It’s a hot summers day in ye old England, for me, it’s still a cold, dark, unforgiving world, the criminals still thrive in the city…NOT ALL OF THEM ARE BLACK, I DON’T WIELD A KNIFE, IT’S AN UNSHARPENED PENCIL…
Ok, I’m going to stop before I go too far, so let’s talk about the Hong Kong cop movies, the ones with the slow motion gun fights…I don’t really know now considering I’ve never seen those kind of movies, but I know of a Hard Boiled. Anyway, that and a whole lot of other themes are included in Max Payne, developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Gathering of Developers on July 2001 for PC, before getting a release later that year for the PS2, published by Rockstar Games.
NYPD cop Max Payne returns home one day when suddenly some drugged-fuelled guys attack him, but after shooting them down, he finds his wife and baby daughter murdered. Badly grief-stricken, he’s been working on the case for many years. One night, his partner is killed and he’s framed for it, yet he’s still determined to solve the case of his dead family and is going to get revenge by killing mob gangs which may lead him to a twist or two, one of them involving a designer drug called Valkyr.
This is going to be one of those games where it’s a computer equivalent to a jigsaw puzzle since the story fits with the gameplay and the characters fits with both elements and fits with the themes and music and vice versa and all around. The game has a neo-noir setting, it’s a dark and bleak cold snowy world that feels dangerous and unwelcoming, and since violence is the game’s bread and butter, it totally fits well with the game. You play as Max Payne and the only objective is to gun down all the criminals in the mean streets of New York. You’ll be up and down buildings, on a train at one point, it genuinely feels like a movie half the time; the tactics of shooting enemies is straightforward to an extent, since you don’t have a duck and cover feature and you need to use your wits and guns as well as your intelligence to shoot them down and I really enjoy this.
There’s a huge variety of weapons, different types of pistols, machine guns, melee weapons and much more, you are packed to the brim and many enemies for the most part don’t stand a chance against you. But of course the one true gaming mechanic that makes the game the best titles in gaming history is bullet time; based of John Woo’s movies and The Matrix, you can slow down time to shoot down enemies, WOW, this is awesome, this is cool and it’s one of the features that ages the game beautifully, you’ll still get a kick out of this feature. Now to cut costs and be hipster in a good way, instead of using 3D cutscenes, it used comic panels and it adds so much to the game, there’s a certain style to it and made the movie experience the best kind of interactivity, a movie experience with a hint of reading comic books to get the full story, now that’s something you don’t get in a movie…but don’t give Hollywood any ideas.
Now for the character, Max Payne, he’s a great character study, a man who’s lost everything, a wife, a child, a chance to have a family, a chance to have a normal life, he’s a broken character with nothing to lose, so he uses vengeance as a means to hopefully give him peace of mind, it’s a dark journey in which blood will spill, secrets will be revealed, this man, a mentally broken man, is saving no one but himself, you really feel for this man, you want to help him get what he deserves before he becomes mentally broken, just like the Valkyr-fuelled criminals.
And you know what, it reminds me of Aiden Pearce from Watch_Dogs, but the difference is Max is an interesting character, his surname is Payne for a reason, his mind, body and soul is filled with pain, his character is oozing with pain, Aiden has no character to him, a bland character, sure he lost a family member but you don’t feel anything, he doesn’t look all that bothered. A game released 13 years later and they failed to make the character as interesting as Max Payne, another reason why I still respect this game over Watch_Dogs.
But there are negatives, such as the facial features of the characters, especially Max Payne himself, it’s constantly a grimace, a funny looking grimace face, but it was 2001 and graphics weren’t that advanced still back then yet. Then there is the trial and error, I said earlier that, especially later in the game you need to use your intelligence to gun down enemies, mostly because of your health, it can drain pretty quickly if you’re not careful, the only way to reduce your chances of death is painkillers, another fitting element for the character, needing meds to reduce your pain to continue killing others; however, you’re only limited to six, sometimes in the game you’ll be panicking because you’re nearly dead and you don’t have any painkillers and there won’t be any for a while so once again the game gets harder.
You also have dreams, most of them are dark and scary and completely uncomfortable; but there are two that kill the atmosphere, where you need to follow a trail of blood but the trail is so narrow and trying to turn around to continue the path and you’ll end up slipping and falling and Max screams goes from being unnerving to annoying, and sounds like Tom’s scream from Tom & Jerry, to the point where you need to take shortcuts, in fact a lot of people had issues with this part; oh there’s always one annoying part of a great game.
Overall, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience that remains one of the most immersive games out there, something that even most of the latest modern games fail to deliver…that I’ve played (Just need to cover my backside). Max Payne is an excellent example of a character-driven story done so brilliantly, an uncomfortable darkly tale of vengeance and what drives a man to do so, a great action game that redefined the action gaming genre for the most part, inspired more games and it even won a BAFTA, a bloody BAFTA. I salute you magnificent game. Though I do recommend playing the PC port for some reason.
You can get it on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Mac OS, Game Boy Advance, iOS and Android.