The Intro

The Game

The Replay

The Verdict

The Intro

Title: Max Payne

Release year: 2001

Developed by: Remedy Entertainment

Genre: Third-person shooter

Platform replayed on: PC

What is it well-nigh Max Payne?

Surely it was just a standard third-person whoopee shooter, telling a standard tale of revenge, albeit with a neat “bullet-time” gameplay gimmick which unliable shootout sequences that looked like they came straight out of The Matrix?

Max Payne Neo dodging a bullet in The Matrix (1999)
Neo dodging a bullet in The Matrix (1999)

I hadn’t played Max Payne since its release over twenty years ago, and had never finished it, but I got the feeling there was something special here I was missing out on. Interactions on my Instagram and Twitter accounts sparked comments like…

The super slow mo shooting part was incredible. I enjoyed the game. It had a tomfool ending.

The first two were real gritty, visionless wires that resonated in a whole variegated way. I can hear Max’s voice right now as I squint at that screen.

Simply one of the weightier games overly made.

Love the noir style, everything visionless and grim.

Like Max Payne, which starts at the end, I’ll do the same and start with my conclusion. The tldr version, if you like.

I found Max Payne repetitive, in a couple of ways. There are uncounted waves of enemies to well-spoken through in each level. And the level diamond itself hasn’t weather-beaten well, with little to do except move from one similar environment to another. Rinse and repeat.

Max Payne Max shooting at two enemies
There’s a lot of this in Max Payne.

I moreover kept waiting for the story to whop vastitude a simple tale of a man seeking his revenge during the first half of the game. But through my frustration while playing Max Payne, there was just one problem: I couldn’t stop playing.

Max Payne is incredibly addictive. All throughout my playthrough, when I wasn’t at my keyboard, all I could think well-nigh was getting when to Max and his one-man unwashed armory of weapons.

I had to uncover the truth, and get Max his revenge!

Max Payne Max takes out flipside enemy
Max will have his revenge!

And I had to uncover why over twenty years later Max Payne is still held in such upper regard.

Max Payne Max looking lanugo a stairwell
Taking a deep swoop into Max Payne

So how did I resolve my mismatch between repetitiveness and addiction? Again, like in Max Payne, we have to go when to the start…

It’s time to play Max Payne.

Max Payne title screen
Max Payne—steely and emotionless

The Game

Max Payne is simple on the surface: it’s a run-and-gun third-person shooter. You tenancy the titular weft Max Payne, a former NYPD detective turned undercover DEA wage-earner with a strong propensity for violent revenge. We’ll get to that revenge a little later.

Max Payne Max shooting
Violence, and plenty of it.

But there’s a twist to how Max Payne controls. In order to requite Max a slight whet on the upper volume of guns stuff pointed in his direction, you have a special “bullet-time” ability. You can slow time right down, to the point of stuff worldly-wise to see bullets flying, while still stuff worldly-wise to aim in real-time. Think that scene from The Matrix. You know the one.

Max Payne Neo in bullet-time mode in The Matric (1999)
Neo in bullet-time in The Matrix (1999)

This worthiness becomes useful when you find Max exposed and encountering numerous enemies at once.

Max Payne Max using bullet-time versus three enemies
One down, two to go

It moreover allows for some cinematic whoopee sequences.

Max Payne Max using bullet-time flying forward
A superabound fight begins.

It’s not limitless though, as that would make the game too easy, and Max can still be hurt while in bullet-time mode. It doesn’t last for increasingly than several seconds, at which point you’re thrust when into real-time. And how do you refill your bullet-time meter? By killing enemies.

Max Payne enemy stuff shot
Another one bites the dust.

There’s a wide armory of weapons to segregate from, from handguns, semi-automatic pistols, and shotguns, to fully will-less rifles, a sniper rifle, and a grenade launcher. There are a couple of melee weapons (never used), and molotov cocktails and grenades (used).

Max Payne Max throwing a grenade
Surprise! You’re dead!

There’s no imbricate system in Max Payne, and it reminded me of the Saints Row series with its upturned firefights. You can make Max duck, but I never did (though it does alimony your sniper rifle increasingly steady). Max can moreover jump, and there are a few light platforming sections where you need to.

