The original Max Payne was released in 2001 to critical and popular acclaim, despite its numerous development delays and its rather short single-player game, which most players completed in about 10 hours.
Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment is now wrapping up development on Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, which is scheduled for release later this year. We caught up with lead designer Petri Järvilehto for his insight into the game's physics.
GS: Why did you choose to use Havok physics in the game?
Petri Järvilehto: Choosing a separate physics engine like Havok was a pretty easy decision. We evaluated different physics engines, and it seemed like Havok was hands-down the best solution to our needs. Using a physics engine allows us to create the great-looking combat scenes [that Max Payne is known for] with increased realism and dramatic, movielike action. Havok's software and user support have been very professional, and they have made the precise and effective integration of the physics engine to our code possible. Long story short, we felt that to be able to really push the gameplay and interaction, we just had to have realistic physics.
GS: How have you implemented Havok physics into the game? From what we've seen, the main use of Havok in Max Payne 2 seems to be for rag-doll death animations, which we've seen for gun kills as well as for grenades and Molotov cocktails. Is this just for visual effect, or does it play a role in the actual gameplay?
PJ: Sure, the rag dolls can be really impressive, so it's no wonder if those are the first thing that you spot. However, we've also been able to bring a huge number of other things into the physical simulation. For example, all of our dynamic objects are included into the simulation, so stuff like boxes, ladders, barrels, paint cans, pool balls, glass bottles, and so on all behave physically correct. Player interaction is also included in simulation, so bullets pass impact on to the objects in a realistic fashion, running into objects makes them move away, and you can do things like balance on top of objects, which is pretty cool in a third-person game.
The physics do have a role in the gameplay as well. For example, when you're in combat situations, taking cover behind barrels or boxes can be a good idea, but pretty soon you'll realize how the enemy bullet impacts start to topple the pile of boxes you're hiding behind. Or if a bad guy is hidden behind a wall divider, you can throw a grenade next to it and send his cover flying through the air. All weapons are also inside the physical simulation.
And certainly there's the huge boost that you get in eye-candy factor... Seeing the bodies and weapons drop, or fly, in slow motion, in perfect tune with physics really makes the experience cool and memorable. But it would not be perfect without the surrounding gameworld reacting to physics as they would in the real world. Explosions will result in massive amounts of debris and stuff flying around in a slow motion--it is like a movie without having to worry about the pyrotechnics and special effects budget. I am very excited about these features as they are an important part of the player's immersion to the gameworld.
GS: Aside from rag-doll animations, what other kinds of modeled physics can we expect to see in Max Payne 2?
PJ: I think I touched upon that in the previous answer but let's look at how this works in a combat scenario in Max Payne 2.
Max enters a large warehouse room, and two bad guys take cover behind a shelf filled with buckets and other warehouse items. Swoosh, the player hits bullet time and everything clicks into slow motion--bring up the shotgun and start blasting away at the thugs, empty shells are ejected from the gun, rotating slowly through the air, bouncing back from a nearby wall, and you can hear the hollow clicks the empty plastic shells make, the buckets on the shelves cascade in all directions in a shower of metallic sparks and fly spinning off the shelf. Suddenly the bad guys are not so well covered any more. So you press on and hit them with a hail of pellets. The first guy takes a shotgun round full into the chest and starts gliding backwards in a perfect slow-motion spectacle of death. His flying body blocks the second shotgun shot and twists around in the air, while the second bad guy dodges away and comes up with a Desert Eagle pointed at your head. Only now you notice that there's a fuel canister behind them, and as you dive backwards and keep firing, the exploding can sends objects and debris flying into the air, and the resulting flames engulf the bad guy. As you collect yourself from the floor and time resumes its normal flow, the bad guy's Desert Eagle falls in front of you, making a metallic clattering noise.
GS: Interesting. Thanks for your insight, Petri.