The first Max Payne was released in 2001 for PC, with subsequent releases for other console systems at the time. Eventually, the game spun off into different sequels and a movie spanning several years. The review below was originally done in the early 2000’s by Gamers Uplink former staff member Justin.

You arrive home, eager to see your wife and newborn son. Upon entering your humble abode, you find that it has been ransacked. You burst up the stairs and into your bedroom. On the bed lies your dead wife, covered in her own blood. Your next thought is of your son. Into his nursery you bound, where you find two gunmen waiting for you. You draw your Beretta and quickly dispose of them in a flurry of bullets. On the floor lies your dead baby boy. Your body begins to tremble with anger. You vow for vengeance…

And thus, opens Max Payne, the 2nd game from Finnish developer, Remedy Entertainment. Right from the start the player is drawn into this epic tale of greed, deception, and death that has taken Remedy four and a half years to complete. You are Max Payne, member of the New York Police Department. He has just lost both his wife and son in the same night.

Three years later Max is an undercover agent for the DEA, hoping to find out who has killed his family. Max is supposed to meet his DEA contact, Alex, in the subway after receiving an ominous voice message. When he arrives at the designated meeting place, he is witness to Alex’s death at the hands of a sniper. Max is blamed for this crime and is forced to flee from the police, as no one knows about his undercover assignment. From here the story only gets better as Max hunts down the mob that he thinks killed his family and avoids the police who want to question him about the death of Alex. The game’s story is of big budget movie caliber and is even reminiscent of the hit television show The Sopranos. However, there is so much more to this great game.

You control Max from a 3rd person perspective that, at times, can be cumbersome because of the camera angles. This game couldn’t be played any other way, thanks to a revolutionary new gameplay mechanic-simply known as “Bullet Time” – a Matrix-esque style of gameplay. With a click of the right mouse button, “Bullet Time” brings gameplay to a crawl. You can still aim fast, but everything else moves in slow motion. Individual bullets can be seen flying out of your gun or zooming by your head. Not only is this a superb idea and gameplay innovation, it is also an invaluable tool in the game. For example, you are standing at the corner of a hallway and beyond the corner are three men, who all want to blow your head off. Instead of simply rounding the corner and trying to gun them down, you can use a bullet move, and dive past the corner in slow motion. While in mid-air you take aim and shoot all 3 in the head then land safely without a scratch on you. This type of move just must be seen to believed, it’s so cool! Ever wonder what it would be like to be the hero of a John Woo movie? Just imagine that and multiply it by a factor of 10 and that’s what Max is all about.

Remedy threw in some strategy as well. There is a bullet meter in the shape of an hourglass that is depleted each time you activate it. Since bullet time isn’t unlimited you must use it only when necessary. When the meter runs out you just simply kill more enemies to refill it.

Max wields a variety of weapons, ranging from Berettas and grenades to a sniper rifle and a desert eagle. These are some of the creators of carnage at Max’s disposal. What type of weapon you use is also a strategic maneuver, as each weapon has its own uses for various situations. And in Max Payne there are plenty of situations for you to get through. Though the story is certainly linear in plot, how you execute your objective for the chapter is up to you. You can play through using brute force, run in with you dual Berettas blazing, or you can use more finesse and pick off enemies from afar with your sniper rifle. Max does incur damage and when he does it adds to his pain meter. To ease his pain, you will need painkillers, which can be found in medicine cabinets all around the game’s locales.

The game’s environments are diverse to say the least. Your first mission takes place in a subway. From there, you will go along the streets of New York into a numerous buildings ranging from an apartment complex to a large hotel, which employs many women in the world’s oldest profession. Each new mission has a unique atmosphere and all of them are done in extremely high detail. Max Payne also employs some very cool particle effects. Shoot up some paper and it’s ripped to shreds and flutters slowly to the ground. Each individual piece is rendered separately, in real-time, adding very much to the realism of the game. Levels also vary as to how big and expansive they are. Some chapters are quite small, and others very large.

Each chapter has a new objective for Max and that is what makes the story progress. Along the way you will be told more of the story as you complete tasks. For instance, in one chapter you must chase a member of the mob along rooftops, through buildings, and even catch a train ride by jumping onto a moving car as it rumbles by. As you follow along after him, there will be dozens of his goons you have to fight your way through. You would think that since they are lackeys that they would be stupid. Oh contraire, they are smart enough to duck behind cover and force you to have great aim using the mouse to take them out.

The games AI is superb and even adjusts itself on the fly to match the abilities of the player. Let’s say you are not very good then AI would be dialed down a bit and the enemies will miss your more. However, if you are really good, they almost never miss. This keeps the game from having different difficulty levels. Instead, once you beat the game new modes are unlocked. One is a timed game called New York Minute, where you must complete missions in a certain amount of time. These modes add some extra value into the game since it only takes 15-20 hours to complete. Also, give the game a couple of months of release and you should start to see some high-quality single player mods for the game. The game ships with a nice editing suite from which mods can easily be made. With the editing suite packed in we’re sure to see high quality add-ons to the already great game. I can’t wait!

The games graphical prowess is what you would expect from the team who helped fashion what would become 3Dmark 2001 (it’s a graphical benchmarking tool made by their spin-off company, With a nice computer, this game is one of the most awe inspiring, jaw dropping titles to date. Making full use of the GeForce 3’s raw power, the game pushes more polygons than you can shake a stick at. Max and the rest of the people in the game all move with life-like realism, thanks mostly to motion capture technology. The sound is no slouch either. With realistic sounding gunplay, excellent music, and well-done sound effects (break some glass, you’ll think someone just broke some, for real), the sound quality is very top notch and really adds to the detail given to the game.

With over four and a half years of development time, you would think this title like many other games that have suffered through long development times would be mediocre at best (remember Daikatana?). Max Payne tends to shine all the way through its short journey. However, Max Payne does have its faults. The 3rd person camera can be tricky sometimes, especially when you are trying to jump and hit a specific spot. Also, some of the later levels can become quite difficult if you don’t know what to do and it’s hard to figure out just what you are supposed to do from the clues given.

Despite its minor flaws, Max Payne gets my vote for one of the coolest games ever. Everything it throws at you is top notch. The gameplay is fun and innovative, the graphics are to die for, the sound is just exquisite, and with the addition of what should be hundreds of mods to play, the replay factor is enormous. Even if you are not a fan of action games, Max deserves a shot. The story will keep anyone engrossed in the game. Now if only I had a sequel to play…


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