PAX East 2012: Hands-On With Max Payne 3 Single Player

April 7, 2012

Rockstar gave us the opportunity for a hands-on experience to play Max Payne 3 and gave us some insight to the design of the game. A departure from their previous efforts Max Payne 3 stands out and the team wanted to make sure that they made the best experience they could while appealing to fans of the original series and providing a “true” Max Payne experience while at the same time making the best game they could.

After even such a brief hands-on time with the game it looks like they accomplished that. 

As the demo started up I was given immediate control of Max after a brief introduction to where we are in the story and the goal of our current mission which is to save the spoiled trophy wife of the man Max works for. Our trail began with two men unloading something from a truck. As I burst from behind cover and blasted them both in the face things escalated quickly.


Each firefight was a struggle for survival and it must be stated: Max Payne 3 is not an easy game. With no regenerating health and a limited arsenal each encounter is as gripping as the last.

Should you take that last bullet before restoring your health all hope is not lost and you’re given a last chance for a saving throw. As Max falls to the ground slowly dying the world enters the all familiar bullet time and you have one chance to survive: kill the person that did this to you. Should you succeed you’re given a small portion of your health back.

The settings as I played the game had the aim in a fully free control mode with zero aim assist. This is the way the game is intended to be played but I was assured that there are many control options available including various degrees of aim assist and lock-on should you want them. It took just a moment to get used to as I calibrated the settings and sensitivity but it’s definitely the way to play the game and shooting was incredibly solid.

The controls themselves are fairly standard for a third-person shooter with two exceptions that just might be the most important tools in Max’s arsenal: bullet time and bullet-dodge. The former is exactly what it sounds like and what Max Payne built it’s foundation on, usable when a meter on the side fills up. The latter is another form of bullet time taking the form of a flying dodge through the air in whichever direction you choose while firing your guns in a move that would make John Woo proud.

As I approached a window two men entered the room on the other side of me and started looking for me. I was ducked behind a window which they were standing behind with a door to the left of me that they were covering. Suddenly I was struck with inspiration and asked the attendant in the room showing me the game a simple but very important question. “Can I dive through that window?”


Using the bullet dodge move which I quickly took to calling the “make cool shit happen button” I backed up, took a running start and flew through the window. Turning to my side I fired my pistols at my assailants. As they fell over dead I completed the turn and landed on my back. During this move you’re given full turning ability as long as you’re in the air and it looks as awesome as it sounds.

The team went to great lengths to make sure that in addition to appealing to a new crowd and making a solid game in its own right that returning fans of the series would get the sequel they wanted. The lack of regenerating health in addition to the return of bullet time and the gritty but fun atmosphere make great moves at this, but perhaps the best news is James McCaffrey returns as the voice of the titular character and puts in an absolutely incredible performance.

Max Payne 3 is a fun game to watch. When the guy who has been working on the game for months and seen hundreds of people play it is shouting in excitement when something cool happens, you know you’ve got something special.

Max Payne 3 is a game that’s all about style. The game has a strong emphasis on looking awesome and making cool stuff happen without sacrificing any functionality in its favor. Taking the experiences and technology used in Red Dead Redemption and tightening the focus to a linear and more focused experience like Max Payne 3 makes for a brilliant experience that looks great with incredible sound design and rock solid shooting.

Returning fans and newcomers to the series alike are in for a treat when Max Payne 3 releases next month.

John Colaw

John is what you might call something of a badass. When he's not writing about games or playing them, he's playing in the Kansas City band "Documentary" and drinking as many different beers as often as he can. He's a huge comic nerd in the best sense of the term, with a particular love for the Creator Owned movement.

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