These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
In-universe, the games play with the idea that it was Max himself who murdered his wife including his outright statements of such on occasion, making him a Villain Protagonist. However, a lot of the hints come from Max's dream sequences which are designed to Mind Screw the player, while the rest may just be Max's guilt over everything that's happened.
Max's belief that he killed his wife traces back to a single statement revealed after that particular dream sequence. She tried to tell him about something she saw, something about Vikings (referring to Valkyr), and Max brushed her off, saying he had to run and they could discuss it that night. He believes that because he didn't talk to her about it, his negligence resulted in her death.
Kaufman, the near-mythical Mafia hitman that mooks warn you about through much of 2's first act. This is a game that at least attempts at realism, so he reacts to hand grenades thrown at his feet just like everyone else. To be fair he can take a lot more bullets than his mooks. Although he does seem to have the same health as the commandos later, suggesting it's a bullet proof vest rather than sheer badass.
Rico Muerte, a very forgettable boss from early in the first game is described by Max as being 'a regular Keyser Soze'. When you track him down, he has his pants around his ankles and is receiving some extra-special treatment from prostitute Candy Dawn. He immediately runs off and hides in the hallway. None of the mooks seem to notice or care about him, and the only reason he's even notable is because he's your very first enemy with an automatic weapon.
Max Payne 3. The addition of cover to the game, for instance.
There's also the abandonment of the stylistic underpinnings of the series, such as the histrionic, pseudo-poetic monologuing, interactive environmental elements and the all important mythological/religious/pop-cultural symbolic subtext which gave the original games their richness.
As well as the replacement of the first two games' graphic novel-style cutscenes with more traditional cutscenes with stylistic, TV-screen style static cuts (though the New Jersey levels invoke the earlier style). There was also Max's change in haircut and facial hair.
From the first game we have Corrupt Corporate ExecutiveNicole Horne. As a member of the Inner Circle, she was responsible for Project Valhalla, a program that was developing a highly addictive psychotropic Super Serum when it turned out to be a psychosis-inducing poison. In response to this discovery, she decided to market it as Valkyr to the public, thereby becoming an untouchable corporate crime lord who directly and indirectly killed thousands. When Michelle Payne inadvertently received information that would expose the Valkyr Conspiracy, Nicole had a horde of drugged-up maniacs slaughter both Michelle and her baby daughter. Over the following years, Horne went on to control the entire criminal underworld of New York through her pawn, Angelo Punchinello, and made a play into politics by putting a hit on the Mayor. Through all of this Horne has no clear motivations, no enlightened intent, no emotion; she is just pure evil. The worst part is when she tells Max: "The deaths of your wife and daughter were necessary, inevitable; it is DONE. You cannot bring them back. Nothing you do will make it any better."
Max Payne 3: Victor Branco is an aspiring but corrupt politician of São Paulo, and the middle son of the wealthy Branco family. He has pull with the UFE, a law enforcement group he uses for his own ends, and the Cracha Preto vigilante death squad. He arranges for the kidnapping of his older brother's wife (with no intention of getting her back) and orders his goons to seize the ransom money, planning to use it to fund his campaign for mayor. Victor then masterminds the same brother's assassination and the destruction of the family business. Later, he has his other brother killed (by burning alive) after he brings the money back to the wife's kidnappers. The hits are made to look like gang killings, so that the UFE gets more freedom to "maintain order" in São Paulo, and Victor himself earns public sympathy for losing his family before the election. Oh, did we mention he also siphons money from a secret organ harvesting ring? Max factors into all of this merely as the fall guy - Victor underestimates him as an angry, suicidal gringo and it costs him dearly.
Molotov Cocktail + door opening / tight corridor / corner + bad AI = This.
The below-mentioned "Corner shooting glitch".
Good Bad Bugs: In 3 it's possible to edge up on a corner, aim at foes around it and shoot them through whatever the wall is made of as long as the reticle is red and the weapon is an adequate distance from the wall. This makes 70% percent of gun fights trivially easy, not to mention making the cover system largely redundant.
