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"Everything ripped apart in a New York minute..."

"They were all dead. The final gunshot was an exclamation mark to everything that had led to this point. I released my finger from the trigger, and then it was over."
Max Payne
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The Max Payne series is a trio of Film Noir Third-Person Shooter video games first developed by Remedy Entertainment.

The first game, Max Payne, was an attempt to break video games into Film Noir. A mixture of both the film and graphic novel treatments of noir, it featured such stalwart elements of the genre as the hard-boiled cynical hero, the capable and mysterious Femme Fatale, and the complex plot with myriad linear and tangential echelons of villains, all played under a gravel-voiced narration laden with gothic imagery and twisted arthouse metaphors. There are even a number of references to Norse Mythology. The cutscenes were told in Graphic Novel form, made by photographing the scenes and altering them digitally to resemble watercolor drawings.

The game's main selling point was the use of Matrix-style Bullet Time (despite the game being in the works before the movie came out), which allowed the players to slow down key points of the game while letting them aim and react as usual. This gave players an edge over the bad guys as well as looking darn cool, especially since the game was one of the first to use projectile modeling for each and every bullet rather than a hitscan technique. Slowing down time slowed down the bullets as well, letting you see every bullet you dodge. The game also impressed with its highly interactive environments, deep soundscape, and interesting aspects of gameplay such as playable dream sequences.

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Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne released in 2003, featured better physics and graphics, actual in-engine cutscenes with new animation beyond the standard AI movements, more varied gameplay, and an original song by the newly-formed Poets of the Fall.

It took eight years for Max Payne 3 to be developed and released. This time, it was developed entirely by Rockstar Games, with no design work but constant feedback from Remedy. This game movies away from the noir run-and-gun style of its predecessors, with more focus on action.

As a promotional effort for the third game, three short digital comics were slowly released. The comics are in order, After the Fall, Hoboken Blues, and Fight and Flight. The comics are published by Marvel Comics, co-written by Rockstar's Dan Houser and Max's creator Sam Lake, and deal with Max's early life, his courtship of his wife Michelle, the aftermath of the second game, and the period between the second and third games.

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A movie based on the characters was released in 2008 to poor critical reception, but modest commercial success. Related tropes should go to its separate page.

In April 2022, it was announced that Remedy and Rockstar was planning to release a remaster of the first and second game for PC, as well as PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.


The Trope Namer came like a hurricane.


The large collection of folders looked ominous. I braced myself for the sheer deconstruction of the series.

