James McCaffrey, the voice of Max Payne for over a decade, chats to VideoGamer.com about the changes Max has gone through and how the advent of motion capture has made the experience working on the third game a very different experience.
Q: Max Payne 1 was a tale of revenge; the sequel was a tragic love story. When acting as Max Payne, do you get a sense that his misfortune continues in the third instalment?
James McCaffrey: Oh, definitely. Max has been trying to drink his demons away, and the painkillers are a way of trying to keep a brutal part of his past at bay. But unfortunately for Max, escaping his life by following Passos to Brazil doesn't change as much as he'd like. All hell breaks loose.
Q: This game takes Max away from New York City for the first time in the series, and quite a few eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that the story would be (partly) set in Brazil. Do you think that Max's character allows for the story to be set in any location?
JM: The new setting is perfect. Max is the same guy - a little older - and he ends up in Brazil out of happenstance. A guy who he bumps into helps him out of a jam, and offers him work protecting a rich family. It sounds like a simple job and it should be, but he has no idea what he's getting into. It's almost like the Wizard of Oz. The setting doesn't give you a reason to care about Max, it's the other way around - Max gives you reasons to care about the setting. And Max's demons go wherever he goes.
Q: Given the change of setting, do you think Max Payne 3 still feels like a neo-noir story? And if so, how much of your performance as an actor do you feel contributes to the feeling of the game?
JM: There are definitely still noir elements to the story, and that will come out when people finally get to play the game. In terms of how that feeling comes across, a lot of that comes down to the character, but I'm really just saying the dialogue. So much of the work has been done for me by Rod Edge and Rob Nelson and the Rockstar guys, who really help make the Max that you see on the screen.
Q: You've been the voice of Max Payne for over a decade now. How do you feel that the character has changed over this time?
JM: The changes aren't that radical under the circumstances. Max goes through a lot of changes over the course of the story. If you see Max in New York he doesn't look much different from the guy he was in the original games.
Max is a real character who changes and grows, and I think that's why a lot of people like him. In the third game, he's older, he's been through a lot, and it shows through his personality, the way he dresses, the way he looks. There are plenty of guys who've reached a point in their life where they think shaving their head is a good idea and by the time you reach that point in the game I think you'll understand.
Q: For the first two entries in the series, you only provided Max's voice. This time you've been enlisted for full motion capture. How did the processes differ and what does advancing technology allow you to bring to your performance?
JM: In the first two games, it was mostly just me standing in a sound booth taking directions. I'm not that familiar with the games business in general outside of my work on Max, but I know the technology has changed a lot since then. The Rockstar guys had created huge sets for us to act out the scenes on, so bringing that physicality into the character made things flow more naturally.
The Rockstar guys would have me running up stairs and diving off objects - it was more physically demanding than I had expected, that's for sure.
Head over to the Max Payne 3 screens gallery for some new and exlcusive shots.
Max Payne 3 is out May 18 for PS3 and Xbox 360. The PC version will follow a few weeks later with DirectX 11 support and 3D visuals.
Pre-order Max Payne 3 from select retailers by April 15 and you'll receive early access to the Pill Bottle Loadout Item - a multiplayer loadout item which allows you to carry more health-reviving painkillers as you fight.