It's been more than eight years since we've seen the trigger-happy New York City detective. Thankfully the real Max Payne has stood up and is back with a new look to match and a newly refined gaming experience that is sure to please fans upon it's release in 2012. For details on what is to come, The Warp Pipe spoke to Rockstar vice president of product development, Jeronimo Barrera, on what gamers can expect from the upcoming third-person shooter.
WARP PIPE: The game utilizes the RAGE system, how has that impacted the development and what stood out for those who worked on the development for the previous titles?
JERONIMO BARRERA: RAGE is the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine, and that is the system that powers all of our current-generation games. Max Payne 3 runs on an updated version of RAGE which features improvements across the board, from physics to graphics to lighting. We are also once again working with Natural Motion's Euphoria character behavior system, which is a series of custom-built algorithms that governs the way digital characters behave in the game world, allowing them to move and react naturally to the world around them. We have used versions of these technologies before in past games, but never in such a complex way within the lead character. That's just a small part of what's going on inside Max, we're combining the dynamics of the Euphoria system with complex physics and custom animations to give a polished, fluid look and feel, which helps make Max feel like a real person in a real space. We're also able to focus in on the subtle details that can be missed in open-world games, and place significant emphasis on gunplay and weapon mechanics. We're aiming to produce a highly-refined experience that looks as good as it feels to play.
WP: Do players need to have played the first two games to get into this one?
JB: Not necessarily, although we are staying true to the story arc of the character, so returning fans will enjoy seeing changes that the intervening years have wrought on Max. The first two games chronicled Max's tragic descent from undercover cop for the DEA to a vigilante out for revenge after the brutal murder of his wife and child. Max Payne 3 picks up some years later with Max still haunted by his past, drinking heavily, and no longer on the force. Max finds work as a private security guard in Sao Paulo, Brazil through an old colleague, hoping for a break from the troubles of his life in New York. Without being able to speak a word of Portuguese, Max soon realizes that he is very much the foreigner in an unfamiliar land, but also that the modern metropolis of Sao Paulo is full of the same kind of corruption and deceit that Max fought so hard to escape back in New York.
WP: How important was it having the original Max back in the booth and used during motion capture, do you think Max could of been played by anyone else?
JB: It was great to have James McCaffrey back to do Max's inner monologue. It is one of the most recognizable features of the series, and McCaffrey's delivery is responsible for a large part of the iconic nature of Max's character. That also led to one of the great breakthroughs of Max as a character this time around: while we were in the initial process of casting for physical actors, we realized that James McCaffrey was now physically ideal for the character. As a result, we modeled Max's face after James, and James also produced most of the motion capture for the character, so James' performance really helped to ground the whole character.
WP: Will Bullet Time be back and will there be any next-gen enhancements?
JB: Bullet Time is back and we've implemented it in new ways in Max Payne 3, as well as refining the classic slow-motion look and feel that players will remember from the original games. We've incorporated new final kill-cam sequences which players can manipulate to savor stylish kills on enemies, and they vary dynamically based on the weapon used, the angle of the shot, and the position of Max in battle. Another new feature to Bullet Time is "Last Man Standing" which gives Max a chance at survival with a revenge kill on an enemy that has taken a fatal shot against him.
The original concept of Bullet Time was to recreate the aesthetic of classic Hong Kong action movies that would use slow motion to give a sense of choreography to combat. It's still at the heart of Max Payne 3, taking the emphasis away from racking up huge numbers of kills and putting the focus on the substance and feel of the gunplay itself. Every bullet in Max Payne is a physical object in the world, modeled from the moment it leaves the weapon to the split-second it hits its target, and we put extra emphasis on the smallest details of the gun's mechanics, such as the hammer cocking back, the chamber opening, shells ejecting and smoke and flash emitting from the muzzle. One of the new ways we have used Bullet Time is to create areas of the environment where it is triggered automatically as the player enters the space, allowing us to set up epic, real-time action set pieces while still keeping the player in full control.
WP: Has there been any influence from GTA and LA Noire in recreating the environments Max will immerse himself in?
JB: Only in so far as that the game is created with the same design philosophy under which all of our games are made. We have been living and breathing the Max Payne series since the original games, and the opportunity for us with Max Payne 3 was to take the same, detail-oriented approach that we use on our open world games and apply it to the smaller, more focused environments of a level-based game, meaning that we can apply detail at a much more granular level. A good example is the efforts we have made to make environments more destructive, so that window frames splinter, concrete pillars chip away with each shot fired, and glass realistically shatters, creating a sense of chaos during gunfights. Of course, dropping into Bullet Time highlights all these details beautifully.
WP: Are controls newly mapped out or will original Max vets going to have the same layout - what was the learning curve for the game thus far?
JB: Max Payne has distinct PC roots, with the first titles being known and loved for their precise, fast-paced gameplay. Given that heritage, we want to give players a wide range of customization with controls so they can create an experience suited to their tastes, while still keeping that frenzied feel from the original games. We want to deliver the fluidity and precision of a first-person shooter, while maintaining the players' investment in the character that comes from playing in the third person. We're planning to offer a range of options to make both newcomers and veterans to the series feel right at home.
WP: Can you talk about online features and/or DLC exclusives? When is the expected release date?
JB: Max Payne 3 is the first in the series to include a fully-featured multiplayer component, more details soon on this. We want to build an experience that fits naturally into the Max Payne universe, building on its fiction and themes while allowing for players to compete with and against each other. As far as DLC, the focus right now is in polishing and completing the core game for a launch date of March 2012 on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.