will probably lead to subtle changes in the core gameplay and pacing. Cover based shooting is the polar opposite of MP’s flowing gunplay…

    • Bull0 says:

      On harder difficulties it was often fairly necessary in Max Payne 1 and 2 to stand behind cover waiting for the right opportunity to do your stuff. Only difference with this is that now he’ll be leaning against said wall instead of standing facing it, staring intently at the paint job, which is both more cinematic and realistic. Presumably you’ll be able to blind fire round corners and stuff, too.

      As long as it hasn’t affected the level design (and as it’s all basically realistic locations as with the originals, I highly doubt it has) I’m having a really hard time giving a shit that it has a cover system now. I also don’t subscribe to the COVER SYSTEMS ARE THE OPPOSITE OF GAMING and COVER SYSTEMS MEAN YOU HAVE NO SPATIAL AWARENESS and COVER SYSTEMS ARE TIED TO REGENERATING HEALTH WHEN WE WANT THEM TO BE FOR THE PURPOSES OF HATING COVER SYSTEMS stuff either but the way they’re handled in the article reflects the way seemingly every internet commentator also sees it, and I’d rather just not let myself in for the grief

    • Dervish says:


      I dunno, is he doing the 180-degree, back-up-against-the-wall, let’s-face-the-opposite-direction-of-the-enemy thing? Still could be stylish though.

    • mollemannen says:

      the cover mechanic should be automatic I.e if crouch behind a wall i can feel safe i’m enough hidden so i don’t get shot.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Max Payne used to dance a beautiful whirling dance of slow-motion bullets. An elegiac ballet of death and black powder, in which his enemies tumbled to their end amid a fountain of lead.

      But he’s old now, and not so fit, and needs a cover system so he can take a moment to catch his breath.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      As long as the cover arrangements don’t immediately predict how and where the next fight is coming at you the second you enter a room (ME2) then I’m fine with it.

    • Fox89 says:

      …It’s Max Payne! The fights are in EVERY room!

    • abigbat says:

      cover systems make perfect sense in action games; the only difference between locking to cover and poking out to shoot and the traditional approach (running behind a pillar then running out again) is that the former is considerably more realistic and cinematic.

    • lith says:

      “Realistic and cinematic”? There’s a contradiction in terms if I ever saw one.

    • Bull0 says:

      I politely disagree. Bourne Identity’s car crashes: realistic and cinematic.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      @abigbat: There’s an enormous difference to pacing, speed of movement, the area you can effectively attack. Cover systems encourage a slower, more deliberate approach to combat, and the player will usually cover a smaller area when moving about.

      Cover systems emphasise not getting shot by virtue of being in cover. If you don’t have a cover system, you avoid getting shot by movement, positioning, and (especially in Max Payne) dodging.

      Have you played Max Payne 2? There’s a fluidity to the combat similar to that of UT or Q3 Arena, which you just don’t get with cover systems. It’s less realistic than a cover system could be—though most are quite unrealistic in other ways—but is much more cinematic (a dreadful word).

      It’s the difference between this scene from Heat: link to, and this scene from The Matrix: link to
      Given its heritage, does anyone really think Max Payne 3 should be less like the latter?

    • Fox89 says:

      There is such a thing as a happy medium. Honestly, even in the Matrix scene they take cover from time to time. If the concept of ‘shooting over a wall’ gets to you that much then don’t use the system! Max Payne is a game obviously designed around crazy slow-mo bullet dodging first, cover second for when you’re out of Painkillers and low on ammo.

    • Bull0 says:

      @IronGlove I… really don’t remember MP2 being like UT or Quake at all.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      @Bull0 For the most part it wasn’t. In the way movement+shooting would flow together, it was—though much slower as a result of bullet time.

      @Fox89 A game designed with a cover system is, inevitably, designed to use that cover system to some extent. This is because a cover system has broad-ranging effects on how combat plays out. “Just don’t use it” is usually not a viable strategy (take DXHR for example—I did a playthrough without using the cover system, stepping in and out/crouching and standing behind objects for natural cover instead. It rarely worked well without a lot of quicksaving).

      Having a cover system is not going to make Max Payne 3 a bad game. But it will mean the combat is going to work differently. I don’t know yet (I haven’t seen any footage, let alone actually tried it) if it will retain the attributes I liked from the combat in Max Payne 2, and (to a lesser degree) Max Payne.

  2. fiddlesticks says:

    Is that Nick from Left 4 Dead 2?

