Max is back. It feels good to type those words, especially in light of how long Rockstar went dark on Max Payne 3 following our cover story. The dormant period even caused some to speculate that the game was destined for development hell. Fear not, readers – Max Payne 3 is real, and I’ve seen it being played thanks to a recent Rockstar demo session. Not only is it real, it’s shaping up to be one of my most anticipated titles of next year.

First, a quick summary of Max Payne 3’s premise: A number of years have elapsed since the end of Max Payne 2, and time has not been kind to Max. He’s long since left the NYPD and fallen into a haze of drugs and drink in his apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey. Opportunity knocks in the form of Raul Passos, an old acquaintance from the police force, who offers Max a job in private security in Sao Paulo, Brazil. At first, Max cynically declines. As always, the dialogue is gripping, hard-boiled, and frequently profane – a perfect fit for voice actor James McCaffrey, who reprises his role of Max and did a majority of the motion capturing for the character.

However, the job suddenly becomes a bit more appealing. Outside, a crew of mobsters pulls up headed by Anthony DeMarco, who wants revenge for Max killing his son. The building is under siege, and Max and Raul quickly make a run for it, clearing out hallways of attackers in sequences similar to the action we enjoyed in the first two games. For a second it looks like Max is going to meet a premature end, but a strange homeless man saves his life for no apparent reason and engages our antihero in a small, almost surreal moment of conversation.

After this odd respite, Max is back on the attack, using corner cover and bullet time theatrics to navigate the building’s corridors up to the roof. After another furious firefight, I see one of the subtle new features – a slow motion, controllable bullet’s-eye view of the last kill in an area. After taking a moment to show off the skyline of New York and New Jersey, Rockstar skips ahead to a level in Sao Paulo later in the game. This was strictly for the purposes of the demo, as Rockstar claims the finished game will have no loading screens.