In-universe, the games play with the idea that it was Max himself who murdered his wife including his outright statements of such on occasion, making him a Villain Protagonist. However, a lot of the hints come from Max's dream sequences which are designed to Mind Screw the player, while the rest may just be Max's guilt over everything that's happened. The belief traces back to him brushing off his wife when she mentions the Valkyr files she's investigating to him, and his negligence got her killed, but even for Max that's taking his Survivor Guilt a bit far.
Just what is the true nature of Vlad's relationship with Winterson? Was he actually in love with her, or was it just an act to manipulate her into helping him? Further, we see Vlad is a donator to a school to the blind, which is presumably how they met, since her son is blind. Was Vlad actually donating to the school out of the goodness of his heart and they met by chance, or was his goodwill to the school and her son a ploy to get close to her so he could begin his manipulations? We don't know how far back the relationship goes, so it could be either way. He makes a point that he feels he has to kill Max to avenge her as "a gentlemen", but this too could just be Vlad playing up the Man of Wealth and Taste act he gets a kick out of.
Winterson. Was she a nasty and hypocritical Dirty Cop who was condescending and fundamentally unlikable? Or was she actually very similar in her flaws to Max, but in love with a criminal on the opposite side of the fence to Mona? See Not So Different and Jerkass Woobie, below.
Kaufman, the near-mythical Mafia hitman that mooks warn you about through much of 2's first act. This is a game that at least attempts at realism, so he reacts to hand grenades thrown at his feet just like everyone else. To be fair he can take a lot more bullets than his mooks. Although he does seem to have the same health as the commandos later, suggesting it's a bullet proof vest rather than sheer badass.
Rico Muerte, a very forgettable boss from early in the first game is described by Max as being 'a regular Keyser Soze'. When you track him down, he has his pants around his ankles and is receiving some extra-special treatment from prostitute Candy Dawn. He immediately runs off and hides in the hallway. None of the mooks seem to notice or care about him, and the only reason he's even notable is because he's your very first enemy with an automatic weapon.
The first two games' soundtracks feature quite possibly some of the best music in all of gaming. Here, havealisten.
Late Goodbye, the credits theme for 2 which was actually made by the band Poets of the Fall! Doubly awesome is that it became a pop hit thanks to the game!
The Airport from Max Payne 3 has a couple:
A slowed version of TEARS by HEALTH plays during the major concourse shootout.
'Max Finale' during the game's final gunfight in the hangar, a driving beat mixed with an almost angelic choir. Bringing a finality to the Roaring Rampage of Revenge and the shedding of guilt and pain that Max has built up over the game.
As divisive as the third game is, most players really enjoyed Chapters IV and VIII, mainly because they're the flashback levels that take place entirely in New Jersey and capture the tone of the first two games.
For those who don't find it to be That One Level, the airport level in the third game is also seen as a highlight for players, especially the lobby shootout.
Max Payne 3. The addition of cover to the game, for instance.
There's also the abandonment of the stylistic underpinnings of the series, such as the histrionic, pseudo-poetic monologuing, interactive environmental elements and the all important mythological/religious/pop-cultural symbolic subtext which gave the original games their richness.
As well as the replacement of the first two games' graphic novel-style cutscenes with more traditional cutscenes with stylistic, TV-screen style static cuts (though the New Jersey levels invoke the earlier style). There was also Max's change in haircut and facial hair.
Nicole Horne from the first game is the CEO of Aesir Corporation. As a member of the Inner Circle, she was responsible for Project Valhalla, a program that was developing a highly addictive psychotropic Super Serum when it turned out to be a madness-inducing poison. In response to this discovery, she decided to market it through the mob as Valkyr to the public, thereby becoming an untouchable corporate crime lord who directly and indirectly killed thousands. When Michelle Payne inadvertently received information that would expose the Valkyr Conspiracy, Nicole had a trio of drugged-up maniacs slaughter both Michelle and her baby daughter. Over the following years, Horne went on to control the entire criminal underworld of New York through her pawn, Angelo Punchinello, and made a play into politics by putting a hit on the Mayor; she also blackmailed Inner Circle member Alfred Woden, preventing him from stopping her machinations himself. When she first personally encounters Max, she has Angelo murdered for outliving his usefulness, then tries to kill Max by giving him an overdose of Valkyr and leaving him to burn alive in Angelo's mansion. She eventually resorts to mass murder to cover up her crime, initiating "Operation Dead Eyes" to murder all her personnel involved in Valkyr's creation, and sends men to wipe out the Inner Circle. Through all of this Horne has no clear motivations, no enlightened intent, no emotion; she is just pure evil, even claiming that the deaths of Max wife and daughter were "necessary".