    • Jesse L says:

      No, in picture 5 at least it’s clearly Abe Lincoln.

    • Asskicker says:

      He indeed looks so much like Nick! I was wondering where I recognized his face from.

    • oldfart says:

      I always wondered what happened to Father Grigori after Gordon Freeman left Ravenholm.

    • fallingmagpie says:

      You are all wrong. Clearly it’s Michael Madsen.

    • int says:

      I actually thought Nick always looked a lot like Max. Which is why I play him most.

  3. magnus says:

    He looks confused in the top picture, he probably doesn’t know which wrist to snog this time.

  4. Shooop says:

    crunching painkillers like in the original games the only way to regain health


    Payne was one of the first game protagnists to use pills for health, it should be tradition.

  5. coldvvvave says:

    I don’t get the negative reaction of the community. If there is a community and not just some vocal minority of gamers who remember Max Payne as a “best turn based strategy since X-com”( see Syndicate ‘community’).

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      Max Payne 3 uses squares instead of hexes? No sale Rockstar.

    • Doesn'tmeananything says:

      Talk about dumbing down and catering to those God-forsaken consoles!

      I think most people are displeased with the change of tone. There’s sunlight, distinct lack of hair in Max’s appearance and it feels like there’s less accent on him story-wise.

      Personally I’m just upset because Sam Lake is not involved in development. At least they got James McCaffrey, that is some consolation.

    • Bull0 says:

      Hair cuts don’t equal tone. Even sunlight doesn’t really equal tone. They’ve kept the same pace, same characters, same actor, they’ve even kept the comic panels thing, but all you care about is a hair cut and a set change.

      We don’t and probably never will see eye to eye.

      Also, FYI: Sam Lake isn’t involved in the development because Sam Lake works for another studio. They just spent five years making Alan Wake.

    • Fox89 says:

      And Alan Wake was a huge letdown as far as I’m concerned. Sam Lake is not the be all and end all of good writing, and I think Rockstar have shown over the years that they’re more than capable.

    • Doesn'tmeananything says:

      @Bull0 Way to attribute things to me that I haven’t claimed were my opinions. Still, though, in a highly self-contained style of the series even the smallest details speak volumes. They at least signify a shift while not being the stylistic pillars of the game.

      And I know why Sam Lake isn’t on the development team. Making me feel like a child here, Jeez.

      @Fox89 It’s not the literary prowess of Mr. Lake that is important here. It’s his distinctive way of writing, at least for the first two games. For all the good and the bad it was consistently enjoyable overall and made the games feel unique.

      Also, I’ve never found Rockstar attempts at more serious approach to writing any good. For them, I think, it’s the zanier, the better.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I agree with Mr Mean-Anything. And given the trailer released recently, that sunny setting and burly melon-muscle-arms job really has crippled the tone; the dramatic, brooding theme music was at complete odds with the visuals, whereas it worked beautifully with the frozen New York nights.

    • Bull0 says:

      If you know why he’s not involved then I don’t understand why you’re “upset” about it. I can’t understand that view, which is why I assumed you didn’t know about what he’s up to now, hence I tried to inform. I wasn’t trying to patronise you, and I’m sorry I made you feel “like a child”.

      But yes, I guess my reading comprehension needs a tune-up, because you weren’t saying you thought the tone was gone because of the haircut and sunshine, you were saying some people think the tone is gone because of the haircut and sunshine.

      Hmm… wait a minute… functionally the same. I think bemoaning a changed tone (particularly in a videogame) on the basis of a haircut and some sunshine is laughable; you are regurtitating it as a valid point of view so you obviously uphold its validity.

      I’m standing by my original comment, on this basis. Doesn’t mean we can’t all be friends here.

    • Doesn'tmeananything says:

      It’s phenomenal world we live in, where being aware of reasons behind something automatically makes people feel okay about that.

      Anyway, I’ve pointed out the hair bit somewhat facetiously in my first comment, but it’s just the most prominent part about Max’s appearance that’s been changed. Isn’t the complete overhaul of the protagonist at least hints at some stylistic changes? As probably does ‘sunshine’ in a game that’s part of the series which never seen sunlight before. Constant night with snow and rain did play a vital role in creating that special atmosphere.

      Have you even played the previous games?

    • Bull0 says:

      Yes thanks, but I think the tone was established more by the plot and dialogue and music and phototextured art style than by Mr. Payne’s wardrobe or the weather. Cheers now

    • Doesn'tmeananything says:

      Yes, let’s dismiss character design and setting.

