|Publisher(s)||Gathering of Developers (PC)
Rockstar Games (PS2, Xbox, GBA, iOS & Android)
MacSoft (Mac OS)
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
16 July 2002
Game Boy Advance
12 April 2012
14 June 2012
|Distribution||CD-ROM, DVD, cartridge, download|
Max Payne is a third-person shooter video game developed Remedy Entertainment and published by Gathering of Developers on July 2001 for Microsoft Windows. Ports created later in the year for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and the Game Boy Advance were published by Rockstar Games. A Mac OS port was published on July 16, 2002 by MacSoft. There were plans for a Dreamcast version of Max Payne, but they were canceled due to the discontinuation of the console. The game was re-released on April 27, 2009 as a downloadable game in the Xbox Originals program for the Xbox 360. The game was also re-released in the spring of 2012 as a downloadable game in the PlayStation Store for the PlayStation 3 under the PS2 classics banner, iOS and on Android.
The game centers around the NYPD Detective Max Payne, who attempts to avenge the murder of his family. It features a gritty neo-noir style and uses graphic novel panels (with voice-overs) in place of animated cutscenes to narrate the game, as it draws inspiration from hard-boiled detective novels by authors like Mickey Spillane. The game contains many allusions to Norse mythology, particularly the myth of Ragnarök, and several of the names used in the game are those of the Norse gods and mythos. The gameplay is heavily influenced by the Hong Kong action cinema genre, particularly the work of director John Woo, and it was the first game to feature the bullet time effect popularized by The Matrix.
Max Payne received very positive reviews and was praised for its exciting gunplay and use of noir storytelling devices. Critically acclaimed, the game won a large number of accolades, including the BAFTA Award. As of 2011[update], the Max Payne game franchise has sold over 7.5 million copies. It also inspired a feature film under the same title.
Max Payne is a third-person shooter in which the player assumes the role of its titular character, Max Payne. Almost all the gameplay involves bullet time-based gun-fights and levels are generally straightforward, occasionally incorporating platforming and puzzle-solving elements. The game's storyline is advanced by the player following Max's internal monologue as the character determines what his next steps should be. Several of the game's levels involve surrealistic nightmares and drug-related hallucinations of Payne.
Initially, the player's only weapon is a semi-automatic pistol. As the player progresses, access to other firearms is given, including melee and hand-thrown weapons. Some of the game's weapons can be dual wielded. Max regains health by taking painkillers, which the player collects. The game's AI is heavily dependent on pre-scripted commands: most of the apparently intelligent behavior exhibited by enemies (such as taking cover, retreating from the player, or throwing grenades) actually is pre-scripted.
The gameplay of Max Payne revolves around bullet time, a form of slow motion — when triggered, the passage of time is slowed down to such extent that the movements of bullets can be seen by the naked eye and enables Max to perform special moves. Although Payne's movement is also slowed, the player is still able to position the aiming reticle and react in real time, providing an advantage over enemies. Occasionally, when the last character of an enemy group is killed, the viewpoint switches to a third-person view circling a falling body. Likewise, the camera may follow the path of a bullet fired from a sniper rifle.
The "Dead on Arrival" game mode limits the player to only seven saves per chapter, and the "New York Minute" mode forces the player to complete each chapter before the allotted time — replenished by killing enemies — is exhausted. Upon completing the game on "Dead on Arrival", the player unlocks "The Last Challenge" ("End Combat" or "Final Battle" in the different versions), featuring a fight in perpetual bullet time against the "Killer Suit" hitmen.
In December 2001, as New York City finishes experiencing the worst snow blizzard in the history of the city, Max Payne, a renegade DEA agent and former NYPD detective, is standing at the top of a skyscraper building with a sniper rifle in his hands, smiling, as police units arrive on the scene to arrest him. He then experiences flashbacks from three years ago and the last two days he experienced.
3 years earlier, on August 22nd 1998, Max was working as a regular NYPD detective, having just finished his day's work. His longtime friend and DEA agent, Alex Balder, invites him to transfer into the DEA, but Max declines the offer, wanting to focus on his full-time life with his wife, Michelle, and their newborn daughter, Rose. As he returns to his house in New Jersey, he finds that a trio of junkies had broken into his house, all addicted on a brand new designer drug, Valkyr. Max rushes to aid his family and kill the junkies, but is too late as he finds his wife shot dead, and his daughter slaughtered. After his family's funeral, Payne accepts Alex's offer, and transfers to the DEA at his own request to stop the spreading of the drugs.