Max Payne 3: Victor Branco is an aspiring but corrupt politician of São Paulo, and a son of the wealthy Branco family. He is also the hidden leader of the UFE, a law enforcement group he uses for his own ends, and the Cracha Preto death squad and the mastermind behind the assassinations on his brothers (one by burning alive), and the abduction of his sister-in-law. He is motivated by control of the family fortune and gaining sympathy for the election. He recruits Max as a bodyguard but really plans on making Max a fall guy for his criminal enterprises, which includes a secret ring where the poor of Brazil are kidnapped, held hostage and are harvested for their organs for the black market organ trade.
Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: 3 can suffer from this. The shallow and materialistic Brancos, not helped by Max himself noting he doesn't care for their attitudes or lifestyle, the villains of the game being worse than what's come before, and Max's angst after two failed attempts to get his life back together already, can result in a player simply not caring about the story.
Eight Deadly Words: One of the main reasons for the third game's Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. In a sharp contrast to the complex, morally-ambiguous characters of the Remedy games, very few of the characters in 3 have any sort of redeeming qualities and are all vaguely different flavors of Jerkass. They bear more resemblance to the satirical caricatures from Grand Theft Auto without anything to satirize. Even Max himself has fallen into full-blown nihilism, with his monologues losing their poetic edge, and in spite of the number of times he points out his mistakes, he refuses to change his behavior in the slightest.
8.8: Gametrailers received some flack for giving Max Payne 3 a 7.6.
Ending Fatigue: Between the awesome music and the wide-open level design, the shootout in the airport terminal in the last level of 3 is the perfect way to segue into the end of the game. Too bad you need to spend a good ten minutes more simply getting to the final boss. And even after the boss, you need to go through a vehicle section, and then you finally get the last cutscene.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Mona Sax was this in the first game. Despite only showing up in a few graphic novel scenes and having no presence in actual gameplay, she quickly became one of the most popular characters, to the extent that she was Promoted to Playable and given a larger story role in the second game.
Even Better Sequel: Max Payne 2 took everything the first game did and improved upon it, with a physics engine for a more interactive environment, a more complex story and characters, better graphics, and better gameplay. The main criticism of the game was it's short length; otherwise it's only failing was poor sales due to being marketed as "A Film Noir Love Story", which brought the series to an end for a time until 3 came out 9 years later.
Fanon Discontinuity: Some fans reject 3 as part of the series due to the lack of characters from the first two games, the shift in tone, different writers, different graphical and soundtrack style, etc.
Molotov Cocktail + door opening / tight corridor / corner + bad AI = This.
The below-mentioned "Corner shooting glitch".
The second game's spinning Bullet Time reloads, combined with how easy it is to replenish bullet time, virtually removes any penalty for needing to reload in battle.
The third game's multiplayer had several. The Mini-30 rifle was a menace with its power and accuracy before it was patched to sane levels, but a number of others were never properly addressed; The "Big Dog" burst allows players to regain their health without needing painkillers and is charged by killing other players, and the Dual 1911 pistols as, properly customized, they have no weaknesses while having superior range and rate of fire to other pistols.
Good Bad Bugs: In 3 it's possible to edge up on a corner, aim at foes around it and shoot them through whatever the wall is made of as long as the reticle is red and the weapon is an adequate distance from the wall. This makes 70% percent of gun fights trivially easy, not to mention making the cover system largely redundant.
Harsher in Hindsight: During his brief sojourn through the Favela, Max happens upon a small drug laboratory and kills the gang members defending/working in it. Just before leaving, he takes time out of his very urgent mission to set fire to the building using a fireworks stockpile, in order to destroy the laboratory. This being in a favela, a single fire, no matter how minor, can spiral hopelessly out of control in mere minutes and kill hundreds of people, displacing thousands more. Such a fire happened on the very year of the game's release in its very setting.
