Rockstar Research: The Rarefied High Life in Max Payne 3's São Paulo Metropolis

Posted on February 21 2012, 12:05pm | Author: R* A | Filed Under: Games

A life of despondency and hopelessness in New York City is left behind by Max for the promise of a fresh start, a new opportunity and a brighter future in one of the world’s most burgeoning foreign markets – São Paulo, Brazil. A chance encounter with an old colleague, Raul Passos, leads to a job offer working personal security for a wealthy South American family – The Brancos – and Max follows a lead traveled by many businessmen and investors over the past decade-plus to the South American powerhouse city that twenty or more billionaires call home. 

Today’s installment in our continuing series looking at the research, information and production that went into the making of Max Payne 3 examines the posh life of São Paulo – a city with wealth and power rivaled only by global metropolises of the highest order.

In a series of trips to São Paulo throughout the making of the game, Rockstar developers and Research team members studied the highs and lows of city life to help inform the characters, storyline and situations that befall Max with utmost authenticity. As Max is recruited to work for the rich and powerful Brancos, we needed to make sure the touchstones of this elite and growing segment of Paulistano society was represented appropriately and vividly. São Paulo has directly benefited from some of Brazilian president Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva's progressive economic policies over the past decade, with so much money now floating around (São Paulo alone represents over 12% of the entire country’s GDP), the city’s name has become somewhat synonymous with prestige and power - Brazilian TV even capitalizing on a Real-Housewives-style reality show starring four women from São Paulo. And for 2012, Forbes named São Paulo the top global city for investors after New York, London and Washington DC, in that order.

There are interrelated problems that plague São Paulo however, forcing wealthy residents to live cautiously and adapt. One is a persistently high crime rate (despite encouraging recent gains) deterring many from feeling too free to stroll the streets in certain areas of the city. Reminders of this are a part of daily life in the city, as more than one cabbie informed us that the fear of carjacking leads many drivers to treat red lights more like stop signs after midnight – and the conspicuous presence of extra beefed-up security is a common sight at entry points to virtually all prestigious points-of-interest from hotels to nightclubs to high-end shops.
The other is the notorious traffic that chokes the city at street level – with traffic jams that can extend for well over 100 miles, and where a five-mile drive can take an hour or two. And sometimes the two problems combine with dangerous consequences – the threat of armed, motorbike-riding thieves and kidnappers weaving in and out of traffic (which has inspired not only a spike in bulletproof windows but a proposed law banning moto-passengers) helped fuel the need for an alternative fast and safe means of short-distance transportation for rich Paulistanos. As a result, the elite take to the skies with helicopters – a trend that’s given São Paulo the distinction of having more helicopters than any other city in the world, and has dotted the city’s skyscraper rooftops with helipads galore.

Snapped during an aerial tour of the city and surrounding areas taken by Max Payne 3 developers, helipads are a common sight dotting the tops of city skyscrapers.

Max and helicopter pilot Passos take to the São Paulo skies in Max Payne 3.

That's just part of a way of life for Paulistano elites that you’ll see come into play in the game as Max works armed private security for the Brancos alongside Passos, who also serves as their personal helicopter pilot. Whether helping family patriarch and industrialist Rodrigo Branco make it to his day-to-day appointments on time by eliminating the variable of street traffic – or for when socialite trophy wife, Fabiana Branco, feels the whim to spend the night drinking and dancing away at one of the city’s hottest nightspots and must arrive in style – Max and Passos are relied on to ensure safe transport by heli.

Fabiana Branco and her sister Giovanna skip the line and arrive in style via helicopter to the exclusive Club Moderno for a night of drinking and dancing, escorted by Max and Passos.

On the outskirts of town, the city’s millionaires and billionaires live in sprawling mansion estates.

Fancy VIP nightclubs like the fictionalized Club Moderno that Fabiana and her sister Giovanna attend in the game serve as nocturnal playgrounds for São Paulo’s rich – with bottle service, layout and décor inspired by continental and international nightclubs and ultra-lounges. While our firsthand research excursions to São Paulo were serious work (really!), developers did get a small taste of the city’s lavish nightlife – from finagling entry to private designer parties at Avenue Morumbi mansions to attending the exclusive rooftop lounge scene at the chic Hotel Unique – which all helped to inform the vibe of the Brancos' lifestyle. When not partying, or shopping down the upscale Avenida Paulista or Rua Oscar Freire (known as the ‘5th Avenue’ of São Paulo), the super-rich retire to swank multi-million dollar luxury condos in city areas like Jardins, Alto de Pinheiros and Cidade Jardim – or to sprawling mansions located in the suburban outskirts of São Paulo state as seen in some of the aerial photos above we snapped while surveying local views by helicopter.


Be sure to check out a related article from Joystiq that went up earlier today that contains additional images from our aerial tour and more:

Stay tuned for our next edition in the Rockstar Research series that looks into the making of the game, where we’ll reveal some of the local casting done in São Paulo to create many of the friends and foes you’ll meet in Max Payne 3…

Previously: Rockstar Research: The Weapon-Wielding Gangsters and Special Police Commandos of Max Payne 3

