Gathering of Developers
PlayStation 2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, iOS & Android
|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 action thriller video game developed by 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 in North America and Feral Interactive in the rest of the world. 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 on 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 one the first games 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. 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 is enduring the tail end of the worst 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 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.
Three years earlier, on August 22, 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, also telling Alex he quit smoking for the sake of his daughter. 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 receives a call from a mysterious woman who seems pleased at the trouble in the house and refuses to call for help. 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 spread of the drug.
In the present day, Max is now an undercover operative inside the Punchinello Mafia crime family, under the ruthless Don Angelo Punchinello, who is responsible for the trafficking of a new drug by the name Valkyr. B.B. Hensley (DEA Administration Agent) and Alex Balder are the only contacts who are aware of Max's position undercover. B.B. Hensley gives Max a message asking him to meet Alex at the Roscoe Street 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 old closed adjoining station.
Once the mobsters are dealt with, Max finds amongst much of the valuables, corporate bonds for the Aesir Corporation, a mysterious conglomerate corporation and New York's wealthiest company. The police arrive at the scene with Deputy Chief Jim Bravura making a call for the criminals to cease and surrender. Max fleas before he can be placed at the scene of the bank robbery. Returning to the station he encounters Alex, who begins to reveal information about Lupino, before Alex can inform Max of anything he is killed by an unknown assassin.
Max believes his undercover operation is blown, assuming Jack Lupino ordered the hit on Alex and tried to pin the murder along with the robbery on Max. Playing it cool Max proceeds to a hotel owned by Lupino where he meets with the Finito Brothers, subordinates of Vinnie Gognitti, a high-ranked Capo and Jack Lupino's right-hand man. The brothers confirm that they have been informed that Max is a cop, and as such attack Max. Once they are dead Max finds evidence for a drug deal within the hotel. Rico Muerte, a ruthless professional hitman from Chicago, is overseeing the deal. Payne is forced to fight his way out of the sleazy hotel, which is secretly a brothel. He finds the diary of a prostitute named Candy Dawn, which details how she is secretly sending video tapes of her having sex with a man she calls "one-eyed Alfred", to an anonymous buyer intended for blackmail. On TV Max learns that Alex Balder's body has been found by the police and the Max Payne is pined as the prime suspect. In the hotel bar Max finds Rico Muerte, along with Candy Dawn who was just performing fellatio on Muerte. They both attempt to kill Max but are killed instead. Upon leaving, the hotel becomes ignited in flames as a bomb destroys the building. Max sees a black Mercedes Bends and recognizes the passenger as Vladimir Lem, head of the local Russian Mafia and a bitter rival to Punchinello's business.
Max continues his search for Jack Lupino within Lupino's block of tenements. Upon arriving another bomb explodes within the building with Jack Lupino's suite at the top floor. Max receives a phone call within the entrance hall, a mysterious man who introduces himself as Alfred Woden, who informs him that the police know Max is there and that he needs to get out quick. At that point the police arrive with Deputy Chief Jim Bravura now calling for Max Payne to surrender himself to them. Max continues his rampage against the mob within the local buildings, he finds Vinnie Gognitti cowering in his own apartment. Payne shoots Gognitti injuring him, whith that Vinnie sets his personal henchmen onto Max. After killing them, Payne reads a note and learns that Jack Lupino has become unstable, a psycho, killing his men for fun and scaring off business. Max continues to chase Gognitti through the city and on the subway, before eventually arriving at a nightclub named Ragna Rock (the end of the world). He spares Gognitti's life.
Within Ragna Rock, Max discovers that Jack Lupino has indeed gone insane, from the overdosing of Valkyr and now believes he is the 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. Don Angelo Punchinello has threatened to have the Trio (the Don's elite assassins) to deal with Jack if he doesn't shape up. After gunning down Jack and his men, he encounters Mona Sax, a mysterious female contract killer and twin sister of Lisa Punchinello, the Don's wife. Mona informs Max how it is obvious that in his state Jack Lupino couldn't have been the one to frame Max with the murder of Alex Balder. She reveals that she was on a personal contract to kill Jack, a sadistic wife-beater. Mona suggests they work together to take down Don Angelo Punchinello. Payne agrees and Mona pours him them a drink, Max jokes about getting slipped a mickey only to find out he is and falls to the ground knocked out. Mona tells him that its nothing personal, just that she cannot risk her sister Lisa getting killed if Max goes Berserk.
Being drugged, Max has a nightmare about the day when his family was killed. He wakes up and realizes that he has been kidnapped by the mob. He finds himself being tortured by Frankie "The Bat" Niagara, one of the Don's soldatos and his personal hitman. After a severe beating, Frankie leaves to get a drink and to allow Max time to reconsider his attitude. Max manages to escape and learns that he is been held at the hotel where he found the Finito brothers — and that all the cops who responded to his earlier gunfight with the mobsters have been killed. He also learns 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, at the Don's mansion. Max finds Frankie, who is having a drink in the same bar where Max killed Rico Muerte. Max proceeds to kill him and the rest of his men. As he leaves the bar he is cornered by Vladimir Lem, who tells him that they are both after the Don, and they 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. While fighting his way through the port, Max stumbles upon a sniper rifle, a suitcase full of cash, and a letter intended for Rico Muerte, with the only word being "Mayor", in one of the containers. Max realizes that Muerte was going to assassinate the Mayor of New York City. He finds the ship's cargo (high-powered firearms) is being offloaded. They belonging to the Russian mob, and as payment for killing Dime, Lem allows Max as many weapons as he can carry. 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 the Don's restaurant.
Max makes his way to the Don's restaurant, but the place is bombed. Max makes his escape while killing the rest of Punchinello's men. Using the new-found Russian mob's weapons, Max storms the Punchinello manor, 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 receiving strange letters and phone calls. Both are allegedly from 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: however, 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 (Horne was the mysterious voice on the phone the day Max's family was killed). Horne, 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 that Aesir's activities couldn't be tracked, even admitting to being the one who killed Alex in the subway. 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 another call from Alfred Woden, who had spoken to him before, asking Max 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" (i.e. they have been blackmailed. It is also hinted that Woden is the one who orchestrated Max's wife finding the documents relating to the project). When Max asks why the Inner Circle can't pursue Nicole Horne, he realizes that Woden was frequenting Lupino's pimp club, and that he is the "one-eyed Alfred" Candy referred to and that she had sent the videotapes to Horne to blackmail Woden into silence in exchange for the money, and that Muerte was hired by Horne to assassinate the 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 before 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 great critical acclaim. 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.
- Alan Wake
- Conspiracy fiction
- Gulf War syndrome
- List of fictional portrayals of the NYPD
- List of third-person shooters
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