In present day, two days before the snowstorm in New York will end, Max Payne is employed as an undercover operative inside the Punchinello Mafia family, under the ruthless Don Angelo Punchinello, who is responsible for the trafficking of Valkyr. His DEA colleague and one of two contacts besides Alex, B.B. Hensley, gives Max a message asking him to meet Alex at the NYC Rosco Subway station. Max arrives at the station only to find mobsters working for Jack Lupino, a Mafia underboss in the Punchinello crime family and Punchinello's subordinate, attempting a bank robbery by breaking through from the station, where he finds amongst much of the valuables, corporate bonds for the Aesir Corporation, a mysterious conglomerate corporation and New York's wealthiest company. As he searches the vault for answers, he hears the voice of Deputy Chief Jim Bravura, who wants the criminals to surrender. With no choice, Max makes his way back Rosco station to escape, encountering Alex, who tells him that there is a mole in the Punchinello family and that he has been exposed. Before Alex can inform Max of anything further, he is killed by an unknown assassin. Payne realises he will becomes the prime suspect in the murder because he is still undercover and so leaves before the police arrive.
Left with no choices on what to do, he goes to a Lupino-owned motel, where he meets with the Finito Brothers, subordinate of Vinnie Gognitti, a high-ranked Capo and Jack Lupino's right-hand man, where they acknowledge him that they have been informed that he is a cop, and as such, he is forced to kill them after he is attacked. Making his way out of the motel, which is in secret a pimp club, he finds the diary of Candy Dawn, which details how she is sending video tapes of her having sex with a mysterious "one-eyed Alfred" to an anonymous buyer, intended for blackmail. In there, he also finds Rico Muerte, a former ruthless professional hitman from Chicago, who is now a pimp and works for Punchinello, and also Candy, who attempt to kill him but are killed instead. In the bar, Max learns where Gognitti is, the only one to know where Lupino is hiding, and leaves to find him. While searching for Gognitti in a block of tenements, Max discovers that the Russian mobster, named Vladimir Lem, is currently engaged in a fierce turf war against Punchinello's men, blowing up Lupino's apartment and leaving the scene. Finding Gognitti in his own apartment, he chases Gognitti after wounding him, through the city and the subway, before eventually learning about the location of Lupino's hideout, a nightclub named Ragna Rock. Arriving at Ragna Rok, he finds out that Lupino has gone insane from the drugs and now has become an antichrist who calls the Devils from different mythologies to worship him as a "messenger of Hell", and has been sacrificing his victims to create a "message" to the Devil. After gunning him and his men down he encounters Mona Sax, a mysterious female contract killer and twin sister of Lisa Punchinello, the Don's wife, who pours him a drink when they agree to work together, only to find out that it was laced with a sedative, which knocks him out, with Mona telling him that although they both want to kill the Don, she cannot let him harm her sister.
Being drugged, Max has a dream about the day when his family was killed. He wakes up and realizes that he has been kidnapped by the mob, who stormed Lupino's club and took Muerte's body, where he finds himself being tortured by Frank "The Bat" Niagara, one of the Don's Soldatos and his personal hitman. He also leans that Mona had been captured after a failed attempt on the Don's life and is being tortured by the Trio, the Don's elite assassins. After escaping and finding Frank, who is having a drink, Max kills him and the rest of his men. As he leaves the bar he'd been held at, he is cornered by Vladimir Lem, who tells him that they are both after the Don, and they both enter a brief alliance. Max agrees to kill one of Vladimir's former subordinates, Boris Dime, who is now working with Punchinello, and his men, aboard Lem's cargo ship Charon at the Brooklyn riverfront. He finds the ship is being offloaded of a shipment of high-powered firearms belonging to the Russian mob, where in one finds in one of the containers a sniper rifle, a suitcase full of cash, and a letter for Muerte, with the only word being "Mayor", realizing that he was going to assassinate the NY mayor. After killing Dime and seizing the weapons for himself, he informs Punchinello about Dime's death and the seizure of the guns, and arranges a meeting in Don's restaurant, but hides when the place is bombed, before killing the rest of Punchinello's men. Using the new-found Russian mob's weapons, Max storm the residence of Punchinello, where he fights and kills the Trio. However, while inside, he finds the body of Lisa Punchinello, Mona's sister, and discovers that the Don is only a puppet in the Valkyr market when the mafioso is killed in front of Payne by agents of Nicole Horne, the CEO of the Aesir Corporation. Horne then injects Max with an overdose of Valkyr and leaves him for dead, as he experiences a drug-induced nightmare and suffers his internal torment and guilt for not being able to save his family (as well as strange letters allegedly written by his deceased wife telling him that he is a character in a video game).