      Why would we do that again?

      They, as I’ve said, may not be cornerstones in this particular case but still pretty indicative. Consequently, they are interconnected with and dragged forward by all those other things that create the tone for you. If the latter change, the former do too. But they all play a part, however minor that could be. At this point some are just more noticeable than the others.

    • coldvvvave says:

      Character design and overall tone changed dramatically between first and second one. Dramatically. Hell, they changed Max appearence far more than Rockstar did. Almost without timeskip too.

    • Unaco says:

      You do realise Max wore a Hawaiian shirt throughout the entirety of the original game, right?

    • Bull0 says:

      *leans back, cackling maniacally while doing the finger pyramid of evil*

    • aerozol says:

      Bull0, is it possible that the ‘tone’ is gone because of sunshine? (as you so disparagingly put it) SHIT YES! This is Max Payne!
      Time will tell, but that you’re surprised that fans of the originals are sceptical, based on these shots (is he smiling in the top shot?)- that’s weird.

    • Bull0 says:

      I feel like we’ve covered this. There’s just so much more to the general texture and tone of the series than people are making out. Besides, personally what we’ve seen of 3 feels like the next step in a series, rather than just rehashing what has gone before. We’ve established there’s a good plot thread that sees Max head for sunnier climes – if you want to visit exclusively the same locations of the first 2 games, you’re in luck, because nobody’s stopping you playing them again!

    • aerozol says:

      I have, and will continue to, thanks for the permission!
      It looks (you really have no business talking about feel, since you haven’t played it yet) like ‘a’ next step, sure. ‘The’ next step? That really depends on the player. Music and Locale, however, (based on what I’ve seen and heard) are both leaps. And honestly, the setting and Max’s grimace really were a huge part of the game. All of it, of course not, but integral nonetheless.
      I’m sure it will be great, but this is a game that wasn’t asking for drastic changes. You can’t blame fans for being skeptical.

    • Bull0 says:

      I’m not allowed to have feelings about a game until I’ve played it?

      So if they announce that Half-Life 3 will be a zombie game and gordon freeman isn’t in it, I’m not allowed to hate it?

      TL,DR: we’re using the term differently. I’m not using it “wrong”.

    • aerozol says:

      No, then you can, but if it’s cell-shaded, and set entirely in space, don’t bother.

  6. woodsey says:

    Will be interesting to see whether or not the inclusion of NY levels will simply make me pine for those even more, as well as whether or not Rockstar’s chronic pacing issues persist in a linear game.

    Does sound good though.

  7. fallingmagpie says:

    I live in Sao Paulo, and I can confirm that the buses look just like that one.

    I wonder what bus depot they used. Probably Anhangabaú, that’s got a lot of high walkways.

    • gokya says:

      Thats weird.
      I also live in Sao Paulo and i think this bus is not that similar with the type of bus we have around here. (Sao paulo’s bus)

      They look more like a MTA bus (mta bus).

      Not that i care. Im already happy just to have a rockstar game in sao paulo

    • Kornetoff says:

      Yep, the bus… doesnt seen like our bus.
      But, anyways, i also live here and i am really looking forward to see Mr. Payne wreaking havoc in our city. Which could be very nicely made. Hope to see some real São Paulo during gameplay!

    • Nalano says:

      Those NYC MTA buses you linked are some old-ass buses. We’ve long since abandoned them.

  8. Sinkytown says:

    I think a cover-system can make for engaging, tactically interesting gunfights. Not sure why there’s such a backlash?

    • Jesse L says:

      Internet = backlash. At this point I think it’s better to ignore it rather than engage. It’s just a feature the “community” will manifest around any sequel.

      When did the internet turn into my grandpa? Things change, gramps! Get used to it!

      Edited to add content: sounds great. I wanted to skip this one purely because I enjoyed the special non-canon ending from the highest difficulty of Max Payne 2. Max has been so miserable for so long I’d like to end with him on a happy note…but I guess if the shooting is still good, I’d still like to do the shooting.

    • yourgrandma says:

      sitting behind cover and point/click enemies isn’t fun nor max payne’s style. Dodging bullets like raindrops is way the max payne it’s supposed to be played.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Alternatively, we could ignore the kids who don’t know how things used to be but just assume that it was shit and that everything newer is automatically better.