Max Payne Max jumping security lasers
Don’t touch the lasers.

I mentioned cinematic whoopee sequences above, and while Max Payne has no shortage of them, it wasn’t the only way it reminded me of film. The story is told in an scrutinizingly neo-noir style, reminding me of films like Sin City. Max Payne is the antihero, with his when firmly versus the wall, making drastic decisions. The setting is the dark, gritty underbelly of New York City.

And of course, there’s the revenge.

Max Payne Max exits a towers gun in hand
Whoever you are, Max Payne is coming for you.

What crush Max Payne to leave his detective’s post and join the DEA?

It was one fateful night involving a mysterious new designer drug named “Valkyr” and a home invasion. A group of junkies upper on Valkyr had wrenched into Max Payne’s home. And murdered his wife and infant daughter.

Max Payne holding his sufferer wife
The tragedy of Max Payne.

As you can see from the image above, the cutscenes tell the story via graphic novel-style interludes. These are narrated by Max Payne himself, in his unflinching monotone delivery.

Max Payne graphic novel-style cutscene
Don’t get mad. Get even.

Having suffered such a harrowing fate, what is Max Payne’s solution?

Infiltrate the mob family executive the trafficking of Valkyr. What’s he got to lose?

The Replay

Standing atop a New York City skyscraper, sniper rifle in hand, cops psoriasis below. You know something big has gone down.

Max Payne Max atop a skyscraper
How did it come to this?

The intro movie to Max Payne hinted at a lot of whoopee and a lot of firepower.

Max Payne Max diving sideways and shooting
Max giving it both barrels.

And going when to Max on top of that building, looking into his eyes, you see a tired man, one at the end of a long journey. But yet you moreover see a slight squint of satisfaction on his face, one side of his mouth curled up into an scrutinizingly smile.

Max Payne tropical up of Max
As tropical as Max gets to a smile.

But as Max states himself, in order to make any sense of it, we need to go when three years to that fateful night when the pain began. This is where Max Payne begins.

Max Payne cutscene showing the start of the story three years ago
It’s unchangingly visionless in Max Payne.

You proceeds tenancy of Max as he comes home from work as an NYPD detective. It quickly becomes unveiled that all is not well in the Payne household.

Max Payne Max arriving home to a home invasion
“Honey, I’m home—wait, this ain’t right.”

As you explore the downstairs area, Max realises this is a home invasion. It’s time to grab some guns.

The 911 conversation suggests that something well-nigh this is off—it might not be a random act of senseless violence.

Max Payne Max calling 911 during the home invasion
Who’s on the phone?

As you venture upstairs, it’s time to take superintendency of the invaders, who are still in the house.

Max Payne firing his shotgun
Max grabs his shotgun…

Unfortunately for Max, he’s too late to prevent the slaughter of his family. What is going on here?

Determined to find out, and seek his revenge, you join Max then scrutinizingly three years later. He’d been working all that time in the DEA, trying to reservation a break.

Max has been undercover in the Punchinello family for four months when he receives a undeniability from a DEA colleague to meet his friend and former NYPD colleague at a subway station. This immediately felt like a setup when you encounter mobsters who are increasingly of the shoot first, ask questions later kind.

Max Payne Max firing at gangsters in a subway station
Something doesn’t finger right here…

It seemed strange though, that there were mobsters intent on taking Max out, given what happens next. Max manages to find his friend in the subway station, only to witness his murder by an unknown gunman.

Max Payne witnessing his friend's murder
Max Payne delivers some unconfined cinematic shots at times.

Max had been set up by the Punchinello family to take the fall, his imbricate blown. This plot was setting itself up nicely, with Max now truly isolated. It looked like he had been sold out by his colleague at the DEA, he’s been exposed to the Punchinello family as an undercover agent, and the NYPD is now looking for him for the murder of his friend.