After surviving the drugging, Max pursues his only lead to a steel foundry located over a hidden underground military research complex. Inside, he discovers that Valkyr is the result of the Valhalla Project, an early 1990s U.S. military attempt to improve soldiers' stamina and morale. The project created an upgraded version of a drug named The Ladder created during the Vietnam War, but the project was sharply halted due to poor results and the test subjects being unstable, but Horne, who was the leading expert of the Valhalla Project, was against it. She became the CEO of Aesir Corporation, using it as a front for producing more of Valkyr. Max also discovers that his wife had accidentally found out about the project as the information had been released to her, forcing Horne to let loose the crazed Valkyr test subjects into the Payne residence to kill her. Aesir, realising Max is stumbling onto the truth, initiates "Operation Dead Eyes" to get rid of evidence and witnesses, including their own scientists. Max escapes the bunker at the last moment just as it self-destructs. Soon enough, Max then gets a call from B.B., who is concerned about Max's role in Alex's death and wants to clear his name, and arranges a meeting at a parking lot where Max confronts him. B.B. eventually admits he took a bribe from Nicole Horne to get rid of Alex and Max in order to ensure Aesir corporation and the activity of the company couldn't be tracked. A running gunfight then commences as Max chases him through the garage to the point that he kills the traitor. Shortly after the fight, Max gets a phone call from a man named Alfred Woden, a man he had spoke to before, asking him to come to the Asgard Building.
Arriving, Alfred reveals himself to be part of a powerful secret society called the Inner Circle, which has strong ties to the U.S. government. The Inner Circle members inform Max about Nicole Horne's identity but cannot pursue her themselves because "their hands are tied". When Max asks why, he realizes that Woden was frequenting Lupino's pimp club, and that Candy was videotaping him and sending the "one-eyed Alfred" tapes to Horne to blackmail Woden into silence in exchange for the money, and that Muerte was hired by Horne to assassinate the NY mayor to allow Horne full control over New York City. Max agrees to kill Horne, in exchange for any criminal charges against him being dropped. Suddenly, Asgard is overrun by Aesir gunmen who kill everyone in the meeting room except for Max, who escapes, and Woden, who pretends to be shot to deceive the assailants. Surviving the attack, Max arrives at the main office of Aesir Corporation and makes his way through the high-tech security building while avoiding strafing runs by a minigun-armed helicopter. Along the way he runs into Mona again while heading up in an elevator, where she reveals that she had been hired by Horne to assassinate both Punchinello and Max, but is shot in the head become she can reveal any more. Her body mysteriously vanishes from the elevator she was in, afterwards. At the top, Max finally confronts Nicole, who escapes to the roof and boards the helicopter to escape, but Max shoots the guy wires of the building's antenna, which snaps off and crashes into the helicopter, killing Horne.
At this point, the flashback is over, as Payne's three-night rampage is over. The NYPD ESU arrives at the scene, arresting Max and leading him out of the Aesir building, where he sees Alfred Woden standing on the street. Knowing that Woden will ensure his safe passage through the judicial system, Max smiles genuinely, satisfied with avenging his family. Woden himself smiles, satisfied that Nicole Horne has been stopped as the snow storm in the story ceases.
Most of the elements in the game are named for figures from Norse mythology. In Max Payne, the Valkyr drug is a military performance enhancer that turns its users into adrenaline-charged killers who experience hallucinatory images of death. The valkyries of Norse mythology were warrior-women who watched over battlefields, the "choosers of the slain" who took those who died with valor. In the game, Project Valhalla is the government conspiracy that developed Valkyr to enhance the combat effectiveness of U.S. soldiers and secretly tested it during the Gulf War of 1991. In Norse mythology, Valhalla was the afterlife of those selected by the valkyries: those who populated Valhalla would fight for the Norse gods in their wars. The computer network in the Valhalla base is named Yggdrasil, referring to the tree that connected the nine worlds in Norse cosmology.