Harsher in Hindsight: During his brief sojourn through the Favela, Max happens upon a small drug laboratory and kills the gang members defending/working in it. Just before leaving, he takes time out of his very urgent mission to set fire to the building using a fireworks stockpile, in order to destroy the laboratory. This being in a favela, a single fire, no matter how minor, can spiral hopelessly out of control in mere minutes and kill hundreds of people, displacing thousands more. Such a fire happened on the very year of the game's release in it's very setting.
At one point in the second game, Max is assisted by old, bald and bearded bum who used to be a cop. In the third game, Max is himself a fat, bald and bearded ex-cop.
When describing Bullet Time to a game reviewer, the developers likened to an elite athlete for whom the games seems to slow down around them. The reviewer described this as "Kobe Bryant with a Colt Commando." Many, many years later, Kobe Bryant appeared in advertising for Call of Duty: Black Ops, toting a Colt Commando.
Idiot Plot: In 1, Woden could have punctured Horne's entire criminal enterprise by mailing his evidence on the Valkyr project to multiple legal bodies and individuals. Instead he posts it to one woman. Who gets brutally murdered shortly there-after.
Iron Woobie: You'll notice that Max is pretty Stoic for someone who's going through a living hell.
Moral Event Horizon: Nicole Horne, a.k.a. "Ms. Valkyr," is catapulted straight over this line when it's revealed she was the one behind the murder of Max's family at the very start of the game.
Victor Branco and the UFE from the third game cross this when it's discovered that the people they kidnap from the favelas are being used in illegal organ trafficking.
Some of Max's monologues border on Wangst, yet they never fail to woobify him.
There's also his famous constipated expression mentioned directly above, that a lot of fans have love for.
One-Scene Wonder: Brewer from Max Payne 3. A Crazy AwesomeRobin Williams style neighbor of Max's with a hobo beard, military jacket covered in badges, a beanie, boxers, a semi-automatic shotgun, and a lot of wires sticking out of his coat. He arrives by shooting a thug ambushing Max in the face, then gives a short speech on the cleansing properties of fire and suicide bombs a squad of mobsters running down the hall. He makes a hell of an impression for a character with less than a minute of screentime.
The original game's opening level where Max can't save his family.
It gets worse than that Fabiana, after spending hours of game time (and days of Max's time) on her trail getting just this close to saving her, Max is forced to end up watching her get casually shot in the face and die.
How some people feel about the addition of cover in the third game. In addition to slowing down the pace of the game, it's a rudimentary system that doesn't even let you round corners without getting out of cover. The third also removes ability to skip the cutscenes, due to many of them being used to hide loading sequences (though only in the console release, as the PC version features faster load times and the ability to skip cutscenes once the "skip" icon appears in the corner of the screen).
Arcade mode actually has an "Old School Mode" which prevents the player from using the cover system or weapon zoom. However, enemies can still use the cover system without incident and their AI is not altered in any way to benefit this style of play, making the addition seem more like a spiteful slap in the face to the fans who complained.
The constant, eye-acheing visual effects that make the game painful to watch for most players and impossible to play for epileptics. Arcade Mode has an option to remove the effect from bullet time, and it makes the game significantly easier to play.
The Last Chance mechanic is a concept that can work as proven by the likes of Borderlands and Guild Wars 2, but it's implementation in 3 leaves a lot to be desired. When put into the "Downed" state Max cannot move or reload, so that if he can't hit the enemy due to them being behind cover or his gun being empty, the player has no choice but to wait until he dies, which can be agonizing due to the bullet time the mode operates in. What's more, if Max goes into the state while behind cover, he has almost no chance to fire over his cover and will instead empty his clip into it rather than the foe the player is targeting. Another problem is that the mechanic defers to hitting the foe who downed Max, forcing the player to aim only at that one enemy. This is even if it would be easier to hit another, easier target that would glean the same result.
