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Max Payne

Max is almost immortal, but can die of shock.
Stay with me here. Throughout the games he's been shot in the head, beaten with a baseball bat, blown off his feet by explosives, and even shot with an anti-material rifle. What keeps him alive by refilling his health? Painkillers. Take a mortal wound in 3, and you can recover by shooting your should-be killer, giving Max time to get to his painkillers. Close to death? Bleeding all over the place? Better get some pills, Max!

Max's Medium Awareness is not, in fact, limited solely to his dream sequences.
In the first game, Max has several surreal dream sequences in which he breaks the fourth wall, fully aware that he is inside a video game and a graphic novel. These are never brought up again after he wakes up from his dreams, and they appear to be nothing more than one-shot jokes meant to amuse the player or enhance the surreal atmosphere.

However, throughout the second game, the notion of fate (in a divine sense) is discussed at length. Vladimir asks Max whether or not it is fair to morally judge someone who is forced by no choice of their own into a situation in which they can only do wrong (the parallels with the player mowing through wave after wave of Mooks is obvious), and Max at one point thinks about such situations in his own life - being trapped in awful situations because of choices he didn't even realise he'd made at the time (like staying late at work to chat to a friend instead of hurrying home to his wife and daughter). Near the end of the game, he meditates at length on the idea of fate and the impossibility of free will while en route to Woden's mansion. When Mona attempts to dissuade him from going, he insists that he doesn't care whether he dies or not. Is he simply a Death Seeker? Or perhaps his apparently temporary Medium Awareness from the first game was nothing but - ever since the curtain was pulled back in the first game he has always known that he is a character in a work of fiction, and he cannot choose to do anything of his own accord. His fate - the plot of the game - is set.


Max Payne is in The Matrix
People who die in the Matrix die in reality because your mind makes it real.Max takes enough painkillers to be unaffected by otherwise fatal wounds in an otherwise undiscovered exploit/glitch in the Matrix.
  • "The truth was a burning green crack through my brain. Weapon statistics hanging in the air, glimpsed out of the corner of my eye. Endless repetition of the act of shooting, time slowing down to show off my moves. The paranoid feel of someone controlling my every step. I was in a computer game. Funny as Hell, it was the most horrible thing I could think of." - Max Payne has already realized he's in a simulation, and that 'game' is really the Matrix.
  • The connection is obvious, Max Payne and Mona Sax dodge bullets like they're in the Matrix because they're in the Matrix.
  • Following this line of thought, Max might eventually fully realize how out of place his super powers are and eventually have his mind freed by the Matrix hackers. A guy like Max would be a valuable asset to the resistance fighters, not to mention that it might free him from the burden of many of his best friends and his loved-ones being killed.

