Exclusive Max Payne 3 Story Q&A

Rockstar sheds some light on what Max has been up to these past few years and why he's found himself in Brazil.

Like most high-profile sequels, the debut trailer for Max Payne 3 stirred up quite a strong reaction from fans of the series when it was released last week. While the trailer answered a number of questions about the titular antihero, it seemed to result in raising even more questions in the process. Why is Max in Brazil? Is the game moving away from noir storytelling? Why exactly does Max think shaving his head is a good look? To answer some of those questions, we recently spoke with Rockstar VP of product development Jeronimo Barrera. So have a look at the trailer below and read on for Barrera's answers.

GameSpot: Now that we've seen the Max Payne 3 trailer, it seems pretty clear that things have changed for Max after the events of Max Payne 2. Can you bridge that gap for us? How much time has elapsed between the two games? How did Max end up leaving the department, and law enforcement, entirely?

Jeronimo Barrera: Quite a few years have passed between the events of Max Payne 2 and Max Payne 3. While we're not going to get into too much detail just yet, Max has [spent] most of that time drinking and trying to forget what he's been through. Much like Max's own state of mind, we're going to keep things a little hazy for now. We can, though, say that we feel his career in law enforcement in America was rendered pretty much impossible by the events in Max Payne 2. We wanted to make a game that would please fans of the originals and be accessible to newcomers. As the games are so old now, plenty of people who would like Max were simply not gaming back in 2003 (and, yes, we are depressed by how old we are getting!). There are, of course, plenty of great shooters out there, but the game's combination of urban and criminal setting, the cinematic third-person action that is at the heart of the game, and the really amazing character that is Max are still a pretty unique proposition.

GS: The most noticeable change from previous games is simply the new setting. Tell us about how Max ended up in Brazil, of all places. The trailer makes it sound like he's a hired gun now. Who is it that Max is working for these days? What is his employer's line of work?

JB: Max came to Brazil as a foreigner hoping to gain work as a freelancer in executive security--a job that is often the last resort for former/disgraced cops. But, of course, in true Max Payne tradition, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

Max finds his way to Brazil through an opportunity offered by Raul Passos, an old associate from his early days in the NYPD. Both he and Passos work as security for Rodrigo Branco and his family. Rodrigo is a real estate mogul, and his family is very connected to the political and social scene in Sao Paulo. Of course, Max has a lot of history in New York and a lot of bad memories he is hoping to leave behind. In Sao Paulo, Max encounters a city, which will feel both very alien--he does not even speak the language--and very familiar. It's massive, super modern with a massive contrast between rich and poor, big gang problems, political corruption, and huge buildings. Not that different from the New York he knew.

It would seem at least some of the game takes place in New York.

GS: The storytelling in previous games was very much rooted in neo-noir style and techniques. The trailer for Max Payne 3 suggests you might be moving in a different stylistic direction. Is that right?

JB: No, not at all right. The game is very true to the original games in terms of gameplay, aesthetics, and visual and narrative themes, although [it's] updated to take advantage of the past nine years of game development. For us, noir is not about a place (and if it were, that place would surely be Los Angeles, not New York) but about a particular visual style and a kind of story and characterization telling that has a certain hard-boiled cynicism, plenty of twists, and a sense of decay and depravity. Yes, it has moved from a wet or snowy corrupt vision of New York to a sometimes wet and equally corrupt vision of a booming modern-day Brazil, but I don't think they are otherwise that different.

The goal with the trailer was to set the scene for a new chapter in Max's story; one that would make sense both from a thematic point of view and from the point of view of Max's character arc. Staying true to each core element of Max was always a major focus, and that's actually something that we discussed with Remedy during development, and they've been extremely supportive of our work.

As we start showing more of the game, you'll see that we aren't moving away from those styles and techniques at all, and we've come up with what we think is an interesting interpretation of classic noir. Noir is about much more than location; it's a visual approach and a thematic style. It's also a huge part of what makes Max Payne unique.

Throughout development, we have always worked to maintain and evolve the elements that have made the Max Payne series so beloved and so groundbreaking. Through bullet time, Max Payne brought the gunplay of Hong Kong action movies into games in a way that had never been done before. This was in many ways more of a key element of Max even than its noir styling…its incredible movie-style action. And we have really worked hard to evolve this into something that feels incredibly visceral and fresh.