  • seanito92on July 5 2012, 12:17amReplyFlag
    so im just saying will you guys at rockstar ever make a max payne to do a spin off for raul passos? like how he worked in central america? that would be nice.
    • oitodoison May 15 2012, 10:49amReplyFlag
      This game will have guaranteed success in Brazil, there will be some great reward for the Brazilians?
      Are you planning to offer a free DLC with dubbing in portuguese-BR?
      • batik89on May 5 2012, 4:53amReplyFlag
        R* are you planning to release more "Research" articles about MAX PAYNE 3? I really enjoyed reading those, plus it enhance my knowledge—especially about what's going on in Brazil recently. Thanks R*
        • HighEndCaliBoyon May 4 2012, 3:57pmReplyFlag
          You guys put alot of work towards this game. Great job R* and I cant wait to play this game. Because of the behind the scenes posts, I am motivated to learn more about Sao Paulo and the Brazilian language.
          • R* Yon April 25 2012, 8:07pmReplyFlag
            @ZecaDiabo We should have a list of supported languages for subtitles soon
            • ZecaDiaboon April 23 2012, 12:25pmReplyFlag
              R* Y Brazilian portuguese, wil be one of the avaible languages ?
              • Afroheadedgrouchon March 28 2012, 1:23pmReplyFlag
                i'm saying, generally capitalism is mostly beneficial to the rich. sure in north america one can say the liberals or democrats don't become of their expectations. but right wing or not, it doesnt take a genius to see even in the third world capitalism is a motherf**ker. And it was a joke for the most part. Obviously i'm not blaming capitalism entirely for the chaos running amok in max payne lol...

                and i didnt live in no barrios in south americas but i did out here! i know how it is
                • FabioSooneron March 23 2012, 12:43pmReplyFlag
                  Sure, sure. Just watch the video and see what 16+ years of leftist, 'progressist' government has led us to: rich people getting richer and very minor reductions in inequality. /facepalm

                  If you had said 'state-funded capitalism', than I'd agree with you. The truth about Lula and his former terrorist successor is that they thrive in the old panis et circensis formula: substantial benefits to the rich that side with them - using taxpayer money in a country that already has some of the highest taxes in the whole world, of course - and new cheap cell phones to the masses so they ease up.

                  As soon as the really developed countries get back on their feet, nobody will talk about Brazil anymore, and with good reason. Nothing really changed here in the last two decades.
                  • FabioSooneron March 23 2012, 12:22pmReplyFlag
                    Gotta love all these 'paulistanos' crying about how São Paulo 'seems like Rio de Janeiro' in the trailers. They inadvertently prove Rockstar nailed it about how separate the different social classes are in São Paulo.

                    I am Brazilian, I've lived in Rio for 8 years and have been in São Paulo for 13 years at this point. All the questions these people raise go beyond nitpicking and border on the absurd:

                    - 'There are no bike gangs' - You clearly never lived anywhere near the poorest parts of the city.

                    - 'There are no favelas' - Every major city in Brazil has them, and all of them are similar, be they bigger or smaller. It's just that in São Paulo, more than any other place, they're often 'out of sight, out of mind'. If you live in São Paulo, have an Internet connection, a PC and can speak English, chances are you never had to even get close to a favela. I know I didn't had to in 13 years. But they ARE there if you're not blind. I could see one from the top of the skyscraper I worked on when I moved here - a skyscraper I can see in one of the trailers, on the corner of Faria Lima and Rebouças Avenues.

                    - 'They show soccer shirts from Rio de Janeiro teams' - OF COURSE THEY DO. You see them everywhere in this town. It's been ages since I've seen anyone using a Palmeiras t-shirt, as the team hasn't won anything in quite a while. On the other hand, I see Flamengo t-shirts almost daily. A lot of people from Rio had escaped (deliberate choice of words here) to São Paulo in recent years, just as I did 13 years ago. They wouldn't just swap team support because of it.

                    Keep it up, Rockstar. You're doing a great research job, better than these gonzos are capable of even when living in their own city, trapped inside their middle-class apartments and ignoring everything that doesn't happen in their own little, indulgent world.
                    • R* Yon March 22 2012, 5:52pmReplyFlag
                      @padzsi That's not really the kind of thing we'll announce, everyone plays a game differently so there's no set amount of hours it takes to complete Max Payne 3
                      • padzsion March 16 2012, 6:40pmReplyFlag
                        How many gaming ours does it give?
                        • R* Yon March 9 2012, 1:01amReplyFlag
                          @bronxncat Might have some more Research articles coming up, stay tuned
                          • Afroheadedgrouchon March 3 2012, 8:52pmReplyFlag
                            you are releasing more on the research during trip there right?
                            • Afroheadedgrouchon March 3 2012, 8:50pmReplyFlag
                              You see what happens when capitalism rears its ugly head? kidnapped big booty Brazilian broads.. and a very, very large body count.
                              • R* Aon February 27 2012, 10:34amReplyFlag
                                @mattiejs If you watch the latest trailer you'll definitely see glimpses of the flashy nightclubs, the helicopter travel, and high-rises, high-powered business offices and more.
                                • mattiejson February 26 2012, 4:15pmReplyFlag
                                  Man had no idea about these high-rise buildings of Sao Paulo. Thought everything was mostly poverty and ran-down housing projects. Guess its kinda selfish of me but Im only going by what Iv seen of Max Payne so far.
                                  • WhatMakesUsHumanon February 24 2012, 1:18pmReplyFlag
                                    @R* Thank you, I'll send the question to "mouthoff" then.
                                    • R* Zon February 24 2012, 11:43amReplyFlag
                                      If you ever want to send us a direct question then you can always e-mail us at Right now we're considering questions for a new Asked & Answered article and we'll soon have another Rockstar Research feature, which will talk more about our trips to Sao Paulo.
                                      • batik89on February 24 2012, 11:24amReplyFlag
                                        @R* could you tell me please, what is this helicopter based on?
                                        LOAD ALL COMMENTS

                                        Leave a Comment

                                        Rockstar Warehouse

                                        Rockstar on Instagram

                                        Follow us on Instagram (rockstargames) to see original photos including events, sneak peeks of collectibles and much more.