Max Payne cutscene NYPD latter in on Max
Max can hear the NYPD sirens latter in…

I must shoehorn that I found it difficult to alimony up with the plot at times. In between the whoopee sequences, the graphic novel cutscenes in Max Payne develop the plot in bite-sized pieces. It was little and often, and I found it really helped momentum the whoopee as I unchangingly wanted to see what was going to happen next with the story. It was just nonflexible sometimes to piece it all together.

Max Payne cutscene well-nigh Lupino's right-hand man
Another weft introduced into the story—it was getting nonflexible to alimony up with who’s who.

Speaking of the action, I was impressed so far with what Max Payne had to offer. The rencontre of the set-piece firefights felt right. Typical set pieces see Max encountering anywhere from one to half a dozen enemies.

As I was playing this for the first time on PC, the difficulty level was stock-still to “Fugitive”. Completing the game unlocks other modes which increase the difficulty in various ways including limited saves and time limits. On Fugitive mode, there’s a self-adjusting difficulty which changes enemy performance based on how well you’re executive Max.

In practice though, I didn’t notice this. Sometimes I found myself having to repeat firefights several times surpassing I got through them, but I didn’t finger like with each struggle it was getting noticeably easier.

Max Payne Max getting shot
A cinematic end to Max Payne

I found that the difficulty in Max Payne was challenging unbearable that I wasn’t just walking through it, but not so challenging that it became frustrating. Trajectile and health pickups were plentiful, but did have to be managed. You can only siphon a maximum of eight painkillers, which recover a small portion of your health slowly over time (so no instant healing in the middle of a shootout).

Max Payne first-aid cabinet
I was unchangingly on the lookout for these first-aid cabinets.

Managing trajectile was easy due to the fact you never ran out of trajectile completely, but sometimes an issue with trajectile for a particular firearm. For example, I preferred using handguns and will-less weapons, but would occasionally run low or run out of trajectile due to an over-reliance on them.

Max Payne Max shooting at two gangsters
Final round

The enemy AI in Max Payne had moreover impressed me up to this point. The enemies employed a variety of approaches to trying to take Max out. At times you get rushed, and when this is by increasingly than one enemy, it can wilt quite intense. This is where bullet-time comes in handy.

Max Payne Max using bullet-time flying sideways
Slowing things down

At other times, the enemies wait for you to make the first move. Sometimes this ways walking into an ambush. Again, bullet-time is your friend.

Max Payne Max walks into an ambush
Three on one—I don’t like those odds without bullet-time.

It doesn’t take much to bring Max down, and your bullet-time is quite limited, so I experienced quite a few deaths withal the way as I continually worked on my tactics and improved my approaches.

Max Payne Max killed
Another cinematic end to Max Payne

Getting when to the story, Max had started working his way up the uniting of the Punchinello family, unswayable to get to the top.

Max Payne cutscene Max getting Lupino's location out his right-hand man
All roads lead to Lupino’s nightclub.

Thankfully, Max seems to have some allies in his corner. One, a mysterious Alfred Woden who contacts Max by pay phone to warn him that the NYPD knows where he is and is latter in.

Max Payne cutscene Max speaking with Woden on the phone
Someone wants Max alive.

The other, Russian mob superabound Vladimir Lem, who just happens to have started a war with the Punchinello family by self-glorification up one of underboss Jack Lupino’s hangouts.

Max Payne cutscene Russian Mob get involved
The enemy of my enemy…

What is going on here? Only one way to find out: alimony shooting.

Max Payne Max in a shootout
Another shootout

Part I of Max Payne ends with a showdown with Lupino, without emptying his nightclub of goons.

Max Payne Ragnarok nightclub
Ragnarok nightclub

Turns out Lupino has gone a little crazy, rhadamanthine obsessed with the occult (including Cthulhu references—check my replay of Alone in the Dark where I discuss my gaming wits with H. P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos).

Max Payne cutscene Max inside the Ragnarok reading Lupino's occult collection
Max pauses for some light reading.