    • Bull0 says:

      He didn’t say “it’s automatically better”. He said “it makes for more engaging and tactically interesting gunfights.” You can agree or disagree with him but saying “He’s a child who just assumes new = better and we should ignore him” is an embarassment to everyone here. We’re all dumber for having read it, etc.

    • LionsPhil says:

      When did the internet turn into my grandpa? Things change, gramps! Get used to it!

      If you’re going to try to be the self-righteous arbitrator of other people’s disputes, Bull0, at least try to read them.

    • Jesse L says:

      Same to you, Phil. I didn’t say newer = better either. I said ‘new things happen’. Sequels introduce new gameplay elements. Change happens. Give it a chance.

      The whining about cover systems is especially egregious in this case because Smee goes out of his way to say that, as far as we can tell right now, this is an optional system. I trust his judgment. He’s seen the game, we haven’t.

    • Bull0 says:

      I’m making it my dispute because I agree with him. It’s a gameplay issue that’s treated a bit heavy-handedly in the article and as a result I’m interested in discussing it with people. That’s the nature of group discussion. I obviously read the thread because other than missing that one use of “gramps”, I’d addressed the issue – and your snarky dismissal of it – pretty accurately. Luckily when you’re just snarkily dismissing things you don’t actually need to be thorough, so by all means rather than debate the issue just go ad-hominem and attack my reading ability and accuse me of making myself the “self-righteous arbiter of other peoples’ disputes”.

      Really I’m quite surprised at you

    • Shooop says:

      Max Payne though has never been about tactical, realistic gunfights. It’s about how the Rockstar guy played it for Andrew: diving in slow-motion, shooting two guns at once.

      As long as you can do that, it’s all good.

    • Bull0 says:

      There’s always been tactics involved, as with any game, but I don’t think anyone’s making the claim that it should be “realistic” – I did say somewhere earlier that cover mechanics add a level of realism, but I really only meant in a cinematic sense – real gunfights bear little resemblance to what we see here, cover clinging or not – I’m not advocating a change in approach, but cinematically Max Payne’s always been about hollywood/hong kong blood opera action to me and those dudes duck behind walls to reload and catch a breath all the time. Think “Replacement Killers” rather than “The Matrix” and you won’t be far wrong

    • Nalano says:

      Max Payne was about playing a John Woo-style protagonist in a hard-boiled noir comic. He doesn’t HIDE from bullets. He DODGES them.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Have you actually seen any John woo films? Taking cover and reloading while the wall behind you disintegrates from enemy fire before diving out and shooting them is perfect woo action.

    • Nick says:

      Yeah, to be fair, cover plays an integral part in John Woo films, take Hard Boiled.. the tea room scene alone has lots of uses of pillars, tables and boothes as cover: link to

    • Bull0 says:

      Incidentally the tea house shootout from hard boiled is about the best thing that ever was, in any medium or sphere you care to mention

    • LennyLeonardo says:


      Finally, something everyone can agree with. Well done sir.

  9. sinister agent says:

    Addicted to painkillers now? He ate enough of them to kill a moose in the first game alone. It’d be a major surprise if he wasn’t addicted to them. Hell, he’s doing well to limit to just that.

    Sounds like a bit of compromise between the original’s style and a games industry that’s moved on, which is arguably a good thing. More of the same would have probably got pretty boring.

    • Jesse L says:

      Also, the old games are still good. If you like them (I like them VERY much) you can still play them, etc. etc.

  10. Fox89 says:

    Excellent! Looks good. I don’t mind there being a cover system at all as long as it doesn’t break up the core Max Payne gunplay. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of tense cover-peeking and shooting when you’ve used all your Painkillers and there are 12 guys with sawed-off shotguns down the corridor.

    Pleased painkillers are in, I was hoping they would be. The guns limit is a minor gripe but not one I’m too worried about. It sounds like they’ve done it to highlight the idea of Max being a guy who does things on the edge, using whatever tools he happens to find lying around to get the job done. And as much as I liked having a huge arsenal in the first two games, I did end up feeling a bit overpowered towards the end. Even on the harder difficulties on the original game, once you had a Colt Commando, backed up with a Jackhammer and Dual Ingrams for when you were out of ammo for everything else… it was a bit ridiculous.

  11. Khemm says:

    The recently released trailer did nothing for me. Didn’t feel like Max Payne at all and they tried HARD by adding the old music. It looked like GTA Sao Paulo, and had lame voice acting.
    It’s surprising that Andrew feels otherwise, but maybe that trailer was just misleading.