Scrappy Weapon: Weapons with laser sight attachments from 3. Grabbing a weapon with one removes your crosshair and replaces it with a laser sight that bounces around as you move and fire. This makes aiming significantly more difficult, if not impossible.
Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Every single game that comes out with Bullet Time now is met with dubious cries of "oh, another one?" Though the third game averted this as it received high scores from both critics and fans.
The Max Payne games are some of the best John Woo games ever made before Stranglehold. Also Max Payne 3 seems to be heavily inspired by Man on Fire. Just look at the first trailer of the game when Max describes his situation and you will notice the similarities instantaneously. It's to the point where it's lampshaded in the first game, the password for one early part in John Woo, and Max said soon after that he'd need to make like Chow Yun-fat.
Fans have been known to joke that 3 is a surprisingly good Kane and Lynch sequel.
The two nightmare levels in the first Max Payne. They each start off cool and creepy, and then tack on an infuriating maze. The first maze has you running down featureless hallways endlessly until you take the right combination of turns. The second has you running around a maze of bloodtrails in otherwise featureless blackness. Every time you reach a dead end, a scream plays that exactly mirrors your own. It's even worse on the console, owing to the imprecise controller movement and use of checkpoints instead of quicksaves.
The airport terminal from 3. With it's entire environment massively spaced out by design and small outlets of cover, as well as the enemies throughout armed with powerful weapons as well as pinpoint accuracy, the battle is a painful slog from one side of the terminal to the other. The layout contradicts and outright forbids the kind of frenetic, two-fisted gunplay which the series is based on, and on higher difficulties the best, neigh, only way of beating the section is by abusing the "Shooting-through-Walls" glitch while engaging foes at huge distances. This is made tragic by the fact that the game designers decided to place the game's trailer theme, TEARS by HEALTH over this section.
The stadium as well, in Chapter III, which has a modicum of Difficulty Spike to it. Particularly the section after Passos gives you the headset and sends you on your way. The situation you're dumped into is really unfair (the enemies are all on the other side of the gate, which can impede your ability to shoot them, and your best cover option frankly sucks) and it can be difficult to get a bead on where all the enemies are coming from (at least two come up from the bottom of the bleachers and can catch you off guard if you're focusing on the four or five foes in front of you). Pushing forward is made problematic because more enemies appear when you think you've cleared a path for yourself and then you've gone too far to take advantage of any cover. You might try to walk down the bleachers to the lowest level and then work your way back up on the other side but even then you'll probably find yourself pinned down.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Max's body and especially face received a Hollywood makeover for the sequel. YMMV on whether this was a good thing.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The reason Max isn't in New York in the third game is that he had to skip town after killing the son of crime lord Anthony DeMarco to keep him from attacking a woman. DeMarco put a price on Max's head, leading to him getting attacked even at home. This plot fits Max's characterization and is very much within the style of the first two games — arguably even more than the main plot — but it's discarded once Max leaves New York.
Most of Max's inner monologues delve into this in 3. On the one hand, over the years, he's developed a completely justified level of Survivor Guilt. He may be able to singlehandedly kill hundreds of mooks (which, as a former law enforcer, isn't something he'd be proud of to begin with), but not before said mooks have killed everyone he's either cared about or tasked to protect. On the other, he just won't shut up about it, taking every opportunity to mention how much he sucks. In the first two games, he avoided this by snarking and occasionally making light of his situation, but here, his snarks have an overly-caustic undercurrent that only makes it worse.
Extra Credits argued that, while Max was cynical in the first games, he had something worth fighting for, allowing his perseverance to shine through, and was self-aware about the situation at hand. In the third, however, Max's nihilism is all he has, making him one-dimensional. Combined with the stereotyped side characters, the entire world comes off as overly shallow and uninteresting.
This is however somewhat undercut by the fact that the plot of Max Payne 3 is basically Max reaching absolute rock-bottom and then finding something to fight for and climb out the other side, in an example of Earn Your Happy Ending which must have one of the highest incidental body counts in video game history. Whether gamers will play long enough to achieve this will depend largely on how much they enjoy the game and story up until that point.