This is the first real superabound fight in Max Payne, and it’s intense. Prior to Lupino revealing himself, you have to survive an onslaught of his gangsters. Getting through them without several attempts, Lupino gives a archetype “we’re well-nigh to fight but I have a few things to say first” villain speech. Then it’s showtime. Bosses in Max Payne can take a real punishment, with Lupino taking several close-range shotgun shells surpassing succumbing. A good strategy is to prevent enemies from stuff worldly-wise to shoot back—this ways alimony shooting them so they can’t. Lupino was no different.

Max Payne Lupino superabound fight
Lupino shows up.

Part I was done, but not surpassing the story took a strange turn. Up until this point, I had taken it to be a standard revenge tale involving the Mafia. Following Lupino’s demise however, Max meets Mona Sax, whose sister is married to the throne of the Punchinello family, Don Angelo Punchinello. Turns out she wants revenge versus the Don too for abusing her sister.

Max Payne cutscene Max and Mona Sax
Who’s gonna twinkle first?

Suspicious that Mona might lace his drink with something, he nevertheless shares one with her.

Max Payne cutscene Max drinks with Mona Sax
Surprise—the drink was laced.

Max ends up in a Valkyr-induced dream state, where he experiences a nightmare of the day his wife and daughter were murdered.

Max Payne Max hallucinating
Max hearing the cries of his wife and daughter, but the hallway never ends…

It’s an odd, hallucinogenic exploration of Max’s dream, but one in which he is provided clues as to what is really going on. Turns out his wife was working in the district attorney’s office at the time of her murder. In his dream, Max sees his wife’s diary entry of the day she died. Apparently she had seen some military dossier mentioning “Valhalla”.

Perhaps the murders weren’t random.

Max Payne cutscene Max reading his wife's diary in a dream
Max feeling the guilt that he never made the time for his wife.

While Max was unconscious, Punchinello gangsters had dragged him when to Lupino’s hotel and tied him up. Seriously, why not just skiver him?

(This is the second game in a row I’ve replayed where there were easy opportunities for the protagonist to be taken out; my previous replay was on Police Quest 4 .)

Max Payne Max escapes from stuff tied to a chair
Max escapes from stuff tied to a chair. I’m wondering why he’s not once sleeping with the fishes.

Surprise, surprise, Max escapes and continues on his merry gangster-killing way.

Max Payne shooting a gangster
Max Payne working his way through Lupino’s hotel. Again.

Escaping the hotel, Max runs into his Russian friend, Vladimir. It was time to make a deal.

Max Payne cutscene Max meets with Vladimir
Vladimir wants a shipment of weapons unseat for Punchinello. Max, you’re up.

With Max unsuspicious a mutually salubrious deal to get guns where he takes all the risk, it’s off to the docks to find that container.

Max Payne Max in bullet-time at the docks
Flying through the docks

It was at this point I started to find the gameplay repetitive. I really just wanted to get through this section and get on with the main story, which at this stage was to find Don Punchinello.

After spending a significant value of time working my way through the docks, I located the ship with the container delivering all the guns. Queue flipside superabound fight versus flipside seemingly unsurmountable superhuman.

Max Payne superabound fight on the ship
Perhaps it was a unsurmountable vest under that singlet that soaked up all the rounds?

With guns in hand, Max tries to lure Don Punchinello into a trap at his own restaurant.

Max Payne cutscene Max trying to lure Don Punchinello into a trap
Baiting Punchinello

Unfortunately for Max, Punchinello doesn’t take the bait. Instead, Max ends up trapped inside an inferno as Punchinello torches his own restaurant.

Max Payne Max in Punchinello's restaurant which is on fire
It’s getting hot in here…

This brings well-nigh what I think is the weightier whoopee sequence of Max Payne. No shooting, just some light platforming as you navigate Max through an exploding towers surrounded by fire. It’s a thrilling experience, and a welcome transpiration of pace from all the firefights.

Max Payne jumping through fire in Punchinello's restaurant
Jumping through fire

Escaping the fire, Max links when up with Vladimir, who offers to waif him off at Punchinello’s mansion. Looks like Max is going to have to do this the nonflexible way again—guns blazing and an ever-increasing soul count.

Max Payne Max in bullet-time in Punchinello's mansion
I undeniability this “The Superman”.

