Even since the original, Max Payne does manage to have a good number of disturbing moments throughout the entire franchise.
- The whole condition of New York City in the game is pretty nightmarish, going beyond the average Wretched Hive or Crapsack World and into the realm of just being some sort of surreal hellscape. Max even comments himself: "I could see how someone impressionable could get the idea that the end of the world was here."
- The city is completely infested with sleazy corruption, government conspiracy and violent criminals.
- There's an almost supernatural snow-storm that is ravaging everything like some sort of herald of the apocalypse.
- The Mafia is so brazen and vicious that they gleefully massacre everyone at a subway maintenance station and kill an entire police team who were working at a crime scene, casually leaving their vans burning in the middle of the street.
- And that's not even getting into the mass use of a drug that turns people into murderous and suicidal lunatics.
- The nightmare/hallucination sequences which include such gems as: the terrified, pleading and weeping voice of Max's late wife Michelle; the baby crying (and screaming at one point if you fall during the second sequence); creepy music box music; the door from the bathroom being boarded up violently; and lots of creepy imagery, including a cradle on a red floor surrounded by candles like a demonic altar.Max: Somewhere, the baby was crying...
- The scream is actually from a parody of Twin Peaks, Address Unknown, that is briefly seen in the game, but it's horrifying nonetheless. Also, since we're watching the show from Max's perspective, it may be that hearing a normal scream on the TV triggers him into remembering the same scream of his dying child... yikes.
- The Twin Peaks parody itself is pretty disturbing, cutting out the kooky and funny bits of that show and keeping the horror elements. The TV is just sat in the middle of a completely dilapidated flat. The main character recounts a split personality experience in a wavering, shaky voice and more creepily still, the dialogue references Max's own suffering. The TV states that the "flamingo" says: "The flesh of fallen angels." and the protagonist says "I have no idea what that means." Of course, that exact phrase is what the Valkyr junkies said when killing Max's family and he is familiar with it, which makes it all the more surreal. Right after this sentence on the TV we hear a baby screaming and the whole sequence ends with the narrator mentioning that he always wakes up..."strapped to his bed".
- In that vein, the extremely surreal and abstract sequence of the second nightmare, where you wake up in Punchinello's burning office, and find yourself confronted with a ringing phone and a paper on the desk. When you answer the phone the first time, its simply gibberish on the other end, but the second time, a voice is begging Max to wake up and remember where he is, while Max still only hears gibberish, as the phone turns into a gun... And the document on the desk respectively tells Max that he's in a video game and a graphic novel. It might seem silly, but in the context, its terrifying. Subconsciously, Max KNOWS he's a simple puppet, and all his suffering is merely to set a backstory for the players.
- The hallways twist and the walls change. THE WALLS CHANGE! It's... wrong.
- The blood trail sequences are "limbo in a video game."
- The hallucination level where Max has to follow the trail of his own child's blood to the room where said baby was brutally murdered. What makes the first hallucination sequence even worse for this troper is the fact that they occasionally cut to Max tied to a chair in a Mafia hideout, and allusions to baseball bats are made. A few levels earlier, we were shown the handiwork of a mob executioner who favored baseball bats...
- There are also minor but significant changes to Max's house that are disturbing too. The picture on the wall in the baby's room changes from a teddy bear with "HUG ME!" in the real scene to "CUDDLES", "HUGGIES" and other such slightly "off" phrases, as if Max's PTSD and/or Valkyr use is changing what he remembers. And in one dream the child's letter blocks spell out "DEAD".
- During the first dream sequence, when you reach the corpse of the baby, her arm is still moving.
- On top of Ragna Rock and Lupino both being super-creepy, the boss fight itself is a nightmare. Unlike the rest of the games bosses, the Finito Brothers, Rico Muerte, the Trio or the Russian gun runner, Jack Lupino doesn't have a realistic level of health. The reason? He's hopped up to his eyeballs with Valkyr, and can't even feel pain anymore. Even after the boss fight, Max empties his gun into Lupino's corpse during the cutscene, just to make sure he won't get back up again. This makes a lot of sense once you find out that Valkyr is really a goverment Super Soldier Serum prototype that was never finished. The run-of-the-mill addicts you've fought so far in the game just havent had access to enough of the stuff to get the effect Lupino got.Lupino: Death is coming, and hell follows with her... This is the Twilight Winter! I am ready to be her son! Her time is now and ALL WHO STAND IN HER WAY MUST DIIIIEE!!
- The build up to the confrontation with Lupino is chilling and implies he's been doing awful things for a long time. We find torn up letters, gory diagrams on the walls, a stone dish filled with blood and his own henchmen bound and slaughtered on a pentagram. Even his own men are terrified of him, stating he's been locked away in his private part of the club for three days and the "screams have stopped".
- Ragna Rock itself seems to be part of Lupino's twisted operation, as Max says that the events there "[Start] with bondage games and lead to the nasty stuff from there." The band is named "Choosers of the Slain" (which the Valkyr of Norse Mythology were in charge of performing), and seeing that backstage Lupino is actually sacrificing people, the band might literally perform this function...
