I've got the itch; no, not that itch. Not the kind that comes from shackin' up with a complete stranger. This itch is far more pleasurable and only flares up when Rockstar gets ready to release their latest blockbuster video game. Rockstar is one of the few studios out there where it doesn't matter what they're making, I'm there day one (look no further than Rockstar Presents Table Tennis — yes, I bought it right away and loved it like my own child, haters be damned).
The last decade (plus) has been a creative renaissance for Rockstar. It started with 2001's Grand Theft Auto III, and the creative well has not run dry since; giving us titles such as Vice City, San Andreas, GTA IV, its expansions (Lost and Damned and Ballad of Gay Tony), as well as the incredible Red Dead Redemption and last year's police procedural, L.A. Noire. So, to keep the streak running, Rockstar is reviving one of their fan-favorite franchises, Max Payne, which hasn't seen a game since 2003.
In typical Rockstar fashion, they're bringing their own distinct flair and style to the project to (hopefully) ensure it's as memorable as previous company efforts. From what I've seen thus far, Max Payne 3 is shaping up quite nicely, and here are five reasons why I think the title will be well worth your time and money.
It's being written by Dan Houser.
That name might not mean much to you, but it's an important factor in why I'm pumped for the story of Max Payne 3. See, Max Payne 3 is actually the first game in the series not developed by Remedy Entertainment and, by extension, written by series creator Sam Lake.
Remedy and Mr. Lake moved on from the Max Payne franchise to instead create Alan Wake, leaving poor Max effectively shelved (as if Max wasn't depressed enough). Having published the first two Max Payne titles, Rockstar figured they could pick up the pieces and add their own unique spin to the franchise with Max Payne 3. Therefore, Max Payne 3 is being written by Rockstar's vice president Dan Houser, the same man who penned all but one of the Grand Theft Auto games and Red Dead Redemption.
This is great news for multiple reasons. Firstly, it's pretty much a lock that Max Payne 3 will have a gripping narrative with a ton of memorable characters driving the experience. Furthermore, you can expect Max 3 to be about more than just a dude on a quest to put as many bullets as he can into as many never-do-gooders as possible. Judging from his past work, Houser loves to play with the theme of redemption in his titles (one game, which I dare not name, even used it in the title…). Max Payne 3 will probably be no different, and that's fine by me. In fact, Max has long been searching for redemption for his sins, so it's nice to know we have a writer competent enough to take that narrative thread and really run with it for all it's worth.
Linear narrative allows for sharper focus.
This second entry goes hand in hand with the first. When comparing Rockstar's recent work, Max Payne 3 sticks out like a sore thumb from a design perspective. Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption and, to a certain extent, L.A. Noire where all open-world games. Max Payne 3 is not.
While this was initially concerning to me, as it seemed like a creativity buzzkill, I've learned to approach the design choice from a "glass half full" perspective. Max Payne 3's linearity allows Rockstar to really focus on the minutiae of the experience as opposed to the broader paint strokes.
That's not to say Rockstar didn't nail the smaller things in games like GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption (we as a collective gaming site have talked ad nauseam about how beautiful the game's sunsets are, for example), but with Max Payne 3, they can take the time to perfect every single moment as it pertains to the immediate plot.
Additionally, where a large focus of the GTA and Red Dead games is establishing a living, breathing world, Max Payne 3 doesn't have that concern; it's all about pushing the narrative forward, which allows for tight pacing and a focus on character, Rockstar's specialty.
Bullet Time will be cool again.
It's been a long time since Max Payne's signature move, Bullet Time, has been cool. After the first two Payne titles, we've seen nearly every shooter — both first and third-person — use the technique to death since it made its debut in 2001. With its appeal all but washed up, I had legitimate concerns that Max Payne 3 wouldn't be able to distinguish itself if it relied too heavily on this tired game mechanic.
Consider me a fool for not trusting Rockstar.
With Max Payne 3, Rockstar is making sure Bullet Time appears as badass as it was back in 2001. With the game's realistic physics engine, Max's slow-mo jumps actually carry weight as bullets do a ballet around him. You're also able to shoot in every direction, even including a prone position. The player has total control of Max's movement and it makes for a stunning display of gunplay. The saying "poetry in motion" definitely applies here.
And if you don't believe me, check out this trailer highlighting the game's stunning gunplay.
Deep multiplayer component.
In addition to a lengthy single player campaign, Max Payne 3 also features a robust multiplayer component. Rockstar has dabbled in multiplayer before with GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption, but Max Payne 3's multiplayer seems to be a true evolution for Rockstar in the competitive multiplayer arena.
Not only does multiplayer in Max 3 feature a solid heaping of maps and modes, but the addition of online crews and feuds makes it so battles actually carry some weight from match to match. Crews will also transfer over to Grand Theft Auto V when it eventually releases, giving you a reason to form up with your buddies early in Max Payne 3 and take it to the online lobbies to stake your claim.
It's a Rockstar game, 'nuff said.
If a game releases with that R* shield on its case, there's a very good chance it's going to be awesome. Nine times out of ten, that logo is a seal of quality.
Throughout the years, Rockstar has proven themselves to be one of the premier video game developers in the world and have rightfully earned our complete trust. They're responsible for actually pushing the boundaries of our industry to discover its breaking points, which in turn has given us some of the most rewarding gaming experiences of all time.
Rockstar will never stop experimenting and innovating, and that's why I love them. Max Payne 3 might appear on the surface like a safe bet for a company responsible for turning this industry on its head many moons ago, but I think there's more to the game than meets the eyes hidden beneath the surface.
These reasons, among others, are why I'm beyond excited to crack into Rockstar's latest effort when it launches in mid May. You know, as long as there's no blood-rope walking nightmare sequences with babies crying in the background, that is. Those sucked, hard.