Will Max Payne 3’s Multiplayer Bullet Time Inspire Other Developers?

Everything is better in slow motion. It makes you feel like a badass, while also making everything else seem ridiculously cinematic. When Max Payne released in 2001 many games took notice. Its main selling point “bullet time” gave players a rather massive advantage throughout the single player campaign by allowing them to slow down time but still accurately aim in real time. Flash forward to 2012 and you see its influence is everywhere. Need for Speed: Most Wanted allowed you to slow down time to avoid obstacles while going 200+ MPH, while F.E.A.R., Dead to Rights and numerous other games just mimicked the entire idea of shooting in slow motion while aiming in real time. Heck even leveling up archery in Skyrim gives you the ability to slow down time by 50%. I was finally able to live out my dream of being as awesome as Hawkeye or Legolas, and I owe it all to Max Payne.

With the release of Max Payne 3 imminent, Rockstar has decided to really shake things up when it comes to its bullet time feature. While the single player’s diving and shooting action looks every bit as awesome as you would expect from a sequel to Max Payne, the multiplayer is doing some relatively new and interesting things. This is Max Payne’s first multiplayer outing and excluding bullet time would just be a mistake, despite the gameplay and technical hurdles that may come with it when you bring it online. The idea is that bullet time will only effect those that are in your line of sight, so that it won’t disrupt the entire map. Getting bullet time online has been done before, though with varying levels of success.

Stranglehold was in many ways a Max Payne clone, though it tried to be original by adding online multiplayer and retaining the ability to go into bullet time. The problem was that everyone on the map slowed down as well, which was quite jarring. F.3.A.R.‘s co-op mode forced the second player (Fettel) into bullet time when the first player (Point Man) activated it, though the problems this caused are minimal due to the two player limit and team based nature of the mode.

The closest game to try what Max Payne 3 hopes to achieve was a Half-Life mod called The Specialists. A multiplayer death match that allowed bullet time via power ups picked up in the environment, it sent the player initiating the slow-mo and all of those around him (like a bubble) into bullet time. Who ever was the one that initiated the bullet time moved slightly faster than every else who was caught in the ‘bubble’ with him, which usually resulted in a lot of people dying. When using Max Payne 3’s bullet time online, only those “within your line of sight” are effected. That does raise some interesting questions, like if somebody across the map to sees you diving in slow motion, can they take advantage and just get the easy kill? How will this be balanced? Bullet time is a selectable burst, the Max Payne 3 version of perks, and Rockstar still has more bursts to reveal. How they deal with the other bursts and balance the bullet time is going to be key to making it a fun (not frustrating) experience.

So while it isn’t entirely original, bullet time in multiplayer is something I really think Max Payne 3 can make big. Just looking at the countless games that borrowed from Max Payne in the past when it invented bullet time initially, I can only imagine what this could do to the online battlefield for other games. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare created perks and kill streaks as we know them, which has influenced tons of games going forward. It would be cool to see more developers try and experiment with slow motion in the multiplayer space. If Max Payne 3 proves that bullet time can be fun online, I can easily see games in the future pulling from Max Payne 3’s multiplayer for inspiration. Plenty of good games were spawned from ideas that Max Payne brought to the table, let’s hope it can do so again.