    open/close all folders 

    A-C 

  • Accidental Misnaming: In the Hoboken Blues comic, the bartender at Max's local dive bar mistakenly calls him Matt even when corrected.
  • Adventures in Comaland: Max practically has dual US-Comaland citizenship. These manifest as playable dream sequences, many of which play into Max's Survivor's Guilt.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Well, not exactly a specific aesop, but the writers have had to reset Max's internal struggles with each game to keep the conflict going. At the end of the first game, Max is pretty satisfied with himself, and has Woden promising to get him out of trouble. In the second Max reveals he wants to be punished for his crimes, and that he's still miserable, having lied to himself that it was over; the conclusion has Max getting justice after tying up any loose ends. By the third, he's still dwelling on the life he can't return to, and is now a depressed drunk who has been run out of town by the mob. The conclusion of the third averts this (as of yet) as Max finally comes to terms with his past and gets the break he's earned.
  • The Ahnold: Max Heat, an adult movie actor whose film is being watched by a couple of mooks in the 'A Mob-War' level in the second game.
  • A.K.A.-47: Zig-zagged depending on the game.
    • The first game goes for a few generic descriptors like the 9mm Pistol (Beretta 92), Pump-Action Shotgun (Winchester 1300) or Sniper Rifle (Steyr SSG 69), while a few others go for either correct names like the Desert Eagle and Jackhammer, or aliases like the Colt Model 733 going by "Colt Commando" (a catch-all term for M16-based carbines made before the M4) and the MAC-10 called the "Ingram" (the name of the MAC-10's designer).
    • The second and third avert this for the most part, going for real names as much as possible - even going so far as to swap out Max's previous trademark Beretta 92s for their local Brazilian counterpart, the PT92 - though they still go for a few generic names, like the second game's Pump-Action Shotgun (a Remington 870 this time) and Sniper Rifle (the SSG 69 again), or the third's Auto 9mm (a full-auto-converted Glock 17) and Micro 9mm (a Mini Uzi shrunk to the size of a Micro Uzi). The third game also leans more heavily into this trope for the weapons that don't get their real names, though several are contracted versions of their real names like the DE .50 (a Desert Eagle) or still related to the real weapon in some other way like the SAF .40 (a Taurus MT-40 named after the FAMAE SAF it was based on). Both also have one misidentified weapon each, 2's "MP5" actually being a chopped and converted HK94 and 3's Remington 870 named the "M500" as if it's a Mossberg.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • In the second game Bravura is a recovered alcoholic. He believes Max has a drinking problemnote .
    • Max has descended into alcoholism as of the third game, and about midway through begins the struggle to quit.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Just what Max Payne has become by the end of the third game is increasingly hard to describe, especially as his narration becomes more detached and contemplative. The game veers from a look at the "stranger in a strange land" and the stark contrast of the gloom behind the glitz and becomes a stark reflection on the value of Pay Evil unto Evil as Max gets closer to the horror and sobers up. By the end of the game, he's done a good thing, and is satisfied with the end result, but whether that makes him a good person is left unanswered.
  • American Title: Part 1 of the first game is titled "The American Dream". Part 3 of the second is titled "Waking Up From the American Dream."
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Inner Circle may or may not be this. When asked about it, Vlad claims they are just another group of criminals who like to act like they are an Ancient Conspiracy, but in the Asgard Building "there were rows of cabinets, full of files." And Max claims that "The serpentine secret society went back a long way, always pulling strings from the shadows". Besides - Vlad had plenty of reasons to lie to the guy he was about to kill about the organization he sought to take control of. And Woden states that, due to Vlad's rebellion, the Circle was "reduced to fighting mob wars". Whatever it is, they definitely are a Government Conspiracy, with all these Senators in cahoots with them.
  • Animation Bump: From the first game to the second, and an even bigger one to the third (which sorta drops the graphic novel portions in favor of a TV-esque filter with shifting colors and static lines that break into Panels in a graphic novel fashion).
  • Announcer Chatter: Any time you or a teammate activate a burst, or a vendetta is started/settled, Max will chime in with something appropriate.
    [Big Dog burst is used]
    Max: Their second wind came like a hurricane.
  • Anti-Hero: Max: he always goes after unrepentant, evil, evil villains, but there's no mercy in him - he's not above torture, pumping fifty rounds into a dying enemy, or simply walking into the nearest bad guy joint and blasting it up.
  • Arc Words:
    • The opening monologue of each game includes the phrase 'they were all dead'.
    • In part one: "The flesh of fallen angels." Usually spoken by junkies tripping balls on V. In particular, Jack Lupino loves this phrase. It is later used in the fun house in part two.
    • In part two: "...dearest of all my friends," spoken by Vlad to Max and other people whom he ultimately betrays.
    • Each Part of the story also has a name that tends to relate to the overall situation.
    • Max Payne 3 lacks the arc words, using Title Drops Once A Chapter instead.
  • Arrow Cam: Employed whenever Max or Mona use a sniper rifle. The third game includes slo-mo bullet hits for killing the last enemy in the group.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • Cleaners in the second have a tendency to run after their own grenades. Halfway referenced by Max:
      Max: "Cleaners" was a misnomer. They were making a mess of it.
    • Many Mooks in the first game won't run if you throw a grenade at them.
    • If you throw a molotov cocktail at a door opening or a tight corridor, chasing mooks will run across it and die.
    • Some mooks armed with grenade launchers might use them in point blank range.
  • Art Shift: In the first game, the Captain Baseball Bat Boy series is a Peanuts-esque newspaper comic with the titular character being a Charlie Brown lookalike. In the sequel, it is in the style of a Saturday Morning Cartoon, and the titular character is now in full-on super-hero getup, wearing a mask, a cape and wielding a laser baseball bat. By the third game, Captain Baseball Bat Boy is now a children's cartoon with cliffhangers and anime-esque visuals combined with current day cartoons.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Max Payne. Several characters, including villains, lampshade this.
    Frankie: Max Payne. I envy your name.
  • Badass Boast: His narration in the final level in the second game gives us this:
    Max: I was compelled to give Vlad his gun back... one bullet at a time
  • Badass Bystander:
    • Candy Dawn, a random hooker who tries to kill you, inexplicably has perfect aim (compared to the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy aim of most mob Mooks) and about 3 times as much health as regular Mooks.
    • On one level in the ghetto, a random civilian SUV drives by an alley you're stalking through. If you are particularly trigger-happy and shoot it, it will crash and the driver (using a mobster model) will come after you, guns blazing.
    • In an early level in the second game, you have the ability to rescue a prostitute and a wino (who happens to be an ex-maverick cop) from a burning building. Both are carrying pistols, and will gladly take on the cleaners with you.
    • There's also an old lady with a shotgun.
  • Bag of Spilling:
    • Max is twice relieved of all or most of his weapons in the first game, and three times in the second. Generally Justified (captured by bad guys, left for dead, in a hospital, etc). The third game constantly justifies it with most missions taking place on different days and Max showing up with the logical equipment for the job, instead of meeting his boss with a grenade launcher strapped to his back.
    • In the later levels of MP3, Max's inability to hold on to his arsenal gets to the point where it's almost worthy of an Alan Wake-style running gag. At various points in time, he's robbed at gunpoint twice, disarmed by captors, arrested, and ditches all of his bigger guns in favor of a silenced 9mm.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: Every gun, except for the 9mm pistol, which sounds fairly like the real thing.
  • Batter Up!: Captain Baseballbat-Boy and Frankie "The Bat" Niagara. A baseball bat is also one of your possible melee weapons in the first game.
  • Battle Couple: Max and Mona in the second game, where the last half of the game involves them fighting through Mafia goons.
  • Bench Breaker: In the first game, Max waits until Franky is out of the room and then falls backwards on his chair in order to crack the wood.
  • Benevolent Architecture: Every single door in the city of New York seems to be double-hinged.
  • BFG: The Pancor Jackhammer in the first game. The Striker-12 shotgun and Mona's Romak PSL in the second game. The M82 anti-materiel rifle, RPD and HK21E in the third.
  • Big Bad:
    • Corrupt pharmaceutical pusher Nicole Horne is the overall villain in the first game.
    • Russian gangster Vladimir Lem goes from a bit part in the first game to the overall villain of the second.
    • Max Payne 3 has three potential conspirators, all siblings in the Branco dynasty. Victor is the corrupt brother: he harvests organs from peasants in the favellas, runs the corrupt special forces, and covertly assassinates the entire Branco clan in order to inherit their wealth. Like previous villains, he is pretty much evil incarnate, looting from everyone in sight despite being fabulously wealthy already.
  • Big Bad Friend: B.B. in the first game, Vlad in the second, and Victor in the third.
  • Big "NO!": Max does this after his family was killed in the prologue.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: The first two games are set in New York, using fictional locations. The third has flashbacks as well. Max actually name drops this trope in the lead-up to Jack Lupino's suite.
    Max: This was the rotten core of the Big Apple.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Well, it is Film Noir. To be specific:
    • In Max Payne 1: Max stops Horne, the head of Valkyr, saves the city and destroys the drug itself, avenging his family. However, the grief of losing his family still haunts him.
    • In Max Payne 2: Max defeats Vlad and survives, but several of his police force/friends are dead, and Mona dies from a gunshot wound (unless the player beats the game on the hardest difficulty setting, in which case she survives). While Max is grieving, he begins to overcome his depression.
    • In Max Payne 3: Though he fails to save Rodrigo or Fabiana, Max exposes the organ theft ring and brings Victor to justice, defeating the UFE and disbanding them. Victor is found guilty, and a few weeks later is found hung in jail. His death is officially ruled suicide, but it's heavily implied that he was killed in retribution for his crimes. Max has finally moved past his wife and daughter's deaths, gotten over his alcoholism, and can finally relax.
  • Black Comedy:
    • Max will often have a pithy one-liner in spite of all of the violence.
    • Passos also cracks jokes often during gunfights.
  • Black Knight: 3 alludes to the idea with the Cracha Preto Hired Guns. The name is Portuguese for "black badge", and according to supplementary materials they used to be lawmen who blacked out their unit insignia before going on Vigilante Man sprees.
  • Blinded by Rage: Max plays this card against Punchinello to get him mad enough to make mistakes. He tries to kill Max by trapping him in a burning restaurant, but Max escapes and takes the battle to the manor itself.
    Max: Pissing Punchinello off was a dangerous game, but when people get mad, they make mistakes. I should know. That's where I wanted Punchinello — mad enough to trip over his own feet, preferably into a grave.
  • Blood Knight: Max Payne hates admitting he's one but, dear god, is he ever.
  • Blown Across the Room:
    • When you use a shotgun, count on Mooks getting this treatment.
    • In the first game especially, a kill shot from any gun will do this.
  • Book Ends: In the second game. Less explicitly, "Dearest of all my friends."
  • Boring Yet Practical: The pump action shotgun can carry you through a large proportion of the first game, thanks to its plentiful ammo (especially in comparison to the Ingram, which burns through ammo pretty quickly to boot, especially when dual wielded), good stopping power, and (for the most part) relative close quarters combat for much of the game. In fact, it renders the Sawed-Off Shotgun totally redundant, since the pump action can be acquired first, a progression that's inverted for the sequel.
  • Boss Subtitles: Done for the introduction of every major character of the second game.
  • Brand X: Various "Kampela" products in the second game. The word is Finnish for a flounder fish, by the way. Weirdness.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • During the second Valkyr nightmare, Max reads a note telling him he's in a graphic novel. The cutscenes are told in a graphic novel format, and that particular scene even shows a a previous cutscene laid out like a comic page. The second letter read in this section tells Max he's in a computer game. It even hangs a lampshade on Bullet Time.
    • Smaller funnier moments ensue by interacting with the environment: blast an alarm or an elevator speaker and Max will thank you for it; he'll even play rimshot on the drums, and try (unsuccessfully) to play the Max Payne theme on the piano.
    • In the third game, if you linger around the tram terminal too long without activating the power, Max gets fed up and directly calls the player (you) an "asshole".
  • Breather Episode: After a few action-filled levels, you are occasionally given a level where there is no enemy threat (e.g. a dream sequence, a fun house, etc.) Not that those levels keep you comfortable.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Part I of the first game is entitled "The American Dream". Part III of the second game is entitled "Waking Up from the American Dream."note 
    • The second act of 2 has Max sneaking into the Cleaners' hideout in a condemned building via the back of a van, with Mona following him but initially only about to communicate via radio. In Chapter 2, Max is sneaking around and warns Mona: "These guys are packing, close to overkill. Hardcore professionals."; Mona replies back "Doesn't seem that way from where I'm standing," leaving Max to wonder what she meant. We get the answer in Chapter 4, when control is switched to Mona: as she moves along she gets Max's "hardcore professionals" comment, which immediate precedes her opening a door to watching some cleaners standing around laughing as one of them is prancing around and strutting it like a runway model.
  • Broken Bird: Mona Sax. Her twin sister was tortured to death, and she was shot in the head. She's fine in the second game though... right?
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Referenced in the "Lords and Ladies" Show Within a Show in the first game.
  • Bullet Time: The Trope Namer. The Max Payne franchise was the first to use Bullet Time as an actual play mechanic. 2 actually allows you to quickly reload in bullet-time, which has Max (or Mona) rapidly spin with the guns magically reloaded at the end, one of the game's many stylistic cues taken from the Heroic Bloodshed films John Woo is famouis for. In the first game, there's even a Lampshade Hanging done by two guards, who discuss this trope in movies. Interestingly, Max Payne 3 has a notice on the copyright screen that "Bullet Time" is a trademark of Warner Bros., indicating that The Matrix is the actual Trope Namer- however, Max Payne was definitely the work that brought the term into public consciousness.
  • Call-Back:
    • In the first game, the code to the D-6 district of the bunker was "665," to which Max quips "neighbor of the beast." In the second game, the code to the 7th floor of the apartment buolding is "667," and when the guy who tells it to Max makes the same joke, Max replies "yeah, I get it."
    • A hugely subtle one, on one of the clues in the mission where you go through the swamps to get the girl, the ransom note where she was held says "Mona" in slightly larger letters than the other words.
    • Captain Baseball Bat Boy makes a small appearance in the third on a TV.
    • The New York graveyard nightshift worker looks and sounds suspiciously like the janitor with the walkman who hummed Late Goodbye in 2.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Max declines a job working for the DEA because he wants to live a life that won't cause his family any undue grief or worry. Then he comes home and finds his wife and infant daughter dead, murdered by Valkyr junkies. The orchestrator of the attack calls the house to verify if her goons carried out the hit, to make it all the more literal. Sure enough, next time we see Max he's a DEA agent.
  • Callousness Towards Emergency: Justified in the first game, since the lady at the other end is the Big Bad.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Vlad calls almost everyone "dearest of all my friends".
    • Lord Jack's "Yes, Mama!" and Matriarch of York's "Good! Good!" in the Lords and Ladies TV show in 2.
  • Catapult Nightmare: The narrator of Address Unknown wakes up screaming from his encounter with his dark double and the pink flamingo.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: While the series overall is pretty dark, the third game lacks the small comedic conversations between the mooks and the meta-jokes are almost completely cut away.
  • Character Title: Although it makes a pretty effective pun as well (since that's exactly what happens to Max's foes).
  • Chickification: In the original Captain Baseball Bat Boy strip, Bicycle Helmet Girl is probably the only character in the strip's brief run who Captain Baseball Bat Boy couldn't defeat because of her protective bicycle helmet. In the episode of the Show Within a Show The Adventures of Captain Baseball Bat Boy in the second game, Bicycle Helmet Girl is more of a snarky Faux Action Girl. In the episode seen in the third game, she's a flat Damsel in Distress who immediately cries for the title hero's help the moment there's danger.
  • Clear My Name: Max's primary objective in the first game is to find out who actually killed Alex Balder, a crime that he's framed for in the fourth chapter of Part 1. He ends up killing almost a thousand people.
  • Cliché Storm: Oh, yeah. Invoked, both in the story and with the Show Within a Show (and Self-Parody) Dick Justice, which is a blaxploitation, over the top take on Max Payne. Max lampshades this in his narrative monologue:
    Max: ...who was I to talk, a brooding underdog avenger alone against an empire of evil, out to right a grave injustice? Everything was subjective. There were only personal apocalypses. Nothing is a cliché when it's happening to you.
  • Climbing Climax: End of the first game, where Max ascends to the roof of a skyscraper, only for the Big Bad to board an Armed helicoper.
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Some fictional TV shows have a suspicious similarity to events that unfold (or appear to unfold) in-game. Examples include Address Unknown, where a serial killer is observing his detective shortly before you reach the hideout of the assassin spying on you.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Zig-zagged. Some things that obviously can't take bullets, like cubicle walls, will be destroyed by gunfire, but others, like yacht hull or the ever-popular residential walls, can take them seemingly forever.
  • Convection, Schmonvection/Hollywood Fire: In both games you have to navigate through burning buildings and the heat isn't a problem at all. If you touch the flames, however, you get damaged. In the sequel, characters at least cover their mouths against the smoke. A section of the third game takes place in a bombed building that's badly damaged enough to be practically melting under the heat, but Max and the enemies don't seem to mind much even when walking on glowing red beams. Max can still die from air loss if he fails to escape in time.
  • Cop Killer: Max's real problems start not when he loses his family but when he is framed for murder of his fellow DEA agent. Gangsters in this game are cannon fodder that die in droves and no one really cares, but one dead officer is serious.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Nicole Horne. She has Max's wife killed because she found some incriminating evidence and is making money off a rejected Super Soldier serum by selling it on the streets as a designer drug.
  • Cowboy Cop: Max is this in spades, especially in the first game. It is even lampshaded by Max himself when he is both investigating and attempting to escape from Jack Lupino's sleazy hotel. When Max enters Rico Muerte's room he discovers a letter from Don Angelo Punchinello regarding Valkyr which is the first time that definitive evidence of the Don's involvement has been found. Instead of collecting it, Max simply crumples up the letter and drops it on the floor stating that "Collecting evidence had gotten old a couple of hundred bullets back. I was so far beyond the point of no return that I had forgotten what it looked like when I passed it."
  • Creepy Monotone: Max himself, especially in 3 when you see him with the Thousand-Yard Stare he exhibits at times while doing this.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Max never actually heals himself in any way. He simply chugs down painkillers. By the end of the game, he could easily have taken enough damage to empty his life bar a hundred times over and be full of so many bullets you'd have trouble finding something to shoot at that was still him, but as long as he can't feel it, he's fine and dandy. But should he suddenly be in a position where he feels actual pain, he falls over in slow motion.
  • Crusading Widow: Max spends the first game on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the big conspiracy that killed his wife and newborn girl.

