PAX East is the land of cosplay and calamity, but for EGM’s Ray Carsillo and Brandon Justice, it’s set to be a whirlwind tour of game demos, developer interviews and virtual violence that began this morning with an up-close-and-personal with Rockstar’s Max Payne 3. Following two stints with Finnish fan favorite Remedy Entertainment, the house that bullet-time built has moved to Rockstar Vancouver, but will it hold up to the slow-mo standard set by the first to games? Let’s find out.
Brandon Justice, Managing Editor: This was my first real look at Max Payne 3, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was a huge fan of the first game back in my PC gaming days, but 3rd person action games have come a long way since MP2 shipped some 8 years ago. Luckily, Payne the 3rd seems to have that patented Rockstar polish. Everything in this game oozes the grit and grime of organized crime, and Max seems to have made a full return to form as a pill-popping, thug-thrashing madman, which was good to see.
Ray Carsillo, Associate Editor: Max definitely looks like he just scrapped himself out of a gutter and stays true to the form that Remedy established so long ago with the character. And everything from the cinema scenes to Max’s internal dialogue still screams “Noir” as we explored both the familiar streets of NYC as well as the new location that much of the game will take place in, San Paulo. What most impressed me though was with everything happening on screen at once, from seamlessly switching in and out of bullet-time to handling literally dozens of machine gun wielding thugs at once, was there wasn’t an ounce of lag or loading as we moved through the San Paulo slums and NYC back alleys.
Brandon: Yeah, the visuals and scripting definitely blew me away. Each space was so packed with action it took a while to settle in and figure out who needed shooting first, but as I flipped into bullet-time, I really started to get back into the swing of things. One thing I will say though is that the controls took a little getting used to. Much like 2K’s Spec Ops, I wasn’t really happy with the aiming mechanics in Payne, as they felt more than a little stiff. Almost like playing a Resident Evil game, which isn’t what I’ve come to expect from a Max title…
Ray: I agree. I came in expecting silky smooth and came away with sandpaper in terms of the aiming and controls. Even after we played around with the sensitivity, it still felt like we were just overshooting or undershooting a little bit. And as someone who lives and dies (and died several more times in the demo because of it) with the headshot, the frustration definitely started to bubble to the surface more than I expected it to. Plus, it kind of forced me into bullet-time a bit more than I wanted. I typically try to conserve it for those rooms full of thugs, but kept having to trigger it for the lone straggler hiding behind a dumpster because I just couldn’t line up my shot right without taking what I see as unnecessary damage, which is extra frustrating without regenerating health. Although, there were plenty of painkillers to counteract that.
Brandon: Yeah, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of core controls mapped to the L3 and R3 buttons, either. Led to a lot of accidental engagements that ended up getting me smacked. The thing is, everything else was so strong. I loved the updated “comic-style” story-telling, and the world is probably the best I’ve seen in the series, so I’m hoping there’s a sensitivity setting in their that makes things sing, because there’s is still a lot to love here if our demo and the trailer is any indication.
Ray: Your crouching episode was absolutely hysterical to watch, but I can only imagine how painful it was to play. But yeah, the atmosphere and story telling in this game looks to be top of the line and chock full of all the action that has made Max Payne the iconic series it is. If the controls can just reach that happy place, then this is definitely going to be a must pick-up for third-person shooter fans come mid-May.