The Aesir Corporation, mentioned frequently in the game and the primary source of the Valkyr drug, is named for the primary pantheon of Norse gods, the Æsir. The head of the Aesir Corporation is named Nicole Horne; in the myths, the Gjallarhorn was sounded to announce the start of Ragnarök, the Norse apocalypse, a battle between the Æsir and the giants that results in the death of many deities and the rebirth of the world (Jack Lupino's gothic nightclub named Ragna Rock is a play on the word "Ragnarök"). The great snowstorm that takes place during the events of the game is a reference to the Fimbulvetr, an epic winter that precedes Ragnarök.
Alfred Woden's surname refers to Wōden, the Anglo-Saxon version of Odin, a major god of the Norse pantheon (his eyepatch also references Odin, who sacrificed his eye for wisdom and knowledge). Max meets him and the Inner Circle in the Asgard Building: Asgard is the Norse realm in which the gods live. In the game, DEA agent Alex Balder was shot by his partner B.B. In Norse mythology, Balder was killed when a sprig or arrow of mistletoe was shot or thrown into his chest, and his death was set up by Loki, god of chaos and deception, just as B.B. deceived Alex and Max. Max's own bullet time abilities seem to mirror these of the berserkers, Norse Viking warriors who drove themselves into such a frenzy when they entered battle that they seemed superhuman-strong, fast, untiring, and unable to feel pain (theme of Payne's necklace is a Viking longship).
Remedy Entertainment developed an idea of a "3rd person action game" in late 1996, after completing Death Rally (their first game), inspired first by Loaded and then by the success of Tomb Raider (although determined to avoid its "horrid camera system"). According to the game's story and script writer Sam Lake, for him "the starting point was this archetype of the private eye, the hard-boiled cop" that would be used in a game with a "deeper, more psychological" story. A game prototype and design document of the project, with the working titles Dark Justice and Max Heat (a wordplay on this is a TV show called Dick Justice and a porn film Max Heat, both featured in Max Payne 2), were soon created and shown to 3D Realms, who signed a development deal and production began. In 1999 the designers traveled from Finland to New York to research the city, accompanied by two ex-NYPD bodyguards, to get ideas for environments and take thousands of photographs for mapping.
For cutscenes, the developers found comic panels (with voice-overs) to be more effective and less costly to use in the than fully animated cinematics, noting that comic panels forced the player to interpret each panel for themselves and "the nuances are there in the head of the reader [...] it would be much harder to reach that level with in-game or even pre-rendered cinematics," and also found it easier to reorganize the comic panels if the plot needed to be changed while developing the game. The in-game engine is used for some cutscenes involving action sequences. The music for the game was composed by Kärtsy Hatakka.
Remedy used their own game engine, which they dubbed MaxFX (or MAX-FX, in development since early 1997). The only games that used this engine were Max Payne and its sequel, while a MaxFX level editor was also included in the release. MAX-FX was licensed to Futuremark who used it for their 3DMark benchmark series with the last one being 3DMark2001 Second Edition.
The first trailer showcasing an early version of the game's story and gameplay was shown at 1998 E3, gaining great interest due to its innovative content and effects (especially the MaxFX's 3D particle-based system for smoke and muzzle flashes), although 3D Realms producers later claimed they deliberately avoided overhyping the game. Max Payne was originally scheduled to be released in the summer of 1999, however it was repeatedly delayed and got heavily revamped in 2000 (in particular the game's graphics were improved to feature much more realistic textures and lighting, while the multiplayer mode was dropped). The game was eventually released for Windows on July 23, 2001.
Max Payne was actually in development before the release of the The Matrix (1999), and slow-motion was a major gameplay element from the beginning, nonetheless the game has been perceived to have been greatly influenced by film as it adopted the bullet time effect for that gameplay mechanic. As a result of the inevitable comparisons to The Matrix, the designers have included several homages to the film in order to capitalize on the hype (for instance, the detonation of the subway tunnel door to gain access to the bank vault is similar to the cartwheeling elevator door in the movie, while the introduction "Nothing to Lose" level is similar to the lobby shootout scene in the film). Futuremark, which licensed the MAX-FX graphics for their 3DMark benchmark series, included a Matrix-like lobby shootout as a game test in the 2001 edition.