    D-F 
  • Da Chief: Bravura, in the sequel. He chews Max out for working with Mona and even has him turn in his guns and put him behind a desk. He also tries to get Max to get his life back together, mistaking his PTSD for alcoholism.
  • Dark Action Girl: Mona Sax is a badass assassin who dresses in black, and racks up a body count to rival Max's.
  • Darker and Edgier: Arguably the second game (see Indecisive Parody).
    • The third game is this in spades. It's much more gritty in comparison to the first two games.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: Can happen in the second and third game to mooks wielding a single one-handed weapon, particularly if you shoot their legs out from under them just before they fire at you.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Max adds lots of snarky comments in his monologue during levels. And Mona isn't exactly snark-free herself.
      Max: He had a baseball bat, and I was tied to a chair. Pissing him off was the smart thing to do.
    • The woman on the phone in the opening scene who we learn later on is Nicole Horne.
      Woman: Is this the Payne Residence?
      Max: Yes! Someone has broken into the house, you have to call the cops!
      Woman: Good. I'm afraid I can't help you.
    • Also, Passos in 3:
      Max: Time to see what's waiting for us outside.
      Passos: Well, it ain't gonna be a warm cup of milk and a blowjob.
  • Death Seeker: Max is this in 1, implicitly intending to kill as many criminals as possible before he dies. The discovery Nicole Horne is responsible for his wife and child's murder, however, gives him the catharsis to stay alive. Later, in Max Payne 2, Mona Sax does the same. In Max Payne 3, he's mostly just holding onto life via inertia.
  • Decoy Leader: Max kills a lot of people, mistakenly thinking they're behind everything, only to find out that he aimed too low, and subsequently going after the next person on his hit list.
  • Déjà Vu: Max experiences this in the original game—while having a bad Valkyr trip. In his hallucinations, he enters a room with a ringing telephone. When he picks up, he hears only gibberish and puts it down. However, the next room he enters looks exactly the same, and the voice on the phone tries to tell him he has been drugged—to which he declares that he only hears gibberish and puts the phone down.
  • Determined Defeatist: Max goes through the entire first game knowing perfectly well that there are only two outcomes for him: either being killed during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge or being put away for life upon completing it. In fact, after he goes free thanks to The Government pulling a few strings, he considers himself to be a Karma Houdini, and subsequently suffers a massive guilt complex for getting away with it all.
  • Determinator: Rampaging through hundreds of enemies while subsisting only on painkillers. In the second game, Max squares his badassness and determination: He gets shot in the chest, thrown off a high cliff, is next to a bomb when it explodes, and ultimately gets shot in the head with a magnum, and not only lives from all of these incidents, but keeps on truckin' to get shit done. Damn. Early in the third game he even takes a glancing shot from a .50 BMG anti-materiel rifle and all he needs is some painkillers and bandages to get him back to normal.
  • Dirty Cop: Across all three games there's someone wearing the badge that isn't on the up and up.
    • In 1, it's Max's lone DEA contact B.B. after Balder is killed and Max is framed for it - the implication is heavy that it was B.B. himself who shot Balder in front of Max. Max gets the hint when he meets B.B. in the third act - no way a guy on a normal police salary can afford a suit and watch that nice.
    • In 2, it's Detective Winterson, who's in bed with the Big Bad Vladimir Lem in a somewhat more literal manner than usual for the term. Winterson uses her position to cover Vlad's activities and later tries to get rid of Max and Mona with lead.
    • In 3, it's the entire UFE force, who are essentially the private army of the Big Bad and in cahoots with outlawed paramilitaries to organ-harvest the poor. Ironically, despite Rodrigo dismissing him as another of these, Da Silva is the only one we see onscreen who isn't.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Referenced in a flashback in the Max Payne 3 prequel comic, where Max is sent to catch the Serial Killer known as "The Silent Hunter", who kills newlyweds.
    Bravura: If there's one thing people can't stand, it's young lovers getting their hands chopped off by a psychopath.
    Max: I think I'd care just as much if it was hookers and their clients. People are people.
    Bravura: To you and me, yes, but to the morons in the press, let's just say some people are more equal than others.
  • Disposable Woman: Both Max's wife and daughter were Disposable Women in the classic sense. Mona and Fabiana become examples as well.
    Max: I still hadn't forgiven myself for the Mona business, but I knew that was just grief. The insanity that comes with losing the life you had once built...
  • Donut Mess with a Cop:
    • In the first game, Max remarks in his narration that he's been living on "an endless supply of week-old doughnuts."
    • In the third game, several plates with coxinhas (Brazilian chicken crockets), which are often considered "cop treat", can be seen around the UFE headquarters.
  • Dull Surprise: The uninterested "Aaaaah" sound the Mooks make when you kill them. Many people also commented on Max's strangely constipated expression in the first game.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first game, beyond the tonal differences noted elsewhere on this page, has a few gameplay wrinkles that were ditched in the later games. Notably, if Max was heavily wounded, he would visibly limp until he recovered enough of his health back. Max would also automatically get up after landing from a Shootdodge, having no option to remain on the ground to fire at enemies.
  • Easter Egg: There is an apartment in the final level of 2 that contains a memorial to one of the developer's friends. The room contains little else.
  • Edge Gravity: 3 is pretty good about using invisible walls to prevent you from falling off places to their death. The game won't stop you Shootdodging off them, though.
  • Elite Mook: Each game has a variation.
    • The first game has the Commandoes and Killer Suits, who have better aim and about twice as much health as regular Mooks, with the Killer Suits being slightly tougher than the Commandoes. The Commandoes frequently throw grenades and carry hard-hitting Colt Commando assault rifles and Desert Eagles, while the Killer Suits are often equipped with the best weaponry in the game and have a much higher rate of fire and accuracy even when they're just carrying regular 9mm pistols.
    • The second game has Vlad's Cleaners when they're equipped with full Commando gear, suggesting they're what's left of the Commandoes from the first game, now working for Vlad. Like in the first game, they've got twice the health of regular Mooks, and are usually equipped with M4 assault rifles and grenades.
    • The third game has UFE soldiers equipped with body armor and wielding military-grade weaponry. Unlike gangbangers, they can also throw grenades to flush you out of cover. Crachá Preto paramilitaries also wear ballistic vests and throw grenades, though they're not quite as well-equipped as the UFE, having slightly less advanced weaponry and lacking ballistic helmets.
  • Elevator Action Sequence:
    • Inverted; the elevator rides are often a heaven-sent chance to reload, let the painkillers kick in and generally draw breath. Until the very last level. Look up, through the glass panel in the roof of the elevator. Yep, those are claymore mines lining the shaft.
    • While Max is riding a glass-walled elevator down in the last level of the first game, a helicopter shows up and starts blasting away, forcing him to jump to another elevator.
  • Enemy Chatter: You can listen in on the mooks talking about action movies and TV series.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The very first line of the first game: "They were all dead." Also occurs in the third game during the attack on Branco's building after telling Rodrigo to close up his office.
  • Evil Counterpart: Max and Mona for Vlad and Winterson. Even their clothing colors mirror each other, and the criminal/cop genders are reversed. Note also how Winterson and Vlad apparently can't keep their hands off each other, while Max and Mona barely touch the other. Except for that one scene.
  • Evil Twin: Mona jokingly describes herself as Lisa Punchinello's evil twin when she and Max first meet (though considering Lisa is the wife of the Don of an incredibly violent Mafia family...).
  • Exploding Barrels: A stab at realism is made by using gas cylinders, and only putting them in areas where there's a reasonable explanation for them being there. Shooting at them causes the valve to pop off and a jet of flame to appear at the neck (probably Truth in Television if they're full of acetylene), sometimes letting you use cylinders that have fallen over as field-expedient cruise missiles. Then they explode violently for no apparent reason except Rule of Cool.
  • Expositing the Masquerade: From the first game: "We were all involved in the early stages of the Project during the Gulf War..." This refers to Project Valhalla, the origin of the mysterious drug Valkyr that has caused Max so much trouble, to put it mildly.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Senator Alfred Woden wears a half dark glasses of political power. This, along with the name, helps feed the speculation that he's really Odin.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • Vlad, though he was never really a face, just on Max's side for a time.
    • Passos seemingly pulls one in 3; when Max confronts him, it turns out he was in it for the money, but didn't realize it was as bad as it is. He promptly pulls a Heel–Face Turn and rescues Max.
  • Family-Values Villain: The second game has Vlad, who in both games tries to confine his battles to fellow criminals. It doesn't work, as Vlad's indirect connection to the killing of Max's wife and daughter, and his attempts to kill off Mona and the Inner Circle result in Winterson's death and the two friends being forced to kill one another. Even lampshaded by Max:
    Max: Vladimir was one of those old-time bad guys with honor and morals, which made him almost one of the good guys.
  • 555: You can find posters that say 555-PSSY in the game.
  • Flushing-Edge Interactivity: The games have toilets and many other objects than can be activated just for the sake of it.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Thanks to the flash-backy and flash-forwardy nature of the games, we know from the very beginning that Max ends up on the top of a skyscraper, armed and surrounded by police, in the first game; winds up in a hospital, having sent Detective Winterson to the morgue and getting Bravura wounded in a shootout in the second game; and baldly ends up with a horribly mutilated man at his mercy in front of a burning hangar in the third game.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: In 3, you can expect to hear "Filho da Puta!"-Portuguese for "Son of a Bitch!" quite a lot.
  • Foreshadowing: In 2, Max starts feeling contempt for Vlad even before he stabs him in the back.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Initially an undercover cop, Max Payne quickly becomes a one-man-army that everybody afraid of.
    • Angelo Punchinello: He's coming for me! You've gotta hurry... Please...
    • Thug: He's comin'! I-I can hear him! Okay, this is it. Any moment now, Payne's gonna bust through that door with murder in his eyes.