- While unused from the game's soundtrack, the eponymous "The Flesh of Fallen Angels" is complete panic fuel, which was supposed to be heard when fighting Jack Lupino and his henchmen while sending you on the edge.
- The final reveal of the game, that the events of the story were just a side effect of the power games of a government conspiracy and its various infighting. All the horrible things that happened weren't even for any real purpose.
- If you kill the V junkies their screams will sometimes transition into the sound of a baby crying. The fact that it's the sole bit of obvious Mind Screw in the game outside of the dream sequences just makes it all the freakier.
- The loading screen for the Prologue of A Bit Closer to Heaven features a screaming man with hollow eyes. It sticks around in the quit screen as well.
- The effects and symptoms of Valkyr use and the behaviour of the junkies hopped up on it. It seems to be extremely addictive and habit forming, and doesn't even appear to give a real "high", as people who have taken it simply hold their heads and rock back and forth like madmen. Users mutter gibberish and seem anguished ("I think I died...I think I'm dead! I don't know..." and "I'm gonna hurt you..." being stand outs). It also makes the user do completely insane and violent things, up to and including murdering innocent people and children, and blesses the user with a resistance to pain and increased strength with which to commit these atrocities. It's hard to think of a nastier drug (outside of maybe Poppy's drug from Kingsman: The Golden Circle).
- Also, the personality and motivations of Nicole Horne. She is intelligent, powerful and hard-working. She's also completely soulless and happily does absolutely anything to acquire more money and power, which is all she seems to live for. By the time the plot starts she has already crossed dozens upon dozens of Moral Event Horizons and she continues to do so throughout the game, doing the most heinous things again and again with absolutely no guilt or conscience whatsoever. She would quite literally kill your entire family and not lose a wink of sleep over it - and people like this actually exist!
Max Payne 2
- The first game hinted that Max was a broken man from watching his family die in front of him, but at least he got his revenge and seemed functional in his undercover job. By the second game it's plainly obvious that the event has taken a toll. He's dysfunctional at his job and flat-out depressed. He's still utterly torn up by the death of his wife and consumed by guilt when lusting for Mona. To see him still suffering so much after several years is not just sad, but actually disturbing because it's a horribly realistic portrayal of extreme grief. It would happen to anyone after such a traumatic event.
- Some of the touches in the dream sequences are just as creepy as in the first game. Throughout the game, adverts are seen for "Gold Touch Brandy". In one dream, a billboard appears for it. Except instead of the smiling woman normally seen in other ads in the game for the drink, Max himself is simply depicted sat next to the huge bottle of alcohol. The brand name is replaced by "SADIM", which is Midas backwards. And the slogan? It simply says: "EVERYONE I TOUCH DIES". Max is so consumed with mental anguish that he sees himself as a curse, a death force that always sees everyone he loves taken from him, forever...
- The Cleaners are completely amoral and seem to take pleasure from their life of contract killing. They're also very competent and leave almost no forensic evidence until Max interrupts their plans. Imagine that a team of efficent, happy-go-lucky killers exist in your city and will probably never be caught and convicted...
- The abandoned theme park of Address Unknown that's explored in the game is VERY creepy. The story of the show is morbid and insane, and feels like a lampoon of Max's life and mental state. He's even bitterly aware of this, commenting something along the lines of "The joke wears thin when it mirrors your reality."
- Perhaps the most disturbing part of the theme park is the final section, which occurs after the protagonist of the show loses his mind and enters "The Next Level" (of madness, presumably). First you walk down streets littered with cartoon corpses of people you have apparently murdered, and the cartoon shop-fronts have now become distorted, monstrous mouths. The electric signs say things like "HEAD INJURY". And then at the very end there's just a long corridor with road signs that alternate between saying "ESCAPE" and "There is no ESCAPE". The path simply ends at a locked door, with stark neon writing above simply saying: "THERE IS NO ESCAPE." It's a stark and chilling portrayal of madness, made even more surreal in that only a collapsed stage wall allows you to ever leave the corridor.
- What about Vinnie Gognitti's death scene? Being forced to watch him, in another nightmare, no less, being put through a trivia quiz on his favourite TV series with his life hanging in the balance, by the guy you considered to be your ally through most of the game? And then just stand there helplessly as he gets his head blown off, while he begs for his life? Classic.
- Vlad's demeanour in that scene is also unnaturally smug and cheery to the point of being seriously creepy. He's doing something absolutely heartless and psychopathic, yet he seems outright amused as he psychologically tortures Vinnie. It's a nasty window into his sadistic true personality, and even if Vinnie had answered correctly, he likely would have killed him regardless.
- In all but the ending the game gives you on the hardest difficulty, Mona dies. Max is on the verge of total mental collapse the whole game, he finds a second true love who is much the same as him...and then she is once against snatched from him in tragic circumstances. Brutal and haunting.