It wasn't just the gameplay that was unique and new: Max's iconic internal monologue and the use of graphic novel cutscenes were also signature elements of the game. All these things are present in some way or other in Max Payne 3, along with several other elements from the original games. Although all have evolved significantly since the last game, as it would be odd if they hadn't! What looked great in 2003 sometimes does not always look so perfect in 2011. Max was always about an incredibly rich cinematic style of both presentation and gameplay, and we tried hard to make sure it still feels very cutting edge.

Public transportation in Sao Paulo isn't the safest.

GS: The trailer makes Max Payne 3 look very different from the previous games, which focused on gritty, urban shoot-outs in and around New York City. The new game looks a lot more colorful and seems to have a lot more variety in environments. Max looks like he'll be doing more work outdoors and even some jungle operations. Can you tell us more about that?

JB: While we've revealed the setting as Sao Paulo, the game stays true to all the fundamentals of the first two games, from the noir themes and visuals to James McCaffrey's iconic voice-over and even a version of the graphic-novel-style panels. Sao Paulo is the largest city in the southern hemisphere and every bit as dark, grimy, and at times depressing as New York. And while the favelas may be the most recognizable part of the city, the game explores a lot more of the surrounds, from the luxury high-rises of downtown to the favelas and beyond.

And while Sao Paulo may be a more colorful place in the daytime, it's a very different story at night. The game will live up to the heritage of Max Payne; it's as dark and as twisted as ever. The only thing we changed was the story, which now takes place over a few weeks, and there are some levels set in the day. This was only because the story we wanted to tell could not realistically be told in a single night. There are, however, enough rain-sodden, pitch-dark nights in the game to satisfy the most ardent fan of dark and wet locations.

Sao Paulo is an intriguing backdrop for Max, as it's a city with a lot of unique juxtapositions. There's vast wealth living side by side with real poverty and whole communities that are protected by guerilla forces. Many people are caught between a rock and a hard place--trusting corrupt lawmakers and police or placing their safety in the hands of drug lords.

The darkness and chaos of the city and its problems resonate well with Max's own inner demons. Alongside some amazing locations in Brazil, Max will also find himself in some familiar locations, but we'll share more about that later this year.

Rockstar promises bullet time will return in a way that "feels incredibly visceral and fresh."

GS: While the first images of Max Payne 3 showed the new Max as being bald (and led many of us to believe that he might be much, much older and losing his hair), the trailer clearly shows a different image. Why does Max shave his own head?

JB: While a few years have passed, Max is not too much older than he was in Max Payne 2, and the scene of Max shaving his head comes at a pivotal point in the story that in many ways echoes similar moments in the earlier games. At that point, Max is very much out of his depth. Max has always been described as a man on the edge, and he's often confronted by lose-lose situations that are beyond his control. In a moment of desperation, he decides that the best way to confront his enemies is to change his appearance. Whether his motives are rational--or borderline mental--is up for debate! In his own way, Max is probably the most tortured and put upon of all game heroes, and we really wanted to show the impact of all that suffering and angst on his hard-bitten but lonely personality and how that suffering has impacted his behavior.

GS:Thanks for your time.

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Discussion

167 comments
tonitorsi
tonitorsi

Most of my friends say Brazilians are cocky and annoying.

Balaji1212
Balaji1212

Damage control much. It's a pity that Rockstar are already having to resort to this. While there are many question marks in my mind regarding this new direction of Max payne, but i would like to express one concern which not many seem to be making i.e. the technology being used here-the Rage engine...I mean, i am getting a GTA IV vibe from the games footage which i attribute to the tech behind the game which IMO doesn't suit up well for a game from the Max payne franchise ( JMO )...i mean from the facial animations to the character models all seem like they are from a open world sandbox game rather from a stylish shooter like the previous games from the series were. All in all, even though Rockstar are my favorite developers, i just hope that they don't mess up like they did with the Manhunt franchise via Manhunt2 which was another multiple Rockstar studio collaboration which had a long development cycle...but i definitely have my reservations for sure.