At one point in the second game, Max is assisted by an old, bald and bearded bum who used to be a cop. In the third game, Max is himself a fat, bald and bearded ex-cop.
When describing Bullet Time to a game reviewer, the developers likened to an elite athlete for whom the games seems to slow down around them. The reviewer described this as "Kobe Bryant with a Colt Commando." Many, many years later, Kobe Bryant appeared in advertising for Call of Duty: Black Ops, toting a Colt Commando.
Hollywood Pudgy: Max's weight in the third game is brought up quite a lot in spite of the fact that he has only a mild paunch. This is mostly because it's very noticeable to players who are accustomed to Max's sleek frame in previous games.
In the first game, Woden's plan to bring down Horne's criminal enterprise was to mail evidence on the Valkyr project to a single district attorney, instead of mailing it to multiple media and legal bodies, and once Horne has Michelle Payne assassinated Woden never reaches out to anyone else. He claims to Max "[our] hands are tied" against Horne, and his meaning turns out to be that she has a sex tape of him with a prostitute and is using it to blackmail him into silence. But considering the connections the Inner Circle supposedly has, this shouldn't even be an issue; if they can get Max off the hook for all his charges, surely they can make that tape go away. To put it another way: the entire plot of the first game only happens because Alfred Woden is a stupid pervert.
In 3, the Brancos are being murdered by the brother, Victor, for voter sympathy while bribing the police and other politicians with blood money from an organ trafficking ring. The thing is that Max had the potential to be a thorn in the side of this before the game even began when a cruise ship he's on in Panama got raided by pirates looking for said blood money. He kills the pirates but shrugs off Passos and Marcelo being suspicious about a bag full of money. And even during the plot, there was no reason to leave Rodrigo alone during an attack on his compound, which gets him killed by the very police he called in when they're alone and the tape of it stolen. And when he finally finds Fabiana, he barges in through a front door despite having sighted enemies within through the windows, gets ambushed and forced to watch Fabiana (and later Marcelo) die horribly for his stupidity. Max's only excuse for any of this? Being drunk and dazed for a good majority of the plotwhile horribly depressed enough to consistently dive into a fight without thinking whatsover.
Iron Woobie: You'll notice that Max is pretty Stoic for someone who's going through a living hell.
Jerkass Woobie: Winterson is a Dirty Cop and a hypocrite, but at the same time she loves Vlad and does everything to protect him. This is very, very similar to how Max protects and assists Mona, who is a criminal too. In the end, she was simply manipulated by Vlad, just like Max was - and only because she loved her son. While she comes across as unlikable when we see during the events of the story, behind the scenes she was essentially a good person with a tragic past who then started making some poorly judged mistakes, much like Max himself.
Magnificent Bastard: Vladimir "Vlad" Lem is a friendly Russian mobster, quick with a joke and a smile and refers to everyone as the "dearest of all his friends". In truth, Vlad is a member of the Inner Circle who was manipulating Max from the start. Using his own professional assassin crew, the Cleaners, Vlad has the rest of the Inner Circle steadily eliminated while playing the NYPD and Max to do his work for him, even planning on having Max killed by Vlad's lover Detective Winterson, whose blind son Vlad is truly loving and affectionate with. When exposed by his former mentor, Alfred Woden, Vlad plans to manipulate Max and his hitwoman lover Mona into killing one another while never losing his pleasant smile or friendliness.
"Don't answer that. A rhetorical question." explanation Mentioned by Max himself while talking to the Finito brothers in order to find Jack Lupino. kitty0706's You Tube Poop "Max Payne's Rhetorical Questions" especially helped this one gaining popularity.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it's the pain in the butt!" explanation A mockery done by Joey Finito towards Max while he's searching for Jack Lupino.
The game received a portuguese dub in Brazil. To put it simply, the voice acting is not one of the best, but one quote that was popularized by a brazilian youtuber's playthrough of the game was the henchmen's exaggerated, nasal way of yelling "É O MAX!" explanation "IT'S MAX!"
Max's constipated expression in the first game. Also, in the first game, the mooks' screaming (AWWWW! OWAAHH! HUWOOOOOH!)
