Max Payne (video game)

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Max Payne
Developer(s)Remedy Entertainment[a]
Publisher(s)Gathering of Developers[b]
Director(s)Petri Järvilehto
Programmer(s)Markus Stein
Writer(s)Sam Lake
SeriesMax Payne
Genre(s)Third-person shooter

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. Ports created later in the year for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox and a tie-in for the Game Boy Advance were published by Rockstar Games. A Mac OS port was published on 16 July 2002 by MacSoft in North America and Feral Interactive in the rest of the world.[1] There were plans for a Dreamcast version of Max Payne, but they were canceled due to the discontinuation of the console.[2] The game was re-released on 27 April 2009 as a downloadable game in the Xbox Originals program for the Xbox 360.[3] The game was also re-released in 2012 as a downloadable game in the PlayStation Store for the PlayStation 3 under the PS2 classics banner, iOS, Android, and in April 2016 for the PlayStation 4 as a PS2 emulated downloadable game in the PlayStation Store.[4]

The game centers on former NYPD police detective Max Payne, who attempts to solve the murder of his wife and daughter in connection to a drug trafficking case involving a mysterious new designer drug named "Valkyr". While doing so, Max is entangled in a large and complex conspiracy, involving a major pharmaceutical company, various organised crime syndicates, 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,[5][6][7] 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,[8] including the BAFTA Award.[9] As of 2011, the Max Payne series has sold over 7.5 million copies.[10] It 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 Payne's movement is also slowed, the player is still able to and react in real-time, allowing the more time to plan and react during firefights.

Players are initially armed with a 9mm pistol, but as the game progresses, other weapons become accessible, with some weapons able to be dual-wielded for an increase in firepower at the cost of increased ammo consumption. When hurt, Max can replenish health by taking painkillers, which can be found throughout the levels.

The game's AI is dependent on scripted commands: most of the behavior exhibited by enemies (such as taking cover, retreating from the player or throwing grenades) is scripted[citation needed].

Progression through the levels is linear, occasionally incorporating 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 campaign, the game also features the "Dead on Arrival" game mode, which limits the player to only seven saves per chapter, and the "New York Minute" mode, 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 puts the player in a firefight with perpetual bullet time against the "Killer Suit" hitmen seen during the later parts of the game's campaign.


Graphic novel panels are used in place of cutscenes as narration, an element common to neo-noir

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 January 2001, as New York City finishes experiencing the worst blizzard in its history. The intro sequence shows Max Payne (voiced by James McCaffrey), a renegade DEA agent and former NYPD officer, standing at the top of a damaged skyscraper building as police units arrive. He experiences a flashback from three years ago. Back in August 1998, Max returned home in New Jersey to find that a trio of apparent junkies had broken into his house while high on a new designer drug called Valkyr. Max rushed to aid his family but was too late: his wife Michelle (Haviland Morris) and their newborn daughter Rose had already been brutally murdered, sending him into a deep despair. After their funeral, Payne transferred to the DEA.

Three years later, Max is employed as an undercover operative inside the Punchinello Mafia family responsible for the trafficking of Valkyr. His DEA colleague B.B. gives Max a message asking him to meet Alex Balder (Chris Phillips), his handler and best friend, in a subway station at Roscoe Street. Max's arrival at the subway results in a shoot-out after he encounters mobsters working for Jack Lupino, a Mafia underboss in the Punchinello crime family, attempting a bank robbery by breaking through from the station. Working his way back to the surface, Max encounters Alex, who is killed by an unknown assassin. Payne becomes the prime suspect in Alex's murder because he is still undercover to the media and the fact that he fled the crime scene. Additionally, the Mafia find out that he is a cop and want him dead.

While searching for Lupino in businesses owned by him, Max busts a Valkyr drug deal and discovers that the Russian mobster Vladimir Lem is engaged in a fierce turf war against Punchinello's men. While searching, Max gets a phone call from a man named Alfred Woden, stating that the police have been tipped off as to his location, and he escapes. Max eventually finds Vinnie Gognitti, Lupino's right-hand man; he wounds and chases Gognitti through the city and learns the location of Lupino's hideout, a nightclub named Ragna Rock. After gunning down the insane Lupino, Payne meets Mona Sax (Julia Murney), a contract assassin, who pours him a drink which turns out to be laced with a sedative. While sedated and experiencing a nightmare about his deceased family, Max is found by the Mafia and is dragged away to be tortured.

After coming to, Max manages to escape from the Mafia-owned hotel and enters a brief alliance with Lem. He agrees to kill one of Vladimir's traitors, Boris Dime, and his men aboard the cargo ship Charon at the Brooklyn waterfront. The ship is carrying a shipment of high-powered firearms belonging to the Russian mob, which Max keeps in exchange for the favor. Despite this fact, Max is still skeptical about taking down Don Angelo Punchinello, and decides to cut a deal with him; the Don tells Max to meet him at his Mafia restaurant, Casa di Angelo. However, upon entering, he escapes a bomb ambush. Max then uses the Russian weapons to storm the Punchinello manor. There, he finds the body of Lisa Punchinello, the Don's wife and Mona's twin 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 (Jane Gennaro), the ruthless CEO of the Aesir Corporation. Horne injects Max with an overdose of Valkyr, leaves him for dead, and orders her men to take her to 'Cold Steel'. Max overhears this at the last moment before falling unconscious, as he experiences another drug-induced nightmare and suffers internal torment from his feelings of guilt for not being able to save his family.

