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Max Payne 3 hands-on with Gang Wars, Payne Killer and multiplayer Bullet Time

Experience leads to leveling up, leveling up translates into cash, and cash can be spent on a wide array of character-improving gear, as well as “Bursts.” Bullet Time is a Burst, for example, but it’s just one of many (and you may not want to pick it, as the shootdodge will still activate Bullet Time no matter which Burst you’ve got equipped). Some are calculated to give you a positive edge, like Sneaky, which makes the name hovering over your head look friendly to enemies; and Trigger Happy, which – depending on how many adrenaline bars you’ve got – can give you armor-piercing bullets, a light machinegun and Desert Eagle combo, or an automatic grenade launcher.

Other Bursts are focused on messing with your enemies. Our favorites here include Paranoia, which at its highest level will turn on friendly fire for the enemy team and grant them bounties for killing each other; and Weapon Double Dealer, which nullifies enemy gun mods, takes away their reserve ammo and rusts the pins in their unthrown grenades, making them drop and explode. Whatever their effects, there will be a ton of Bursts available when the game finally ships, and what we played with represented only a small handful.

Aside from Bursts, players can spend cash to trick their characters out with gear, which ranges from firearms and grenades to things like armor, helmets and other, more passive pieces of gear that are intended to protect you from specific weapons or Bursts. (Goggles and gasmasks, for example, protect against flashbangs and teargas, respectively, while an ID Card will prevent your teammates from mistaking you for an enemy during Paranoia Bursts.)

You can load up with an awful lot of this stuff, but there’s a catch: everything except Bursts carries a weight value, and piling on too much powerful gear will not only slow your movement, but also the speed at which your health regenerates. Still, the tradeoff may be worth it if you like the idea of stomping around and soaking up bullets while perforating enemies with a beast of a machinegun. (We did, anyway.)

In addition to the above, the game’s filled with little opportunities to score money or experience. Looting bodies, by standing over them and holding a button, can get you ammo, painkillers, adrenaline and cash, and if you loot the corpse of someone you just killed, you’ll get a small “Salt in the Wound” XP bonus. Also, if the same person kills you twice, you can declare a “Vendetta” against them, meaning you’ll get an XP bonus if you can kill them back (although they’ll get it if they kill you again or survive the match). And finally, you’ll have an opportunity before each match to place an optional wager, by betting some of your cash on some random variable – like which enemy player will be the first to die, or which of your teammates will collect the most loot.

While they weren’t part of our play session, we also got a rundown on how Crews – Rockstar’s answer to persistent clans – will work in Max Payne 3 (and, later, carry over to Grand Theft Auto V). Crews will come in two flavors: public, which players (especially new ones) are free to join casually, and which have no member cap; and private, which players can set up for themselves and their friends. You’ll be able to join up to five Crews at once, and there’s an incentive to join, in that they’re a source of extra XP (for assisting and avenging fellow Crew members).

Joining a crew also lets you join in the “Crew feuds” metagame, which works a bit like the in-game Vendettas, except that they’re persistently carried by Crews across multiple games.

“If there are two Crews in a game, we’ll put those Crews on opposing sides,” Bewsher said. “And if a Crew kills five members of the opposing Crew, we’ll automatically enact a Crew feud at this point. And you’ll see on the screen, this scoring, and essentially, the first crew to reach 10 kills, they win the bragging rights and win the feud.”

Obviously there’s a lot to take in here, but it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into making Max Payne 3’s multiplayer work well while retaining the series’ flavor. And we won’t have to wait long to get our hands on it again, considering that the game’s May 15 release date is right around the corner.

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.