Max Payne (video game)
|Publisher(s)||Gathering of Developers[b]|
Max Payne is a third-person shooter video game developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Gathering of Developers in July 2001 for Microsoft Windows, and by MacSoft and Feral Interactive in July 2002 for Mac OS. Ports for PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2001, an adaptation for Game Boy Advance in 2003, and mobile versions for iOS and Android in 2012, were released by Rockstar Games. A Dreamcast version of the game was also planned, but got canceled due to the discontinuation of the console. Max Payne was also made available on Xbox 360 as part of Xbox Originals program in 2009, on PlayStation 3 as a PS2 Classic in 2012, on PlayStation 4 in 2016, and on Xbox One in 2021, due to consoles' respective backward compatibility and emulation features.
The game centers on former NYPD detective Max Payne, who attempts to solve the murder of his family while investigating a drug trafficking case involving a mysterious new designer drug called "Valkyr". While doing so, Max becomes entangled in a large and complex conspiracy, involving a major pharmaceutical company, organized crime, a secret society, and the U.S. military. It features a gritty neo-noir style and uses graphic novel panels (with voice-overs) as the primary means of telling the game's story, drawing 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 allusions to Norse mythology. The gameplay is heavily influenced by the Hong Kong action cinema genre, particularly the work of director John Woo, and it was one of 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, with some citing it as one of the best video games ever made. The game won a large number of accolades upon its release, including the BAFTA Award. Its success launched the Max Payne franchise, starting with Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne in 2003. The games later inspired a feature film of the same name.
The player assumes the role of the titular character, with gameplay revolving around the use of the bullet time mechanic during firefights – when triggered, time is slowed down to such an extent that the speed at which bullets and other projectiles move is slow enough to be seen by the naked eye. Although Max's movement is also slowed, the player is still able to move and react in real-time, allowing them more time to plan and react to enemies.
Players are initially armed with a 9mm Beretta pistol, but as the game progresses, other weapons become available, with Max able to dual-wield some weapons for an increase in firepower at the cost of higher ammo consumption. When hurt, Max can replenish health by taking painkillers, which can be found in medical cabinets, lying around in levels, or taken from slain enemies.
Progression through the levels is linear, occasionally incorporating small platforming and puzzle-solving elements. The game's storyline is often advanced in-game by the player following Max's internal monologue as the character determines what his next steps should be, breaking between – and sometimes within – levels in order to deliver larger story beats via graphic novel-styled interludes.
In addition to the standard game difficulty, "Fugitive", the game also features "Hard-Boiled", which increases damage taken while limiting health and ammo supplies; "Dead on Arrival", which limits the player to only seven saves per chapter; and "New York Minute", which forces the player to complete each chapter within an allotted time. Upon completing the game on "Dead on Arrival", the player unlocks "The Last Challenge" (also known as "End Combat" or "Final Battle" in other releases), which gives the player a select amount of painkillers, weapons, and ammunition, and puts them in a firefight with perpetual bullet time against the "Killer Suit" hitmen seen during the later parts of the game's campaign.
This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (November 2020)
The story is told in medias res, and consists of three volumes: "The American Dream", "A Cold Day in Hell", and "A Bit Closer to Heaven". The game begins in 2001, as New York City finishes experiencing the worst blizzard in its history. Max Payne (voiced by James McCaffrey) is seen standing at the top of a damaged skyscraper as police units arrive. He experiences a flashback to three years prior, when he came home to find his wife Michelle (Haviland Morris) and their newborn daughter Rose murdered by armed junkies, who were high on a new designer drug called Valkyr. After their funeral, a distraught Max left the NYPD and accepted an offer to join the DEA.
Three years later, Max is employed as an undercover operative inside the Punchinello Mafia family, which controls the trafficking of Valkyr. His DEA colleague, B.B. (Adam Grupper), arranges a meeting between Max and his friend and former handler, Alex Balder (Chris Phillips), in a subway station. Max accidentally gets in a shootout with mobsters working for Punchinello underboss Jack Lupino (Jeff Gurner), who are staging a bank robbery through an abandoned part of the subway. He eventually runs into Alex, only to witness him being killed by an assassin. Max becomes the prime suspect in Alex's murder, and is hunted by both the police and his former mob associates, who now know he is a cop.