  12. Perkelnik says:

    Great article, Im officialy hyped. I think its a nice touch that they did the shift from old MP games as is described, not just “ok this is max payne, hes just bald and shooting men in brazil whatever f*ck you”

    I really want Rockstar to pull this one off, Max Payne is my favourite game series.

    Oh one thing, can you combine various weapons, like uzi + desert eagle, or is it as it was in previous games?

    • Andrew Smee says:

      Any one-handed weapon can be dual wielded with any other one-handed weapon. Uzi + Deagle is possible.

  13. Rao Dao Zao says:

    Does the top picture remind anyone else of Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet?

  14. The Pink Ninja says:

    You know MP2 is one of my all time fave games and God knows I don’t want every game to have regenerating health (Removes jepody) or a cover system (I can assign duck to it’s own key quite easily) but I have to say, those things exist for a reason. I never played MP2 on any difficulty but the lowest because I struggled to survive even then.

    There wasn’t enough health for me to fight any way but turning on bullet time, walking from behind a corner, blasting away then walking back in again until my bullet time recharged. If a bad guy caught me by suprise in act two or three they could do half health damage or more before I could take them out and I’d be left to choose whether to hope I could replace my pain pill losses and no get caught in an unwinnable situation or to quickload. It was exspecially painful in the starts of act two and three when my carefully hoarded pills are stolen along with my good guns.

    Same problem with The Binding of Isaac: I know it’s supposed to be hard but the rarity of healing items is just annoying. I lose by attrition, the hyper careful required to avoid any hits sucks the fun out of a game where fast replay is method. Besides which there will always be a couple of those sorts of rooms where you can’t avoid getting a good hiding.

    Personally I prefer how HL2 handles it: You can get hit a lot but be sure there will be health after the next set piece. You’re not hyper careful but not careless either. I’d prefer it if TBOI gave you a full restore after every boss.

    As for MP? Not sure how you’d fix it. I felt the shortage of health, pills and bullet time together limited my fun. I couldn’t play it cool and awesome, storming through crowds of guys because sooner rather than later I run out of one of those nesscessities and die. I wish infinite bullet time was at least an option. I think a lot of games would be more fun if they gave you a greater set of optional settings for those who wanted them.

    That said, screw a cover system for MP. You’re supposed to dive out there, coat flapping and dodging bullets, not pretend you’re in a shooting gallery or Time Crisis.

  15. Inigo says:

    It’s running on a totally overhauled Rage engine with Euphoria animation confidently plugged in.

    Turning circle of a lorry, then?

    • Ross Angus says:

      So Max Payne uses the Rage engine, and Rage uses ID Tech4? I’m confused.

    • Persus-9 says:

      You’re almost right but Rage uses id Tech 5. Doom 3, Prey, Brink et al were id Tech 4.

      Perhaps the engine RAGE should be written in capital letters since it’s an acronym. Although that looks ugly and slightly weird like the writer has suddenly become apoplectic with anger mid-sentence.

    • Moni says:

      Max Payne 3 runs on the Rage engine, not to be confused with Rage, which runs on the id Tech 5 engine, which is capable of some unreal environments, not to be confused with Unreal, which runs on the Unreal engine.

    • LionsPhil says:

      That confused me momentarily, too—“so it’ll have abysmal texture pop-in, then?”

      Clearly someone needs to sue someone else. This is twenty-billion times the confusion of “Scrolls”.

    • Eukatheude says:

      I’m on the very EDGE of total confusion.

  16. Unaco says:

    Sounds good. Sounds like Max Payne, with more. Nothing wrong with an optional cover system… no regenerating health… comic panel cutscenes… hard boiled voice-over/narration… painkillers… dual wielding… bullet time… diving… open and claustrophobic locations… masses of enemies from multiple directions.

    I just wonder what the people will find to complain about? It’s not a Max Payne game without Mona Sax, maybe?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Well, given there was very little Mona in MP1…

      However the “girlfriend” they’ve shoehorned into this sounds, uh, completely awful.

    • Unaco says:

      You mean, the girlfriend of Max’s friend, who it appears Max is escorting in 1 or more levels? Yeah, sounds terrible from the 1 or 2 sentences Andrew described her in. Awful. And she’s going to be hanging around you, getting in the way, giving away your position the whole game… terrible. Not going to play it.

      Or, you know, she could only actually be in the level Andrew saw. And this is, uh, you know, a Max Payne game that’s evolved a little.

