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Max Payne

Developer: Remedy Entertainment Publisher: Gathering
23 July 2001
Max Payne - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.97 / 5.0
0.5
5.0
 
 
1,202 Ratings / 3 Reviews
#167 All-time
#9 for 2001
Three years after the murder of his wife and daughter, Max Payne decides to go after the people who caused their deaths, but ends up getting framed for the murder of one of his colleagues. It's up to Max to clear his name and to find out the truth behind the murder of his family.
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2001 Remedy Gathering  
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Max Payne Greatest Hits
2002 Remedy Rockstar Canada  
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2008 Remedy Rockstar  
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Max Payne PS2 Classic
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Title
It’s not enough to just kill bad guys and save the day. You need to look good doing it, too.

Whether it’s the akimbo guns of John Woo [吳宇森] or the slow-mo of The Matrix, action films of the ‘90s found a way to take what should be a three-second partnership between bullet and target and make it into an elaborate 5+ minute ballet of bullets, mayhem, and badassery.

In the early ‘00s there was no game that embraced this sensibility more than Max Payne. From the tongue-in-cheek film noir story to reloading an uzi, developer Remedy gave every aspect of the game style and visual flair. Once you look past the permanently constipated face of Payne and come to terms with literally leaping into combat, you’ll find Max Payne remains an example of third-person shooting done right.

With only a PC arcade-style racing game behind them, Death Rally, Remedy Entertainment spent half a decade developing Max Payne: An ambitious shooter set in NYC that told a contemporary noir story through comic book panels, cutscenes, and action. It stood out in 2001 for its photo-realistic graphics, cinematic presentation, and slow-mo mechanic.

I often find myself slowly panning the camera like a E3 demo guide when I play a Call of Duty game -- going against the game’s player direction in order to give myself a more cinematic experience. But, when I play Max Payne I feel like the ideal performance leads directly to the ideal visual feast. This is a rarity in videogames, but I’m not sure why it should be.

Game developers must always perform a balancing act in giving players space to perform while also giving them rewards for their performance. The key to Max Payne’s success is its ability to highlight player action in a flashy way without taking away their influence or ruining the flow of action. Max Payne was revolutionary in combining these two aspects into a seamless experience. Where other games might put you in a fight and then present a cinematic of the events following it, Max Payne’s visual flair in battles came directly from the player’s actions -- letting a well-aimed bullet and bold dodge trigger brief cinematic moments.

Metal Gear Solid made me feel like I was watching an awesome action flick, but it wasn’t until I played Max Payne that I felt I was in one. By framing the player’s actions with panning camera angles, dramatic zooms, and mesmerizing slow motion, Max Payne put the spotlight on the player’s actions in a way never attempted before.

Developers shouldn’t be inspired by the mechanic of player activated slow-motion. Instead, they should focus on the effect framing a player's actions can have on combat. God of War and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune achieve the same impact by presenting wide cinematic angles during platforming segments. Ninja Gaiden 2 applied this by highlighting deathblows in spectacular fashion, while Deus Ex: Human Revolution added spectacular visual animations to certain abilities when successfully performed. Even Resonance of Fate [エンド オブ エタニティ], a Japanese RPG of all things, managed to make a rote battle into a John Woo fever dream where characters endlessly jumped and fired guns when given the order.

In years since Max Payne's debut, God of War, Fallout 3, and other games have done this in their own way to great effect. It’s easy to look at bullet time as a gimmick or a novel feature. In truth, it changes everything: the tone, the pace, and the spectacle of combat. There is nothing else like it. Even though others games replicated this feature, as in the F.E.A.R. series and Stranglehold, it never felt quite as special as it did in Max Payne.

A good selection of weapons in a game is defined by its strengths as much as it is defined by its shortcomings. On the surface, Max Payne has the most generic set of weapons a videogame could possibly offer. As it should -- after all, the story is based in New York City, circa 2001. While sci-fi and arena shooters may have more imaginative weapons, few games strike the near perfect balance of Max’s arsenal.

