Max Payne 3: Concerns

He lost his family, he lost his best friend, his home, his chance at new romance, and for better or worse, he may have lost his mind. Max Payne has always been advertised as “the man with nothing to lose” and it’s a title you either have to respect, or you wish you had before staring into the barrel of his Ingram. But when I saw the first batch of previews for Max Payne 3, I couldn’t help but wonder: does Payne really have nothing to lose?

Change can be a good thing, but the wiser knows that what tips the scales out of anyone’s favor is how much of it you stack. The game has been pushed back three times, thus it’s already exhibiting the first signs of possibly going vaporware. Here’s my two cents as to why I believe it should stay that way and a reminder as to why we loved this disgruntled, painkiller munching, stoic bastard.

Imagine your favorite spot. Great food, great staff, and you’re on good terms with their star chef. It’s not mainstream and it’s not exactly upscale, but it’s that one place that sits well on your humble definition of perfection. One day, the manager lays the bomb on you. They’re selling the shop, and someone else has taken the offer. To make matters worse, the cherished chef will not be sticking around when the new management takes over. The spot closes down temporarily while the new people take the time to renovate the place. And so far, the developing designs are looking rather trendy. You’re not so sure if these new cats are willing to uphold to the same standards that made this spot memorable.

This is pretty much the same deal with Max Payne. Remedy Entertainment sold the IP to Rockstar, and “the chef”, Sam Lake, who had been writing the series’ stories, will not be returning to pen the third title. Though Rockstar had been involved with the previous two installments, and they’re not without respect, it’s still call for concern to see if they’ll remain faithful to the elements that defined Max Payne. And so far, with what we’ve seen, things are looking… different. Furthermore, James McCaffery, the voice of Max in the first two games, will not be returning due to the third game being set 12 years into the future. Apparently, McCaffery’s voice wouldn’t be “old enough” for the new Max. Still, such changes aren’t uncommon in the industry and it certainly takes more than that to dampen a widespread of hearts. Let’s go deeper.

I honestly don’t think the new Max is necessarily a bad design, but like many others I don’t agree with it. The mere sight of it reminds me of Kane & Lynch, and at times I imagine Max performing a bullet time Final Atomic Buster.

Despite the fact that this is what Max is supposed to look like 12 years after the second game, my reasons, however, still ran deep. Could this new design work in a noir setting? Yes. But what kind of characters do you see strutting around with a shaved head, wife beater, and fat on muscle? Scumbags, the ones that beat women, molest children, and eventually catches a bullet between the eyes.

This realization hearkened me to the idea that if Rockstar still insisted on working with this new Max, it might’ve been more interesting to make him the rapscallion, minus the rape. I mean why not? After the crap he had to put up with for almost two decades it wouldn’t be a surprise. As to who could be the protagonist, there’s only one person in the world who has the right to take him on: Mona Sax. So far, however, no word from Mona as it’s yet to be decided whether Mona’s death or survival in the second game’s ending would be made canon. By the way, I thought salt and pepper hair was still fairly in style for old codgers…

Now I just want to clarify, I don’t have a problem with Brazil. But as I mentioned before, Max Payne is a series that is shrouded in noir. I’m not saying that Sao Paulo is a bad choice, just one that can be very difficult to work with. We don’t usually get treated to a noir story set primarily in a tropical environment. Usually, such settings are ideal for flashbacks and “meanwhile, back at the so and so.”

The story thus far is that Max is employed as part of a rich family’s private security regime. Somehow along the way, Max is betrayed (as always) and he’s out to uncover the truth. It’s a story that could work… and it’s also a story that could fall apart. It’s a tale that could still work in a New York minute, or if Rockstar was so bent on adding palm trees, a transfer to LA wouldn’t be nearly as questionable.

But what has really caused uproar amongst fans is the fact that sneak peaks were shown of Max fighting in broad daylight. This is certainly a huge change from Max’s preferred work hours. And if you were having oddball lucid dreams during the day, you obviously have more issues than just grief.

Like a certain caped crusader, Max brought a meaning to how justice never sleeps. The darkness is a part of him as he is a part of it, all the while precipitation falls squarely on his shoulders. It is within this dismal void that Max draws upon his source of wit and cynicism that coats his every thought, his every word, what grants further insight with his observations. Once the sun rises, all the depth that is touched by light is automatically taken from granted. It is what delicately sits on this cusp that we come to know as noir.

But it’s a sunny day in Sao Paulo and I can hear Max mutter a newly formed quip:

“The things I want by Max Payne, an iced tea, a walk with the dog, a new opportunity to improve my gardening…”

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t at least a bit interested in seeing how such a new Max Payne would pan out. And I’m probably saying that out of having it all left up to my imagination. Sure, we could strip away everything we knew about Max and just go with Rockstar’s ideas but then it would just be another shooter. Bullet time or not, that’s not why many of us played Max Payne. Max literally brought onboard a meaning behind pulling the trigger, an act that was only one half of what got the adrenaline pumping along with an engaging narrative.

The use of noir was not just a motif for style but it accentuated one man’s struggle in constantly looking up in hopes of seeing just one glimmer of light, challenged by the sting of catching an eyeful of rain, blizzard, and punishing winds. Such is the story of his life.

Is Max really a man with nothing to lose? My answer is no. In waging his one man war, he gained our respect, the clay that shaped his integrity and, well, that’s certainly something no one should lose. During this time of wait, it would be best for Rockstar to take Max’s example and just let go, or if anything, take a step back and rethink strategy. I don’t know about anyone else, but to me what really defines a man with nothing to lose is one shot dead, found with his gut hanging out, and sprawled under the sun: Behold, the true fall of Max Payne.

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