People who I've spoken to at Rockstar Games have hinted to me that the multiplayer mode in Max Payne 3 is going to be something special. According to IGN impressions of the March 2012 game's competitive multiplayer, these people hinted the truth.
The point of reference IGN uses for Max Payne 3's multiplayer is Call of Duty. We'll use it, too. It's a little weird, since one game is a third-person shooter and the other is in first-person, but it works since CoD is so well-known .
Call of Duty multiplayer involves a lot of non-storyline shooting, right? Max Payne 3 multiplayer, at least in a mode called Gang Wars, is story.... procedural story... let's have IGN explain:
"A typical match, for instance, might kick-off during the calamity of a drug deal gone horribly wrong. You must collect duffle bags gorged with cash and ferry them back to safe points. It's a standard multiplayer objective but the difference comes in the next round; instead of tasking you with the same objective, the mission changes and draws upon the events of the preceding round not only to give context but motivation for the new task...
...in round two, for instance, a bounty might be placed on the head of the previous round's most lethal player. Or you might have to grab land from the dominant team. Say you successfully won the most new territory, in the next round you might have to frantically run around defusing bombs set on your new turf."
Comic scenes and voice-over from Max himself stitch the rounds together.
And then there are the Bursts. Think Call of Duty again, but maybe more clever? You're unlocking "Bursts" as you gain experience points in multiplayer. But forget about missile strikes and care packages. Leave that in CoD. In Max Payne 3 you're uncorking "paranoia", which makes your enemies see their teammates as enemies, and "sneaky" which makes your gamertag somehow "appear as friendly to the enemy team."
One more Call of Duty comparison: Bullet time. CoD doesn't have it. MP3 does, as is series tradition. In multiplayer it'll work based on line-of-sight, slowing down time for the player and his/her prey.
Go to IGN to soak up the rest and to see some more shots of the Gang Wars mode. We haven't played it, but it all sounds smart.
Since the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar has been trying to do big things in multiplayer, extending themselves beyond the comfort zone of the single-player game design at which they've long excelled. GTA IV multiplayer has remained popular, if not at CoD levels. Red Dead Redemption lassoed its share of multiplayer gamers, too. A shooter is one of the best canvases for multiplayer gameplay development and innovation. It looks like Rockstar sees that and is trying to make something special with it.
Max Payne 3 will be out in March for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.
Max Payne 3: Gang Wars [IGN]