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Video Game / Max Payne

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"The word was out. A deadly virus released into the city's corrupt circulatory system. Something wicked this way comes. Max Payne at large."

"There was no glory in this. I hadn't asked for this crap. Trouble had come to me, in big dark swarms. The good and the just, they were like gold dust in this city. I had no illusions. I was not one of them. I was no hero. Just me and the gun, and the crook. My options had decreased to a singular course."

Max Payne is a Third-Person Shooter video game, with a plot and atmosphere heavily inspired by both Film Noir and Heroic Bloodshed movies, developed by the Finnish-based Remedy Entertainment, produced by 3D Realms, and published by Gathering of Developers in July 2001. It is the first game in the Max Payne series. Remedy cited the PlayStation titles, Loaded and Tomb Raider, as main influences in terms of gameplay.

NYPD detective Max Payne's wife and baby daughter are killed in their home by junkies strung out on the designer drug Valkyr. Three years later, Max has transferred to the DEA and gone undercover with the Punchinello crime family, intending to bring the Valkyr drug ring down once and for all. Then one night, as New York settles into the worst snowstorm in decades, Max's partner is murdered, Max is framed for it, and his cover is blown. With the police hot on his trail, Max wages a one-man war on the mafia and a shady corporation, killing everyone in his way as he gradually unearths the truth behind the creation of Valkyr and the death of his family.

The game 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. The cutscenes are told in Graphic Novel form, made by photographing the scenes and altering them digitally to resemble watercolor drawings.

The game's biggest selling point, however, 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 Max 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.

The film received a Game Boy Advance version in 2003, and was also ported to Android and iOS in 2012.

A sequel, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, was released in 2003.


