Max Payne 3 preview and screens

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Well it’s definitely Max Payne. From the opening scene I was demoed – sadly I didn’t have the chance to take the controls – that much was clear: Max’s squalid New York apartment, full of emptied booze and painkiller bottles, is being laid siege to by mobster types, and it’s up to the dishevelled former detective to battle his way out.

In terms of atmosphere it all just feels right: the dark skyline outside, the bullets flying absolutely everywhere, and the faint whiff of desperation that surrounds the protagonist. And, before long, there it is: the flying, dual-wielding, bullet-time leap that the series has become so well known for. Max may have been away for eight years, but he certainly hasn’t lost any skills.

It also looks absolutely stunning: the motion capture is exceptional, and the physics is a real step-up from almost any other third-person shooter out there. Max twists his body to avoid obstacles when he jumps, braces himself if he’s about to hit a wall, and bad guys crumple authentically depending on where they’ve been shot.

The damage they show is also dynamic, as are the bullet holes that appear on Max himself. There’s no regenerating health, instead you have to neck prescription drugs scattered around levels, and also use the cover system rather and solely running-and-gunning (although the latter option is workable if you’re feeling brave).

After Max’s successful escape from his now-bullet-strewn home it’s off to Sao Paolo, and a gunfight in a bus depot that shows off the spectacular set-pieces that you’ll find throughout the game. Here Max ziplines down from the top level of a building, capping goons in slow-mo, before shooting more assailants while hanging out the side of a moving bus. It’s genuinely cinematic stuff, all brought together with a level of polish that’s classic Rockstar.

For our full impressions check out issue 64 of OPM (on sale October 31st), which also includes a level preview that you won’t find anywhere online. And – and we’re not just saying that – it’s by far the most spectacular of the three.

With six months to go until release Max Payne 3 is in an incredibly strong position: the core mechanics are solid and the visuals massively impressive. The game will live or die based on the variety it includes and the strength of the narrative, but so far things are looking good. And that’s ‘good’ in the harrowing, blood-soaked, noir way that we’re all hoping for.

Max Payne is due out March 2012.