y3ivan
y3ivan

@vader501st vongroove was just expressing his views about max payne 3 atmosphere and scene. It just that max payne 3 isnt the same as Max payne 1 &2 which are set in New York. As for me, Max payne 3 doesnt seem to portrai the dark atmosphere of Max payne 1 & 2.

vader501st
vader501st

@vongroove Get your facts and Geography together before bashing any other country; Sao Paulo is the biggest city in Latin America, and one hell of a setting for a game like this. You're making yourself look stupid by saying that kind of stuff, and probably giving a bad rep to us, North Americans.

vongroove
vongroove

gadragod I don't mean the country is crappy I mean it's just a rubbish setting! I don't care about these types of locations like in Just Cause. They mean nothing to me and don't invoke atmosphere!!! Like Res Evil 5 crappy locations, Deserts and jungles and all that rubbish! I hate it! Why not cities and small locations and stuff! Like in the first two games!

moh_sakhaii
moh_sakhaii

Yes, hopefully they will stay true to the series, and the great work of Sam Lake and Remedy.

imsosickofyou
imsosickofyou

he doesn't look much like max in the posters who was the same bald max from maxpyn 2

kazumashadow
kazumashadow

I'm from Brasil (yes we write it with S here, not Z) and i got quite more excited about this game by knowing it will take part here. Most of the times media shows a whole different Brasil than the one i live in, like in an episode of Family Guy were they showed Brasillians speaking spanish.

gadragod
gadragod

@vongroove. I can't tell if you're making a blanket statement about all of Brazil or not, but the slums of Brazil are about as pretty as the slums of America or any other city. Having said that, and according to 60 minutes, Brazil is a beautiful country that is only getting better. Of course there are "hoods", like where this game will have it's action, but from what I've heard and seen (on 60 minutes at least...), Brazil is a beautiful country and is one of the better countries in the world. I don't know if it makes a difference or not, but I'm an American.

vongroove
vongroove

Why Brazil? I mean one of the crappyist locations in jungles and rubbish citys and stuff BORED to death with that crap why not a fictional city? Fed up with S*** locations like Farcry and Just Cause and Call of duty (can't remember what's real and fake i.e. location wise) I hate it! What about the first MP location? Really starting to hate games today!

brunod_f
brunod_f

the others games plot happened in one night...this one will take more than a few days probably

bond007_gamer
bond007_gamer

I m ready to take the painkillers.. just bring the payne...!!

Miladnfs
Miladnfs

Does rockstar even play second game?! at the end of that max forgot everything and accept his wife's dead. I never forgot his smile at the end of the story. now why he become such a boozer? and what about his history? his love? his memories in NY? other characters? Mona Sax? Jim Bravura? what about Inner Circle? this game will be great in action and some more just because of Rockstar... but have no story! and that's the foible of game...

gabunko
gabunko

DETECTIVE MAX PAYNE.....WAITING THIS DUDE TO COME BACK FOR A LOOOOONG TIME. i think that rockstar will not fail us - fans of max payne. it's gonna be EPIC!!!

kaijukrash
kaijukrash

I'm jazzed Max is back and I'm glad they're progressing with the character. He looks broken and out of shape. Probably even a bit suicidal. He reminds me of Creasy from Man On Fire Damn good trailer and some sweet in-game footage. I love the head shaving scene. It's like he's taking the gloves off. Pairing himself down to the most basic element of what he is. A stone cold, dyed in the wool killer. Barring terrible reviews I'm in for round 3.

norman69
norman69

Looking forward to this very muchly now. And come on people, after all the crap that happened in the first two games, I don't blame Max for hitting the bottle and shaving his hair off.

sandgroper
sandgroper

who the hell cares if hes bald... max payne completely changed appearance from 1 to 2 and no one cared, people complaining are probably the ones who weren't born when the first one came out.

Gothic_symphony
Gothic_symphony

My first time playing Max Payne. Hope it doesn't disappoint

Grayzer
Grayzer

*Possible Spoiler from MP2* When I finished MP2 on the hardest difficulty - Mona survived, It makes me sad that she isnt in this iteration

syam32245340
syam32245340

I remembered playing Max Payne 2 but this third installment must be awesome than before!

