Preview: Max Payne 3 puckers up to breathe life back into the bullet-time shooter

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The slow motion, bullet-time thing went through a purple patch after the original Max Payne in 2001, but it quickly turned into a brown, rotting, stinky patch. Publishers fell over themselves in an effort to sign the next dual-wielding, sideways diving, gravity defying shooter – from John Woo’s Stranglehold to the under-rated Total Overdose. While it was fun for a bit, people became weary of the tired gameplay and all of a sudden the trend died out quicker than disco.

Fast forward ten years and we’re sat in Rockstar’s office watching Max Payne’s third outing and we can already sense the inevitable clones trying to match the slick skills on show.

Deep down and dirty

Our Max Payne 3 demo begins with our grizzled hero – with hair intact – chatting with a pal from his NYPD days, Raul Passo. Max’s apartment in the Big Apple is a disgrace. There’s empty bottles of booze knocking about the place, trousers thrown lazily on the floor and the whole place feels dingy. You’d expect a tramp to turn their nose up at such a shit hole.

But his cleanliness is the least of his worries as the chat with Passo is rudely interuppted by a loud-mouth mob boss, Anthony DeMarco, ordering his goons to kill Max Payne. Why? Well, in the events leading up to this demo Max popped the gangster’s only son in the head and now he wants revenge. Cue immediate and utter carnage.

Before fighting his way to safety, Max stacks up on the pills knocking about his abode. Yup, a returning feature is the need for pills to help Max stave off death for one more dramatic leap into trouble. But there’s a new game-changing twist to his pill poppin’ – the last man standing ability.

If Max is near death, but carrying at least one pill container, the screen drops into slo-mo as he swings his gun in the direction of his would-be killer. If you can plug the enemy before Max slips away, he’ll get up with a small boost of health. Clever, eh?

There are snipers on the roof across the street and pistol wielding mad men making their way down the corridor towards Max’s place. In an instant, the familiar slow-motion dives are in full flow as the rooftop marksmen find a gaping hole where their forehead used to be. The window frames of the building that Max and Passo are fleeing from are peeling apart under heavy gun-fire.

Areas being shot up like the lobby scene in The Matrix is a common theme throughout Max Payne 3. Doors, desks, windows, pillars and basically anything else that should fragment under bullet impact will do just that. It adds to the atmosphere and helps the shoot-outs feel like Hollywood blockbusters every time we see it.

The escape scene is over fairly quickly and apart from some crazy guy coming out of his apartment, blasting two bad guys in the head then blowing up a batch of others by detonating his bomb vest, it’s business as usual for Max. We’re given a quick peek at the New York skyline and it sure does look pretty under the moonlight. But enough gushing, it’s onto Brazil.

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