    G-L 
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • Ever so rarely one can hear the Bullet Time sound effects in cutscenes when Max actually has a shootout in the story. Most memorably when he and Vinnie get each other at gunpoint in the first game, where Max dodges a shot in the middle of a panel fade-in and hits Vinnie non-fatally in return.
    • A minor example occurs when Mona bursts into the flames that have engulfed the theme park to rescue Max. She fires off two rounds from her Desert Eagle to knock down a barrier in her way before diving through the gap. When the player is given control, her gun has eight rounds in the magazine instead of a full load of ten.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The French version of the first game sold with Steam is infamous because it always crashes at specific points of the game (including the loading screen between the first and second levels), and French Steam-users are forbidden to buy the bug-free English version of the game. Despite this bug being well-known and reported to Steam, it has never been fixed. It is possible to manually correct the problem by replacing the level files with uncorrupted ones.
  • Genre Blind: The NYPD suffers from this in 2, as despite sending both Max and Winterson to the hospital for treatment, they don't seem to assign any SWAT Officers in the vicinity for additional protection (especially once Max's actions became well-known). Unsurprisingly, when a group of heavily armed commandos launch a raid they easily sweep through security and regular cops with no problem.
  • Genre-Busting: While the gameplay is fairly standard third-person shooter fare, the games as a whole are a curious blend of Film Noir (specifically neo-noir), Hong Kong action films and conspiracy fiction.
  • Golden Ending: In the second game, if you complete the game on the hardest setting, Mona survives. Until the release of Max Payne 3 and its story, it also doubled as an example of Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In 3, when Serrano kills :Dr. Fischer, the camera cuts away just before he plunges the scalpel into the doctor.
  • Gorn:
    • 3 opens with a heavily injured Becker covered in burns and minus an arm desperately trying to escape a ragged and bloody Max.
    • Pretty much what happens to some mooks after Brewer's suicide bombing.
    • Happens to Fabiana's brother-in-law, Marcelo, who is set on fire and burns to death, screaming and Max has to watch the whole thing without being able to intervene for fear of alerting the paramilitaries.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Characters don't generally use very strong language in the first game, preferring to use "freaking" in place of actual profanity. In the second game, not so much.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: You can count on one hand the number of people throughout all three games in the series that could be considered truly "good" people, and Max is certainly not one of them.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: All three games (the PC versions) have a special screen that asks if you're sure you want to quit to desktop. If you decide to quit, it's becuase Max is either too scared, tired, or guilt-ridden to go on.
  • Gun Porn: The guns in the first two game have detailed animations for their time, with weapons visibly cycling new rounds and magazines being visibly removed from guns during reloads. They also averted Everything Fades, with bullet holes, spent brass, and empty magazines persisting in the level. 3 takes this further with details like triggers, hammers, and barrels moving and tilting, magazines actually having visible bullets if they are half-empty, and in Bullet Time you can hear a gun's inner mechanics working as it fires.
  • Guns Akimbo: A mainstay of the series since the first game, which allows to Max equip a pair of his signature Beretta 92F pistols or MAC-10 submachineguns. 3 expands the functionality of this gameplay mechanic, allowing Max to equip any two one-handed weapons together. This allows the player to fire, say, a magnum revolver or a Sawed-Off Shotgun alongside a machine pistol.
  • Hard Boiled Detective: The narrative of all three games is based around Max being this.
  • Heroic Bloodshed: The tone and styling of the first two games are notably informed by this genre almost as much as Film Noir. By the third game however, there's little trace of this beyond Max's gunfighting antics.
  • Hero Insurance: Averted, Subverted, and played straight.
    • Explicitly explained in the first game. In exchange for killing Nicole Horne, Alfred Woden promises that no charges will ever be filed against Max for any of the murders he's committed in his quest for revenge. Quite justified, because Woden needs something to offer to Max.
    • One wonders how Max managed to beat the rap from his antics in the second game, given that he kills hundreds of goons, actively assists a wanted assassin in killing even more goons, and Act III outright has Max being hunted for shooting his partner. Plus, Woden gets killed near the end of the game leaving Max without any friends in the power elite to bail him out. For what it's worth, everyone Max kills is either a mobster or secret society rent-a-commando actively trying to murder him, and his partner was literally in bed with the Big Bad.
    • Taken to extremes in the third game, where Max essentially massacres the entire São Paulo police Special Forces division, right before shooting down a powerful politician's private jet with a grenade launcher, and one week later is shown walking off into the sunset unburdened. Then again, unlike the previous two games, Max is never caught by the police, and there are no living witnesses to his actions, and it also helps that a local cop works with Max to expose the fact that the politician and police Special Forces were pretty much engaged in systematic mass murder against the city's poor population and criminal element.
    • Newspaper clippings in the third game indicate that Max was fired from the NYPD for the events of the second game. This makes sense as There's a recording on Vladimir Lem's answering machine of Detective Winterson promising to kill Max Payne. So he wouldn't be guilty of murdering his partnernote  but it's unlikely he'd be forgiven for the body count he left behind.
  • Hitscan: One of the first games to make a big deal of averting this; all of the weapons fired modeled projectiles, the bullet-time mechanic was created largely so you could see this more clearly. Played with in 3 - Bullets are hitscan in real-time, but are modeled projectiles in bullet-time.
  • How We Got Here:
    • The first game opens immediately after Max kills Nicole Horne, and then flashes back to how he got involved in the whole thing.
    • The second game start right after the conclusion in Woden's mansion, then flashes back to Max in the hospital after his shootout with Winterson earlier that night, which serves as the first level of the game. At the end of the level, Max finds her body, which causes him to flash back againnote  to the events that led to the shootout in the construction yard, starting with a routine mission the previous night. By the time that flashback ends, there are only a few levels left of the game, which are spent telling how Max wound up at the conclusion.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Max can fit a ludicrous number of guns in his jacket in the first two games, but it's averted in the third game. He can carry one large rifle or shotgun and two smaller weapons (also letting him mix and match them, so he can carry an Uzi and a revolver, one in each hand if you wish). Max will even realistically carry his longarm in his off hand due to the lack of a sling, even during cutscenes. And if he needs to go Guns Akimbo, he has to drop the long gun. The game even edits cutscenes to take account of whether or not Max entered the scene carrying a rifle and has to put it down or have it taken, and he later carries a duffel bag throughout a level. The Beretta Model 12 submachine gun has also had its stock and foregrip removed to allow it to be fit in Max's shoulder holsters (although both it and the Sawed-Off Shotgun still look ridiculous when they're stowed there). There's an element of Gameplay and Story Segregation in play in the early games, however, as several frames in the graphic novels in the first game depicts Max carrying a duffel bag full of weapons.
  • I Call It "Vera": Played with. The evil commando calls his gun "Dick Justice."
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Popular in the series:
    • 1&2 have Fugitive/Detective (first/second game); Hard Boiled; Dead on Arrivalnote ; New York Minute (Time Trial); and Dead Man Walking (Endless Game).
    • 3 has (in order): Easy; Normal; Score Attack; Hard; New York Minutenote ; Old Schoolnote ; Hardcore; and New York Minute Hardcore.note 
  • Idiosyncratic Menu Labels: The series uses a variant on the "Are you sure you want to quit?" prompt. If the player quits the game, the game will display a quote from Max reflecting on his current situation (e.g. "The Valkyr case was anything but closed."), below which the player selects either "But I was too tired to go on" or "I couldn't stop. I had to push on."
  • I Knew There Was Something About You: When Max Payne busts down the door to face Vinnie Gognitti, Gognitti tells him "I knew from day one there was something screwy about you!"
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Basic mob Mooks have really atrocious aim, even if you're not dodging around using bullet time. Lampshaded by Max during Mona's section in the second game:
    Max: They have hit everything but me here. If you don't hurry they'll eventually shoot me by accident.
  • Indecisive Parody: The first game goes back and forth between over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek parody of gangster movies and film noir (replete with cartoonish villains and melodramatic Private Eye Monologue) and darker, more serious fare, such as Max's dream sequences. The second game, however, is much more consistently serious in tone (with occasional flashes of black comedy).
  • Indecisive Medium: The comic book cutscenes.
  • The Insomniac: Max Payne. Doesn't help his apathetic mood and depression.
  • Inspector Javert: Bravura in the original game was out to capture Max Payne. Even ignoring the fact that he was framed for Alex Balder's death, Payne killed at least a dozen mooks before that scene, and hundreds after.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Despite being armed with enough pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, and grenades to field a small army, Max is helpless against locked wooden doors and plywood barricades. Made all the more frustrating when the time comes for you to blast open locked doors or shoot apart plywood barricades, but the game only lets you do this to specific ones that bar the way forward.
  • Internal Monologue: Max, constantly (very much in the style of Private Eye Monologue). It even leans on the fourth wall at times where, if you shuffle your feet in moving towards the objective, Max might make a quip in his own style that encourages you to press on.
  • Intimate Telecommunications: A sad example combined with Platonic Prostitution in the second game. Max has taken to calling a phone sex hotline just for someone to talk to.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: SWAT Officers cannot be killed, once they make their entrance the only way is to simply get away from them. Even when found as corpses, Max's shots will simply pass through them.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: heard in Max's first nightmare along with his dead baby's cryings.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Max in the first game rubs it in Puchinello's face after he captures the arms shipment from Boris Dime at Vlad's request, trying to get him to not think clearly.
    Max: [narrating] Pissing Punchinello off was a dangerous game. But when people get mad, they make mistakes. I should know. That's where I wanted Punchinello, mad enough to trip over his own feet, preferably into a grave.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: As he makes his way up to her office in the first game, Nicole Horne accidentally turns on the PA system she'd previously used to taunt Max, letting him hear her confusion over how her entire highly-trained and well-equipped security team can be unable to stop one man.
  • Joisey: Max is actually very happy with his little Jersey-side home in Max Payne 1, describing it as "The American Dream come true". Then the plot happens. By Max Payne 3, he's very resentful of the area.
  • Just One Man: Nicole Horne describes Max this way.
    Horne: What do you mean, "he's unstoppable"? You are superior to him in every way that counts. You are better trained, better equipped, and you outnumber him at least twenty-to-one. Do. Your. Job.
  • Karmic Death: Nicole Horne gets killed when her chopper is crushed by a tower (courtesy of Max) just when she was about to escape.
  • Kill 'Em All: By the end of the second game, every single character whose name is uttered (including every character who merely has his name mentioned once in conversation, such as gangsters, cops, hitmen and bystanders) is dead, except for Max, Kyra Silver, a badly injured Lt. Bravura, and, in one out of three cases, Mona Sax. Then Bravura dies of a heart attack in the Hoboken Blues comic and Mona is confirmed dead. By the end of the third game, it gets a little bit better, with Passos, Giovanna, her unborn baby and Da Silva surviving.
  • Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game: 3 has a number of important female characters, none of whom bear a resemblance to the lady on the cover.
  • Large Ham: Jack Lupino in the first game. Vladimir in the second. Anthony DeMarco, Sr. and Serrano in the third. Max is an odd sort of ham whose consistently moderate hamminess is what makes him so very hammy (and downplayed slightly in 3).
  • Leap and Fire: The "Shootdodge" mechanic. Interestingly, other enemies in the first two games also did this in a few sequences. In the third game's story, only Max ever does this.
  • Lighter and Softer: While just as creepy, the Nightmare Sequence levels from 2 is slightly less disturbing compared to 1 as it lacks the weeps and wails of both his wife and infant daughter. And it lacks a nightmarish limbo as it now has an outdoor section rather than being trapped inside his home.