    • LionsPhil says:

      “Sure, someone filled half my Cornish pastie with fecal matter, but it’s only down one end. And that’s culinary evolution.”

    • Unaco says:

      I think you’re just trying to find a reason to not like this game. The article is incredibly positive… it’s Max Payne, come back to us after all these years, with all of his old hallmarks – bullet time, diving, dual wielding, tough combat, painkillers, comic panel cutscenes, hard boiled narration – “even in sunny Brazil Max Payne is still Max Payne. Rockstar have, more than anything, managed to get the feel of Max’s grumpy gunplay right”.

      He just happens to have brought an (optional) cover system along with him. A cover system you haven’t seen in action, and isn’t necessarily bad, and is optional. Before you totally dismiss cover in a Max Payne game, watch a John Woo movie and see if cover is never used. It is. People even fire from cover.

  17. Unaco says:

    Also… I’ll add… Did anyone get the Max Payne 3 references in the recent 3 episode Archer Arc, “The Heart of Archness”?

  18. ThirteenthLetter says:

    Oh. Gosh. Such originality: an evil private military company. That’s certainly daringly ripped from today’s headlines, since private military companies are responsible for so much terrorism and violence in the world today.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I can already hear Yahtzee’s sigh.

    • Magnetude says:

      Then you should probably get out of his house, Phil.

      And PMCs probably have caused more violence and terror worldwide than New York hoodlums ever did, but sorry, I forget. Noir means it has to be set in a particular district of New York, between 10pm and 5am, during a period of inclement weather. Noir definitely isn’t the term given to low-budget films from a certain era, Chinatown, Casablanca and Brick weren’t noir or even neo-noir, and this game has regenerating health and is one long escort mission because you heard that somewhere.

    • LionsPhil says:

      But then how would I peer through the holes I drilled in his ceiling?

      The problem with PMCs as antagonists in this is not that they’re different from the antagonists in the previous games. It’s that they’re the same antagonists as so many recent damn games. “A PMC that is secretly evil” is from right at the top of the lazy people-its-ok-to-shoot pile of late.

    • coldvvvave says:

      Where were you when Russians were bad guys in every piece of media, dear Blackwater guy?

    • aldo_14 says:

      . “A PMC that is secretly evil” is from right at the top of the lazy people-its-ok-to-shoot pile of late.


    • Nalano says:

      Yeah, I thought we could more or less assume all PMCs are evil.

      And he’s in Brazil. PMCs make more sense than Italian mafiosi.

    • Unaco says:

      Yeah… Private Military Company as the Bad Guys? What a staggering departure from the Max Payne series. Oh, no, wait… It’s not. The enemies from the last half of the first game where Nicola Horne’s/Aesir’s Private Military Company.

      Sometimes I think people just WANT to find something to complain about with games these days. It’s not as if there’s a lack of legitimate reasons to complain about… but people have to complain that “The whole thing is generic and bland because in 1 preview level it’s been revealed that you are fighting opponents that have been used in recent games”.

  19. Grey_Ghost says:

    So… do we get any cheesy overly noire-ish inner dialog like the first 2 games? Honestly, that is what I enjoyed most out of the series thus far.

  20. Persus-9 says:

    Well that all sounds very promising. I think a cover system is perfectly reasonable for Max Payne, I recall spending a lot of time in cover during the first two planning exactly when to burst out and fill the room with lead. If they’ve added an animation to that then fair enough as long as it doesn’t make it a cover based shooter.

    I just hope that Mona Sax either isn’t mentioned or is mentioned as having parted ways with Max in some entirely predictable manner after the end of the second game. I’m damned if I played the game through on the hardest difficulty to get the ending where she lives only for it to be declared non-cannon in a squeal by different developer.

  21. BreadBitten says:

    Its hard for me to ignore any gameplay specific feature in a game, so my question is since Payne 3 already has the cover system is there any degree of destructibility to it? At least that way there won’t be any incentive to play it safe by picking off baddies from a safe spot down a corridor or something…

  22. Moni says:

    I imagine having a snappy cover system will help avoid those comedy situations where I would dive out of cover at an acute angle, head first into a stray pillar, farcically getting pummelled by lead.

    Speaking of being pummelled by lead, Max Payne is one of those games where you just can’t avoid getting shot, regenerating health would have made it much less frustrating.

  23. LionsPhil says:

    But Max is unconcerned as he’s basking in the impervious safety of a cover system…

    Chop. Game is dead to me.

