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?
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.
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!
And I had to uncover why over twenty years later Max Payne is still held in such upper regard.
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 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.
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.
This worthiness becomes useful when you find Max exposed and encountering numerous enemies at once.
It moreover allows for some cinematic whoopee sequences.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Standing atop a New York City skyscraper, sniper rifle in hand, cops psoriasis below. You know something big has gone down.
The intro movie to Max Payne hinted at a lot of whoopee and a lot of firepower.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As you venture upstairs, it’s time to take superintendency of the invaders, who are still in the house.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Getting when to the story, Max had started working his way up the uniting of the Punchinello family, unswayable to get to the top.
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.
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.
What is going on here? Only one way to find out: alimony shooting.
Part I of Max Payne ends with a showdown with Lupino, without emptying his nightclub of goons.
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).
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.
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.
Suspicious that Mona might lace his drink with something, he nevertheless shares one with her.
Max ends up in a Valkyr-induced dream state, where he experiences a nightmare of the day his wife and daughter were murdered.
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.
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 .)
Surprise, surprise, Max escapes and continues on his merry gangster-killing way.
Escaping the hotel, Max runs into his Russian friend, Vladimir. It was time to make a deal.
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.
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.
With guns in hand, Max tries to lure Don Punchinello into a trap at his own restaurant.
Unfortunately for Max, Punchinello doesn’t take the bait. Instead, Max ends up trapped inside an inferno as Punchinello torches his own restaurant.
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.
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.
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…
Somehow, Alfred Woden tracks you lanugo at the mansion to warn you of an incoming gravity landing by helicopter. But who could this be?
Punchinello was a pushover, but the suit-wearing private unwashed that’s just landed proves too much for Payne.
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…)
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.
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 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.
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.
Of course, Max having come this far, he wasn’t going to let anyone stop him now.
Max is finally rewarded for his persistence with the truth. Valkyr was part of a government project named Valhalla.
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’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.
Thankfully for Max, Alfred Woden calls up again. He wants to meet. And he wants to requite Max the name of the mysterious woman.
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 was heading to its inevitably violent conclusion, and we end up right when where we started.
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.
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.
Ultimately, the endgame was Horne.
Chasing her up to the roof of the tower, all seems lost when she boards an pensile helicopter.
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.
Cue the strut as Max walks out.
Arrested, but seeing Woden in the crowd, Max knows everything is going to be okay.
And Max scrutinizingly cracks flipside smile.
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.
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.
But was Max Payne an enjoyable experience?
Yes and no.
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.
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.
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.
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