Rockstar Games was certainly the center of attention at the PAX East 2012 event here in Boston, even if they were only showing off one game. But then again, it’s no surprise, since the game is  Max Payne 3, the long-awaited sequel that’s headed our way on May 15. The company invited us to check out a hands-on demo, to get an idea of what kind of trouble Max was in this time around.

The level that was shown to us takes place in the outskirts of a jungle city, with small sheds and plenty of heavily armed soldiers. Max finds himself in a dangerous situation, as he needs to rescue his boss’ girl from captivity. To make matters worse, he’s still kind of feeling the aftereffects of the painkillers he’s been taking, and still has on him in case the bullet damage becomes too great. So he’ll need to act quickly – and efficiently – before she lands in any further danger.

Some traditional gameplay elements from older Max Payne games are back, and better than ever. The first thing you’ll notice is bullet time, which you can activate by clicking in the right analog stick on the controller. You’ll need to use it wisely, as it doesn’t refill until you make a few stylish shots to refill it. This is most useful when you’re running into an ambush, or need to get the jump on someone you can’t take down from behind a corner. Max can also perform stylish dives, and the screen slows down in this mode too, letting you aim your cursor at the target and wail into them with bullets.

Another interesting effect put into account with the game is Last Man Standing. Here, if you’re taken out by an enemy and on your last breath, your aiming reticule points at the guy who last shot at you. If you can cap him before you collapse to the ground, you’re able to recover, at the cost of a single painkiller. However, you’ll want to regain energy as quickly as possible, because the next time, you may not be so lucky.

The gameplay is exciting, about on the same level as previous Max Payne games, although rolling takes a little bit of getting used to, as well as the cover system, which is executed by getting close to an object and hitting the X button. Max has a neat ability where he can roll over weapons and pick them up with a tap of the A button, or he can manually walk over and pick them up if he’s not in any immediate danger – which isn’t that often, by the way.

Rockstar Games has put a lot of work into Max Payne 3’s engine, as the visuals look very good. There were times the frame rate stuttered a little bit, but overall, the action really came together like previous Max Payne games, and the camera effects were neat, particularly when you kicked in a painkiller and the screen went temporarily wavy, as if the after effects were kicking in. The cinematic stuff was cool too, with key words flashing across the screen in the beginning, as if to remind you of the objectives that lie ahead.

Max Payne 3 is definitely worthy of your attention, especially if you’re a fan of the previous games. Even without Remedy Entertainment working on it, you can tell that the anti-hero is in capable hands – even if he’s still having a bitch of a day.