Max killed his wife.
He interprets his findings at Project Valhalla to mean that some Valkyr-addled punks were dropped off at his house to silence his wife. An alternate explanation, however, could simply be that Aesir simply had his wife injected with Valkyr to discredit her, that she killed the baby in her confused state; this sent Max into a rage, he killed her, and afterwards was so horrified that he blocked out the memory. The police bought the story about drugged-up intruders, so Max was never even heavily investigated. This would explain many elements of Max's dream sequences and drug fantasies — his wife screaming "Max! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to!"; Bravura accusing Max of killing, not Winterson, but his wife; Max bursting into the bedroom to stop the thug killing his wife, and it being himself, and other pretty blatant signs. It also seems to be hinted at in the plot of Address Unknown, the TV series Max catches snippets of: a man is hunting/hunted by a serial killer called John Mirra ("mirror", obviously), who looks just like him, has killed his girlfriend, stolen his identity and framed him for his crimes; at the end the man realises he is Mirra, that he killed his girlfriend in the first place, etc.
  • It's not likely, but theoretically possible. The more mundane explanations are that he blames himself for her death, which is not unusual: he was seconds late to stop the killers from murdering both his wife and his daughter. His guilt has festered for three years without an outlet. He even addresses it in the second game, referencing the choice to stay late and talk to a friend (Alex) instead of heading home. If he had gone right home then, he would have been on time. It's survivor's guilt: he can't help but blame himself for the choices he didn't even know he made, and it manifests as a crazy desire to punish himself for being late. When he kills his old self in the second hallucination in the first game, the double yells "Murderer! You killed her!", but he's talking to himself. And then his (future) self guns down his (past) self, completing the punishment cycle. It's a psychological miasma. Both explanations are possible.
    • I actually think "Murderer! You killed her!" fits well with the first theory. It's one of the various lines that pop up periodically in the dream sequences; if you put two of those lines together you get:
      Max: Murderer! You killed her!
      Michelle: Max, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to!
    • Also note that all of Max's grief and guilt seems to coalesce around Michelle, with the baby not seeming to factor in. Might be easier to explain, if he killed one but not the other.
  • There is another explanation of Max feeling guilty for Michelle's death: if you examine some of the items in the (second?) nightmare level, you'll hear a dialogue between them where Michelle tells Max she encountered some thing related to vikings at work (which is obviously Project Valhalla traces). However, he just brushes it off for "later" and Michelle is killed soon afterwards. Had he looked into the matter back then, he may have prevented her digging into it too deep and avoided Aesir's wrath.
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  • Returning to the original interpretation that Max killed Michelle, the end of the first dream sequence is different to the other representations of the fight, in that it ends with Max facing camera, firing three bullets, and yelling, "Murderer, you killed her!" Michelle took three bullets in the chest, so if he's remembering more than halluucinating, and it certainly seems that way, because this is the dream where it isn't quite so surreal and you can 'remember' other things.
  • But then, what about the V-Heads you face in the prologue? Unless somehow they were hallucinations (and if they were, there'd be no reason for the cops not to look into the possibility that Max killed his wife), they were in his house. In Chapter 3, Max locates a document on a computer in Nicole Horne's lair which mentions that they doubled the dose for "all remaining tests subjects" and dumped them off at Payne's house. "All remaining subjects" couldn't mean Michelle Payne.
    • Of course, since we see the game from Max's POV and if we assume that Max is not a reliable narrator and we are in the mouth of madness, he could concievably have imagined that report to try and explain the fiasco at home.
      • Ah, but if Max is such an unreliable narrator, how are we to believe that Michelle is dead at all?
      • If the junkies were just hallucinations or invented memories, there would be no bodies found in the Payne home. If there were no bodies but those of Michelle and the baby in their house, the police would have definitely investigated the possibility of Max being the murderer. Modern forensic techniques make it quite possible to determine whether a victim has been killed by a particular gun, and had Michelle been confirmed to have been shot by Max's Beretta, he would have spent the next decade behind bars. The only way this theory (Michelle killed the baby, Max killed her, then blocked the memory) can therefore be true is that the police deliberately covered the case up, either to save their own face or because someone (like the Inner Circle) pulled some strings from the shadows.
      • Someone mentioned above that it's possible that Michelle was herself dosed with Valkyr, which caused her to accidentally kill the baby. What if the junkies in Max's house were additional test subjects brought along by whoever administered said dosage to Michelle, in order to, for example, compare how the drug acts on people of different sexes, body types, ethnicities etc.?