    Positioning yourself with slow motion dives is most of the gameplay in Max Payne 1 and 2.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      link to 8:42 ish

      You really think this is better?

    • LionsPhil says:

      So your argument is someone playing it badly, walking out into a hallway and then bullet time leaping so they grind down a wall where they can’t see?

      By that logic, I could post a video of someone bouncing from wall to wall in Half-Life, having not got the hang of mouselook+WASD yet, and argue that clearly all games need to become Time Crisis.

    • Mirdini says:

      Well played on only reading the first paragraph of the review :I

    • Sheng-ji says:

      I wasn’t talking about his/her skill in actually playing the game, I was talking about while waiting for the right time to make his move, he spent a good amount of time with a plain wall filling the screen while we couldn’t see the action taking place around the corner. No matter how skilful you are, you will always end up staring at a wall waiting for the conversation to finish or for all the guys to be in the corridor or whatever, to me, that sucks.

  24. Drake Sigar says:

    Some elitist commenters have this amazing ability to ignore all the praise in this article and take a single phrase out of context. Simply having a cover system should not automatically earn a game nothing but scorn. What matters is how it’s implemented, and from what I’ve read here, we have nothing to worry about.

    • Quinnbeast says:

      Weird isn’t it? I came away from the article feeling pretty geed up about the game – sounds largely spot on if you look at it as a whole. And yet, we’re still in danger of getting damp feet from all the great big diamond tears flowing over the very same article.

      Screw you internet. You make people cry.

  25. bytex666 says:

    I just hope they didn’t animate his face TOO much. His constant “I need to take a crap REAL bad” constipated face in MP1 and 2 was half the fun.

    • Quinnbeast says:

      We never did see an “All Bran” mod for either game did we?

  26. KingCathcart says:

    I live in London and I can confirm that our buses look nothing like this. They are mostly twice the hight and red with anger at the common traveller.

    They also seem to move in mostly slo-mo.

  27. kyrieee says:

    Of all the games that shouldn’t have two gun limitation this is the one IMO

    • Nalano says:

      Why? It keeps the emphasis on handguns instead of assault rifles, leading to more John Woo-style action scenes in bullet time.

      …which is exactly what we want.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, the weapon limitation I can probably swallow, because dual-handguns is Max’s home turf, and they now sound more flexible with the mix-and-match hands. DOOM/Duke3D it isn’t.

  28. Kandon Arc says:

    The thing about the cover system is not that I think it will necessarily ruin the game (although if they use Mass Effect/GOW level design I won’t be amused); I just don’t understand why anyone at Rockstar looked at MP 1 or 2 and thought: “You know what this game needs? A cover system”. I guess I’m not such a fan of change for the sake of change.

    • aldo_14 says:

      I dunno – it’s been a while, but didn’t you have to hide behind stuff in order to ready a glorious bullet-spraying dive out into the open anyway?

      This would surely just be formalizing it, in that case.

    • Nalano says:

      You don’t need a cover system to have cover.

    • Nick says:

      Well, I think it worked in Stranglehold.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Everyone listen to Nick, he’s on to something. Stranglehold’s cover system, while nothing special, actually worked in the context of this sort of game. Someone mentioned that ducking to reload while cover disintegrates is a John Woo Thing. This is true.

  29. jsbenjamin says:

    Why is his bullet dodge “infamous”? Surely you meant “famous”?

    • Nalano says:

      ‘cuz it’s Noir. I mean, hell, I think Brazil may have introduced him to the sun. Not to sunny places, but actual daytime.

  30. Tams80 says:

    Cover systems, cutscenes, cinematics and on-the-rail sections can all be fine in this sort of game. As you said, if done well, they make the game more enjoyable. It’s only when the freedom to move as you wish, wherever you wish (well, it doesn’t have do be a complete sandbox, just not on-the-rails) is minimal or removed that games like this suck. Unfortunately, many do, but hey evidently some people like them. At least Max Payne 3 does seem to be doing it ‘right’.

  31. YanDaik says:

    Max, i was waiting for you…

  32. matrices says:

    The comments in this article remind me of why I’m so glad that games are developed by game developers and not mobs of AIM (Angry Internet Men).

    Cover mechanic was a given and you’d be foolish to have thought otherwise. It’s not Serious Sam. You were taking cover in the earlier games all the time anyway; it was just more awkward because there was no way to formally do it.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It was less awkward because there was no formal mechanism to do it, you mean. You just move, the same way you do any other movements, including diving into cover with slow-motion leaps. And to leave cover you just move again, perhaps by leaping back out.