While searching for Lupino, Max breaks up a Valkyr drug deal and discovers that Russian mobster Vladimir Lem (Dominic Hawksley) has started a war with the Punchinello family. After capturing Vinnie Gognitti (Joe Dallo), Lupino's right-hand man, Max interrogates him and learns Lupino is at his nightclub. Max eventually kills Lupino, and runs into Mona Sax (Julia Murney), a contract assassin and the sister-in-law of Don Angelo Punchinello (Joe Ragno). Mona, seeking revenge against Punchinello and not wanting Max to get in her way, gives him a drink laced with Valkyr. While experiencing a nightmare of the night his family was killed, Max is found by mobsters and taken away to be tortured, but manages to escape.
Max forms a partnership with Lem, who gives him a tip about a cargo ship at the Brooklyn waterfront carrying high-powered firearms, which some of Lem's former henchmen intend to sell to Punchinello. After securing the weapons, Max attempts to lure the Don into a trap, but Max himself gets ambushed at the Don's restaurant. Surviving, Max storms Punchinello's manor and confronts the Don, but discovers that he is only a puppet in a bigger conspiracy. The manor is then overrun by mercenaries working for pharmaceutical company Aesir, who kill Punchinello and leave Max for dead after injecting him with an overdose of Valkyr and setting the manor on fire.
After experiencing another drug-induced nightmare, Max escapes from the manor, and heads to an old steel foundry where the soldiers are regrouping. There, he finds a hidden underground military research complex, and discovers that Valkyr is the result of the "Valhalla Project", a Gulf War-era military experiment to improve soldiers' stamina and morale through chemical enhancements. The project was halted after a few years due to poor results, but was later secretly restarted by Nicole Horne (Jane Gennaro) through Aesir; when Michelle accidentally found out about Aesir's illegal experiments, Horne ordered her death. Max escapes from the bunker after Aesir initiates a self-destruct protocol to get rid of the evidence and witnesses, including their own men.
Later, Max, having figured out that B.B. is on Horne's payroll and killed Alex, agrees to meet him at a parking lot complex, where he kills him and his men. He is then called to meet a secret society known as the Inner Circle, who have been observing him. Their leader, Alfred Woden (John Randolph Jones), reveals that Horne was once a member, and asks Max to kill her in exchange for dealing with the charges against him. The meeting is then ambushed by Horne's men, but both Max and Woden survive. After escaping the attack, Max arrives at Aesir's headquarters and fights his way to the top. Along the way, he runs into Mona again, who has been hired by Horne to kill him; she refuses to do so and is shot, but survives and vanishes. Eventually, Max confronts Horne, who attempts to flee in her helicopter, but Max severs the guy wires of the building's antenna, causing it to crash into the helicopter and kill Horne. The game then returns to the opening scene: the NYPD storms the Aesir building and arrests Max. As he is taken into custody, he notices Woden among the crowd formed at the scene, and smiles, knowing that Woden will ensure his protection.
- Max Payne
Max Payne (voiced by James McCaffrey) is a fugitive DEA agent and former NYPD detective whose wife Michelle and newborn daughter were killed in connection with the Valkyr drug case. Max then goes undercover in the mob and eventually becomes a one-man-army vigilante, waging a personal war on crime. Max ends up killing hundreds of gangsters and conspiracy enforcers while on the run from the police determined to stop his vendetta against all those responsible for his family's death. He uses metaphors and wordplay to describe the world around him within his inner monologues, which often contradict his external responses to characters he speaks with. The game presents the story as retold by Max from his point of view.
- Mona Sax
Mona Sax (voiced by Julia Murney): The twin sister of Lisa Punchinello and a contract killer, Mona is the femme fatale of the game. She has a grudge against her sister Lisa's abusive husband, Mafia boss Angelo Punchinello, whom she desires to kill. After Punchinello is killed, she sides with Nicole Horne, who hires her to kill Max. Finding herself unable to do so, she is shot in the head by Horne's henchmen and collapses into an elevator, though she survives and vanishes.
