The impetus for this article was some of the very harsh comments that fans of the Max Payne series have been giving since the release of the first screens and a fact sheet earlier this week. The majority of the comments focused on how in the world could that be Max Payne because he doesn’t look the same and how could they take it out of New York in favor of the bustling city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. From the first screens its obvious that the dark and almost hopeless graphic style of the first two has been replaced to a degree. Max Payne has always been known for its film-noir style visuals and some fans think that you just can’t have that with a landscape as vivid as Brazil. Rockstar contest though that the film noir style is just that a style and just because they change things up a little doesn’t mean the game can’t stay true to its roots and here at ZKG we agree with them.
It would appear that time hasn’t been good to Max, but whether that is true remains to be seen.
The events of Max Payne 2 were over 12 years ago, the world is different, the situation is different, Max is different. With all that said the game is still set to feature the awesome bullet time that the original Max Payne made famous (often imitated, but never duplicated), the ability to dual-wield a multitude of weapons, his addiction to painkillers, mature subject matter and Max’s ever-present internal monologue. In a community of gamers such as ours, we demand realism in almost every aspect yet when it comes to something as small as the physical appearance of one of our favorite game characters we go into a frenzy, why is that?
To elaborate on this even further, take the upcoming Splinter Cell: Conviction (which at least at this time is only for the Xbox 360, err). When fans saw the first trailer they were like that’s not Sam. Up until then we had always known him as this sneaky, introverted guy who snuck around places and used cool gadgets. But just as we change, just as our lives become more complex so shouldn’t our favorite game characters. I mean to forever keep them locked in a vacuum of needing to look the same way, be the same way is in fact cheating ourselves. As gamers we love them because we get to know them and their stories and because of that wouldn’t it be better if their lives didn’t just end with the last game and pick up with the next? Would it not be better that their lives continue moving in between the intermission that is the development cycle and when we see them next is more at a moment in their lives than a completely independent alternate reality that begins again with each title. By forcing the developers and by extension the character to be locked in this time capsule if you will I think that we ultimately restrain the true potential of the character and the franchises they are apart of.
I say all this as a person who was not that excited when I heard Rockstar was changing direction with the Max Payne franchise, but after talking with them and taking a look at the information now available I agree wholeheartedly and think that it was a risky yet visionary move to make. It seems that the folks at Rockstar understand the constraints that you will eventually place upon yourself if you don’t free yourself to explore multiple variations and points in time of a franchise’s main characters’ life. The fact that other developers have refused to do this is why a lot of our favorite franchises and well known characters have become stagnant.
Sam has changed a lot over the years and that hasn’t been so bad has it?
We don’t have to look far to find prime examples of this with such hallowed characters such as Mario, Link from Zelda, and Sonic the Hedgehog. I was going to put Kratos from God Of War in this list but Sony figured out that the story has to end sometime otherwise you eventually start to ask what the heck are they still fighting for. Getting back to those other three characters I mentioned above, think about it when was the last time you played one of those titles and really felt like it was innovative and fresh, notice I am not saying fun because that’s not what I am talking about (we aren’t talking about any of the Mario Galaxy or Mario Cart type stuff either, original type Mario games).
Mario first appeared in Donkey Kong in 1981 although back then he was called “Jumpman”, the first Mario title appeared 2 years later in 1983. So if we take the later date, and there is no way to tell his age when we first saw him but Mario has been around for 26 years and hasn’t changed one bit. Every time we see him we can be sure that him and his brother will be on some kind of mission to save the princess because that is what he does and will probably always do. I think that Mario is a great character, love the games but as video game characters go he really has no depth. You don’t really know anything about him except he is a plumber who jumps around, drops down pipes, shoots fireballs from time to time, saves princesses, and loves pasta. Gotta love all that but because of the way we are it seems he will never be more than that. The Link character from Zelda and Sonic are the same way, we expect, no we demand that they do what they have always done and because of that the ability to really connect with the character is lost. Think about this, God of War as a franchise is younger than all those others I just mentioned but you know more about Kratos now than you will probably ever know about any of them.
I guess that as gamers we only like realism sometimes, but not when it comes to any changes in our favorite game characters. The problem with that is that without that progression of a character at some point it really limits what you can do. Kojima and his team were ahead of the curve with what they have done with the Metal Gear Solid franchise, Snake has gone through a rather long life but he has changed a whole lot over that time. Now their are reasons for his changes and aging written into the storyline but nonetheless Solid Snake is as complex a character as we have ever seen, one that has not stayed the same and because of that lots of people believe that he is the greatest character in the history of video games and if sells of the most recent installment, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots are any indicator I would have to agree.
Why can’t they change?
I mean what would happen if Mario was anything but a platformer, if Link ever actually had more than two lines of dialogue or god forbid spoke, or if Sonic decided that he didn’t want to run at light speed for most of a game? I am sure if any of those things happened folks would riot but when you really think about it would it be so bad that our beloved heroes actually…changed a little? So what does all this mean, it means that I think we should give Max Payne, Sam Fisher, and all the rest of our favorite characters that seem to be changing a little bit of slack. In the end it makes me wonder though why we just hate for our favorite game characters to change?
We want to hear your thoughts, tell us what you think.