By Sam Coles:
Max Payne was a very interesting and unique third person shooter because it had a very dark story with its Neo Noir narrative coupled with gunplay you would see in a John Woo film with bullet time and over the top acrobatics.
Max Payne (2001):
Max Payne sees you play as the titular character who is a cop who at first is happy with his career. It’s not until one night where he returns home and finds that his wife and new born child are murdered by junkies under the influence of a drug called Valkyr.
So Max quits the NYPD and ends up joining the DEA to find out the source of the drug and take down those who are responsible for his family’s death. The game’s story takes some twists and turns from betrayal, conspiracies and Max questioning what is reality and what fiction is. This game gets really trippy with blood trail mazes that you must navigate while you hear the sobbing of Max’s wife and the crying of his child.
What was unique of how the story was told was the fact that game doesn’t use traditional cutscenes, instead it uses graphic novel frames with the different actors saying their lines as well as Max spewing his cynical opinions via monologues it would stay with the sequel but not the third game.
The guys at Remedy got their idea for the gameplay from the original Tomb Raider but they wanted to refine it because they didn’t like the way that Tomb Raider controlled in terms with the camera. So it is a game where you’ll be doing a lot of shooting so they needed a feature to make it stand out from other games on the market with similar themes, so they looked to John Woo with the over the top gun carter and so motion bullet time where you could take out multiple enemies in one swoop.
Max Payne 2 The Fall of Max Payne (2003):
Max Payne 2 was an interesting game because it almost showed an end to the franchise due to the fact that the game sold horrifically poor even though it scored well with critics and gamers, it only sold around 650,000 copies on all systems.
Max Payne 2 continues after the first game where you are looking into an organisation of assassins called The Cleaners. How these events transpire is that Max is targeted by them where is then caught up with a contract killer called Mona Sax who then team up. This is where it gets interesting because you shift between two protagonist rather than sticking to one, this kept things varied so you’re never bored.
Gameplay was more the same as the first but fast and finely tuned, it encouraged you to run in guns blazing which discouraged camping because enemies would charge and flank your position. Max’s shoot dodge and bullet time effect was more like a super power rather than a reflex in this game because it was absolutely ludicrous with how many enemies you could gun down, but it was more fun and responsive.
Max Payne 2 was received well by critics and gamers, however the game sold poorly and Remedy had to restructure their business and we wouldn’t see a sequel for 9 years.
Max Payne 3 (2012):
Max Payne 3 was radically different from the other two games, for starters it was not made by Remedy it was made by Rockstar Games but former Remedy employees did beta test it through its development. This game is very much a split with fans some people like it and some absolutely hate it, I for one love it.
Max Payne 3 takes place well… 9 years after Max Payne 2 and you find Max in Sao Paulo Brazil where he as take up a new job as private security for a rich family known as the Bronco family who are you typically spoilt rich people where the young one is a coke head, another the corrupt politician and the oldest and responsible one. The game’s story is rather simplistic compared to others and people said that Max sounded winey and out of place in this game. I felt Max being out of place fit the story because he didn’t understand the language and the culture and he wasn’t use to the hot and humid weather. He was sort of winey but honestly the amount of things he has been through you can’t really blame him for being a miserable fart.
The gameplay in Max Payne 3 goes back to original with the bullet time and shoot dodge where the hourglass will run down when you use either or. The shooting in this game is fantastic the guns feel that they give a good kick and have weight to them; Max also feels that he has aged the way he moves or dives. The detail in this game is absolutely beautiful with the Brazilian setting from the offices of the Bronco family to the dirty and dark slums of the Favela. My favourite detail by far is how the cutscenes are seamless where Max is holding his weapons like he does in gameplay, it’s a small detail but it helps you get immersed in the story.
Max Payne 3 got a lot of flak from fans due to its different approach with how it was presented, a lot of fans complained about the visual filters during cutscenes saying that it was annoying. However I would counter that by saying it’s supposed to be disorienting because you’re in Max’s booze riddled and painkiller induced mind so things are going to be hazing and fuzzy. Another aspect that fans didn’t like was the fact the graphic novel cutscenes were completely removed, but they did cut some scenes up like a comic book style frame to stay true to the series so not all was lost.
Max Payne is a fantastic trilogy and is one you must play they’re widely available and are super cheap as well so I would recommend picking them up if you want some great action and an interesting story.