Over the weekend of April 20-22, I was invited to New York by Rockstar Games to preview Max Payne 3. You are currently reading a full write up of my trip. You can either head to iGTA5.com
for just the Max Payne 3 details, or scroll down a bit.
Check out my Facebook
for some more personal photos from the trip.
Day 1 (Friday April 20)
I got up at 4:30 AM to finish packing my bags and get ready. A taxi picked me up at 5:15 and took me to Newcastle airport. I was talking to the driver about my trip to New York to preview a new Rockstar game and he was jealous. Not surprised!
I got to the airport at around 5:40 AM and tried to check in, but I didn't have an ESPA visa despite the fact they're supposed to last for 2 years and I got one last year when I went to Los Angeles. USA wants you to pay for them now so I had to get a new one on the computers at the airport. $14 for the ESPA.
Finally got sorted and checked in then went upstairs through the security checks to the lounge and waited for my flight. Only had to wait about 15 mins then got on the plane. Flight left on time at around 6:55. Got a bacon and scrambled egg panini which was ridiculously nice and some orange juice on the plane and landed at Heathrow at around 8:15.
I met Chris, Jevon, Gerard and Nick at the airport from other fansites and after sitting round for a bit we went to out departure gate and waited to board the plane at around 8:45. I was sat right at the back in the middle aisle next to Chris. The other guys were further forward.
I had chicken curry for my lunch on the plane. It was nice enough but nothing special. The rice tasted like plastic. Which for plane food is pretty decent. Got a lemon yogurt for desert and had a cup of tea while playing on my iPad. Mainly played FIFA and Infinity Blade II, with a bit of Max Payne Mobile and GTA III thrown in. Flew the Dodo for a good 10 minutes before sinking into the ocean.
We landed on time at around 12:30 New York time but it took us over an hour to get through customs. They seem to enjoy having 4 staff operating the passport control when about 2,000 people are waiting to be checked! Once I got through I found out my bag didn't make it onto the flight from my connection but they gave me a $50 gift card which I can spend anywhere in the world in the next 3 months. It was supposed to be to spent on a toothbrush etc but I just saved it so I can waste it on something better later.
Once I was sorted with my bag, we were picked up by the driver and got one more guy on the way then sat in traffic all of the way to the hotel. It took a good hour plus to get there but we made it eventually.
We met one of the Rockstar representatives and got our room keys, then headed upstairs and got changed. Our mini bars were empty and locked which sucked! We waited around for a few hours for them to be opened but it never happened so we went to the bar for a drink and charged it to the room. The bar wasn't cheap though - $9 for a bottle of Heineken!
My room in the hotel
We got picked up by Rockstar shortly after and they took us to Brooklyn Bowl which is an old warehouse converted into a night club, bar, diner and bowling alley. Was pretty awesome really, plus I got to meet fellow iGTA admin TreeFitty for the first time. Wasn't even expecting to see him until the Saturday but Rockstar made last minute plans to get him there which was cool.
In the Bowling Alley they had a live jazz band on, we all ordered food and had unlimited refills of drinks. A few of us played bowling and we had 3 games in total. Jevon (GTA Net) won the first one but I managed to win the other two, despite cheating on the third game by using my good hand when everyone else was using their weaker hand.
Hey cousin, lets go bowling? Aww damn, Psy won.
We went back to the hotel at midnight-ish but we were all tired and by the time we actually got through the traffic which took a good hour so we went to bed. Not together, I should add.
Day 2 (Saturday April 21)
Over night my bag was delivered so I went downstairs to collect it but it was in security so they got someone to bring it up. I ordered room service too and got a Belgian waffle and a fruit salad with pineapple juice. Watched some of the football (sorry, I guess I should say soccer) on tv too. Mainly the boring Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea game.
Belgian waffles for breakfast
Watching one of the most boring games of football ever
Everyone met in the lobby downstairs and planned to walk to the new World Trade Center but as people arrived, more people decided they were coming so we had to sit and wait for an extra hour or so for everyone to get ready. Eventually we left and walked to the new WTC site. It's already pretty impressive, and immensely high. Not quite sure how finished it is. After there, we headed towards the Brooklyn bridge. A few of us walked most of the way across and took some photos while the rest decided to ditch us and go off on their own. The weather was amazing and pretty hot, I was sweating in just a t-shirt. Couldn't believe the number of joggers running across the bridge in the heat.