After surviving the overdose and awakening, Payne 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 following earlier Ladder experiments. The project was sharply halted due to poor results but was later secretly restarted by Horne through Aesir. He discovers that his wife accidentally found out about the project, and Horne let loose the crazed Valkyr test subjects into his house. Aesir initiates 'Operation Dead Eyes' to get rid of evidence and witnesses, including their scientists. Max escapes the bunker at the last moment just as it self destructs.

Max gets a call from B.B., who arranges a meeting at an underground parking lot. At this point, Max has already figured out that it was B.B. who shot Alex and framed him for his murder. The meeting turns out to be an ambush, and a running gun fight commences as Max chases B.B. through the garage. After killing the traitor, Max gets another phone call from Woden asking him to come to the Asgard Building. 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 Horne's identity but cannot pursue her themselves because 'their hands are tied'. They ask Max to kill Horne in exchange for dropping any criminal charges against him. 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. Max fights his way out of the building.

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 mini-gun-armed helicopter. Along the way, he runs into Mona again in an elevator but Horne's men shoot her in the head after she refuses to kill Max, though her body has vanished when Max later returns to the elevator. On the top floor, Max confronts Horne, who escapes to the roof and boards the helicopter. Max shoots the guy wires of the building's antenna which snap off, causing the antenna t crash into the helicopter, killing Horne. The game's storyline comes back to the point where it first started: the NYPD ESU arrives at the scene, arresting Max and leading him out of the Aesir building. Once at the floor level, he notices Woden grinning from a crowd that had formed at the scene, and, knowing that Woden will ensure his safe passage through the judicial system, Max smiles as well.


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 henchman and collapses into an elevator.


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").[11] 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.[6] 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.[12] 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.[13]

Max Payne's standard outfit on display at the Game On exhibition at the Science Museum in London

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".[6] They also found it easier to reorganize the comic panels if the plot needed to be changed while developing the game.[6] 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[14] (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.[15][16]

The first trailer showcasing an early version of the game's story and gameplay was shown at 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.[17] 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.[15]

Game Boy Advance version[edit]

The GBA version of the game was developed in 2003 by Möbius Entertainment (later Rockstar Leeds).[18][19]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 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[edit]

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.[20] 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.[21] A new version 1.3 was released on 18 March 2013 that fixes a bug that prevents users from accessing their cloud saves.[22]

Reception and awards[edit]


In its debut month, sales of Max Payne reached roughly 82,000 copies.[23] It became the United States' 19th-best-selling computer game of 2001,[24] with domestic sales of 300,782 units and revenues of $13.8 million.[25]

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.[26][27]

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) awarded Max Payne's computer version a "Silver" sales award,[28] and its PlayStation 2 version a "Gold" award,[29] indicating respective sales of at least 100,000 and 200,000 copies in the United Kingdom.[30] The game ultimately totaled four million sales.[31]

Critical reviews[edit]

Aggregate score
MetacriticPC: 89/100[32]
PS2: 80/100[33]
XBOX: 89/100[34]
GBA: 78/100[35]
iOS: 75/100[36]
Review scores
AllGamePC: 4.5/5 stars[37]
PS2: 3.5/5 stars[38]
XBOX: 4/5 stars[39]
GamePro4.5/5 stars[40]
Next Generation4/5 stars[45]
TouchArcadeiOS: 5/5 stars[46]
BAFTABest PC Game of 2001[9]
IGNReaders Choice Action Game of the Year,[47] 2001 Readers' Choice Best Story,[48] Best Graphics,[49] Best Sound[50]
GameSpotBest of E3 2000,[51] The Top Games of E3 2001,[52] Readers' Choice Game of 2001,[53] Readers' Choice Single-Player Action Game of 2001,[54] two 2001 Game of the Year nominations [55][56]

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."[37] The review also noted a lack of replay value or multiplayer modes.[37] 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.[43] 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").[57]

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; 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.[8] 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."[47] 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.[58] 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".[59]

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 8.0/10.0, (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."[60][61]

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."[45]

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.[62] In 2007, bit-tech included the game and its sequel on the list of the top five most moddable games.[63] It received two awards from Eurogamer, Best Game Cinematography Award and Best Game Character Award of 2001.[64]

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.[65]

Sequels and film[edit]

A sequel, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, was released in 2003.[66] 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.


  1. ^ Ported to PlayStation 2 by Rockstar Canada, to Xbox by Neo Software, to Mac OS X by Westlake Interactive, to Game Boy Advance by Möbius Entertainment, and to iOS and Android by War Drum Studios.
  2. ^ The PlayStation 2, Xbox, iOS and Android versions were published by Rockstar Games; the Mac OS X version was published by MacSoft in North America and Feral Interactive in Europe.


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External links[edit]