Max's Bullet Time is the result of him actually using Valkyr.
Enemies in the game who use Valkyr are depicted as difficult to kill one-man-army types. It's likely that Max himself is somehow using a formula that doesn't turn him into a babbling lunatic. In fact, if Max Payne takes place in the same world as Grand Theft Auto, it's possible that the "Adrenaline" from GTA 3 and Vice City are also Valkyr, or at least related to it.
  • Valkyr makes its users feel extremely paranoid and causes increased aggression and violence. Max took some valkyr and killed the police officer at the beginning. He went on a rampage and killed everyone in the subway station. He can't dodge bullets, he just imagines that the innocent and unarmed civilians are terribly incompetent mobsters (this would explain why there are so damned many of them). He imagines they were robbing a bank to justify this act. Still in his bloodlust, he kills Alex, imagining that he was framed and someone else did the deed. Max just wanders around shooting people for three days, taking more and more valkyr and imagining himself to be taking down crime syndicates, discovering conspiracies, spinning more and more complex webs of coincidences and impossible feats of vigilantism. He finally comes off his three-day high cuffed in the back of a squadcar. (Note that this is the only part of the game which is not a flashback; even the climactic scene at Aesir Plaza takes place 'a few hours ago'.)
  • Perhaps the painkillers Max takes contain Valkyr. They certainly aren't ordinary painkillers, considering the amounts of damage they help him survive.
    • It's actually heavily implied that Interfectum, the painkillers from the second game, contain - or are derived from - Valkyr.
  • The Movie seems to use this explanation, with Max taking Valkyr after swimming out of a freezing cold river to prevent freezing to death, becoming a drug-fueled One-Man Army experiencing Apocalyptic visions at the end. He does seem to tap into it a bit before using the drug.

The "Angels" from the movie trailer are a visual metaphor for how Valkyr lifts its users.
While the Max Payne universe is quite dark (and this editor wouldn't really be surprised to find out it has supernatural elements), creepy Winged Humanoids are just a bit much, don't you think?
  • Very close. The angels (actually meant to be Valkyries) are one of the hallucinations experienced by those on Valkyr.

Alfred Woden is still alive and will be the Big Bad of Max Payne 3
At the end of the second-to-last level, Vlad shoots Woden in the chest, and there's a surprising lack of blood spurt, even though the game's graphics engine incorporates it. Later, when you revisit the same area in the last level, Woden's corpse is surprisingly absent. Also, at the end of the last level, the security door Vlad is hiding behind suddenly opens for no reason, surprising Vlad and giving Max a chance to pursue him. It's not unreasonable to assume Woden was wearing a bulletproof vest (as he's depicted as The Chessmaster, he'd certainly be prepared), stopped playing dead when no one was looking, then went up to a control room and opened the security door for Max so he could kill Vlad.

As for him being the Big Bad of the next game, in Max Payne 1 Vlad was an ally of Max's, but in Max Payne 2 he turns out to be the Big Bad. Woden may go through the same cycle; he's certainly the only candidate, since (if he's alive) he'd be the only major character left other than Max himself. Vlad also seems to hint that Woden was responsible for Max's wife's death. Supposedly, this was because he sent her the incriminating evidence against Van Horne, which is what prompted Van Horne to kill her. But perhaps there's more to it than that.

  • Jim Bravura is stated to have survived as well.
    • and Mona, in the True Ending
      • Safety spoiler about Woden; Woden -does- survive an Aesir machine-gun attack on the Inner Circle.
  • Partially Jossed. Alfred's nowhere to be found in 3. But if there's ever a Max Payne 4, who knows?

The TV shows are actually metaphors for the game.
"Dick Justice" is a reference to Max's dialogue style and poor character model from the first game, "Lords and Ladies" refers to Max's conflict between his senses of justice/honor and his love for his wife and Mona, and "Address Unknown" refers to his mental disturbance and feeling of guilt, as represented by his hallucinations in both games.
  • This is generally a no-brainer. The only nit is that "Dick Justice" is actually a TV series adaptation of the events in the first game. That's pretty much canon.
    • Dick Justice existed during the first game, though. Hey... Maybe it got a Retool that was Ripped from the Headlines?
    • BBBB's aelements also have much to do with Max, with the Friendly Rivalry between BBBB and Bike Helmet Girl mirroring Max and Mona's. The animated BBBB episode has him turn old and deal with a kidnapping, just like Max.

Max is hallucinating the TV shows
What a coincidence that many of the shows manage to parallel his own life. The random TVs Max stumble across aren't -really- showing the television shows, he's just trying to process the incredible stress of his own life.

