When we finally got our first look at Rockstar's reboot of the Max Payne franchise, the man at the centre of the action was a rudderless, burnt-out husk of a man. But, hey, what's new? While Max had left the chilly New York winter seeking out the more tropical shores of Brazil to do contract security with friend Raul Passos in Sao Paulo, old habits die hard, as Max once again tried to protect the women around him. We recently got an exclusive look at some more of the single-player story in action.
The fact that our hero was still sporting healthy-looking locks of dark hair meant that the events of our latest demo predate those of the bus depot shoot-outs in our last preview. Fabiana, the wife of our boss, Rodrigo Branco, has been kidnapped, and we've been summoned to assist in the hunt. While the city may be different, the situation was the same. As Passos arrived at Max's apartment, he attempted to rouse us from the comfortable-looking slumber that comes from a night spent head down on a wooden table. Discarded Chinese food containers of indeterminable date lay strewn, while empty bottles of booze lined most available surfaces. Passos took playful verbal jabs at Max as he stumbled around looking for pants, but there was a stern, and concerned, edge to his voice. Clothes really do maketh the man, and nowhere is this a more evident reflection of the wearer. Passos' clean, pressed linen suit was in stark contrast with the grimy, wrinkled appearance of Max's outfit.
Upon arrival at Branco's office, the conversation flitted between unsubtitled Portuguese and English, as a high-ranking member of the local law enforcement, Marcelo Branco (the hard-partying yin to brother Rodrigo's wealthy, but respectable, yang) and members of staff discussed Fabiana's disappearance. The steady stream of language barely paused for air, and Max's limited language abilities further exemplified his fish-out-of-water status, being located in a foreign place and roped into situations that he didn't completely understand.
Ever the trooper, once the group dispersed Max found himself back in his comfort zone: less chat and more splat. Armed Cracha Preto gunmen stormed the building, and while Branco had taken the initiative and installed an elaborate, and expensive, alarm system, it was immediately clear that there was a problem with the plan when it failed to activate on command. A big-haired IT support staffer rushed into the room, unsuccessfully attempting to override the system with some furious keyboard massage, but to no avail. Branco hunkered down in his office while we played babysitter to the IT guy, who shared more than a passing resemblance to Moss from British comedy series The IT Crowd. Bullets flew, and while our sidekick didn't know one end of a gun from the other, we stalked the hallways with confidence, pumping round after round into enemy soldiers as they crossed our path.
Bright sunshine streamed in through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the office building. Desks appeared to be worked at, stocked with piles of carefully filed paper reports, knickknacks, and architectural model mock-ups of buildings in progress. All became casualties of battle as we returned fire, bullets whizzing past, and the glass of desk dividers shattered as we inched our way towards the server room to reboot the security system. Cover quickly became shredded, necessitating our need to push forward, while a combination of low-slung furniture, diving jumps, and bullet time provided its fair share of dramatic Hong Kong-cinema-style action moments.
While we half expected a survival-style mission where waves of attackers would descend on our position as we protected our frail, intellectual buddy, it wasn't the case. In true help-desk style, all it took was a flick of the power switch and a few keyboard strikes to get the system back online, and only moments later, large metal doors slowly began to slide down from the ceiling to seal us in.
Branco may be wealthy and connected, but he's certainly no Tony Montana. Commanded by Max back to the safety of his office, he scuttled off, pleading with us to "try not to completely destroy the place." Our move to the lobby revealed a slain receptionist with her phone headset still attached. The image didn't have much time to sink in, though, as another of the game's set-piece moments was triggered: a jeep smashed through the glass doorway of the building. Time slowed, and reloading and bullet conservation were no longer our concerns as we took aim at the driver first. Gun-toting passengers were second on the list, closely followed by the stream of armed men rushing in through the now-destroyed entrance. Reinforcements arrived when a white van pulled up and the doors flung open. Anyone we hadn't already filled with lead was picked off one by one as we ducked behind pillars and returned fire. The foyer's opulent facade was stripped bare in the skirmish, revealing a functional, but unattractive, steel rebar below. With the bodies finally beginning to pile up, we were presented with one last challenge: a significantly more heavily armed soldier wielding a machine gun. Our rounds appeared to bounce off his helmet and thick body plating at first, but after working him for a bit with a mixture of blind fire from the remaining cover and some well-placed bullet-time shots, a final, fatal blow forced the camera to zoom forward, tracking the slug as it burrowed deep into his flesh in slow motion, kicking his body back violently in the process.
The scene skipped ahead slightly to avoid storyline spoilers, and whatever went on during that period trashed the building even further. Bullet holes had been replaced with smoking craters, fire burned intensely out of control, and the multistorey structural integrity had clearly been weakened by the mystery assault. Max was covered in a thick coating of ash, his once-grey suit now a new, darker shade, but, on the plus side, conveniently hiding many of its wrinkles. In your face, ironing! He was badly injured, grasping at his chest in pain as he struggled to pull himself up a flight of stairs.
Blaze and ember effects looked particularly impressive, as pockets of flame fell on the floor and clung to the walls. A brief gunfight with some dedicated goons who stayed behind ensued, and after disposing of them like we did their counterparts, we pushed over a large metal filing cabinet to gain access to a precarious-looking high-rise path. We sighed with relief as it held together long enough for us to safely cross, and we struggled onwards, only to fall through a collapsing cement walkway, tumbling down and encountering a wounded Cracha Preto grunt with horrendous injuries. With a leg missing, and fire slowly consuming his ravaged body, the downed bad guy attempted to crawl away as our demo came to a close.
The two demos that we've seen have given us a look at some of the indoor and outdoor environments that we can expect, and given the focus being put on destructibility, we're glad that there's plenty to shoot at. Max is nimble, but steady, with gun in hand, and while maybe we didn't exactly follow Rodrigo Branco's orders about keeping the place in one piece, we were still alive to fight another day. Look for more on Max Payne 3 in the coming months, including info on the franchise's multiplayer debut ahead of its March 2012 release on the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.