- The recurring theme that you can be completely powerless to save the ones you love, even if you have the ability to shoot hundreds of bad guys dead.
Max Payne 3
- If Max seemed unlucky and broken in the second game...it's even worse now. He's a full-blown alcoholic, has taken up smoking again, and once again the years seem to have given him no respite at all. It's like the entire world exists only to torture him forever and things only ever get worse even at the bottom of his own downward spiral.
- Marcello's death. The poor bastard is subjected to a form of execution called Necklacing, which means the tires he was wrapped in were filled with Petrol and he suffered incredibly from the heat of the flames, the heated tires and the toxic fumes given off by the burning tires.
- And for that matter the brutal deaths of all the Brancos that Max helplessly fails to save, including his boss and Marcello's sister. They were largely innocent people and they meet nasty early deaths.
- The ninth chapter deserves special mention; Max, having failed to save Fabiana, progresses further through the favela, where the UFE have started a brutal war with the Commando Sombra. As he fights through the gang members and dirty cops, he finds the UFE either murdering or kidnapping innocent people living in the favela.
Max: Man. I was guessing these guys didn't spend their spare time studying the Geneva convention.
- One particularly disturbing moment sees Max walking in on a trio of UFE members torturing a random man for information by beating him and suffocating him with a plastic bag. The man is pleading with them and is obviously terrified. The UFE members, either angry with the lack of useful info or just being sadistic monsters, quickly go back to suffocating him, and they end up killing him. The man's screaming and gasping as he suffocates to death is hard to listen to. Max himself is disturbed by the UFE's brutality:
- At the climax of the Panama mission, Max discovers the corpses of the ship's passengers heaped on the roof of the museum, surrounded by a massive pool of blood. It becomes even worse when you think of what they must have gone through before they died. They were most likely marched up to the roof, pleading for their lives before being gunned down by the pirates. It gets worse when you realize that it was all because Marcello and Passos hid the blood money from Victor's organ harvesting ring within the ship, most likely without the boat's owner even knowing about it.
- The Imperial Palace hotel, all of it. Not at all helped by the musical backing, which is made up of a series of heartbeat-like theremin sounds being occasionally punctuated by other dissonant sounds.
- Victor Branco's operation involves rounding up the poor and impoverished and harvesting their organs.
- As frightening as that is, it's how Max reacts to the discovery of it that is most telling. This is a man who has seen his wife and his baby girl dead, seen most of his friends die in front of his eyes and came face-to-face with the screwed up truth behind Valkyr, and faced it all with a pained but stoic attitude with his anger mostly bottled up inside. Here, he's so horrified it takes him a while to comprehend just what he is seeing when he stumbles across it; after he's had time to process what he has seen, he comes quickly to the conclusion of blowing the whole place to hell, and when he confronts the villain who had been overseeing the organ harvesting, rather than going into his trademark Tranquil Fury mode, he speaks and acts in a palpable state of unbridled hot rage for perhaps the first time in the series.
- The UFE prison Max goes to after turning himself in. It's somewhere you absolutely don't wanna be in, specially if you're familiar with the brutality of Brazilian prisons, where in most cases the police goes as far as allowing inmates to kill other inmates depending on how bad the crime they've commited was. Knowing Max and the trouble he gave to both the police and the scum of São Paulo, who knows what he would've been put through if he hadn't escaped?
- The place is so bad that, in the cutscene where Max is taken to be interrogated, they pass through many jail cells, one containing a prisoner who hung himself.
- Brazil is depicted much like NYC in the first game - utterly rotten and corrupt to the core. The whole place is like one huge endless nightmare and every faction seems just as evil as one another. You fight against amateur gangsters from poor slums, and while you'd expect to feel sympathy for their plight...you don't because they're utterly vicious and brutal, with no respect at all for human life. Then you meet a radical Right-wing paramilitary fond of burning people alive and committing arbitrary murder...and many of them are off-duty cops. Even the official special ops police force employ torture and remorselessly slaughter innocent people to sell their organs for cash. If Hell exists anywhere on Earth, the Brazil depicted in the game is probably next door to it.
- While being a parody of Twin Peaks, Address Unknown (From both first games) still manages to be creepy thanks to it's dark atmosphere and pumping up some creepy feel in it. Don't forget John Mirra's Evil Laughter as well!John: I was trapped in a nightmare. My evil double had taken my girlfriend. Following him, I had somehow slipped into a twisted alternate reality, Noir York City. My double was John Mirra. He was the devil incarnate, a fallen angel.
John Mirra: .thE flesH oF falleN angelS
Patient: The flesh, THE FLESH! I think I died! I think I'm dead- I don't know, I DON'T KNOW! Death is coming, IT'S COMING! They're here! They're here! Get away- GET AWAY, GET AWAY! I'M GONNA HURT YOU, I'M GONNA HURT YOOOUUUUU!!!
- And also, the ending is nothing short of chilling.