      It does not need a velcro-spine-to-wall button.

    • sneetch says:

      It does not need a velcro-spine-to-wall button.

      Is there such a button? If so are you required to use it?

    • Fox89 says:

      Yeah Phil. Because standing with your nose to the wallpaper was way more believable. And not being able to shoot around said wall was a good thing for some reason. Hard boiled detective with nothing to lose who can’t shoot around a corner… that’s a bit ridiculous. Especially now that we have the game mechanics that allow for that. You seem to be making the mistake of assuming that because there is now a cover system it has become Gears of Max Payne. There’s no evidence to suggest this is the case.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Is there such a button?

      I’m not sure how it can be described as a “cover system” unless a certain amount of wall velcro is involved?

      If so are you required to use it?

      This is what people said in all the previews of DX:HR. It turns out that when a game is designed with a malfeature, it ends up balanced such that it expects you to use it.

    • Dominic White says:

      “Because standing with your nose to the wallpaper was way more believable. And not being able to shoot around said wall was a good thing for some reason.”

      The number of people who genuinely believe this is deeply worrying. The entire point of the franchise is to recreate dramatic Hollywood/Hong Kong gunfights. Anyone who have ever seen a movie knows that they involve a lot of people taking close cover behind things, and very little standing blankly in front of a wall.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      “Malfeature”. Ugh. You’re a malperson. Yeah, I said it.

      Edit: wait, that’s an insult isn’t it? Sorry! I did it because it was funny! I think.

  33. matrices says:

    Random comment because I don’t understand why I’m brought to a random WordPress screen after logging in and why my comment then appears on the right “Respond to our bigger” but not in the actual comments section okay time to end this terribly long non-sentence sentence.

  34. Walsh says:

    Every game must use euphoria animation engine or suffer

    • DOLBYdigital says:

      See Overgrowth for an example of phenomenal animation without euphoria… If I can find the blog post where David explains why he went with custom animation tech…
      (found it)

      link to

      David and the Wolfire team are simply amazing (keep in mind this post if from 2009)

    • Walsh says:

      Fascinating, thanks for that

  35. Radiant says:

    So Mr Smee. You didn’t actually play the game?

  36. DOLBYdigital says:

    Sounds decent, especially like that you don’t have to use the cover system. That is not what Max Payne was about… However I just can’t see myself paying $50 or more for a single player game like this. Unless they add online co-op or something more I will get this one after I’m done clearing out my backlog (which will be never).

    • Fox89 says:

      It will have multiplayer apparently. But there are no details on it yet.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Curious. I thought the slow-motion dives were always a blocker.

      …some kind of co-op?

  37. kennycrown says:

    It’s just that most implementations of it are horrendous.Add to that the fact that it isn’t quite possible to judge whether Max Payne adheres to the ‘standard’ or not, and that player seems to have the possibility to completely disregard hugging walls and crates.

  38. Brahms says:

    Max, dearest of all my friends.

    Excited for this. Find it amusing that people rail against regenerative health and cover systems. I think Max Payne was one of the first games I ever played that had regenerative health and it was implemented brilliantly to keep you on the edge. As for cover systems: They look cool, which is all I really care about in a Max Payne game. Sorry! (not actually sorry)

    That said, if they wanted to go to a sunny noir, it would have been cool to do a “New York Summer” thing maybe… but I don’t really want to shoot mafia wise guys any more so.. Lets go to Sao Paulo.

  39. LordCraigus says:

    Has no-one played John Woo’s Stranglehold? If I remember rightly that game had a cover system. In my opinion, if Max Payne 3 is at least as good as Stranglehold in the gameplay department then it will be a damn fine game. This positive preview gives me hope that the game will deliver many of traits I’d hope to see in a Max game.

  40. Dave Mongoose says:

    My main worry about the new setting is that the tone of the original games will be lost:

    Max was never really a hero in a good-vs-evil sense: he was just out for revenge or closure. It was more or less him against the world; particularly in the first game where the police are after him as well as the drug dealers and later Aesir goons.

    Hopefully this sequel will still have those kind of themes, but the talk of a partner and an escort mission (even if she’s not a liability) suggest he’s got friends, and having a PMC as an enemy suggests some kind of ‘mission’ rather than a personal score to settle.

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