Vinnie Gognitti is still alive
Such a dedicated Baseball Bat-Boy fan being booby-trapped into his own costume? Vinnie was just another layer to convince Max to kill all the Big Bad's enemies. After all, he died off-panel and all we see are the remains of the suit. No body, no death and heck, even with a body, that never garuntees death in Max's world. Look at all the chaos, plot wise, that could have been avoided if Max just noted the similar framed paperwork hanging over Vlad's desk and Winterson's desk.
  • His tombstone is an Easter Egg in Max Payne 3, although it's not clear when he died. And considering his epitaph and the fact Max notes that it's surprised there was enough to bury, it pretty much confirms his death by 'splosion.
  • It must be said, however, that Gognitti is canonically pretty damned hard to kill for a supposed Non-Action Guy.

Payne's bullet-time is a real super-human ability
This is why Max went through so much crap. The government was just manipulating events behind the scenes to see what the hell it would take to duplicate his bullet time. In fact, Valkyr itself was created from a sample from Max's blood. This explains why he could survive an O.D. of it by pure force of will. And this also explains why Max can return to normal life after shooting so many, many people. Hundreds of dead mobsters would put anyone away for life. Woden had managed to get a partly-working sample, this explains his ability to survive so much nonsense.

Vinnie is an expy of Caesar from Bound (1996)
The similarities are obvious but I don't have any proof, so I'll put it under WMG.
  • A cold dark night in the shadowy underworld of New York City alone with an empty pack of cigarettes with TV Tropes ruining my life. Vinnie is an expy of Caesar from Bound? Close, but still not enough Untamed Volume Speculation for Wild Mass Guessing – until the realization was pushed an inch further toward the ledge.
    Vinnie isn’t an expy of Caesar from Bound, Vinnie Gognitti is Caesar from Bound.

Max Payne is Max Payne self-insert fanfic
Max wasn't able to get anywhere after the murders of his family and has invented these grand conspiracies where he kills all the bad guys. He's really just living in a crappy apartment and writing furiously in a diary. The supporting good guy characters are people who were nice to him in life; Mona is the hot manager from the Starbucks downstairs.
  • Or Max is a amateur writer who imagines his life as noir film. And all the characters are people in his life: Mona is a girl he's into, Vinnie is a gangster who harasses him (so Max imagines him as a pathetic, wannabe gangster), Alex is his friend in real life, BB is a annoying co-worker, Jack Lupino is this drug dealer who rambles about occult shit, Nichole Horne is his mean boss, and Jim Bravura is his landlord. Max in this reality is basically a least successful version of Sam Lake.

Address Unknown and possibly Max Payne itself were written by Alan Wake.
Purely on the basis that Alan is a mystery/horror writer, Remedy loves their Continuity Nods, and it only makes both games more surreal.
  • Confirmed. Max Payne is Alan Wake's story. In the beginning of Episode 2 of Alan Wake, the player can find the manuscripts of Max's final moments.
    • Actually, only half-true. Wake didn't write Max Payne as far as we know, but he DID write a near-exact knockoff called Alex Casey, which is what you can find and read excerpts of.
    • this troper would say that you can still say Alan wrote Max Payne, even if the names are changed, I would say that the "The Sudden Stop" is what Remedy's "real" Max Payne 3 would be as opposed to the apparently canceled Rocktar developed Max Payne 3.

There will be a Story-DLC with Raul Passo as PC

Basically we’re seeing the story of Max Payne 3 from his point of view. There could be missions like chasing Fabianna’s kidnapper at the Penthouse party or fighting his way through the hotel ruin to save Max and the Final mission would be a shoot-out between him and Crachá Preto/ the UFE who are trying to kill him and Giovanna before they can leave the city.

John Marston from Red Dead: Redemption is Max Payne's ancestor

Their games are both made by Rockstar, they both have similar brooding personalities, and they both utilize bullet-time (dead-eye) in their gunfights.

Buffy didn't kill that mook in the first game

Remember how you could come across a gangster who had been staked and Buff written next to him? That was actually Faith framing her for it, after she escaped Sunnydale, before heading to LA.