    M-R 
  • Made of Iron:
    • Just give him some painkillers, and Max can walk off anything. In cutscenes, he's survived a lethal overdose of Valkyr, having his skull used for batting practice, wandering through the worst snowstorm in New York's history without even buttoning up his coat, getting shot in the head (several times, once with a Desert Eagle), falling off a cliff, and having high-powered explosives detonate with him standing nearby. The third game introduces bullet wounds (including exit wounds) for both Max and the enemies, so it's not uncommon for a cutscene to have Max littered with holes and still going about business as usual.
    • In the first game, Elite Mooks and bosses could survive truly incredible amounts of damage before dying (Rico Muerte, the first really bullet-spongy opponent you face, can soak a full 36 rounds from your dual Berettas before dropping, and some later bosses like Jack Lupino are even tougher). The second game tries to be a bit more realistic and averts this, with even kevlar-wearing commandos going down with only a few shots from a decent automatic weapon. The second game also mostly does away with boss fights; Kaufman is the only real "boss" in the game, and even he only has about 4 times as much health as a regular Mook, while the final opponent is largely a Puzzle Boss fight.
    • BB in the first game is the closest thing the entire series has to a Damage-Sponge Boss. Just one direct him from a grenade launcher or a bullet to the head from a sniper rifle is not enough to take him down.
  • The Mafiya: Vlad's other schtick, though it turns out he's fighting for control over the Inner Circle in the second game.
  • Mangst: Max deals with the death of his wife and child by shooting up entire armies of mobsters and thinking in metaphors.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the beginning of the first game, immediately prior to going home and finding his wife and daughter dead, Max stubs out a cigarette in front of Alex and says "See? My last smoke. It's bad for the baby." Three years later, when B.B. is trying to persuade Max to abandon his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, he offers him a cigar, to which Max venomously retorts, "I don't smoke."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Max Payne. One of the major components of the game is downing bottles of painkillers.
    • John Mirra in Address Unknown, riffing on "Mirror."
    • Alfred Woden, the one-eyed figure who knows everything going on in the first game. "Woden" is the Old English/Anglo-Saxon name for "Odin."
    • The ill-fated Alex Balder is named after the Norse god Baldr, who is betrayed and killed at the beginning of Ragnarok.
    • Don Punchinello is a reference to the Victorian-era puppet show character, signifying that the don is Nicole Horne's puppet.
    • Nicole Horne's is called "the hag" repeatedly. In keeping with the Norse theme, that's N. Horne = Norn.
    • Jack Lupino's name conveys his wolf-like tendencies. During his crazed tirade, he makes a reference to "the wolf" and howls. This might be considered another Norse reference as well, to Fenris.
    • Rico Muerte's last name is Spanish for death.
    • The Sax twins' names are Mona and Lisa.
    • Ragna Rock is a reference to Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse.
    • The Aesir Corporation is named after the Aesir, the chief pantheon of Norse gods.
    • Max learns about Project Valhalla by accessing a computer network called Yggdrasil, the name of the giant tree from which Odin was hung, an ordeal which gave him secret knowledge.
    • Valkyr drug makes user high with potential deadly results. Much like Valkyries, flying creatures who take the warriors to Valhalla. After they die, of course.
    • Most of the names of the second game's levels. Though most of the allusion goes to the quotes present within the level, some are relevant to the general situation ("No 'Us' In This" is a level where you would expect to have Mona as a sidekick, but she runs off) or even gameplay features ("Dearest Of All My Friends" is exactly how much you have to protect Vinnie during the game's Escort Mission).
  • Mooks, but no Bosses: Invoked in all three games, which have Elite Mooks at several points and a "sequence" as opposed to a final boss:
    • The first has Max shooting the last of Horne's mooks, before crushing her helicopter;
    • The second has Max collapsing the structure Vlad is on, which then turns into an Elite Mook fight;
    • Finally, the third has Max a shootout with Becker and his goons, before he chases and blows up Victor's jet in Da Silva's car.
  • Mythology Gag: The second game makes several to the first:
    • "Dick Justice" is a blaxploitation retelling of the original game.
    • Vlad's new restaurant used to be "Ragna Rock", a nightclub run by Jack Lupino in the fist game
    • Captain Baseball Bat Boy affects the plot of the second game after getting referenced a few times in the first game.
    • Some one-off lines from the first game ("frigging zombie demons from outer space", "Noir York City", a thug naming his gun "Dick Justice") show up as story elements in the shows-within-a-show woven through the second game.
  • Motion Comic: The first two games are notable the use of motion comics to know the story instead of cinematic cutscenes, all with the Point of View of Max himself.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Nicole Horne, Jack Lupino, Rico Muerte, and Max Payne himself.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Max's alliance with Vladimir Lem in the first game sees him stealing a huge shipful of illegal contraband for the Russian mobster in return for his assistance in taking down the Punchinello crime family. Years later Vlad's private army of assassins are bringing New York to its knees and Max is being shot at with guns that may very well have come from that boat. Oh bugger.
  • Nightmarish Nursery: In Max Payne's nightmares, which revolve around the murder of his wife and infant child, he ends up in the baby's nursery. The room is tinged red, the alphabet blocks spell the word "DEATH", and Max hallucinates the corpse of his baby and the screams of his family in the distance.
  • Nintendo Hard: In every game to date; there is no Regenerating Health, painkillers are quite scarce, the gunplay is very fast-paced, and Max is very much a Glass Cannon who can be taken out if he takes only a handful of unlucky hits. Even since the first game, a small bite in your luck can result in Max taking a large amount of damage that could become troublesome for you down the road, whether via wasted painkillers or otherwise. The hardest difficulties have anti-Save Scumming features. The third game has no quicksaves, and the checkpoints tend to be spread apart. The third game also has has New York Minute Hardcore. Normal New York Minute rule (one minute time limit that's extendable with kills), but on the hardest difficulty and death sends you back to the Chapter 1 intro. It's not as tough as it sounds, but enemy memorization, Bullet Time abuse and spare painkillers are key to even contemplate winning.
  • No Cutscene Inventory Inertia: Played straight in the first two games, where the cutscenes and comic-book sequences almost always depict Max armed with his Beretta - even in sections of the game where the Beretta isn't in his inventory. There is an exception in the second game where Max shoots at Vlad with an MP5 in the game engine cutscene that leads into the final battle. This is actually a clue how to defeat Vlad. Averted in the third game.
  • No-Gear Level: The escape from the basement of Lupino's hotel in the first game, and the escape from the hospital in the second game.
  • No Name Given: Max's baby daughter, Rose, went unnamed until the third game.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • The nightclub "Ragna Rock", which serves as the final level of the first chapter in the first game, and is revisited twice in the sequel in various stages of renovation.
    • Hoboken in 3. A Max Payne game without a seemingly neverending supply of mobsters? Blasphemy.
    • Used to the full extent in Old School mode of Max Payne 3, where it resembles the old gameplay style... slightly. In the sense that it removes last stands, but still retains a cover system.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Vinnie's Captain Baseball-bat Boy collection.
    Vinnie: What? I'm a collector! There's nothin' nerdy about it, I'm a collector! Lots of tough guys are into this stuff! Frankie was into this stuff, he was a fuckin' tough guy! Just you wait till I sell my collection on eBay...
  • Numbered Sequels: The games simply go from the original to 2 with a subtitle and then 3.
  • Obstructive Vigilantism: One of the graphic-novel cutscenes has Max contemplating this, but he ultimately decides to come clean. Sort of.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Vlad says this to Max when they meet the first time. Then he says that he always wanted to say that.
  • Once Killed a Man with a Noodle Implement: Rico Muerte excitedly relates a story of two mobsters who were about to kill each other — then decided to settle their differences by playing Mortal Kombat or some such. The anticlimax so disappointed Rico that, in frustration, he strangled both of them with the controller wires.
  • Once per Episode: Many events are repeated through all three games. Namely:
    • A woman dies, which upsets Max note .
    • Max's apartment/house is thrashed by the bad guys note .
    • Max finds himself trapped in burning building and has to escape note .
    • Max discovers an elaborate conspiracy perpetrated by a higher power note .
    • Max getting framed for a crime he didn't commit and trying to prove his innocence.
    • Late in each game Max is confronted by heavily armed spec-ops guys note .
    • Obligatory sniper section.
    • No Final Boss engages Max directly. note .
    • An optional one: Max plays his theme on a piano.
  • One-Man Army: Max Payne by the end of the first game. Mooks comment on it by the third.
    • Max is definitely this throughout the games but it's used to the max (no pun intended) by the third, where Max kills over a thousand Mooks, destroys huge gang, and spends the conclusion tearing down an organ harvesting ring, an entire police station, several vehicles and an ENTIRE PLANE.
    • Person of Mass Destruction: Given his role in the games, especially how he is essentially strategically deployed in the third game, makes him a sort of gritty realist Reconstruction.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: B.B. Lampshaded by Max:
    Max: Right, what's it stand for anyway? Backstabbing Bastard?
  • Outrun the Fireball: Once an Episode.
    • Max's escape from Cold Steel facility in the first game.
    • Max's escape from the collapsing construction site in the second.
    • Max's escape from Rodrigo's office in the third.
  • Pistol-Whipping: The second game added this as a quick melee attack without needing to switch weapons. The third game also has plenty of this in Max's execution animations.
  • Police Brutality: Vinnie screams "Stop! Police brutality!" while Max tortures him, to which Max quips "Uh-huh. I rate pretty high on that." And then there're the UFE in the third, who essentially gun up an entire favela, innocents and all.
  • Private Eye Monologue: How Max tells the story throughout the games. Coupled with Purple Prose that gives it its narmy goodness.
  • Professional Killer: The bad guys that Max guns down, particularly the Trio from the first game, are hitmen. Mona, on the other hand, is an assassin. The second game almost universally has Cleaners - Mafia goons who hit a place and clean crime scenes up - as a ubiquitous enemy.
  • Progressively Prettier:
    • Max's face in the first game was modeled on one of the writers, Sam Lake, and ended up looking squinty-eyed and constipated. For the sequel, Timothy Gibbs was hired for the face model and (sadly) looked a lot less constipated.
    • Lampshaded in the second game. One of Max's rambling doubles during a dream sequence says, "I didn't used to look like this!"
    • Then in the third game, a news report clue shows an artist's rendering of Max, and it's the Sam Lake face in all its squinty, eyebrow-raising glory. Plus you can unlock the models of Max from the first two games, complete with the original having the same constipated grin - in creepy-looking HD!
  • Psycho Serum: Valkyr; originally conceived as a Super Serum, the military abandoned it after the negative side effects (addiction, hallucinations, violent tendencies, declaring yourself to be the Fenris Wolf) became known. Nicole Horne, the project lead, decided to sell it as a street drug. In the process, she had Max's wife killed.
  • Puzzle Boss: Both games' final bosses stay well out of your line of fire, requiring you to find an indirect way to kill them. One boss in Max Payne 3 has to be coaxed out of cover by shooting the weak ceiling above him.
  • Ragdoll Physics: Implied in the first game, but actually present in the second. The third game uses the Euphoria software that was present in Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV, allowing for more realistic bullet damage and physics. Even Max's shootdodging incorporates Euphoria, leading him to painfully slam into whatever objects the player nonchalantly flings him into or tipping him over onto his back or shoulders from his legs hitting a desk on the way over.
  • Red Herring: Max finds some tarot cards belonging to Lisa Sax at one point and presumes that the Tower refers to the Punchinello Manor, the Devil refers to Punchinello and Death refers to Max himself. In fact, the Tower is the Aesir Corporation building and the Devil is Nicole Horne. Also that isn't what those cards represent in the tarot. But then, Max probably would only know the stereotypical interpretations anyway, since the more accurate reading from them ends up coming true as well. The Tower is his past card and represents the death of his family, the Devil is his present and represents the antagonist of the game, and Death is his future which stands for how he changes to accepting what his life has become by the ending (before the second game at least).
  • Revision: In the first game, the Inner Circle is an Ancient Conspiracy, but in the second game, it's revealed to merely an image they cultivate, and they are just a very old and very influential crime organization that controls all organized crime in the New York area.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: The protagonist of Dick Justice carries a 44 Magnum revolver.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Somewhat deconstructed. Max shoots and mortally wounds Winterson to protect Mona. He later finds out that Winterson was in cahoots with Vlad and was never planning on arresting Mona but was going to kill both her and Max for being a threat to Vlad's plan. But this knowledge does nothing to comfort Max, and he goes on to consider this willful slaying of a fellow officer to be one of his biggest mistakes.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Two full games worth (though in the second game, the "revenge" part doesn't really kick in till about two-thirds of the way through)!
    • The third game starts out as an extended rescue mission, but pretty much turns into a rampage in the last third of the story.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The first game has a lot of surprisingly accurate Norse symbolism, with character names and effects reflecting the narrative of Ragnarok, the end of the world. The second game, the symbolism is more diluted, but aims for a more traditional Christian theme, with Max and Mona as Adam and Eve, and clear analogs to a charming but manipulative and corrupting Devil rebelling against God and turning Adam and Eve against him.

