Max Payne's journey into the night continues
Max Payne's journey through the night will continue.
It's been a long, long time since the end credits of Max Payne 2 made that pledge - about eight years, to be precise. Remedy may have moved on to Alan Wake and other projects, but Rockstar still has the license, and now it finally seems that the promise is finally about to be fulfilled.
We already know where the journey will be taking us: São Paulo, Brazil. This change of setting, along with Max's new appearance - bald, bearded, and shorn of his iconic leather jacket - has understandably generated a fair bit of controversy among Payne's long-time fans. The first thing to note, then, is that we won't be heading south of the border straight away. The story kicks off in New York, and over the course of the game we'll learn how and why Max ends up on foreign turf with a beardy chin and a shiny noggin.
At the start of Rockstar's demo, Max is chilling out at his swanky bachelor pad in the Big Apple. Ok, that's not quite true: he's marinating in his own filth, and given the state of his apartment - drab decor, empty booze bottles, and omnipresent takeout trash - it's safe to say he won't be winning Come Dine With Me any time soon. The leather jacket is there, as is a full head of hair. Max is being courted by Raul Passos, a former cop buddy who's offering a lucrative security gig in Brazil, but the negotiation doesn't last long; an angry mob boss shows up and starts baying for Max's blood.
It seems that our hero accidentally ran over the man's dog. Actually, replace the words "accidentally" with "repeatedly", "ran over" with "shot", and "dog" with "son".
Some things never change, and as Max dives down the corridors of his apartment block, blasting gangsters in slow motion, it certainly recalls the good ol' days. Bullet Time is still here, obviously, and now as our hero moves he leaves a slight shimmery blur in his wake. You still fill the guage for this power by killing enemies, or by being fired upon, and to heal you'll need to quaff vast quantities of pain pills. By now Max's liver must look like a six-month old Big Mac, but as drug abuse hasn't killed him so far, I doubt it ever will.
The single biggest concession to modern gaming is the inclusion of a cover system, but thankfully its use seems to be far from mandatory. If you want to play sensible - something Max himself would never, ever do - that's an option, but from the looks of things you're equally free to run and gun. If you were concerned that the series might become a Gears-style squat fest, you can stop worrying now. Should your Rambo tactics lead to you taking lethal damage, you'll get a brief Bullet Time chance to save yourself: snuff out an enemy in your dying moments, and you'll be resurrected - but only if you've got pills to chug down.