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Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne - Interview with Petri Järvilehto
We had a chance to exchange a few words with Petri Järvilehto, Lead Game Designer at Remedy. We covered a number of issues, ranging from Max' facial makeover to the impact of noir movies on the game's plot and atmosphere. Also, Petri went in-depth in explaining how the team took advantage of the Havok Engine to give players new, exciting gameplay options and how this affected the Bullet Time. Keep on reading for the full interview!
Nextgame.it: Max's appearance is rather different compared to the first episode's one. Why did you decided to change it?
Petri Järvilehto: There are a couple reasons. Max has been through a lot in his life and we wanted to capture that on his face. Max's new look is exactly what we were looking for - it fits the character perfectly while still being close enough to what Max looked like in the first game.
When we began working on the original Max Payne, our resources were very limited. Since we were somewhat handicapped in terms of design decisions, we had to cast models for the characters from a close circle of friends and relatives. This was how we ended up using Sam Lake, the Lead Writer at Remedy, as the model for the Max Payne. For Max Payne 2, we had the opportunity to use real actors, and we took full advantage of this.
Nextgame.it: Which one is the game's aspect you are mostly proud of?
Petri Järvilehto: I'm not sure if there is just one aspect we are most proud of. We are certainly proud of how it all came together so seamlessly in the end of the project. There were a lot of things that we felt were pretty risky (getting all of the physics into the game, for example), but at the end of the day all of the different areas of the game work really well together. I think we've managed to raise the bar for cinematic combat in action games and considering how many (if not all action games) are trying to do the same, I think we're all proud of having accomplished that. Also, I think we managed to create an enchanting story that a lot of players have liked. This is not an easy task when operating within the action game framework.
Nextgame.it: Bullet Time has been improved for the sequel, now we have a greater edge over the enemy during firefights. Did you feel the original needed fixing?
Petri Järvilehto: We never felt the original Bullet Time needed fixing - but we definitely wanted to refine and improve it for Max Payne 2. We've had a couple of years to innovate and brainstorm on how to make Bullet Time cooler. We've taken time to tweak it, and have made it an even more integral part of the gameplay.
The integration of physics into the game has given Bullet Time perhaps its biggest improvement. Having everything in the environment react properly with loads of objects and debris flying around in slow-motion creates breathtaking combat situations. Max's ability in Max Payne 2 to go "deeper into the zone" is another aspect of the new Bullet Time that is a big step forward. As Max takes out multiple enemies in a row, his actions become slightly faster and everyone else becomes slightly slower, giving Max an advantage. This level of control just feels very cool.
Nextgame.it: The Havok engine allows a massive interaction with game environment. How much more difficult is the level design work, considering that you need to imagine all the possible action that a player is able to perform (maybe to prevent, for ex., that destroying the scenario could lead to the impossibility to go on with the adventure)?
Petri Järvilehto: The integration of the Havok engine in Max Payne means that there are tons of different gameplay variations and it's never the same thing twice. Since the movement of objects is no longer scripted, it all depends on the player's actions. Designing the levels with physics in mind was certainly a more challenging task... but this also provided a lot more opportunities.
The interactive environment provides loads of constant gameplay options. Maybe an enemy hides behind a stack of boxes and you can lob a well placed grenade to blow his cover to pieces, or you can knock enemies down with a door, or you can push a gasoline barrel downstairs to a room below and make it explode taking out all of the bad guys in the room. All weapons are also inside the physical simulation.
Nextgame.it: Obviously, you like John Woo movies a lot. Can you reveal which movies have influenced Max Payne for characters, plot and/or visual effects?
Petri Järvilehto: When we first started working on Max Payne, we drew inspiration from many works close to Max Payne in genre - anything from the novels of Raymond Chandler and old black and white Film Noir movies. My favorite noir film is the The Maltese Falcon, the 1941 version with Humphrey Bogart. Some more contemporary movies have been a big influence as well, such as Seven and The Usual Suspects.
The most basic, archetypal Film Noir elements found in many classic films of the genre play a big part in Max Payne 2. Things like a hostile crime-ridden city, its 2:30 a.m. in the morning and it's raining hard... a cynical, hard-boiled detective down on his luck. A mysterious woman who knocks on his door and leads him into all kinds of trouble. A story told in a long flashback. No happy endings.
Nextgame.it: How hard is developing the sequel of one of the most acclaimed videogame ever?
Petri Järvilehto: The success of the original Max Payne was certainly humbling. We never expected it to sell over 4 million copies. But the way we see it, Max Payne was a great school for us, and everything we learned from that, we put in the Fall of Max Payne. So while there is pressure, it's still been immensely satisfying to work on the game and push the barrier in both cinematic action and storytelling in action genre and we feel we have succeeded in doing that with Max Payne 2.