Two weeks ago, Max Payne & Rockstar Games fansite administrators were flown in from around the world for a weekend of Max Payne 3 action. Held in Rockstar's backyard of south-central Manhattan, this was the largest fansite event that the R* team has ever hosted.
We're extremely grateful for the opportunity to check out the game and meet other fansite webmasters. (Thanks, Rockstar!) We're psyched for the release of Max Payne 3, and we hope that everyone who is viewing this page will pick up the game when it gets released later in May.
The following article is a rundown of our experiences during the event, and our impressions of the game - specifically system performance, gameplay, Max's abilities, game visuals, multiplayer, and our hopes for the future of the game (including DLC and online community).
Check out writeups from other fansites:
· Payne Reactor
· The GTA Place
· Rockstar Network
· Team Xbox
· Broken Joysticks
· GTA Warehouse
· iGTA5 & iGrandTheftAuto
· Grand Theft Wiki
Our weekend kicked off on Friday night with a trip to Brooklyn Bowl, an amazing venue that combines delicious food, great beer, awesome music, and (of course) some classic ten-pin bowling.
(The quality of food at Brooklyn Bowl cannot be stressed enough. Go there, eat food, and thank us later. We know you will.)
While we gorged on food and guttered our balls, the Greyboy Allstars jammed on the stage. Between turns, we killed time by getting to know other webmasters. This was the largest Rockstar event that any of us had attended, and there were a lot of new faces.
Unlike previous events, Rockstar had no Saturday itinerary. We were free to roam New York on our own. For some of us, that meant spending 2.5 hours wandering around Manhattan, checking out places like One World Trade Center.
For others, it meant crossing the Brooklyn Bridge for no good reason.
Following our afternoon of exploration, everyone returned to the hotel in the early evening. We were heading east to Brooklyn for a night of bullet-fueled Max Payne mayhem.
The Villain warehouse in Brooklyn is a killer space. We saw it for the first time two years ago when we previewed Red Dead Redemption. Everyone was happy to be back.
Through the night, we got to check out three levels of the single player mode, followed by a few sessions of multiplayer ass-kickery on the Xbox.
When GTA IV came out on PC, it was barely playable. Performance issues plagued the game, and it chugged along slowly on systems that should’ve had no problem with it.
Rockstar reassured us that Max Payne gamers wouldn’t face a similar situation.
Max Payne 3 was built for each system, and this commitment is immediately obvious when you play for the first time - it doesn’t matter what system you’re on, it just feels right.
The PC version in particular kicks so much ass, you’ll find yourself giggling like a twelve year old schoolgirl as you throw Max into the middle of chaotic gunfights, taking more chances and pulling crazier stunts than you would with a controller. (Ah, the joys of aiming with a mouse!) If that wasn’t good enough, the game should scale extremely well across a range of different system builds.
The progression between chapters is seamless in single player, and the division between cutscenes and player-controlled action is virtually non-existent. You’ll find yourself pulled back into the action gracefully, without any interruptions from loading screens or the like. Striking text overlays – Rockstar’s modern take on the classic graphic novel elements of previous Max Payne titles – may remind players of the Grand Theft Auto IV intro cinematic.
The weapon wheel, a familiar UI element for players of Red Dead Redemption, returns with a vengeance in Max Payne 3. There are four weapon slots: Left hand, right hand, dual wield, and two-handed.
If you switch to dual wield, you’ll drop your two-handed weapon. This compromise makes weapon selection more realistic and, ultimately, more interesting.
Max Payne 3 stays true to the graphic novel style of previous titles. When the game is paused, you can rotate the camera freely to capture shots of Max in action. We expect this to be put to some creative uses for Social Club challenges and contests.
Max Payne 3 is not an easy game, and it does not adjust difficulty settings on the fly to make up for your embarrassingly repetitive deaths.
If you’re used to effortlessly cruising through gun battles in Red Dead Redemption or Grand Theft Auto IV, you’ll be humbled very quickly by the enemies in Max Payne.
When you find yourself seriously struggling, there are a few handicaps that can help.
You can adjust the difficulty options (Easy, Medium, Hard). You can also scale your aim settings between three levels: Free Aim is assist-free, Soft Lock pulls your reticle towards enemies, and Hard Lock mimics the aimbot-like targeting of Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption. You can also tweak your sensitivity settings on the horizontal and vertical axis for more refined aiming.
Calibrating for maximum enjoyment ultimately boils down to finding the exact combination of settings that meet your gaming style.
Max has three distinct abilities that weave together nicely. You can pull off some impressive action sequences, chaining dramatic executions together, if you combine them in the right way:
Bullet time is a huge part of the game. You’ll find yourself jumping in and out of it on a regular basis. You still need to be careful, though - use bullet time strategically, don’t waste it.
