Share the Payne: Max Payne 3’s multiplayer debut

By Stace Harman
29 March 2012 17:00 GMT

Stace Harman discovers how Rockstar is helping one of gaming’s most troubled protagonists play nicely with others, as Max Payne 3’s multiplayer makes it grand debut. New shots inside.

Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3 represents the first game in the series to be solely developed by Rockstar, with no input from Finnish developer Remedy nor series creator Sam Lake.

The size of the maps will scale to suit the number of players involved in a bout, to a maximum of 16. Most are based on locations visited in single-player but with access to rooftops and interiors that were off-limits to Max during the game’s campaign mode.

Being killed twice in a row by an opponent will enable a vendetta to be set against them, yielding an XP bonus if a revenge kill is achieved.

Weapon and equipment loadouts will affect a player’s speed, stamina and health regeneration. Custom and preset loadouts can be swapped between multiplayer deaths.

So popular has the inclusion of multiplayer become in recent years that the question is seldom whether a new title will feature it, but rather what form it will take. Traditionally single-player experiences like Dead Space, Uncharted and Mass Effect have implemented multiplayer with varying degrees of success, as have Rockstar’s own Red Dead Redemption and the behemoth that is the Grand Theft Auto series.

It’s only when the multiplayer meaningfully enhances these experiences that its inclusion stops being thought of as a desire to tick a box and becomes a reason in and of itself to fire up the game. This can happen either by it being fully featured – going beyond the standard modes and including strands of the game’s fiction and unique game mechanics – or by complementing the single-player experience and so adding value to the game’s overall narrative. Interestingly, multiplayer in Rockstar’s upcoming Max Payne 3 looks set to do both.

Rockstar reps insist the firm wouldn’t be putting all the time and effort into the multiplayer if they didn’t think they we could build on the single-player experience and do something unique and different. How Max uses Bullet Time in the single-player has formed a base concept for multiplayer.

At this point, it’s possible that you’re you may be picturing a mess of people doing nothing but flinging themselves in slow-motion this way and that while popping painkillers like candy. However, during an afternoon spent at Rockstar’s London offices, it becomes quickly apparent that Bullet Time is actually one of the less spectacular abilities available to players.

Each perk – dubbed Bursts – has three levels of effectiveness and is powered by adrenaline. The bursts are chosen as part of a player’s loadout and grant status effects that range from practical health boosts to the grimly amusing sight of having each member of the opposing team drop their primed grenades at their feet.

A number of Bursts which either benefit your team or hinder your opponents. For example, Paranoia makes all of your enemies appear as enemies to themselves and on higher levels friendly fire kicks in so they’re able to hurt each other. Sneaky is another, which makes your gamer tag appear friendly to an enemy, allowing you to stab them in the back.

While preset character builds are provided, you’re going to want to create your own as soon as possible to best fit your play-style. Gaining experience grants access to additional Bursts while money earned during bouts facilitates the purchase of different tiers of weapons and equipment. There are five custom slots for character building and each can be swapped to in between deaths, meaning that if you’re having no joy with your nimble, dual-pistol wielding build, you can swap to a heavier option who’s more tooled up and consequently tougher but less agile.

Killing fields

Team Deathmatch aside, the other multiplayer modes draw closely from the world’s fiction. Payne Killer casts two players as Max and his ally Pasos and pits the rest of the players against them. Points are scored by the dynamic duo as they take down their enemies and killing either of the partnership results in the player that inflicted the most damage assuming the role of either Max or Pasos and having their own opportunity to rack up points.

Gang Wars is an altogether more involved, consistent mode and is being hailed by Rockstar as the flagship multiplayer mode. It exists in the same world as the single-player story. There are five different rounds building to the showdown and each round can branch depending on which side wins. So, the first round could be a normal team deathmatch followed by a round in which the player who achieved the most kills becomes a VIP target to be protected by his teammates.

Watch on YouTube

The first multiplay footage released
yesterday by Rockstar.

That might be followed by having to planting bombs in the rival’s territory, which need to be armed and detonated to win the round. This all builds up to the showdown in which the results of the previous round are factored in, awarding bonuses in that final round. It means that if you’ve won more of the previous rounds you’ll have an advantage, but the other team can still turn it around by overcoming their disadvantage.

It’s an interesting concept that provides a prolonged and varied multiplayer experience with an overarching thread tying the rounds together, rather than having them as a series of unconnected bouts frag one-upmanship. The narrative touches are welcome, too, as several minor storylines are continued from various points of the single-player experience.

Rockstar reps promise that the narrative threads explored by Gang Wars are in no way integral to furthering the single-player experience, simply that they provide a narrative tissue to help the single and multiplayer feel connected and to provide context to your actions in multiplayer.

The final main element of multiplayer concerns the Social Club and creation of in-game crews, as announced last week. Few additional details are discussed but reps explain that crews you create in Max Payne 3 are run through the Social Club and provide a way to create alliances and vendettas with other players. The rivalries are tracked and it that’s going to carry through to future games, including GTA V.

Listening to Rockstar discuss its plans for multiplayer in Max Payne 3, it’s easy to forget that Max has always been a solitary fellow and that, by rights, the notion of multiplayer description in a Max Payne title should sound both ill-fitting and tacked-on. However, an afternoon of creating customised builds with varied weapon, equipment and Burst loadouts and then playing through several rounds of fast paced deathmatch, Payne Killer and the excellent Gang Wars entirely dismisses the notion that multiplayer might be an awkward fit for Max.

In recent years, multiplayer modes have cropped up in numerous games that many feel have no business carrying them. But when as much thought and effort is made to incorporate a title’s ethos, as looks to have been made by Rockstar in Max Payne 3, it’s hard to argue that its inclusion is anything other than a boon.

Max Payne 3 launches for 360 and PS3 in the US on May 15 and on May 18 in Europe. It launches on PC in the US on May 29 and on June 1 in Europe and the UK.

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