  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: The first game has these. Max has to use one to escape from Angel Punchinello's restaurant as his Mooks burn it down.
  • Addiction-Powered: The insane crime boss Jack Lupino overdoses on Valkyr and takes an ungodly amount of lead before he bites the dust. Justified much later by The Reveal that Valkyr was originally developed by US military to create Super Soldiers, working exactly as planned.
  • Always Night: The events of the game takes place during three nights. Max misses the daytime between them being drugged or knocked out.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • In the final part requires an explosive weapon and a sniper rifle. Two mooks will inexplicably have these just in case.
    • One of the features advertised for the first game was the Rubber-Band A.I. where the game got gradually harder, but when you died, the next time you played through, the bad guys were a little less accurate each time.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Max finds Nicole's computer, he says, "Hacking through Horne's computer would have unearthed criminal plans, strategies for world domination, spy helicopter reports, illegal wire tap recordings, Internet porno, all of the above, take your pick."
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Bosses have a lot more health and much better aim than regular Mooks. Rico Muerte, your first really bullet-spongy opponent, can withstand a full 36 rounds from your dual Berettas before dropping (compared to 4-7 shots to kill basic Mooks), and later bosses (Jack Lupino, Frankie Niagara, Boris Dime, and B.B.) can take a good 64-70 9mm pistol rounds to kill (though you generally have better ordinance by the time you fight them). Even Candy Dawn and Vinnie Gognitti, who you wouldn't expect to have any sort of combat skills, are quite a bit tougher than regular mob Mooks.
  • Bad to the Last Drop: Max drinks several cups of coffee "that tasted like engine oil" at an all-night diner.
  • Bank Robbery: Max ends up stopping one of these near the beginning of the game, completely unintentionally (he was there for a meet with Alex about something completely unrelated).
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Max tortures Gognitti in order to find out Lupino's whereabouts in the first game.note 
  • Coolest Club Ever: Ragna Rock an obvious nod to the now closed Goth and Club Kid club venue Limelight. The real club didn't have pentagrams on the floor, but it did have an H. R. Giger room with paintings of his and statues related to the Alien film franchise he did artwork for.
  • Corporate Conspiracy: Nicole Horne was already part of the Government Conspiracy Project Valhalla, and when that was discontinued she took the Super Serum they were working on and sold it on the streets as a Fantastic Drug through her company Aesir Pharmaceuticals. Max notes that her computer probably has information on other conspiracies, but isn't interested in investigating further.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: A hidden room in the first game reveals a staked mook trying to spell out BUFF-.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: In Punchinello Manor after Max kills a few of Nichole Horne's goons, the player opens a door and a cutscene starts where Max just gives up as more goons hold him up and their boss injects him with Valkyr. Had the player been in control killing those goons and their boss would have been almost trivial, having done so to more than that number of Mafia goons before that point. The player even goes on to kill more than that number of the same sort of goons afterward.
  • Destroy the Evidence:
    • When Max first finds proof that the meeting at Roscoe Street Station was a frame-up in the form of a letter from higher-ups, he had already been outed as an undercover DEA agent and was being hunted by the NYPD as a fugitive due to the attempted bank robbery. With the mob already shooting him on sight, having lost his wife and baby girl to drug addicts that said mob was trafficking, and no way to alert the authorities of what's really going on as his only connection in his friend Alex Balder had just been shot dead, Max just crumples the letter and throws it aside.
    Max: Collecting evidence had gotten old a few hundred bullets back. I was already so far past the point of no return I couldn't even remember what it looked like when I had passed it.
    • When he raids the Aesir Building to find and kill Horne, he takes a good look at her personal computer inside her office and finds that there are a lot of evidence, enough to get her and the company in trouble with the law. Seeing as Max is out for blood, he simply blasts at the monitor.
    Max: I've seen much of it already.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: Depending on how well the player is doing, the game would adjust the level of aim assist and enemy health, adding more a challenge if you were doing well and giving you a bit of a break if doing badly. This is disabled on Hard Boiled and Dead On Arrival difficulties, which permalocked them to the hardest levels.
  • Evil Is Not Well-Lit: Aesir Plaza and, in particular, Nicole Horne's demonic-looking office. Ironic, since the building is designed to resemble a hyper-modern office. Played completely straight with Jack Lupino's club Ragnarok N Roll.
  • From Bad to Worse: Referenced by Max in the first game, after he finds out about Project Valhalla — specifically, the truth about what happened to his family three years ago.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Since the physics engine (including in cutscenes) is dependent on the game's framerate, newer computers may suffer from some glitches during gameplay, like the characters getting stuck on scenery, which breaks some cutscenes. Capping the framerate at 60 fps typically fixes these.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: At the start of Part 1: Chapter 6 there are two vagrants who are discussing about the worsening snowstorm in New York. While meant to be street bums and not junkies, because they use the latter's modelnote  they instantly go from sane individuals to crazed psychopaths the moment either of them is shot at.
  • Give My Regards in the Next World: The boss fight agains Boris Dime in the first game starts with a cutscene in a Dutch Angle where he approaches the player and says "Tell the devil that Dime sent you".
  • Government Conspiracy: The original game covers the aftermath of Project Valhalla, a US government-sponsored drug research that was Tested on Humans during the Gulf War. There is also the Inner Circle, a group of filthily rich old men who more or less control the US government (and are hinted to have been behind the Kennedy assassination).
  • He Knows Too Much: The reason Michelle was marked for death.
  • Hide Your Children: Averted as after the Junkies kill Max's wife and daughter you can see her body in the crib.
  • I Shall Taunt You: During Act 2, Max cuts a deal with Vladimir to storm an arms shipment that was being overseen by Vlad's old associate Boris Dime before Dime got bought out by Punchinello in exchange for all the guns he could want to take on Punchinello himself. He takes a call by Punchinello that was meant for Dime and lets him know he's there, needling him to piss him off before hanging up.
    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.
  • Le Parkour: Early in the first game, Max chases Vinny Gognitti over and across several rooftops, while the latter has a motherlovin' gunshot wound to the belly.
  • The Mafia: Most of Max's villains. The Punchinellos have seen better days: It's implied that Angelo's restaurant, which includes a second floor ballroom, has fallen on hard times, and the mob-controlled block of tenements is a pit of vice and decay. Max laments the hotel as a "sad old thing", a kitschy relic from the seventies which the gangsters never bother to maintain.
  • Motive Decay: An unusual example of the protagonist experiencing this. In Act 1 he's mainly interested in tracking down the supplier of Valkyr and finding out who murdered his partner, but his Cowboy Cop tendencies get noticeably further out of control as the game progresses... And then he does track down the supplier of Valkyr and learns several important facts about them (starting with the fact that they murdered his wife and baby daughter as part of a cover-up) and... Well, he's not really interested in collecting evidence anymore.
  • Noble Demon: Max considers Vlad to be one, calling him "one of those old time bad guys with honor and morals, which almost made him one of the good guys." Vlad stays on Max's side for the first game mostly as a result of the Enemy Mine situation they're in, but his ambition within the Inner Circle leads him to become the Big Bad for the second game.
  • No-Gear Level: The escape from the basement of Lupino's hotel. You can get some of your weapons back once you go outside into the hallway and quickly eliminate the guards.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Escorts that follow Max always die in one hit, even hitting them with a thrown grenade is enough to knock them dead.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: One overheard conversation has a Killer Suit mook telling other that he isn't a cold-blooded killer, but a family man working 9 to 5.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: The climax where Max confronts the mastermind of his family's murder occurs on a hele-pad on top of the Aesir Pharmaceuticals high-rise building.
  • Savage Setpiece: Valkyr junkies are surprisingly docile, and will not attack unless attacked first. There is however one exception where he will be set-off by a gunshot noise fired near him.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Mona does this to Max in their first meeting, right after he says "As long as you don't try to slip me a mickey." Mona and Max have the same target of revenge in Punchinello, but Mona's doing it because Punchinello's a domestic abuser and his wife is Mona's twin sister — Mona drugged Max because she didn't trust Max enough to not make sure his own quest for vengeance wouldn't come at Lisa's expense.
  • Smoking Barrel Blowout: In chapter 3 of Part 3 "The Deep Six", Two Killer Suits kill a mercenary with one of the Suits blowing the smoke of his pistol afterwards.
  • Surprise Incest: In the Show Within a Show Lords and Ladies, one of the plot twists that gets shown on TV in Act I Chapter 3 is that the lady is the main character's long lost sister, revealed right after the main character professes his love for her.
  • Too Dumb to Live: During the subway sequence in the first game, Max finds a transit cop who survived the massacre. The cop lets Max into the subway control room by punching in his code. Then the cop immediately walks in front of the opening door and eats some buckshot from a bad guy. He didn't even draw his gun, assuming he even had one. And if he didn't, why did he try to just stroll into an unsecured room instead of letting Max handle it? Force of habit?
  • Train Escape: Done by Vinnie Gognitti to get away from Max who was relentlessly chasing him.
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: There is a shotgun tucked behind the (unmanned) reception desk in one of Vinnie's apartments, near the laundromat.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: When Max breaks into the Deep Six facility, the Killer Suits set the place to self-destruct to destroy all evidence, which includes the Commandos guarding the facility. When a Commando objects to this, the Suits gun him down with extreme prejudice. The Commandoes, for their part, stick to their orders and start massacring the Deep Six scientists.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Max's voice really doesn't fit the facial expressions Sam Lake uses in this game.