    S-Z 
  • Sadly Mythtaken: A minor example, but several times during the comparisons to Ragnarok, comparisons are made to Fenris Wolf eating the sun. Actually, the wolves who pursue the sun and moon, and who will eat them during Ragnarok, are called Sköll and Hati, both separate from Fenris. Of course, it IS Jack Lupino saying this, the Valkyrie hopping lunatic who shot one of his own men because he wanted to see what his brains looked like splattered on the wall.
  • Sarcasm Mode:
    • Max loves this, along with Deadpan Snarker, and it pisses off a lot of his enemies.
      Frankie: Nice to meet ya, I'm Frankie "The Bat" Niagara.
      Max: "Niagara", as in you cry a lot? [inner monologue] He had a bat and I was tied to a chair. Pissing him off was the smart thing to do.
    • Also:
      Punchinello: Dime? Angelo Punchinello here.
      Max: [chuckles] Angie! Tell me, how much did Dime cost you? I'll bet it was more than his name.
      Punchinello: Max Payne?!
      Max: Right the first time.
      Punchinello: You're dead, punk!
      Max: Are you sure you're not talking about Boris here? But you are right, of course. Pretty soon we should get together and have a talk.
      Punchinello: You sonuva[Max hangs up]
  • Save Scumming: Quicksaves makes the games much easier. They are limited on harder difficulties.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Played realistically. More on trope page. Oddly enough, in the first game it's acquired after the pump action shotgun, making it redundant the moment Max acquires it. The second game remedies this by making it the first weapon (after the Beretta, of course) that can be aquired by killing an enemy.
  • The Schizophrenia Conspiracy: In Address Unknown. Justified, because he really is a paranoid schizophrenic.
  • Screw the Money, This Is Personal!: In the third game, Max confronts a plastic surgeon who has been harvesting organs from kidnapped citizens from the San Paleo favelas. The doctor tries throwing money and begs for his life, but an appalled and furious Max only yells and holds him at gunpoint before letting one of the doctor's victims kill him with a scalpel.
  • Serial Escalation:
    • In the first game, Max starts the first night fighting street criminals with basic handguns, and the most powerful weapons he uses are shotguns and hand grenades. On the second night, he fights mobsters, and upgrades to Uzis and sniper rifles. On the third, he's fighting black ops commandos, and finds assault rifles and grenade launchers.
    • The third game is a roller-coaster. Starting out fighting Gangbangers, paramilitaries are introduced in the third level, but several subsequent levels go back to the gangsters. The gangsters eventually get wiped out by military police special forces, who become the final enemy type after the paramilitaries are later also killed off.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Even as early as in the tutorial level of the first game.
  • Short-Range Shotgun:
    • Averted and played straight at the same time. For you, especially at higher difficulties, shotguns have so much spread that they are almost useless against anything farther than five meters away. For the enemy, however, shotguns behave more realistically and can inflict heavy damage even at long range, making them the most dangerous gun for mooks to carry.
    • Seems to be averted in the third game, as all but the sawn-off shotgun can perform respectably at range. You still have to be close to get a One-Hit Kill bodyshot, but mid/long range headshots are quite easy since enemies will die if so much as one pellet hits them in the head.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In one level, Max bursts into an apparently empty apartment, where a machine pistol lies on the kitchen counter. A thug then casually walks out of the bathroom.
    • Among other John Woo nods, the medium difficulty setting in the first two games is named Hard Boiled.
    • The spinning Bullet Time reloads Max does in the second game are probably in reference to similar moves done in the finale of The Replacement Killers
    • In the first game, you can find a picture of a Dopefish.
    • This exchange between two bums:
      Bum 1: It's never been this cold! Never-ever! It's like the sky's falling!
      Bum 2: Yes, sir! It's like The End of the World as We Know It!
      Bum 1: And I don't feel fine. I don't feel anything!
    • A mobster can be found in the fourth level, killed with a wooden stake in a boarded up room. Near him are some letters in blood on the wall that spell "BUFF."
    • In the Lords and Ladies show, the Evil Matriarch says to her son: "Ride like the wind, fight proud my son!"
    • When Max assaults the Ragna Rock nightclub, he passes through a room full of occult books. One isn't surprised to see pop-cultural books like Necronomicon, Paradise Lost and Malleus Maleficarum, but De Umbrarum Regni Novem Portis is a fun oddity.
    • In the third game, Da Silva talks about Max, a drunk picked up in a bar "with A History of Violence".
    • The third game's usage of Interface Screw, on-screen subtitles that emphasize certain words, as well as much of the cinematography and stylistic flourishes, are taken right out of Man on Fire.
    • In the second game, a mobster sings the line, "for I'm a rain dog too" before stepping out into the rainy night.
    • The Captain BaseballBat Boy comic strips from the first game are an obvious style homage to Charles Schultz's Peanuts, though the second game's adaptation of the comics into a TV show moves farther away from the source material.
    • A news bulletin on a television set at Asgard Building in the first game reports that some people are worried about Aesir Corporation being a greater monopoly than Mi- ... CRR ... -soft was. This segment was, naturally, removed from the Xbox port of the game.
    • Max describes Rico Muerte as "a regular Keyser Soze".
    • The scene of Max taping a water bottle onto the muzzle of his Taurus PT92 reeks of being an homage to Steven Seagal doing the same trick in On Deadly Ground.
    • In the first, when taking the elevator in the laundromat, the player can look up and shoot the speaker playing Muzak, after which Max will say, "thank you." This was lifted straight from Blood 2: The Chosen.
    • Jack Lupino's obsession with the occult and demons (along with being quite hard to kill), plus the nightmare sequences, seem to evoke a lot of elements from Acclaim's Shadow Man.
    • In Max Payne 2, when Jim Bravura orders Max Payne to write a report on what happened on the upper east side, Max (in narration) feels that he is in a "cartoon moment when the gravity waits for the coyote to realize his mistake before the plunge."
  • Shows Damage:
    • Max's model changes notably in the second game, first after his hospital visit, and then after he is shot. One of the dream sequences has him facing the increasingly more damaged versions of himself.
    • It is used more extensively in the third game, where Max often suffers damage as the level wears on, and used extremely on the last level and those proceeding it, as Max begins with a shirt and tie getup, and by the last few minutes, it turns into a half-burned and injured Max with most of his shirt burnt and ripped. The game also shows bullets holes on Max's person as well as on the mooks' bodies when he shoots them.
  • Show Within a Show:
    • Televisions around the environment will give plot information or strangely mirror Max's current situation.
    • The first two games feature reports from the fictional NYCNN news channel commenting upon the in-game events. The third game uses the world news program INC to the same end.
    • The first game features one episode each of Lords and Ladies, an over-the-top period soap opera, and Address Unknown, a Twin Peaks-esque psychological thriller. In 2, multiple episodes can be seen — Lords and Ladies focuses on a brother who is in love with a woman below his breeding and his brother and mother conspire to put an end to the affair, and in Address Unknown the full plot is revealed as a man hunting a serial killer who has framed him for the murders, only to find out it's his split personality.
    • In Max Payne 2 there is Dick Justice (a blaxploitation parody of the first game), The Adventures of Captain BaseballBat Boy (based on the comic strip of the same name, which appeared in the first game), and Max Heat, a porno.
    • Max Payne 3 reprises the Captain BaseballBat Boy show while replacing Lords and Ladies with a telenovela called Amor e Damas ("Love and Ladies").
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: At least in its presentation, the series moved perpetually downwards with every sequel:
    • In the first game, Max, for instance, faces off against gangsters clad in fedoras, suits and trenchcoats (silly gangster garb even for late '90s standards), some are even Dress-Coded for Your Convenience in fabulous purple like they're straight out of Tim Burton's Batman films, Aesir security looks like Imperial Starfleet officers and the "killer suits" are dressed like Agent Smith. Even Max wears fancy 'street-wise' attire when he should be wearing three-layer winter clothing.
    • The second game still indulges in fancy stereotypes, but from entirely contemporary and non-comical works (The Mafia is strutting around in tracksuits, legere jackets and blazers, The Mafiya in camo pants, sweaters and pelt coats, the cleaners in... well, cleaning overalls - and those adorable cleaning company caps) but everyone actually dresses like reasonable Turn of the Millennium New Yorkers.
    • The third game comes as close to the serious (and nigh-unimpressive) end as the Max Payne formula allows it; the Favela thugs look like straight out of any Real Life favela, and the private contractors and police are closely modeled on actual organisations - there are no fancy exaggerations (apart from Bald!Max' (much-mocked) Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist get-up, and Hoboken's "spray-tan Guido douche" stereotype).
  • Sniper Scope Sway: A pretty standard version. Hold your breath and all movement ceases. Move and the sway becomes much worse, crouch and it lessens. The sniper shot bullet cam can get pretty annoying.
  • Snow Means Death: New York City is gripped by a historic blizzard in the first game. It's snowing in Jersey during Max's mob troubles in the third.
  • Soap Within a Show: Lords and Ladies.
  • Soft Glass: Max regularly dives through plate-glass windows and never suffers so much as a scratch.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Max, who has a high vocabulary (as shown in his voiceovers) and enough metaphors to rival Shakespeare, is intelligent but more goal-oriented and emotional (and sarcastic) in conversation rather than eloquent.
  • Spanner in the Works: Max in the second game. He coincidently happens to be nearby the gun-smith just as the Cleaners make the hit against it and decides to investigate it, during which he, completely by chance, meets Mona, and he unknowingly gets caught up in Vlad's power-struggle, and he ends up bringing it down. It is quite clear that Vlad had planned to pin the gun-smith job on Vinnie, and had Max not been in the area, or merely arrived just a few minutes later he would have missed Vlad's goons and Mona and have been none the wiser and Vlad would have probably been able to pull off his scheme without any problems.
  • Spoiler:
    • At one point in the first game, one thug is discussing the Twist Ending of The Usual Suspects with another thug, who it turns out hasn't seen it.
    • In the second game, an amusement park funhouse level based on the show-within-a-show "Address Unknown" gives away the show's eventual The Killer in Me Twist Ending. Then when you return to the level later on (still well before the show "ends" in-game and Max has a chance to see it), it is lampshaded by one thug explaining the ending to another, and the other thug complaining of being spoiled.
  • Stupid Surrender: Averted in the first game with a situation where even player control would not have helped, but played very straight in the third.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: Max's entire career and primary method of dealing justice. Deconstructed in the third one, as a newspaper article in Brewer's apartment (chapter 4) refers to psycho detective Max Payne getting the boot from the NYPD.