LilRoss2k3
LilRoss2k3

can't wait. i skipped MP2 due to the PS2's limitations...but will definitely be playing 3.

mstrchf12
mstrchf12

its going to be great!! Since when have Rockstar screwed up anything?

SpaceDesperado
SpaceDesperado

Good questions GameSpot, great interview in general. I trust Rockstar, especially if it has Remedy's blessings.

shadow580
shadow580

@NotJackieChan seriously, how old are you dude?

danyjr
danyjr

Really looking forward to this one. I loved the first two.

Pyrobolo
Pyrobolo

I hope they don't mess with bullet time toooo much =/

klausreis93
klausreis93

His shaved head fits perfectly with his psycho health. This caused a great impact to the players... In a good way. Just what we needed.

Chaotic19
Chaotic19

This game will be interesting. I used to play Max payne alot back in the day. Don't know if I'll pick this up, what I do know is that it'll be the gritty shooter everyone expects it to be.

dajweeks
dajweeks

I am usually somewhat apprehensive about developers returning to a series after such a long time. This is especially true of Max Payne which was so iconic and ground breaking for its time but if anybody can do it its Rockstar.

scatterbrain007
scatterbrain007

So happy to hear that they're not getting rid of the noir style feeling to the game. One more thing...when I think "noir" I DO think of New York city, not L.A. really. That's just me though.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

Hope they won't change the release date anymore.

Saayko
Saayko

I liked the parts when he said that the game is gonna keep the noir style fully and max is gonna visit some familiar locations best!

NotJackieChan
NotJackieChan

@shadow580 It's so annoying how everyone throws the word "opinion" around. Just because you have an opinion doesn't mean it isn't a stupid one. That's my opinion.

Toplinkar
Toplinkar

@GabrielOnuris Agreed. I get pissed every time they block or criticise a game because it depicts Brazil like it really is. What Counter Strike and the Rio map? It's hard to forget that one. That being said, I can't wait to see how Sao Paulo will be in this game, it will be interesting to see how the developers will adapt such a crazy city in a game.

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

Nice, now all we need to hear about is GTA5. Can't wait to see how this one turns out.

GabrielOnuris
GabrielOnuris

"a massive contrast between rich and poor, big gang problems, political corruption, and huge buildings." "while the favelas may be the most recognizable part of the city, the game explores a lot more of the surrounds, from the luxury high-rises of downtown to the favelas and beyond." Lol, you're extremely right about that; but take care: if the "spoiled children" that are in power here in Brazil hear a thing like that, the game will be forbidden here in this country. You know, brazilian government always loved to try and spend the *erroneous* word that Brazil is a heavenly and happy country.

Acid_Floor
Acid_Floor

I Trust in Rockstar.... Don't Let'em die...

myungish
myungish

Bring on the Payne! HELLS YEAH!

DL_gamer
DL_gamer

That's Amazing, I live in Sao Paulo and I'm curious to know how they will describe the city and what spots will be shown in the game. Can't wait.

Liliroots
Liliroots

When he said "Hangover" with a beard and the baldness, that reminded me of Galifianakis from the movie Hangover Pt.2.

rasputin177
rasputin177

no one will know until the game comes out. The trailer does not to anything to reassure but no one can really say until the game comes out.

Choad-Warrior
Choad-Warrior

PS - This didn't reassure me at all: "Max's iconic internal monologue and the use of graphic novel cutscenes were also signature elements of the game. All these things are present in some way or other..."

In some way or other?? They should be present period.

Choad-Warrior
Choad-Warrior

I think this person is confused as to what Film Noir is (what Max Payne WAS based on). He emphasizes location as if that was peoples chief complaint. It wasn't just about the location, it was about the lack of the signature noir visual style. Noir visual style doesn't require a modern city, it requires extreme shadows and lighting conditions, not sun shine and rainbows.

lock2121
lock2121

@joeisnub Agreed! Cannot wait for this game, its been too long Max.

blackmetalwar
blackmetalwar

The original Max Payne was unique, memorable and gives me plenty of motivation to follow up with this installment. Keepin' my finger on the pulse with this one.