The shooter popularity contest currently goes as follows. Call of Duty dominates yearly followed by Gears and Halo every other year. Then…there’s everything else. A few games carve out their own space like Mass Effect, Borderlands and Uncharted but most newcomers chase the top only to get forgotten months after release. Rockstar Games’ Max Payne 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) may face an uphill battle considering shooters drastically changed since Max’s heyday. Nevertheless, it hopes to buck the odds with a Mossberg by reintroducing an old favorite with new tricks.
Payne borrows from its contemporaries by adding a cover system and includes online play for the first time. Yet it also holds dear to the franchise’s hallmarks with its perpetually depressed killing machine in Max, seedy, film noir presentation and avoids incorporating regenerating health. So while some tweaks “modernize” Payne for a new generation the game plans to prioritize what made the series great: white-knuckle gun fights with heavy doses of bullet time and pain killers.
Online multiplayer will aim above the usual team kill-that-guy hogwash. Credit Rockstar for trying to make bullet time work in multiplayer on top of creating game types playing to Max Payne’s strengths. The changes sound and look nice but it remains to be seen if the features will hold up in the wild. Rockstar’s recent releases rock clunky controls on foot and won’t fly in a series built on run-and-gun action. Plus note that Remedy, the people behind Max Payne 1 and 2, aren’t making this effort. Max Payne 3 gained new developers in the likes of Rockstar Vancouver, but the new association will leave fans and players wondering if the project is in good hands.
You can’t get a feel for a game without playing it so the wait-and-see approach will have to suffice. Shooters and ambitious ideas usually don’t go hand-in-hand.Perhaps Rockstar will break the mold once they bring Max out of retirement on May 15. They’ve been on a roll with releasing blockbusters in May: starting with GTA 4 in 2008. Let’s see if Max Payne 3 enjoys the same success.