  • Stylistic Suck: While Max Payne 2 was a Darker and Edgier sequel with a more serious and less campy story with a higher budget, Remedy deliberately decided to still keep the Shows Within a Show low budget cheesefests and Sam Lake cast almost all of the characters in them from the protagonist of Adress Unknown to the Evil Matriarch in Lords and Ladies.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Detective Bravura was a Hero Antagonist in the first game, and Da Chief in the second. He shows up early in the game during a firefight in which Max is ambushed, outnumbered and unarmed, appearing just long enough to shout a warning before he's gunned down. It's only technically a subversion that he lived (probably helped that he was shot in a hospital,) since for the rest of the game he's in critical condition, assumed dead any second, and has no further bearing on the plot. A flashback scene in the third game indicates he died of a heart attack between games, leaving Max with no influential allies left to get him out of the trouble he's always getting in. The second game also kills off Vinnie Gognitti, Alfred Woden, Mona Sax and Vladimir Lem.
  • Super Window Jump: Max performs it in all three games.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • At the end of the first game, Max avenged his family's murder and took down an evil drug-dealing empire, but he's still miserable because his wife and daughter are still dead, and so are his best friend and Mona Sax. And the only reason he gets away from all the crimes and wantom murder he committed is having a friend in high places, something that Max ends up resenting very quickly.
    • Plus, the second game has him suffering from survivor's guilt from the events before and being a cop, he feels like a monster for killing all those mooks in the first game, even if they deserved it; it gets worse with the crap piled on in this entry, such as: Max killing his partner because she was about to shoot Mona (she was revealed to have been working for Vlad and intended to murder him and Mona, but Max shot her before this revelation and because of that, and the fact she has a blind son to take care of, he feels awful) and Mona Sax's real death.
    • The third game has Max's depression up to eleven, since now he's a depressed, painkiller and alcohol addicted wreck who gets exiled from Hoboken, failed to rescue the passengers on a yacht from getting slaughtered, then all of his employers got murdered, plus, he's still suffering from everything else that had happened to him
      • The comics made to tie into this game reveals that he had a really bad childhood as well. With all of these horrible events happening to him and Max refusing to get any help aside from becoming a barely-functioning drug addict and alcoholic, who shuts everyone out of his life and dives deeply into work, whether or not he was stable enough to be working in the first place, he becomes a reminder that depression does not go away without a fight, drugs and self-pity do not replace professional therapy, and that being Max Payne would suck so much; it is a miracle he hasn't contemplated suicide at all during all this.
    • In the second game, reality ensued all over poor Vinnie, a mob lieutenant with more enemies than friends and such an incurable fanboy for a cartoon Kid Hero that he'll cosplay without hesitation. Doing so straps him into explosives, and since that puts him in an Enemy Mine situation with Max, you figure The Hero should be able to save his life. And he did. Temporarily.
  • Survivor Guilt: Max has a bad case of this; in the first game it's because of his family, in the second there's all that stuff he did in the first game on top of that. He keeps trying to rationalize it away, and fails miserably.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The cleaner commandos in 2 are a dead ringer for 1's mercenaries as both are heavily armed, wear balaclavas and urban BDU's, communicate through radios as idle chat, are accurate with their weapons, and since they wear body armor, can take a lot of damage before going down. The one difference is that the commandos also carry AK's in addition to M4's.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: Just before Max faces Jack Lupino, there are several shotguns and Ingrams as well as painkiller bottles just lying around. You will need them.
  • Take That!: At one point, a TV review about Aesir says that it "may become a bigger monopoly than *static* ever was". You can clearly hear "Microsoft" in there, though. Talk about biting the hand...
  • Talks like a Simile: A defining feature of the games.
  • Tarot Troubles: In the first game Max comes across three tarot cards laid out in the Punchinello mansion, apparently by Lisa: The Tower, The Devil, and Death. Max proceeds to make a (amateurish) reading of it, with Tower referring to the mansion, Devil being Don Punchinello and Death as Max, coming for the Don. More accurately, this works as a simple reading of Max's life in past-present-future configuration: The Tower signifies disaster and being brought low (death of Max's family and his life collapsing after that), The Devil is addiction (Max stuck in the shadow of his personal tragedy) and Death is change (Max moving forward from the death of his family).
  • Terms of Endangerment: Vlad calls various characters "Dearest of all my friends." Invariably, he ends up betraying and/or killing everybody he addresses this way.
  • This Is Reality: In a blatant comment on the first game's reveling in Film Noir and revenge tropes:
    Max: There are only personal apocalypses. Nothing is a cliché when it's happening to you.
  • Title Drop: All of the chapter titles are spoken during cutscenes, usually as part of Max's Internal Monologue.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The unnamed protagonist of Address Unknown. He IS in fact the murderer John Mirra himself. He realizes this when he hides in a bathroom and looks at himself in the mirror, finding John Mirra looking back at him.
  • Tranquil Fury: Max, usually. Particularly notable during the last chapter of the first game, which is Max making his final strike on Nicole Horne's building. Rather than play up-tempo action music, throughout the entire level the only music sounds like a heart beat and a church bell. It gives the level a very calm atmosphere. Also, in the cutscene preceding the level he says he drives around for a while first to let his rage build.
  • Trapped Undercover: The main plot of the first game kicks off when Max's handler is killed, leaving him trapped on the wrong side of the law.
  • Trope Maker: The success of Max Payne would result in a number of third-person action shooters built around slow-motion bullet-time acrobatics being released in the early 2000's, most of which tried to set themselves apart by incorporating melee combat into the mix. Prominent examples include the BloodRayne, Dead to Rights, and True Crime: Streets of LA series.
  • Troperiffic: Par for the course for a story attempting to inject a classic genre into a new medium.
  • The Un-Favourite: Lord Valentine to his mother, Matriarch of York, after falling in love with a lady of a lower class in the Lords and Ladies soap opera in the second game.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • It is important to have in mind that the accounts of Max's Roaring Rampages Of Revenge is always told from his own point of view, and always after the fact. The developers has hinted that certain details, such as the absurd amounts of mooks he guns down throughout the games, might have been embellished through the lens of Max's guilt complexes and addictions.
    • He gets really hard to read at the end of the third game due to a combination of mixed signals and an oddly surreal detachment from the action.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Present to an extent in the series.
    Just when you thought you had reached the deepest depths of horror, it suddenly got worse. How to turn off that small voice inside your head that started to whisper that you should be glad; that now, if not before, your revenge was justifiable on any conceivable moral scale. That small voice proved, beyond any doubt, that I was damned.
    • By the time of the second game, however, he's wracked with shame and Survivor Guilt, not only wishing he'd been punished for the events of the first game, but a pathetic shut-in unable to trust anyone or anything around him.
  • Verbal Tic: Matriarch of York's "good, good" in Lords and Ladies.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Even after achieving his revenge in the first game, Max is still haunted by the trauma of the deaths of his wife and daughter in the second and third games. He even outright states to a sex chat line in the second game that killing everyone responsible hasn't helped.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: In the third level of the first game, a vending machine refuses to co-operate with a mook, prompting the following conversation between two mooks:
    Mook 1: Piece of crap! (kicks the vending machine)
    Mook 2: Haha, ooh, careful! It might kick back! (starts singing) De dee de de dee, killer vending machine...
    Mook 1: You talkin' to me?
    Mook 2: Tough guy, scary...
  • Very High Velocity Rounds: Averted in the first game, where Max's and enemy bullets are the same speed. Played straight in the second and third games, where Max's bullets are significantly faster than anyone else's.
  • Video Games and Fate: The second game is entirely linear, with No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom (although there are two Multiple Endings depending on difficulty level), and all Max does is Follow the Plotted Line. It also features numerous ruminations upon the nature of free will and destiny, with several of the characters debating whether they truly have agency of their own or if their actions are simply pre-determined.
    Max: There are no choices. Nothing but a straight line. The illusion comes afterwards, when you ask "why me?" and "what if?". When you look back and see the branches, like a pruned bonsai tree, or forked lightning. If you had done something differently, it wouldn't be you, it would be someone else looking back, asking a different set of questions.
    Vlad: Hypothetically, if the only choice you have is to do the wrong thing, it's not really the wrong thing. It's more like fate.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: The rag doll physics in general offer no shortage of opportunities to watch corpses act in amusing ways, such as in 2 when the player can blast a mook off of a cleaner's lift, through a few planks and several stories to his death. The games are usually good on making noncombatants run or hide, but quick and cruel trigger fingers can nail some civvies for Max's body count. Bonus point in the first with the Valkyr junkies, who will start crying when you shoot them, and satisfyingly moan in agonizing pain when they die.
  • Video Game Demake: An odd official example, Max Payne saw a release on the Game Boy Advance. The game was a 2D-based isometric view platformer with levels that were based on the levels of the original, albeit heavily simplified, and many levels were also removed entirely (including the opening level in Max's home and both Valkyr dream sequence stages). Even so, the game did retain bullet time and much of the plot as well as many intact cutscenes with full voice acting, as well as much of the blood and cursing from the original Max Payne.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Both Horne and Vlad undergo these as Max closes in. Slightly subverted with Horne in that she gets annoyed, but remains confident that Max will die. Her subordinates however, are much more terrified than she is.
  • Visual Pun: In the first two games, The icon that displays Max's amount of Bullet-Time is two pistol bullets joined at the tips to form an hourglass symbol.
  • Vocal Evolution: Particularly in 3, James McCaffrey's portrayal of Max becomes more dynamic and vivid (whereas earlier entries were paying tribute to classic noir-style storytelling, thus giving Max a deeper, more matter-of-fact voice) with frequent inflection and emotion. It is also likely to do with Max's worldview becoming considerably more tainted and jaded after 2 (Rockstar was playing with the idea of changing the actor to give Max an older and more world-weary tone, but bowed out due to fan outcry and the fact that the long development period meant McCaffrey had aged as much as the character).