The new World Trade Center
View from the Brooklyn bridge
We hailed a cab and went to Times Square for some more photos and to have a look around but decided it would make more sense to get lunch at the hotel seeing as it wouldn't cost us anything, so we got a taxi back and ordered lunch. We nearly all got a grilled chicken sandwich which was nice but nothing amazing and we all had a few soft drinks. We put the whole bill on Drew's room which came to $400+. Well that's what he wants Rockstar to believe. Secretly, he probably did consume $400 worth of food
Max Payne 3 Preview
Rockstar picked up myself and the other fansite webmasters from our hotel (the five star Soho Grand
) at around 4:30 PM and took us to the old warehouse in Brooklyn which they used for the Red Dead Redemption fansite event a few years ago. There were shell casings all over the floor and a bunch of TV's and Xbox 360's set up with Max Payne 3 on them, plus a huge projection on the wall showing the game too. We all crowded around the projection and watched the brand new Max Payne 3 TV Spot
which had just been launched that day. Once we'd had the game explained to us (the back story, the basic features of the game etc) we grabbed a controller and began playing.
The secret location where we played Max Payne 3
That's me in the green, making sure I at least learn the controls before being killed repeatedly
Max accepts a job offer from a man known as Raul Passos, a former collegue from his police force days. This gives him the opportunity he needs to escape from New York and his drink and painkiller problem, brought on by the traumas of the first two games. That, plus the chain of events which are started when Max and Passos are re-united means they have little choice but to leave the city.
Max "solving" his problems
Rockstar Games allowed us to play through three missions of Max Payne 3 on both Xbox 360 and PC. We weren't allowed to see the opening cutscenes or the first mission - which we were told is essentially a tutorial - but were able to play through the 2nd to 4th missions of the game.
Our first mission was set in a night club. After arriving in a helicopter with Rodrigo Branco, his beautiful trophy wife Fabiana and her sister Giovanna, Max is tasked with babysitting them while they dance the night away. Unfortunately a group of masked gunmen break into the place and kidnap her. It's then up to Max to chase after them and rescue Fabiana Branco and her sister before it's too late, which requires making your way through various rooms in the skyscraper nightclub and taking down multiple enemies at a time. You may have seen footage from this mission in the various trailers which have been released.
Back from the previous games is Bullet Time, which gives you a great opportunity to pick off multiple enemies in one go, especially when used alongside shootdodge. The physics and animations are incredibly realistic, especially the way Max will adjust his arms to ensure he's always pointing his gun where you're aiming even while your body may be going in the opposite direction.
In my opinion the biggest stand out feature in the game is the gore. Whenever you shoot people, wherever you shoot them, you'll see holes rip into their flesh and blood fly everywhere. If you kill the last enemy in a specific area, the shot that kills them will go in slow motion and you'll see the bullet or shrapnel fly towards them and make a mess of their body. The same thing also happens when you successfully complete Last Man Standing - see below.
If you've played a previous Max Payne game you'll understand that painkillers are effectively health packs you can collect and use to recover damage. Previously you had to manually use painkillers before you took too much damage, but on Max Payne 3 if you get killed but still have remaining painkillers, you'll go into Last Man Standing mode. Everything will slow down and you'll have a few seconds to take down your killer. If you manage to kill them before you die - and the game will automatically move the aiming reticule towards them - you'll survive and continue playing, but you'll automatically use up a painkiller to keep yourself alive.
If you find a part of the game tricky and constantly die over and over (which I did, many times), the game will get slightly easier; either by giving you extra painkillers, more ammo or by removing or altering enemy behaviour. This helps to keep the game accessible for everyone, particularly during difficult firefights - of which there are many.
While chasing enemies through a level and taking them out, you are able to examine various scenes which will lead to Max describing what he sees, as seen in previous Max Payne games. This helps to improve your understanding of the story and is also quite interesting. You can and should also check around for painkillers, new weapons and ammo and bonus collectibles such as the Golden Guns. Be aware though, in some missions (such as this one) wasting too much time will cause you to fail. After all, you're supposed to be trying to free Fabiana and Giovanna from the kidnappers before they escape.
The second mission we played was the stadium level which you may have seen in other previews. This was the most intense and difficult mission we played and I died dozens of times while trying to figure out the best technique to take out all enemies at various points. The mission moves between run and gun against large numbers of enemies to providing sniper cover for Passos while he evades pursuing enemies. There are a lot of interesting features on this level, particularly the physics. You can shoot footballs which will deflate or shoot boots which are hanging up and they'll fall down. There are also plenty of lights and windows for you to destroy if you feel like wasting ammo, not to mention enemies to splatter with a variety of weapons.
Max and Passos in the Stadium
New York Level
The final mission we saw was set in New York and is a flashback type mission which explains why Max is in this situation and why he had to leave NYC for Sao Paolo, Brazil. It begins with a bar fight and then requires you to move through various areas and open spaces taking out goons with Raul Passos. It didn't seem to be as long as the previous missions but I personally found it to be one of the most fun.