Remedy Entertainment developed an idea of a "third-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 scriptwriter 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 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". They 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 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 the 1998 E3, attracting considerable 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 initially 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 23 July 2001.
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 Möbius Entertainment (later Rockstar Leeds). Since it was developed on a far less powerful platform, this version differs significantly 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 other gameplay features have remained very similar to the original, including the use of polygonal graphics for the characters. The story also remained the same as in the PC and console versions, though some levels from the original are omitted, and the game still features many of the original's graphic novel sections, complete with some of the voice-overs. The music was composed by Tom Kingsley.
Max Payne Mobile
On 6 April 2012, Max Payne was announced for Android and iOS, titled Max Payne Mobile, a port of the PC version of the original Max Payne. The game was released for iOS on 13 April 2012, while the Android version was delayed until 14 June 2012. No major changes were made to the game apart from the HD overhaul. A new version 1.3 was released on 18 March 2013 that fixes a bug that prevents users from accessing their cloud saves.
Reception and awards
In its debut month, sales of Max Payne reached roughly 82,000 copies. It became the United States' 19th-best-selling computer game of 2001, with domestic sales of 300,782 units and revenues of $13.8 million.
In the United States, Max Payne's computer and PlayStation 2 versions respectively sold 430,000 copies ($16.9 million in revenue) and 1.6 million copies ($56 million in revenue) by 2006. According to Edge and Next Generation, this made Max Payne the country's 33rd-highest-selling computer game released between 2000 and 2006, and the 26th-highest-selling game launched for the PlayStation 2, Xbox or GameCube between those dates.
The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) awarded Max Payne's computer version a "Silver" sales award, and its PlayStation 2 version a "Gold" award, indicating respective sales of at least 100,000 and 200,000 copies in the United Kingdom. The game ultimately totaled four million sales.
|BAFTA||Best PC Game of 2001|
|IGN||Readers Choice Action Game of the Year, 2001 Readers' Choice Best Story, Best Graphics, Best Sound|
|GameSpot||Best of E3 2000, The Top Games of E3 2001, Readers' Choice Game of 2001, Readers' Choice Single-Player Action Game of 2001, two 2001 Game of the Year nominations |
Max Payne was released to very positive reviews. AllGame praised the game's atmosphere, level and sound design while noting that the "story is, at times, predictable and full of clichés" and that "Unlike Half-Life, where the action is integrated perfectly with its simplistic, yet appropriate story, Max Payne frequently yanks you out of the game and forces you to look at a badly-drawn in-game 'graphic novel' and listen to mediocre dialogue." The review also noted a lack of replay value or multiplayer modes. In a mixed review, Edge praised Max Payne for successfully integrating the bullet time mechanic into its core but criticized its linear and shallow level design. 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 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 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. PC Gamer US presented Max Payne with its 2001 "Best Action Game" and "Best Graphics" awards and the editors summarized the game as "spine-chilling, exhilarating, and surreal". GameSpot named Max Payne's Xbox version the sixth-best console game of 2001. It was a runner-up in the publication's annual "Best Xbox Game" and, among console games, "Best Story" and "Best Shooting Game" award categories.
The PlayStation 2 version suffered from reduced detail and occasional slowdowns, as the game stressed the limits of the console's power. Also, 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, (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."
Jeff Lundrigan reviewed the PC version of the game for Next Generation, rating it four stars out of five, and stated that "Max Payne is not perfect. On the other hand, we can think of few games, ever, that were such a blast to play, so neatly captured the essence of what they set out to simulate, or were just so over-the-top cool."
An early version of Max Payne was also a runner-up for the Best of Show award at 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.
A sequel, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, was released in 2003. The third game, Max Payne 3, was developed by Rockstar Games and 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.
- Ported to PlayStation 2 by Rockstar Canada, to Xbox by Neo Software, to Mac OS X by Westlake Interactive, and to iOS and Android by War Drum Studios. Game Boy Advance adaptation developed by Möbius Entertainment.
- PlayStation 2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, iOS and Android versions published by Rockstar Games; Mac OS X version published by MacSoft in North America and Feral Interactive in Europe.
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