Shootdodge goes hand-in-hand with bullet time. When the two are combined, you feel almost invincible - flying through the air, taking out your targets one by one. Like bullet time, Shootdodge should be used strategically.
When you run out of ammo, you don’t run out of options. Max can still burst forth and kick ass. Melee is ridiculously brutal and undeniably fantastic. Animations are contextual - Max will make use of his environment and whatever weapon he happens to be carrying at the time. Combine melee with a trigger pull for a brutal execution shot.
Last Man Standing
You’re thrown into Last Man Standing when Max is shot dead by an enemy, a last-minute Hail Mary that is similar to Dead Eye in Red Dead Redemption.
Your reticle will be pulled towards the enemy that dealt the killing blow, and you’re given a brief amount of time to take them out. If you manage that, you’ll be rewarded with a dramatic shot of Max exacting white-knuckled revenge on his would-be killer.
Aesthetic sensibility plays a big role in Rockstar titles, and Max Payne 3 is no exception. Texture realism have come a long way since Grand Theft Auto IV, which is obvious enough when you take a look at the plethora of in-game screenshots floating around the web.
Despite the drastic improvements in detail, character animations in Max Payne 3 still feel like a prettified version of Grand Theft Auto IV. That immediate sense of familiarity is a moot point once you start playing, though.
Regarding UI: Rockstar has done a great job with creating a clutter-free interface. Menus and HUD elements are clean, subtle, and unobtrusive.
If you know somebody that doubts Rockstar’s ability to deliver a kick-ass multiplayer experience, hand that person a copy of Max Payne 3 and tell them where to shove it. This isn’t just a nice-to-have supplement to the single player game. Multiplayer stands strong all on it’s own.
Here’s what you can expect:
Persistent Ranks & Leveling Up
The multiplayer experience introduced in Red Dead Redemption -- unlocking additional perks while leveling up in Free Roam -- returns in Max Payne 3, but with a nice twist: The experience you gain, and the ranks you unlock, are persistent through all game modes.
There's a crazy amount of customization available for your in-game avatars, but the perks of leveling up aren’t limited to mere aesthetics. You’ll find yourself able to equip better weapons, and flip on stronger enhancements (“bursts”). Call of Duty gamers will undoubtedly find this to be a familiar experience.
Multiplayer Crews & Social Club
Possies and gangs contribute heavily to the replay value of Red Dead Redemption, and according to one of the Rockstar representatives we spoke to, the plan is to build on that success. Multiplayer Crews -- the Max Payne 3 equivalent of possies -- are tied directly to the Rockstar Social Club, and will be recognized as part of the core multiplayer system.
There are a good variety of game modes to choose from in multiplayer. The standards – team deathmatch, free for all, capture-the-flag – appear in one form or another.
Objective-based game modes, in which the match progression is determined by team success in prior rounds, should be familiar territory for fans of Team Fortress.
We’ve been praising Max Payne 3 throughout most of this article, and for good reason - Rockstar has done an amazing job with this game. MP3 plays as a true Rockstar title should, with a strong focus on character + storyline, combined with addictive run-and-gun gameplay. Bottom line? It’s a shitload of fun!
The unforgiving nature of Max Payne 3 missions can be brutal. We expect that some players – particularly those coming from Red Dead Redemption or Grand Theft Auto – will find themselves getting frustrated quickly.
It’s not necessarily a “bad” thing, mind you, but that sort of frustration can remove folks from Max Payne 3’s immersive, cinematic experience.
Multiplayer DLC, announced yesterday, was met with mixed responses by fans.
It’s understandable – Rockstar has never done anything like this before, and the announcement caught many folks off guard.
Based on what we saw of multiplayer in our hands-on preview, though, the pricing ($30 for all DLC) is completely justified. The replay value in MP3 multiplayer is huge compared to story-driven, single-player content. We’re confident that fans will not be disappointed with what Rockstar has in store for us.
We’re predicting that Max Payne 3 will be a smash hit. (Mostly because it’s fucking awesome.) It’ll revive interest in the Max Payne franchise, as folks who are being introduced to the character for the first time will go back and play the previous two titles.
We expect the multiplayer community to thrive, and based on Rockstar’s DLC plans, it looks like they’re expecting the same thing.
With the release of Max Payne 3 on PC, we hope that a brilliant modding community will come together and build awesome new stuff on top of what Rockstar has created.
Following our hands-on preview of the game, we realized that merely talking about Max Payne 3, and writing about it on a GTA fansite, wouldn’t be enough. So we’ve launched PayneForums.com, a sister site dedicated to the Max Payne 3 community.
We’re starting off small, with a few general forums and a core team of staff. But we aim to grow, and thrive, and become the hub of online activity for Max Payne 3 – much in the same way that GTAForums is the hub of online activity for the Grand Theft Auto fanbase.