All the characters in the comic panels cutscenes of the first game are prone to have unintentionally funny and/or weird facial expressions, considering that they are just members of the game team improvising. The second game averted this hiring professional models to pose for the panels.
In the first game, the sound bytes can get mixed up, causing the professional killers such as Mercenaries and Killer Suits to report the same narmy groans when killed by a grenade weapon.
In the third game, about three-quarters of DeMarco's lines are variations on "You killed my son!" Eventually, it's a bit hard to take him seriously as a hardened crime boss.
For some, Max himself throughout the third game. His drunk self stumbling through the game and fucking most things up, combined with his extremely blunt metaphors and almost ridiculously cynical amounts of snark and bitterness (even compared to the previous games) almost make him a caricature of his former self.
Max's famous constipated expression mentioned directly above, that a lot of fans have love for.
Max's flowery and Wangsty narrations get sillier every game, but the series just wouldn't be the fun homage to film noir it is without them.
Not So Different: It's easy to see Winterson as a simple evil Dirty Cop, but she shares an awful lot of similarities with Max that aren't completely apparent at first. On a more obvious level: she's a cop, is a similar age and has a cool demeanour in her dealings with others. Beneath the surface she also seems similarly depressed, lonely and has a tragic family backstory like Max himself, having to raise her blind son alone after her ex-husband left her. She's even in love with a criminal and struggling with how to do her job as a result...just like Max.
In Max Payne 2, Max is attacked by the Cleaners in his apartment. As he runs around the building, players are treated to an old lady blasting a Cleaner out of her apartment with a shotgun. She then declares "nobody's dragging me out of my home" and offers Max a spare shotgun she keeps around. Never Mess with Granny indeed.
Also from 2, the guy in the police station being interviewed. The cops found him strung out on Valkyr burying the body parts of his wife and the pizza delivery boy in his garden, they had been shot in his bed, the blood-covered gun and chainsaw they found in the bathroom have his fingerprints on them, and he claims he was framed by his wife and the pizza delivery boy. Listening to the story is completely optional, but it's so hilariously absurd it's impossible to forget you heard it.
Brewer from Max Payne 3. A Crazy AwesomeRobin Williams style neighbor of Max's with a hobo beard, military jacket covered in badges, a beanie, boxers, a semi-automatic shotgun, and a lot of wires sticking out of his coat. He arrives by shooting a thug ambushing Max in the face, then gives a short speech on the cleansing properties of fire and suicide bombs a squad of mobsters running down the hall. He makes a hell of an impression for a character with less than a minute of screentime.
Padding: In the first game, the fourth level of part 2, "Put Out My Flames With Gasoline." After getting guns from Vlad, Max calls Punchinello to set up a meeting at a restaurant, knowing he can't hit the man's mansion. Once there Max finds it rigged to blow, and runs through the flames to the back of the restaurant. After shooting a total of about ten mobsters (a very small number for any level), Max escapes to the street, meets up with Vlad, and Vlad drives him to the mansion. In other words, Max is going to just go for a frontal assault on Punchinello's home, the very thing that he said in the intro to the level he shouldn't try. The level could be cut with absolutely nothing lost in terms of story or gameplay; Max gets his guns and Vlad drives him to the mansion.
The original game's opening level where Max can't save his family.
Fabiana, after spending hours of game time (and days of Max's time) on her trail getting just this close to saving her, Max is forced to end up watching her get casually shot in the face and die.
Also the death of Annie Finn in the second game just before Max can save her is a small one and the deaths of Rodrigo Branco and Marcelo in the third game. Rodrigo in particular was a good guy, and Max really beats himself up for failing to save him.
Porting Disaster: The Steam re-release of the original game is a bit of a mess. Just getting it to run needs several tweaks and downloads, due to the game's age, including a fan-made patch to make the audio work, because without that patch the audio often cuts out. There's also a Game-Breaking Bug tied to the game's framerate with Vinnie Gognitti's pathing as he runs from Max that results in him not going where he's supposed to go. This means Vinnie isn't there for in-gameplay cutscenes, and eventually one such instance causes the game to hang, forcing the player to either use an additional program to lock the game to 60 FPS or to use a cheat to skip the level.
How some people feel about the addition of cover in the third game. It's a rudimentary system that doesn't even let you round corners without getting out of cover. It also does not mesh well with the bullet-time mechanic. Instead of dancing through a free-wheeling ballet of bullets, you're watching Max emerge from cover in slow motion to pot-shot at mooks also crouching behind cover.