Due to careful calibration on the developer’s part, each weapon has its ideal time and place. Even during the game’s final hours, I found myself reaching to weapons obtained hours earlier out of strategic necessity. Sure, the Striker may have terrible spread (in the first Max Payne, at least) -- and you can cheat the reload of every weapon by quickly swapping them in-and-out -- but otherwise the entire weapon selection is pretty much flawless. In one instance, you may assume a door in front of you leads to a narrow hallway, so you equip dual Ingram uzis to deal maximum damage in a short amount of time. Turns out it’s a wide open courtyard with enemies above and below. Oops! So you snipe an enemy above, pull out the M4 Carbine on enemies below, and dive into an incoming group of enemies with dual Desert Eagles.

As good as the first Max Payne’s weapons were, the sequel perfected it by giving projectiles a dedicated button and rebalancing other weapons (although the grenade launcher and baseball bat were sorely missed). While many games have a loadout similar to Max’s, it’s rare they strike the same balance. The difference it makes is drastic. Instead of leaning toward the vastly superior weapon, Max Payne’s intense combat scenarios and challenging difficulty demand the player to know what’s right for a specific enemy type and setting. Every battle is a victory well earned in Max Payne, even when it leaves poor Max hobbling on one leg toward the next ambush.

When David Cage and Jenova Chen speak of “emotional complexity”, I roll my eyes. After all, who is to say a father grieving for his kidnapped son is more emotionally complex than Kratos’ endless rage at the gods? From a distance, every emotion is equal in its potential for impact. It all depends on delivery and the player’s value judgement.

However, I don’t entirely dismiss the idea of “emotional complexity.” It’s just that to me it means something much different. It’s not about the value judgement of a specific emotion but the layering of contrasting emotions: The way a The Smiths song can sound so dour, while Morrissey’s sardonic lyrics can make me smile. The way George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead can make a zombie a source of fear seconds after being a source of laughter. Max Payne is also full of emotionally complexity. In play, the game can be harrowing depending on player health and ammo. In storytelling, the game can be freighting or laugh-out-loud funny depending on what it’s presenting at the time. In one instance you are in a nightmare having a dead baby shoved into your face, while another stage contains a parody of BBC’s Upstairs Downstairs.

Having contrasting emotional elements isn’t a key to success, as FEZ and Sword & Sworcery recently proved. Both games have dialog and elements that break the game’s fiction for a cheap, self-knowing laugh. It all comes down to delivery. While Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne may take itself a bit more seriously, both games succeed in skillfully telling a story while giving the player enough opportunities to laugh, tense up, and occasionally shit themselves.

True emotional complexity -- that is contrasting emotions piling into each other; not sappy music playing over pastoral landscapes -- makes for games with more depth. Whether it’s melancholy music playing over an upbeat adventure or comedic dialog overlapping a harrowing scenario, layered emotional tones can create unique, memorable moments in games.

Neither Max Payne has a good story. Sure, they have great atmosphere, personality, and characters, but they hardly make up a tale we haven't heard before. What these games do have, however, is an immediate and clear goal given to the player by a time-tested story method: starting in media res.

For you illiterate swine, in media res is a Latin term which means “into the middle of things." It’s when a story begins without introducing the setting, characters, and/or scenario. The audience enters into the story at a mid-point. The result is two-fold: positive and negative. On one hand, it creates an indifference in the viewer by distancing them from the characters’ reality. On the other hand, it creates a goal for the viewer: “I must figure out how things got to this point!”

Thankfully, Max Payne is such a great narrator that we feel connected to him despite not understanding his situation. Max’s goal and our goal both intersect and conflict: We want him to get his revenge but we also want to know how he got his revenge. It’s an odd thing.

I can’t tell you how many games I’ve played that start me from square one. Whether I’m a soldier in a training course or an orphan boy in a mystical village learning ancient mythology, I’ve been through the ringer so many times in games that I now find starting a new one intimidating due to the inevitably dull opening act. Max Payne’s approach is refreshing.