Despite the wondrous restaurant escape scene, I found Part II the weakest of the three parts in Max Payne. Vladimir’s side story didn’t finger necessary, and the mission to the docks to commandeer the guns was lengthy and repetitive.

However, the ending of Part II reveals increasingly well-nigh what’s really going on, and sets up a thrilling finale in Part III.

That is, without you’ve cleared Punchinello’s mansion of his surely scrutinizingly depleted gang…

Max Payne Max in Punchinello's mansion with persons on the floor
Plus three to the soul count—how many increasingly of these guys can there be?

Somehow, Alfred Woden tracks you lanugo at the mansion to warn you of an incoming gravity landing by helicopter. But who could this be?

Max Payne cutscene Max talking to Alfred Woden on the phone
Max is unchangingly in the right place at the right time to take Woden’s calls.

Punchinello was a pushover, but the suit-wearing private unwashed that’s just landed proves too much for Payne.

Max Payne Max in Punchinello's office as it gets attacked
One way to unravel up a meeting

But we do finally meet who’s been pulling the strings all along: a mysterious woman, currently only intent on drugging Max with increasingly Valkyr. Then I had to ask myself, why not just skiver him? (I know, I know, it’s not how these stories work—there needs to be opportunities for the hero to rise then from the ashes…)

Max Payne cutscene Max gets injected with Valkyr
Not again—lights out for Max

I had increasingly than suspected that the story in Max Payne went higher than the gangs of New York. I was thinking maybe it was a government conspiracy, but this looked increasingly like a private operation.

Anyway, that was not of unconfined importance right now. It was time for flipside Valkyr-induced dream sequence.

Max Payne Max in a Valkyr-induced hallucination
More Valkyr-induced hallucinations

And then it got really weird, with Max Payne going meta. Max dreams he’s in a graphic novel, and then a video game.

Max Payne Max dreams he's in a computer game
Deeper and deeper lanugo the rabbit hole…

Max does sally from these hallucinations with a hair-trigger piece of information, as prior to going under, Max heard the mysterious woman mention “Cold Steel”. This leads Max to a steel mill, where he uncovers a secret unwashed bunker.

Max Payne cutscene Max enters the underground unwashed bunker
One step closer to the truth

It seemed like Max was stuff led here, as I was really struggling to understand why Max was still standing.

In the bunker, he meets some increasingly suited gentleman with guns. This immediately contradicted my theory of Max stuff led here, as they obviously did not want Max going any deeper.

Max Payne two men in suits fire at Max
So top secret—these guys plane wear their sunglasses inside.

Of course, Max having come this far, he wasn’t going to let anyone stop him now.

Max Payne Max enters a room with an will-less rifle
Max on a mission

Max is finally rewarded for his persistence with the truth. Valkyr was part of a government project named Valhalla.

Max Payne cutscene Max gets the truth from Valhalla computers
We learn the truth well-nigh Valkyr.

Valkyr was intended to be used to enhance soldiers, boosting their stamina and morale. Without four years of experimentation in the 90s, the project was cancelled due to poor results.

However, someone didn’t want to let Valkyr go.

Max Payne cutscene Max learns Valkyr didn't stop
Max learns Valkyr didn’t stop when the government terminated the project.

Max’s wife had stumbled upon the project, and was deemed to be too close. She paid the ultimate price for seeing something she shouldn’t have.

Max knows the truth now. He just needs to find this mysterious woman.

That is, without he escapes from the bunker which has been set to self destruct.

Max Payne cutscene Max escapes the bunker as it blows up
Max thinks he’s lost all his leads

Thankfully for Max, Alfred Woden calls up again. He wants to meet. And he wants to requite Max the name of the mysterious woman.

Max Payne cutscene Woden calls Max again
…but the mythical Alfred Woden calls again.

Nicole Horne. The devil has a name. She runs an incredibly powerful and influential corporation, which acts as a front for her unfurled experimentation with Valkyr. Woden says he can well-spoken Max of all criminal charges. That is, if he “relieves” Horne of her duties.