Max Taking Cover in his New York apartment block
After playing through the three missions in single player on both 360 and PC, I can safely say I much prefer the PC version of the game. That is a personal preference and isn't based on anything being wrong with the console versions, I've just always preferred to play shooters with a mouse and keyboard. I find aiming with analog sticks pretty difficult and it was a big part of the reason why I found certain parts of the game quite tough. You can of course change the game settings to make it easier, such as adding auto-lock or literally changing the game difficulty (which I presume alters the enemy AI, gives you more health etc) but I tried to play through on medium with manual aim to get a good feel for the game. The PC was much easier for me to control and I enjoyed it more because I spent less time worrying about trying to aim and more time pulling off multiple headshot combos! The graphics are very impressive on both platforms and the game runs smoothly throughout the epic firefights.
Everyone then moved back onto the Xbox version and played some multiplayer. Rockstar began by showing us through the menus and how detailed the character customisation can be. You can choose multiple load outs and customise almost every aspect of the game. I've never seen anything as detailed as this with regards to multiplayer customisation and you could quite easily spend a few hours getting everything set up before you even get in game.
I wasn't actually a part of the first multiplayer session as I had been playing the PC version single player and didn't get down in time to get a 360, but I watched some of the other guys playing and it looked pretty fun.
I eventually got to have a go a bit later and found it extremely easy to pick up and get involved with. Unfortunately I died a lot of times, but did manage to get a few kills which I was pretty proud of. The main point was that it was fun. Even dying is awesome as the game automatically generates a comic book style freeze frame showing the point of impact as the bullet takes off your nose! We also saw parts of the multiplayer Crews which makes for interesting sub plots within multiplayer, but because everything was happening so fast it's not something that too much attention was given to. Perhaps when I'm more familiar with how it all works it'll be a nice feature to use, but when stuff was popping up on the screen during the gameplay, I just pressed whatever I had to so it disappeared and I could get back in game to die again.
After the multiplayer I went back to the PC's and played through the missions again. I managed to find more items which I'd missed the first time, so there is certainly some replay value here, although the enemies are fairly scripted. Their AI is dynamic and they'll do different things based on what you're doing - such as flanking you if you stay in cover - but if you've played through a mission once and remember where the enemies were, you probably won't have too much of a problem the second time.
Some of the other fansite guys playing on PC
Overall I'm as impressed by Max Payne 3 as I thought I would be. Having just played through the first 2 games in the week leading up to the Max Payne 3 preview, I had a good idea of the gameplay elements which were carried into the new game but improved (such as Last Man Standing). I can't really comment too much on the story as I didn't see enough of it, or for the most part hear enough of it to know exactly what was going on, but everything else was exactly as I'd hoped.
Once again Rockstar Games are continuing to push the boundaries. Even if you haven't played the first two Max Payne games, this is definitely worth picking up. After all, who wouldn't want to dive through a window in slow motion wielding dual sub-machine guns and take out 5 enemies with headshots before you even hit the ground? It's what an action movie would look like if they had enough money for all the fake blood.
Final Reccommendation: Get This Game!
I said goodbye to TreeFitty and we headed back to the hotel after the event. By the time our useless driver had finished driving around in circles in the wrong part of New York we were too tired to do anything else and went straight to bed when we got in.
Day 3 (Sunday April 22nd)
I woke up early at around 6 AM and replied to some text messages from my girlfriend then went back to sleep for a few hours then ordered room service. This time I went for an English Breakfast with extra bacon, a Fruit Salad, a fruit Protein shake (which was amazing!) and a pot of tea. It took some eating, but it was great. And so it should, considering it was almost $70!
Because it was pouring with rain in NYC the majority of us just stayed in the hotel all day and chatted about subjects ranging from beauty treatments and acupuncture to LA Noire.
It rained all day on Sunday
Our car picked us up at 3:30 PM and we were at the airport just over an hour later. Traffic was terrible in NYC, like it probably is all the time. We got checked in and got through the totally unorganised security lines to check out the shops and duty free. I got myself a NYC mug but everything else was overpriced so I decided to save my cash for a different rainy day. We boarded the flight and I was sat next to Chris and Gerard.
Day 4 (Monday April 23)
The flight back to Heathrow was a bit quicker than the flight to NYC. It only took about 5 hours 50 to get back compared to around 7 hours there. I tried to sleep but didn't get much. I was absolutely exhausted by the time we came in to land. Could barely keep my eyes open and was practically hallucinating from lack of sleep.
I said goodbye to Chris, Gerard and Jevon then made my way through security to wait for my flight back to Newcastle. I had a few hours to kill so I started writing my thoughts of the Max Payne event on my iPad (which is what you're reading now) and spoke to my girlfriend.
The flight back was fine then I made my way home from the airport and accepted a load of new friend requests on Facebook from the new guys I'd met over the weekend. Overall it was another good trip. The hotel was nice and there were a lot of new guys to chat to from different fan sites. We also had a lot of free time to do what we wanted to do, but given that we'd already seen much of NYC it seemed a bit like wasted time given that we generally just hung out at the hotel and chatted.
I enjoyed it though and being able to play Max Payne 3 before it's launch was a great privelege. It's a fantastic game! Thanks Rockstar!