I don’t need to have everything spelled out for me. If a developer feels that they must slowly initiate the player to the game world's history, please have the restraint to hold back until an hour or so into the action. Exposition is a cheap tactic in film, but in games it can be devastating to immersion and flow. Not every game needs to follow suit, but if games considered reining in the exposition early on we could tell familiar stories in new ways. Which is what storytelling should be about!

Individuality is overrated. Location is everything. Just look around your day job or school. Are the most successful workers/students so stunning or are they just the product of fortunate events that lined before them?

Sure, Max Payne may not have the enemy variety of an id Software game, but it makes up for it through economical placement. The game consistently changes things up when it comes to enemy positioning and strategy. Sometimes you’ll open a door and a thug will be standing in front of you with a shotgun pointed toward your face, so you point one right back at him. Another time you may have thugs running away from you for cover -- when do you ever seen that in games? Thugs come in through windows, elevator shafts, and occasionally grapple down from above. You are constantly on your toes. A far cry from Call of Duty, where enemies shuffle out of the same door and line up behind the same wall.

It’s hard to give enemy variety to a game grounded in reality. Uncharted and Call of Duty throw heavily shielded enemies for challenge, but they are a nuisance that ruins the flow of combat. Max Payne shows that being creative with simple enemies and increasing their numbers can be much more engaging than one super-powered enemy with a shotgun -- though even Max Payne makes this mistake with a couple lackluster boss encounters. Thankfully these are the exception rather than the rule.

I’ll be completely honest: I was worried I would have to force this review or completely abandon it all together. As much as I loved Max Payne in 2001, I wasn’t sure it would hold up. I was pleasantly surprised than to rediscover how fantastic it is in nearly every aspect. The sequel made some major improvements in combat, but I still prefer the tone and quirks of the first. It’s hard to pick between the two but thankfully no one is forcing us to.

I find Rockstar Games's changes to the series very disconcerting as a fan, but I’d rather they make it their own than force themselves to fit into the mold Remedy made. The offbeat humor and tongue-in-cheek story of Max Payne definitely isn’t something most developers would attempt, which is a big factor of why it’s still a refreshing play.

One thing I trusted Rockstar to get right is the series' penchant for turning combat into a spectacle worthy of a Hollywood action film. So many developers today fail to realize that having action surrounding the player isn't the same as them contributing to it. There are only so many times you can watch a scripted sequence of a helicopter crashing and feel impressed. As the middling Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 proved, having more helicopters falling and more explosions isn't the answer. The answer, upon revisiting Max Payne, is painfully obvious: Let the player tell the story through their actions and make the presentation so smooth that it feels as if the camera, animation, and enemy reactions were choreographed all along.
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SUPER_Lonely_Panda 2016-04-05T18:01:55Z
2016-04-05T18:01:55Z
4.5
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the original bullet time shoooter. i love the mechanics in this, the gunplay feels solid especially getting those headshots. this game has an unmistakeable charm to it that cant quite be described. maybe the best way to describe this game is to take one look at max's shit eating grin , its just classic. describes the mindset behind this game from the devs, I think they were just having a good time developing this and you can feel the passion come through tbh

8/10
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darkrecollections 2020-09-03T20:57:08Z
2020-09-03T20:57:08Z
4.0
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Yeah, it's repetitive as all hell. Even stylistically, the neo-noir comic book trappings begin to drag even before the first act ends. But it stood out at launch and still stands on its own today, high praise for an early PS2 title. Unique presentation that makes great use of theming and motifs to create a truly debauched portrayal of the Big Apple, perfectly plotting the carnage Max carves along the way on his sordid tale of revenge. And while it only opens up in a few spots, the Matrix-inspired gunplay still works really well and never really gets that old. Some B-grade-isms hold it back from greatness.
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Lowlander2 2017-08-23T11:12:47Z
2017-08-23T11:12:47Z
3.5
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We were inside a videogame.
Max Payne is a neo noire thriller in which you play as the titular character. After having lost his wife and daughter to a home break in, max goes in a homicidal rampage against the drug filled organization responsible for that act. This game would still be great just for the gunplay, but the characterization of max is brilliant. He is a really likable guy, very charismatic, however at the same time its clear to see how much suffering his loss is causing him. The story segments are told in comic panels, and they are pretty brilliant when it comes to comedy and 4th wall breaking moments, without overdoing it.