Finally seeing Woden squatter to face, he very much reminded me of the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files TV show and the Illusive Man from Mass Effect 2 (2010)—who was he, and whose side is he really on? However, Max wasn’t really in a position to ponder these questions.

Max Payne cutscene Woden reveals Nicole Horne
Horne went rogue without the government shut lanugo project Valhalla.

Max Payne was heading to its inevitably violent conclusion, and we end up right when where we started.

Max Payne Aesir Tower
It’s time to climb.

Aesir, Nicole Horne’s pharmaceutical company. It was time to climb the tower and well-to-do Horne out.

The tower climb brought with it not just plenty of firefights, but some interesting platforming sections and opportunities to use volitional tactics to running and gunning.

Max Payne Max using the sniper rifle
A endangerment to bring out the sniper rifle.
Max Payne Max dodging security lasers
Dodging moving security lasers

My favourite section was in a rising elevator where you had to shoot out a series of lasers. If you don’t take each laser out surpassing you reach it, BOOM.

Max Payne Max in a rising elevator shooting security lasers
Shoot quick

Ultimately, the endgame was Horne.

Max Payne Nicole Horne's final soliloquy
The final soliloquy

Chasing her up to the roof of the tower, all seems lost when she boards an pensile helicopter.

Max Payne Horne well-nigh to workbench a helicopter
She’s getting away!

But we haven’t brought Max this far to just let Horne get yonder now. In typical Max Payne fashion, Max brings this tale of revenge and redemption to its violent, destructive, and explosive end.

Max Payne Max brings lanugo Horne's helicopter
Max Payne brings lanugo the curtain on Horne.

Cue the strut as Max walks out.

Max Payne Max strutting out of Aesir Tower
Now that’s a swagger.

Arrested, but seeing Woden in the crowd, Max knows everything is going to be okay.

Max Payne Max gets arrested
End of the line

And Max scrutinizingly cracks flipside smile.

Max Payne Max sitting in a police car without stuff arrested
Satisfaction and relief—Max Payne looks well-nigh ten years younger.

The Verdict

What a ride. Max Payne felt intense from start to finish.

It took me well-nigh twelve hours to complete, and it was all whoopee all the time. Those graphic novel-style cutscenes I’ve shown a lot of whilom provided much needed short respites from the high-octane gameplay.

Max Payne explosion blows an enemy up
Explosive gameplay

I felt the pacing was near perfect, with only the section at the docks in Part II feeling like a grind and unnecessarily drawn out.

Max Payne at the docks
I didn’t enjoy the docks.

But was Max Payne an enjoyable experience?

Yes and no.

Max Payne Max stands over three sufferer bodies
Always looking superiority for that next door to open.

Max Payne kept me coming when for increasingly the whole game. I kept wanting to get to that next cutscene, to whop the story and learn a little bit increasingly well-nigh what was going on.

Max Payne cutscene Max on the news as a suspect
The next cutscene was what crush me in Max Payne.

But I was moreover waiting for something. Something to make me understand why it is regarded by some as one of the greatest games ever. Those conversations I had on social media had increased my expectations. I was excited to play Max Payne and find out what makes it special.

At the end of my playthrough, I never got that “aha” moment. I realised I had projected others’ experiences and opinions onto my own expectations, and never got the payoff.

Max Payne Max jumping out of a window
I was looking for something to jump out at me.

I came to the conclusion that I am increasingly hair-trigger of games from this early 3D, third-person shooter era if I didn’t play them or didn’t play them much, like Max Payne. I’m increasingly forgiving of titles like The Getaway (2002) and Grand Theft Auto (2001), where I played them fully at the time they were released.

And you probably know why that is.

Nostalgia. Those very subjective gaming memories.

Perhaps if I’d played Max Payne to its conclusion when when it was released, I’d be writing something very variegated right now. Maybe if I knew why I put this game lanugo way when when, I might have a largest understanding—I don’t know. It might have had nothing to do with the game. That will remain an unsolved mystery from my gaming past.

What isn’t a mystery? Max Payne is a unconfined game. It’s just not one of my great games.


So, have you played Max Payne?

Max Payne

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