The third also removes ability to skip the cutscenes, due to many of them being used to hide loading sequences (though only in the console release, as the PC version was eventually patched with the ability to skip several cutscenes, although many remain unskippable for reasons unknown). Arcade mode actually has an "Old School Mode" which prevents the player from using the cover system or weapon zoom. However, enemies can still use the cover system without incident and their AI is not altered in any way to benefit this style of play.
The constant, eye-acheing visual effects that make the game painful to watch for most players and impossible to play for epileptics. Arcade Mode has an option to remove the effect from bullet time, and it makes the game significantly easier to play.
The Last Chance mechanic is a concept that can work as proven by the likes of Borderlands and Guild Wars Two, but it's implementation in 3 leaves a lot to be desired. When put into the "Downed" state Max cannot move or reload, so that if he can't hit the enemy due to them being behind cover or his gun being empty, the player has no choice but to wait until he dies, which can be agonizing due to the bullet time the mode operates in. What's more, if Max goes into the state while behind cover, he has almost no chance to fire over his cover and will instead empty his clip into it rather than the foe the player is targeting. Another problem is that the mechanic defers to hitting the foe who downed Max, forcing the player to aim only at that one enemy. This is even if it would be easier to hit another, easier target that would glean the same result.
The third game removes the ability for Max to use throwable weapons, such as grenades or molotovs. Not only does this limit your tactical options to kill enemies (especially with the third game's Take Cover! mechanics), enemies still use them against you, putting you at an unfair disadvantage. Making this change even more frustrating is that throwables are usable by players in multiplayer mode, leading many to wonder just why this was removed for single-player and only single-player.
Scrappy Weapon: Weapons with laser sight attachments from 3. Grabbing a weapon with one removes your crosshair and replaces it with a laser sight that bounces around as you move and fire. This makes aiming significantly more difficult, if not impossible. Luckily, you can turn it off if you so please.
"Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Every single game that comes out with Bullet Time now is met with dubious cries of "oh, another one?" Though the third game averted this; it received high scores from critics, and while fans were more mixed, "bullet time has already been done" was almost never a complaint.
Signature Scene: Three notable ones in 3: the UFE raid in the favela, Max and Neves' confrontation at the Imperial Palace Hotel, and Max preparing to execute a badly wounded Becker at the airport.
The Max Payne games are some of the best John Woo games ever made before Stranglehold. It's to the point where it's lampshaded in the first game, the password for one early part in John Woo, and Max said soon after that he'd need to make like Chow Yun-fat.
Fans have been known to joke that 3 is a surprisingly good Kane & Lynch sequel. In a more serious note, the game almost seems to be taking some pages out of Man on Fire's book. Just look at the first trailer of the game when Max describes his situation and you will notice the similarities instantaneously.
And if you disregard the decentgame it got several years ago (or the one by Deep Silver that came after), the series as a whole could pass for a pretty solid The Punisher video game due to the almost identical traits Max shares with Frank, its edgy noir tone, and brutal violence (especially in the third game).
The two nightmare levels in the first Max Payne. They each start off cool and creepy, and then tack on an infuriating maze. The first maze has you running down featureless hallways endlessly until you take the right combination of turns (or you can blow grenades to ease your orientation). The second has you running around a maze of bloodtrails in otherwise featureless blackness. Every time you reach a dead end, a scream plays that exactly mirrors your own. It's even worse on the console, owing to the imprecise controller movement and use of checkpoints in the Playstation 2 version instead of quicksaves like in the PC and Xbox versions.
The airport terminal from 3. With it's entire environment massively spaced out by design and small outlets of cover, as well as the enemies throughout armed with powerful weapons as well as pinpoint accuracy, the battle is a painful slog from one side of the terminal to the other. The layout contradicts and outright forbids the kind of frenetic, two-fisted gunplay which the series is based on, and on higher difficulties the best, neigh, only way of beating the section is by abusing the "Shooting-through-Walls" glitch while engaging foes at huge distances. This is made tragic by the fact that the game designers decided to place the game's trailer theme, TEARS by HEALTH over this section.