But despite how good the game is storywise, the gameplay is the reason why everyone plays this. Despite being a pre-gears third person shooter, its gameplay is awesome. There is no cover button, but you can seek some refugee behind objects. The fact that enemy weapons are hitscans means that you want to be left out in the open as little time as possible. Which is when the time slowing mechanic of the game comes into play. By using this limited ability, it becomes possible to dodge enemy missiles and its way easier to pull off headshots. Its incredibly satisfying to pull off, and it forces the player to learn the balance between seeking cover and diving for kills. Between the shooty shooty levels, there are a couple of psychedelic nightmarish levels in which Max remembers of how his loss ocurred. The gameplay in these boils down to walking down hallways and frustrating platforming, but it does give a bit more variety to the main campaign.

The game also features a difficulty system that adapts to how well the player is doing, which is something that i only found about about recently. Resident Evil 4 also uses this system, and the result is that the game remains challenging throughout, but subtly lowers the difficulty just a little when the player is having trouble with a particular sections. I never noticed while i was playing, but the game is really hard at times and i think that this technique ultimatly helps the flow of the game.

Overal its great gameplay and gripping story makes a game that stood the test of time for me.
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Threntall 2016-07-11T20:17:04Z
2016-07-11T20:17:04Z
4.5
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Max Payne is one of those games that didn't actually do anything too groundbreak whatsoever. It's a third-person shooter, shooting down bad guys and reaching your end goal only to be halted by content of the story that the developers wanted to put in. So what then makes it good? The answer is the near-perfection everything said above and more.

Max Payne is likely one the first shooter games to implement a detective noir feel to the game's atmosphere, story and graphical aesthetic, all of which produces a personality that define the game so distinctively from a generic action-manesque feel. The story is told like a graphical novel, spoken by Payne's gravelled voice, with moments of drawn comics with the developers faces being on the characters in each slide, sometimes the drawings and facial expression are humourous and give it some comedic value, one which is quite dark. The content of the story is fleshed out well in the comics and even certain segments in the game. The story being a grim-twist on the detective genre and but also one that has elements of vengeance. Max Payne seeks to find out the mystery of who was responsible for the killing of his wife and infant, Payne goes undercover only to dig deeper into the Mafia underbelly to unveil something much more darker and sinister. When it comes to stories, it's somewhat a cliche but works in the game's favour, especially works well with the use of the graphical novel style of storytelling.

Max Payne though has more up its own sleeve, Max Payne's gameplay would have been considered quite plain by standard if it didn't implement what it's most famous for. The slow motion effect that lets you slow down time to shoot enemies makes gunfights more intense and thrilling to play through. The game is purposely made hard with Max only being able to shake a limited amount of bullets till death, the slow motion mechanic is essential to playing and surviving every enemy that literally comes around every corner in this game. On the way there, the game throws a variety of enemies from common New York mob thugs, to well-equipped gangster to paramilitary groups with assault machine guns at their disposal, the game never makes you stop and take a breather at these moments, Max must dodge bullets and fast. With that you're given a large arsenal of weapons at your own expense from regular pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles and grenades. The game also allows you to dodge and dive bomb like a action movie.

Though the game isn't always about killing, sometimes the game has segments that is more fitting to the genre of horror than action, delving into themes of psychological torment and occult worship, the game's methods of story are very effective and give some more dimension to Max Payne's character as someone who has more problems than the thug shooting him at the time. The soundtrack is also effective and is able to help produce a dark and disturbed atmosphere, with a very memorable theme song.

