Max Payne 3

The four-year anniversary of the first fan-site event in 2008 was celebrated with a weekend stay at the elegant Soho Grand Hotel and the opportunity to play Rockstar's much anticipated upcoming title Max Payne 3. Almost everybody from the previous events was able to attend, and a few more websites had earned notoriety from Rockstar in the past year, so their webmasters were also invited. The guest list was even expanded for older sites such as GTA Hood, Rockstar Network, as well as us here at GTA Warehouse; we each had additional staff members join us for this trip. Our long-time forum administrator James (JCMoorehead) was invited and we were able to meet again for the first time in seven years.

Day One

During the usual meet and greet that occurs on the first day, I was introduced to a handful of new faces including Thomas from Rockstar Base, Gerard from Grand Theft Wiki, Kristian and Patrick from Payne Reactor, AJ from Rockstar Watch, Nick from Rockstar Resource, Domenic from PayneKillers, and Matt from Rockstar Network. Soon after, we loaded up into a caravan of Luxury SUVs and were driven to Brooklyn Bowl, where Rockstar had reserved four lanes in advance. We ate, drank, bowled, and enjoyed live music until closing time, and were told to be ready at 4:00pm the next day.

Day Two

A group of us took advantage of the large window of downtime, and after breakfast, Saturday afternoon was spent walking around Manhattan. We visited the site of the new World Trade Center, still under construction. We then walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, and split off into two groups - one going to Times Square, and the other going to Economy Candy, the sugar mecca that we learned of in 2008, directly across the street from the Hotel on Rivington. We all reconvened back at the hotel for lunch and general video-game-nerd talk, until 4:00 when it was time to pile into a caravan once again and drive back to Brooklyn. This was beginning to look familiar...

We arrived in front the same warehouse in which we previewed Red Dead Redemption two years prior. After waiting outside for a few minutes while Rockstar's crew put the final touches on the inside, we were let in and were greeted by the ultimate LAN party. Spent bullet casings littered the ground, music was blasting from the ridiculous speaker system, Rockstar logo signs were hung on the walls, and a spotlight of the Rockstar crest illuminated the floor. Sixteen Xbox360 consoles were hooked up to LED televisions in four groups of four, with leather chairs surrounding them. A random console's screen was being projected onto the huge back wall, and upstairs in the loft were a handful of monstrous gaming computers for those of us who preferred a PC.

We played three chapters of single-player in order to get accustomed to the controls and mechanics. I don't think my eyes blinked the whole time. There are no loading screens - all the loading takes place during the cutscenes, which transition to and from actual gameplay fluidly, and dynamically incorporate in-game footage in real-time. The combinations of Bullet Time, Shoot-Dodge, and Kill Cam allows you to pull off cinematic gun battles that rival most movie special effects. Controlling Max as a character feels incredibly real. While shooting, his upper body turns toward the target while still moving in any direction. I never once felt like I wasn't in control, and all of the animations for reloading and weapon swaps, as well as the weight and recoil of each specific weapon, are contextually based on the weapons you're holding. Kill Cams are all unique, and enemies react based on weapon type and point of impact. You can even slow them down for added effect.

One of my favorite aspects of Max Payne 3 is the level of detail in the environments, and how characters interact with it. Cover is destructible, and the ease with which it breaks apart depends on the material it is constructed from. Wooden tables will obviously shatter faster than a concrete block. If you kill someone who is next to a glass window, they will fall through it. If they're up against a railing, they will fall over it. When you're running through the elements, the blades of grass by your feet move and the sand kicks up in a cloud. If you skid across the ground, your clothes will get dirty. The more you run around, the more you can see Max sweating. Every bullet is individually modeled, and even the ejected casings shine as they spin out of your gun and fall to the ground.

After a quick break for some food, we switched over to multiplayer and were introduced to the three main types of multiplayer modes: Team Deathmatch, Payne Killer, and Gang Wars. Before starting up a game, we were able to customize our character with any number of bodies, heads, clothes, and accessories to make our player unique. You can then select your loadout - but the more stuff you have, the heavier your load becomes and, in turn, the slower you can move and react. There are many different items and bursts that are available that help you in multiplayer, but since they haven't been revealed publicly yet we are unable to disclose them.

Team Deathmatch is what you'd expect - there's a timer and you kill members of the opposing team. Payne Killer is everybody against Max and his partner, both of whom have better weapons and more ammo and pain killers than everyone else. Kill one of them, and you assume their identity until someone else kills you. Gang Wars is the absolute highlight of multiplayer in Max Payne 3, featuring rival gangs fighting through a series of dynamic scenarios with objectives that change depending on the outcome of each of round, creating a story-based plot within multiplayer while still using all of the same mechanics as the single-player campaign. Because of this, Rockstar Games has created the most immersive, action-packed shooter ever - not bad for their first try. When it was said that Max Payne 3 "looks almost as good as it feels to play", Rockstar weren't trying to be clever - they were bragging, and rightfully so.

With the evening winding down and the rain beginning to pour, we all started heading back to the hotel around midnight. There must have been some exclusive event taking place in the lobby - there was a velvet rope in front of the door, forming a line of well-dressed patrons who were all safe and dry under the overhang, waiting for their turn to be allowed inside. The looks on all their faces when a bunch of us ran through the rain in t-shirts and shorts and were immediately let in...priceless. After doing some catching-up on the interwebs, I was getting hungry again, so a phone call to room service made a juicy 3:00am steak appear at my door.

Day Three

After another three-hour night sleep, I met Drew for breakfast in the lobby, and we were later joined by a few more friends before it was time to check out. We all grabbed our bags and mingled for a little while longer until we found out our departure times. We still had a few more hours to kill so we all ordered lunch and exchanged more stories until it was time to leave. This was my fifth event courtesy of Rockstar Games and they continue to find newer and better ways to blow our minds each time. They are champions of their industry with unfaltering hospitality.

Playing Max Payne 3 on PC.

Skirt steak delivered at 3am.

Playing Max Payne 3 on Xbox 360.

Rockstar logo made out of spent bullet casings.

1 WTC under construction.

Max Payne 3 cake.