Max Payne 3 has the editors at Crave, honestly, anxiously concerned. We love the franchise, and we love the developers; however, the two may not be a perfect match.
But before we get there, let's talk about what we saw. Max Payne starts off this demo in his rundown apartment in New York City. The action kicks in when Max is attacked by a crime boss seeking vengeance for his son. The enemies force Max to flee out of his apartment and onto its roof, and we were shown the standard suite of gunplay and bullet time that we expected to find.
From there, we were zipped to Sao Paulo, Brazil, the setting for, assumedly, the remainder of the game. While Max may be out of the Big Apple for the bulk of the experience, Rockstar told us the New York City still plays a major part in the campaign.
While we weren't given the circumstances for the pairing, our demo showed that part of the gameplay in Brazil will have Payne partnered up with a woman named Fabiana. We didn't see her do any fighting, just talking and following, so we're not exactly sure how she'll key into the full experience outside of the 20 or so minutes we saw her on screen.
Max and Fabiana make their way through Sao Paulo, Brazil for the remainder of the preview we were shown. The two, according to Rockstar, interact in a very realistic way. That comes from the fact that Rockstar has recorded full motion capture for each character on screen. That even applies to the computer enemies throughout the campaign. They each move uniquely as not much in the way of scripted, canned animation is present.
Fabiana seemed self sufficient enough, one big problem most escort gaming components suffer on a regular basis, as Max wasn't pressured to save or defend her at any point in the demo. She essentially hid in the right spots and waited for the demo leader to clear the space of enemies before needing attention again.
We were also shown a bit of Rockstar's attention to details. As the reps explained, Max Payne 3 is a linear experience with a scripted, relatively narrow path. As such, the studio is able to focus more on local environment and aesthetics and less on a massive open world. That means more realistic motion over in-game objects, great weather effects and nice, graphical polish that would be missing from more massive projects.
There is a cover mechanic here, as well. We only mention it now because it has such a small emphasis in the game. We applaud Rockstar for their decision when it comes to this feature. Yes, you can enter cover, but the game doesn't seem to stress the need to do so. Max Payne is about running, gunning and bullet time. We saw all of that, and cover was only done as a contextual thing, never to recover health or reload. As our demo leaders put it, cover is a modern mechanic that should be in most third person shooters, just not one that requires gameplay to be built around it.
What we saw is all genuinely good for Max Payne fans. The game seems to be in line with the franchise and will only embrace or improve its qualities. That said, we still found ourselves slightly disappointed.
As we walked away from the demo, Mike White, one of our contributors, mentioned that Max Payne 3 doesn't do anything new for us. Bullet time is old hat for the gaming industry, so Max's hallmark move does little to impress these days.
And while that may be okay for most game companies, selling the standard just isn't something we've come to expect from Rockstar. Their games have always been known as works that push the envelope in at lease one direction. Whether it's the incredible art style and story of Red Dead Redemption or the amazingly rendered Liberty City of Grand Theft Auto IV, the studio has always presented gamers something dynamic and unique.
So far, Max Payne 3 doesn't offer anything like that. Yes, the game looks good and the gunplay looks solid; however, nothing's been presented specifically to wow us.
That said, we don't blame either component for the problem at hand. Rockstar will undeniably do their best with the game, and the Max Payne universe is one that commands quality. But, it seems to us that this relationship is a mismatch. Rockstar is an out-of-the-box developer, while Max Payne is an inside-the-box, linear experience.
Will the two match up? We hope so. Right now, however, the game feels too much like everything else we've played. It will definitely be good, but we expect at least stunning from Rockstar…and we weren't stunned by this demo.