I remember when Max Payne 3 was announced, it was not a good time. Not only had the development moved from Remedy to Rockstar (with whom I have a love-hate relationship), but Max Payne was shown as a bald out-of-shape guy in a sunny backdrop. This was worse than the Diablo 3 rainbows fiasco by a very wide margin. How could a developer who specializes in sandbox games like GTA and Red Dead Redemption give us a truly great linear action game? Why did they mess with the formula? Max has a persona, he wears the dark snowy look of New York like a trusted suit, so who is this bald man in sunny South America? Playing the game at PAX East soothed many of my fears; this is a true Max Payne game and one that I am suddenly very excited about again.
The first thing I asked the developer about as I was playing (and often dying) was the thought behind Max's look. He equated the change to a few things: ten years have passed and Max has lived a hard life, he has lost everything, abused his body and soul, and let himself go both physically and metaphysically. The game starts with the Max Payne we remember, and when he kills a high-ranking mob boss he is pressured to leave New York or be killed. He leaves and in typical Max Payne fashion things go from bad to worse and he is at the end of his rope – he needs to start anew and bury himself in the life he has to lead, one of a mercenary taking what jobs he can to survive.
The shaving of his head is a prominent scene in the game and as they described it, I asked how it parallels The Walking Dead scene where Shane shaves his head. They laughed and said the whole team was shocked as that unfolded because that is essentially what Max went through and they conceived it years ago. Like Shane's character, Max has to do things and be someone he would not have been if life had been different. The symbolic act of shaving his head is a cleansing, a throwing off of moral shackles to do things that need to be done to survive. It gave me a new perspective on the changes and it is one I can now fully endorse, it just makes sense in context of the story.