  • Walk It Off:
    • If Max is injured beyond a certain point, they walk with a limp and the amount of damage slowly decreases until it is at this threshold. The second game dispenses with the limping.
    • In the third game, Max takes a .50 to the arm and is left stumbling and half-coherent from blood loss and shock, but is back to normal with painkillers and bandages. In the meanwhile, he really does essentially walk it off.
    • Max is severely injured in an explosion in the third game, and is almost dead, barely being able to stand upright. One level and probably a few off-screen painkillers later, and he's fine.
    • More to the definition of the trope, the third game features health regeneration in both modes. It is featured in single-player in a limited fashion (it kicks in, at least on hard and below, when more than 80% damage is taken, and regenerates only up to that point), while multiplayer has full health regeneration, with the speed of regeneration inversely proportional to the weight of your character's loadout.
  • We Can Rule Together: B.B. offers this to Max in the first game. Max doesn't even flinch for a second in rejecting it.
    B.B.: You can't win this one, Max.
    Max: No, but I can make damn sure none of you do, either.
  • We Gotta Stop Meeting Like This: Mona Sax says this to Max upon meeting by drawing guns on each other for the second time in the game. It's also the line spoken by Mona upon their first meeting in the second game.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: A voice mail in the final chapter of the game reveals that Vlad is this with Woden.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Played with in the first game - Max himself does not even try to pretend his actions are morally justified, and at the beginning of the next game is wracked with guilt about all of the people he's killed. However, the news anchor Kyra Silver continually tries to paint him as some sort of heroic, crusading vigilante, much to his and Bravura's consternation.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Max does this to himself all the time.
  • World of Symbolism: All over the place.
    • The original game is all an allegory for Ragnarok. The story is set during the worst blizzard in the history of New York, which parallels the Fimbulwinter that starts off Ragnarok. It begins with the murder of Alex Balder, who represents Baldr. Jack Lupino explicitly identifies himself as the Fenris Wolf at one point, and runs a club called Ragna Rock. Alfred Woden (Odin), a one-eyed and secretive man who apparently knows all the secrets in the world, dispatches the lone mortal hero against the forces of the duplicitous Nicole Horne, who has already ensured the deaths of everyone in Woden's circle except himself. The drug Valkyr is also a reference to Valkyries, who transport the dead to the afterlife.
    • The second game includes a number of references to Paradise Lost and Genesis, with Vlad representing the serpent/Satan, Woden representing God and Max & Mona representing Adam & Eve. The final level includes wall art depicting the Garden of Eden.
    • The third game, amusingly, is filled with symbolism of Max's drugged up state (appearing as video game "glitches", oddly placed stark lens flares, and television static). It's just not mythological in any way. There's also a lot of cultural symbolism, though that might be easier to pick up for someone familiar with the area.
    • The third game also has the moment where Max is visiting his family's grave and gets attacked by a bunch of italian mobsters who want revenge on him. The first thing he does? Take cover behind his wife and daughter's grave which is then shot to bits as it offers him protection, something that Michelle and Rose have been doing for Max through out the entire franchise.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Played With. Max ends up killing a thug in 3 because he pistol-whips a woman that stands up to him, but Max goes as far as killing Candy Dawn and Nicole Horne in 1, and Valerie Winterson to defend Mona in 2.
  • Wreaking Havok: Most obvious in one of the rooms in the backdrop of the funhouse, in which the player is given the opportunity to lob rubber balls at various props purely to show off the physics engine. The third game moves over to the Rage engine and comes with all the requisite next-gen physics upgrades, including a section where you can shoot the wheel block away from a truck and let it roll down a ramp to crush some bad guys loading it up.
    • The jump physics in 3 are truly a sight to behold. Jump into anything you really shouldn't be diving into, and watch as Max's body realistically crumples under the strain at the appropriate angle. You will likely wince along with Max when you go for those back breaking twenty foot balcony dives.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy:
    • The Cleaners fall into this a few times, often getting action movie tropes completely wrong... and them completely dead.
    • Some Punchinello mobsters aren't immune to this. Their idea of disarming a bomb for example:
    [two mooks try to disarm a bomb]
    Mook 1: Red, blue or green?
    Mook 2: In the movies, it's always red or blue.
    Mook 1: So, green?
    Mook 2: NO NOT THE GREEN
    BOOM!
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: He got off whatever charges that could be laid against him from the first game, due in no small part to Alfred Woden. Lampshaded by Max Payne noting that he must have had to work big time to cover up him raiding a corporation.
  • You Don't Look Like You: Max's appearance changed drastically between each game, though the third game, at least, has an explanation for Max's new design - he's getting old and alcoholic. It's lampshaded in 2 during one of Max's nightmare sequences when one of the imprisoned Maxes mutters that he didn't "used to look like this" ("this" being the James McCaffery model used in 2 compared to the Sam Lake model of 1), and again in 3 with a wanted poster of Max using 1's Sam Lake model.
  • You Watch Too Much X:


There was something disturbingly familiar about the letter before me. The handwriting was all pretty curves.

"You're on a trope page, Max."

The index bars crept up on me like angry ghouls from some dark pit, grotesque claws of recognition dragging me to a sharp realization of fact. The intricate patterns that made up the cruel joke that is my life were laid out before me like some sort of metatextual shopping list, as if hundreds upon hundreds of busy hands had made an attempt to dissect them into easily digestible bullet points. I was on a trope page. Funny as Hell, it was the most horrible thing I could think of.

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