Game Boy Advance version
The GBA version of the game was developed in 2003 by Mobius Entertainment Ltd (later Rockstar Leeds). Since it was developed on a far less powerful platform, this version differs greatly from the PC versions and its Xbox and PlayStation 2 ports: instead of a 3D shooter, the game is based on sprite graphics and is shown from an isometric perspective. However, the gameplay features have remained very similar to the original, aside of the perspective change, including the use of polygonal graphics for the characters. The story also remained the same as in PC and console versions, though some levels from the original are omitted, and the game still features quite a large part of the original's graphic novel sections, complete with some of the voice-overs.
Max Payne Mobile
On April 6, 2012, Max Payne was announced for Android and iOS titled as Max Payne Mobile which is a port of the PC version of the original Max Payne. The game was released for iOS on April 13, 2012, while the Android version was delayed until June 14, 2012. No major changes were made to the game apart from the HD overhaul. A new version 1.3 was released in March 18, 2013 that fixes a bug that prevents users to access their cloud saves.
Reception and awards
Max Payne was released to universal acclaim, especially the PC version. The game won many annual awards for the year 2001, including Best PC Game by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts; Golden Joystick Award by Dennis Publishing; Visitors Award Best PC Game at the European Computer Trade Show; Best Game of 2001, Best Graphics in a PC Game, and Best PC Action Game by The Electric Playground; Readers Choice Best Game and Best PC Game by Pelit; Computer Game of the Year by The Augusta Chronicle; Best PC Game of 2001 by Amazon.com; PC Game of the Year by Shacknews and by Gamezone; The Best of 2001 - PC and Editor's Choice by Game Revolution; Reader's Choice Game, Best Single Player Action Game, and Best Xbox Game by GameSpot; Readers' Choice Game of the Year, Best Storyline, Best Graphics and Best of Use of Sound, and Best Adventure Game (Xbox) and Editor's Choice by IGN; Gamers Choice Award (Xbox) by Games Domain; Best Gimmick by GameSpy (runner-up in the Best Ingame Cinematics and Best Movie Trailer categories); and Editor's Choice and Best Innovation Destined for Overuse by Computer Gaming World. The staff of IGN wrote: "This game garnered so many votes from the readers that we almost decided to create a new Best Max Payne Game of 2001 category." The site also called it the 96th best PlayStation 2 game. They claimed that gamers thought of Max Payne instead of The Matrix when they thought of bullet time.
Common criticism usually centered on Max Payne's lack of replay value, as there is no multiplayer, and the linear story mode due to the level design and pre-scripted enemy behavior that provides 10–15 hours of gameplay. While the graphics were generally praised for high-resolution textures, the character models lacked animated facial expressions (IGN criticized the titular character's "grimace on his face that makes him look constipated").
The PlayStation 2 version suffered from reduced detail and occasional slowdowns, as the game stressed the limits of the console's power. In addition, the levels were broken up into smaller parts so it would not tax the PlayStation 2's 32 MB of RAM, which according to IGN caused "heavy disruption to the flow and tension of the story". Otherwise it was a faithful port that retained all of the content from the PC original. GameSpot awarded it an 8.0/10.0, compared to the 9.2 ratings awarded to the PC and Xbox versions), saying "If you can't play this intense, original action game on any platform except the PS2, then that's where you should play it--but only by default".
An early version of Max Payne was also a runner-up for the Best of Show award at the E3 in 1998. The finished game received several Game of the Month-type awards in various video game outlets (and a Seal of Excellence at Adrenaline Vault), and was included in the 2005 list of 50 best games of all time, as well as in the 2011 list of 100 top PC games of all time. In 2007, bit-tech included the game and its sequel on the list of the top five most moddable games. It received two awards from Eurogamer, Best Game Cinematography Award and Best Game Character Award of 2001.
Max Payne Mobile received mixed to positive reviews. Some praised the HD graphics overhaul, although pointed out the game's age and the issues with the touchscreen controls.
Sequel and film
A sequel, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, was released in 2003. The third game, Max Payne 3 developed by Rockstar Games, was released in 2012. Max Payne, a film loosely based on the video game, was released in 2008, starring Mark Wahlberg as Max and Mila Kunis as Mona.
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