The stadium as well, in Chapter III, which has a modicum of Difficulty Spike to it. Particularly the section after Passos gives you the headset and sends you on your way. The situation you're dumped into is really unfair (the enemies are all on the other side of the gate, which can impede your ability to shoot them, and your best cover option frankly sucks) and it can be difficult to get a bead on where all the enemies are coming from (at least two come up from the bottom of the bleachers and can catch you off guard if you're focusing on the four or five foes in front of you). Pushing forward is made problematic because more enemies appear when you think you've cleared a path for yourself and then you've gone too far to take advantage of any cover. You might try to walk down the bleachers to the lowest level and then work your way back up on the other side but even then you'll probably find yourself pinned down.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Max's body and especially face received a Hollywood makeover for the second game. YMMV on whether this was a good thing. This got worse for the third game, but once Rockstar showed off what Max looks like in the New York levels plus annoucing that he would look like his VA James McCaffrey, the fanbase calmed down and was fine with his change in looks.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The reason Max isn't in New York in the third game is that he had to skip town after killing the son of crime lord Anthony DeMarco to keep him from attacking a woman. DeMarco put a price on Max's head large enough that every criminal in the state is out to kill him, forcing Max to take up his guns again for the first time in years. His lone ally in this, with everyone from the first two games dead, is Raul, his old buddy from the police academy Max hasn't seen in years. This plot fits the tone and style of the first two games and could have made a good sequel on its own, but it's relegated to a series of Flash Back chapters whose only purpose is to explain why he's now a bodyguard in South America.
Visual Effects of Awesome: Max Payne 2. Remedy had been given a higher budget and access to Rockstar's production resources thanks to the success of the first game, and it shows. The entire engine was given a graphical overhaul, with characters given full facial expressions and more fluid animation while the engine was also upgraded with shaders and greatly improved particle effects. The game managed to do all this a full year before the release of Half-Life 2.
Wangst: Most of Max's inner monologues delve into this in 3. On the one hand, over the years, he's developed a completely justified level of Survivor Guilt. He may be able to singlehandedly kill hundreds of mooks (which, as a former law enforcer, isn't something he'd be proud of to begin with), but not before said mooks have killed everyone he's either cared about or tasked to protect. On the other, he just won't shut up about it, taking every opportunity to mention how much he sucks. In the first two games, he avoided this by snarking and occasionally making light of his situation, but here, his snarks have an overly-caustic undercurrent that only makes it worse. This is actually lampshaded as far as the second game, during Vlad's Villainous Breakdown.
Vlad: What the fuck is wrong with you, Max? Why don't you just die? You hate life, you're miserable all the time, afraid to enjoy yourself even a little! Face it, you might as well be dead already. Do yourself a favor, give up!
What an Idiot!: In the third game, Max bumbles through the plot in a drunken haze and constantly makes stupid decisions that result in more violence and more people getting killed.
Fabiana herself could count. She may be a spoiled, gold digging, rich girl, but nobody diserves the things that happen to her.
Complete Monster: B.B. Hensley is chief of security of the Aesir Corporation and proves himself to be worse than his game counterpart. Near the end of the movie, it was revealed that he was responsible on selling a drug known as Valkyr across New York; Valkyr causes horrible side effects and result in the consumer Driven to Madness. It was also revealed that he killed Max Payne's wife and his infant child by sending 3 junkies to his house, sadistically enjoying murdering them. B.B. is also responsible for the atrocities of Jack Lupino, the former test subject of Valkyr. After Max discovers his secrets, B.B. then tries to drown Max in the river under the pretense that the latter died by a drug-induced suicide in the river.
The Un-Twist: The reveal of B.B. being the bad guy is hardly a surprise to anyone who has played the games, but the film having the death of Max's family only be revealed near the end baffled both fans of the game and movie goers alike, with several critics blasting it as a poor attempt to cover a cliched motivation.
Several felt this way about Mark Wahlberg as Max Payne as he didn't capture the charm of Sam Lake's Max or the hardboiled detective look of Timothy Gibbs. Some felt that Max's voice actor James McCaffrey should have played him here, especially since he already has a cameo in the film as an FBI agent.
In the games, Jim Bravura is a 60-something year old no-nonsense white man. In this movie, he is played by the rapper Ludacris.