The Inner Circle was a front for the Patriots, allowing them to conduct experiments with Valkyr on soldiers, among other things. They discovered that Nicole Horne was selling some of the bottom for her own personal gain, and one quick and dirty frame job later, sent Max on his mad shooting spree to bring down Aesir Corp. The resulting power vaccum allowed Vlad to attempt to monopolize the Inner Circle. The Patriots manipulated Max into serving as their foot soldier yet again, with predictable results. After the firefight in the Woden Manor, Max was the only survivor, and seeing as he still knew nothing about the Patriots, and was a potential asset to them with his nano-machine induced bullet time and nigh invulnerability, they decided to manipulate him into a position as a bodyguard in South America, from which they would be able to extract him whenever they felt like it.

Max is an undead revenant
He did not survive the slaughter of his family, however he came back as a revenant seeking vengeance. That would explain his incredible resilience and single mindedness of his pursuit.

Mona's fate is deliberately ambiguous in Max Payne 3
At no point in the game is it definitively confirmed that she's dead. Max doesn't talk about her at all, and her tomb is noticeably absent from the cemetery level, which contains pretty much every other major person that Max got killed in the previous 2 games. If she survived, the fact that the two of them aren't together is hardly surprisingly, given how messed up personally each of them was.
  • Max did talk about Mona, but focuses more on his fling with her. He did express not wanting to fail saving women anymore, but it could be understood as referring to the Daphne incident.

Jack Lupino was a 6th criminal that Legion had attempted to recruit.
Legion had Jack The Ripper along with four modern killers on his side. Suppose he had more that were ready to join him on Earth once he succeeded? However, since Shadow Man defeated Legion in 1999, Lupino was never bonded to a dark soul. Suddenly finding that Legion was no longer speaking to him directly, Lupino began to worship any and all dark gods he could, hoping another would hear him. This allowed Nicole Horne to pump him full of Valkyr, passing herself off as such an entity knowing what he was looking for, gaining a loyal soldier to push her drug onto the streets.

Mona Sax took Valkyr
She took it after her sister died to cope with pain; This allowed her to survive the headshot in the first game and receive Max Payne's bullet time abilities.

Max Payne 3 is a direct sequel to Max Payne 1, skipping over Max Payne 2 entirely.
Max Payne 3's interpretation of Max as a burnt-out and morbidly depressed alcoholic didn't fit with the ending of Max Payne 2, which features Max accepting his grief and moving on with his life after everything that happened in that game. That's because Max Payne 3 doesn't take place after Max Payne 2; rather, it's a direct sequel to Max Payne 1. Max got his revenge, escaped retribution for his crimes, and ended up in a downward spiral that leads to where we find him in 3.

There's obvious holes in this theory, such as the graves of Vinnie Gognitti and Detective Winterson being in the cemetery in New Jersey as well as the Max Payne 3 comics. However, I believe that it's a valid interpretation of 3's story and would explain things like Max going through the same character development he did during 2 (learning to accept his grief and past mistakes so he can move on with his life), as well as why he never directly brings up the events of 2 aside from when he views the graves of the aforementioned Vinnie and Winterson; every other reference to 2 could be interpreted as referring to something else entirely.


Max Payne 2 did happen, but in Broad Strokes fashion.
The basics are the same: Max goes back to work for the NYPD, has a run in with the Cleaners where he runs into Mona, and the plot continues from there. The difference is, Max comes out the other side worse than he was going in. Instead of moving on, Max finds himself dwelling even more on his old mistakes and the ones he just made, and falls into the bottle trying to escape his guilt. It's already implied in 2 that Max is an alcoholic or on the verge of becoming one, as evidenced by the phone call from Bravura asking Max to come with him to an AA meeting, and it's possible the events of 2 could have made his problem worse.

This is pretty much the logical interpretation of 3's story and its version of Max (if you don't consider it character assassination), but I figured I'd put it forward as an alternative to the above WMG.


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