Finally the graphics in the game. The technical aspect of the graphics is really the most notable flaw in the entire game, even for the standards of 2001, character models look blocky, there's a lack of mouth movement and usually facial reactions are almost instantaneous when enemies or yourself is killed. It doesn't seem like a lot of work went into it, but the artistic aesthetic of the game fits with the genre perfectly with well crafted levels ranging from multiple areas like the subway, the slums, garages and even government building facilities.

Max Payne maximises every element and aspect in the third person shooting genre.
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Previous 2016-06-03T07:03:00Z
2016-06-03T07:03:00Z
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emo_drain_2009 Max Payne 2022-10-03T10:25:05Z
2022-10-03T10:25:05Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
box123456789 Max Payne 2022-10-02T20:35:37Z
2022-10-02T20:35:37Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
DaleEarnhardtSr Max Payne 2022-10-01T17:53:16Z
PS2 • XNA
2022-10-01T17:53:16Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
eschaton1000 Max Payne 2022-09-30T01:05:52Z
2022-09-30T01:05:52Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
aidanbby Max Payne 2022-09-27T09:17:29Z
2022-09-27T09:17:29Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
MoonSlick Max Payne 2022-09-27T03:30:17Z
2022-09-27T03:30:17Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
PashaAlex Max Payne 2022-09-26T21:37:15Z
2022-09-26T21:37:15Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
zero_signal Max Payne 2022-09-23T16:19:38Z
2022-09-23T16:19:38Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Tacianoreisborges Max Payne 2022-09-23T14:34:05Z
2022-09-23T14:34:05Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
sam_burgerFan Max Payne 2022-09-22T14:20:05Z
2022-09-22T14:20:05Z
4.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Decoded Max Payne 2022-09-22T03:22:49Z
2022-09-22T03:22:49Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
allenco Max Payne 2022-09-20T17:08:45Z
Windows
2022-09-20T17:08:45Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Content rating
ESRB: M
Player modes
Single-player
Media
1x CD-ROM
Franchises

Comments

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  • Previous comments (20) Loading...
  • ayejayjay 2022-03-23 00:29:45.900024+00
    I guess games can be kino too.
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  • Drug_Use 2022-04-07 17:43:15.484617+00
    Remake time
    reply
    • alliterativeAlpinist 2022-04-13 22:16:12.601593+00
      Wonder who they'll model Max after this time. I often forget that in every game he was portrayed by someone else.

      The obvious choice would be James McCaffrey as a retrofit from MP3, and I wouldn't be disappointed. My vote, though, is for Sami "Last Shit Taken Three Weeks Ago" Järvi. I hope they offer alternate player skins at least.
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  • cosmicjoke_astronomer 2022-06-09 01:16:11.622786+00
    "I don't know about angels, but it's fear that gives men wings."
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  • heavymetalthunder 2022-06-20 19:02:48.494489+00
    fantastic presentation, very special game. Gameplay is way too Repetitive and jumping fucking sucks. Flawed but charming great game
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  • Circuz 2022-07-06 21:27:01.494176+00
    Holy fuck chapter one of part 2 is brutal, what the fuck were they thinking LOL
    reply
    • Circuz 2022-07-09 04:03:14.311646+00
      Since this community likes to only talk about the good parts of old games, let's talk about the nightmare jumping sections
    • cosmicjoke_astronomer 2022-07-15 05:43:06.568082+00
      Very fucking annoying until I just hid behind the door at an angle and just swung away, killing everyone easy
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  • blokrenblossbroms 2022-07-25 06:31:53.466353+00
    “i had gone past the point so long ago that i forgot what it looked like when i had passed it”

    what lol
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  • streetbeds 2022-08-21 21:57:29.813892+00
    i played this for the first time on my 2010 macbook through wine a long time ago and lemme tell you that was one of the best experiences ive had in my life
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  • dusanst 2022-09-16 22:13:14.485305+00
    david lynch's influence on modern media cannot be overstated
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