Max Payne 3 Preview (PC)

At PAX East 2012, Strategy Informer was given the chance to gets some hands-on time with the single player campaign in Rockstar's long-awaited shooter Max Payne 3. The platform the game was played on was the Xbox 360 version, so the impressions are based on that build.

The first scenario was a bar shootout with Max Payne dealing with a group of gangstars in a New York City tavern. It was explained to me that during the campaign, Max Payne will be in Sao Paulo having flashbacks about "how I got here" with missions in New York City, so players will be shuttling between the two locations.

Bullet Time makes its triumphant return, as the player can fill the Bullet Time meter with good kills. Manually activating Bullet Time drains the meter as the world goes into slo-mo. Players can shut off Bullet Time manually as well, to save precious time in the meter.

Players who have gotten used to modern shooter conventions such as health regeneration will be in for a shock - there's absolutely no health regen in the game. Instead, there are two new mechanics that will help Max when his health is running low.

First, Max can begin popping pain killers to regain health, which fits in with the character as eight years after the second game, he is a broken, alcoholic and drug addicted wreck. To force players to constantly move through the level, the pills are spaced far between. While the player can save pills, they will be consumed quick due to the fact there's no regen.

The other mechanic is the Last Man Standing mode. When Max's health drops too low, Bullet Time will automatically be activated for the single enemy, allowing him to take out the attacker before he is killed.

The next level was an empty soccer stadium, which occurs mid-game, and it is here where things can get super-hectic, as the level features corridors with many blind alleys and wide-open spaces in the stands. This level shows off the devious enemy AI.

Max Payne 3 does feature a cover mechanic, but the computer won't allow the player to rely on it too much. Aside from the fact much of the environment is destructible, the enemies will methodically try to search for Max (if they know he's around but don't know where he is) and flush him out with grenades, flanking and co-ordination. The search AI is procedurally generated, so battles are never the same.

One of the cooler features is that the game will reward the player with kill cams when the player makes some particularly nice shots. The player can even hold down the "A" button to make the kill cam go in even slower-mo, to savour the kill. One nice little touch is that the last enemy will also fall in a kill cam, signalling that the combat is over and the player can take a breather.

The multiplayer is fairly standard, but with some of the classic Max Payne touches, including Bullet Time.

One of the biggest challenges of Bullet Time in multiplayer is how in the world can you implement it? The answer is simple: it only activates when the players are looking at each other. To get out of Bullet Time, player only needs to look away.

The dev hinted at other "bursts" in addition to Bullet Time, but stated the features would be revealed at a later time.

Another aspect that was revealed was the multiplayer game modes. Two of them were revealed by the developers. Gang Wars is a standard team deathmatch with mid-mission branching storylines, so that rounds can change depending on the decisions by the teams.

Payne Killer is a VIP variant in which two players will take on the role of Max and his partner Raoul, who are both seriously overpowered. Players who kill Max or Raoul take on those roles themselves. If you ever thought what it's like to be an average mook trying to take down Max, you'll get a chance to feel how difficult it is.

Max Payne 3 is shaping up to be a monster hit, and its multiplayer will be a breath of fresh air in the general sameness of online shooter gameplay that exists now. The game will be released on the 15th May in North America and the 18th May in Europe for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Top Game Moment: One quick activation of Bullet Time and taking down four enemies at close range with a shotgun in succession, the last of them seeing each and every pellet riveting the mook's face.

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