What mattered to me the most when playing “Max Payne” was not its intense action or its breathtaking bullet-time sequences, but the story it told. It was an experience in which I could engage myself.
“Max Payne” and its sequel, “The Fall of Max Payne” weren’t defined by their gameplay as much as their setting and the experience of being Max Payne. Each of the two titles told the story of its titular character through his internal monologues and events depicted through a graphic novel that represented Max’s psyche.
With a third game in development, I can’t help but reflect upon original titles to determine the qualities which made the series what it was.
As a character, Max Payne is a hardboiled detective in the truest sense. Early on in the first game, we discover Max’s tragic history. Once a decorated police officer with a bright future, Max’s family home was broken into–his wife raped and murdered and his baby butchered in her crib by drug addicts high on “V”. In an instant, Max lost everything he ever lived for.
Years later, Max has become a man hardened by time and grief. He’s never gotten over the deaths of his family and now an undercover detective with nothing to lose, Max uses the law to pursue a personal vendetta, and find the creators of the drug. Undercover, Max keeps his friends close but his enemies closer, forming false ties with gangsters in the upper echelons of the criminal underworld.
Unfortunately, Max’s identity as a cop is outed by someone he trusts, and it happens just as Max is getting close to uncovering the truth about the drug. With his cover blown, the whole criminal underworld is out to get him. Unfortunately, he’s completely cut off from backup because of a blizzard that breaks out over New York City. The reports on the TV call it the storm of the century. Max finds himself alone and has no choice but to pursue his query and get to the bottom of everything.
Armed with only a pair of guns, Max is a hunter hunted. He’s a bad enough dude to give Chow Yun-Fat’s Tequila Yuen a run for his money.
Like Max Payne, the New York City of the series is every bit as hardboiled. Ravaged and full of human suffering, New York City is a reflection of the game’s titular character. Without the city, there is no Max Payne.
“Max Payne 2” fleshes out Max’s character beyond that of the hard-boiled detective we’ve come to know and like, and shows us his more pathetic human side. You can’t help but feel sorry for him and empathize with what he’s going through.
As would be expected from a game that adopts so many conventions from film noir, the characters meet an unhappy end that seems only perfect for the story.
Max Payne’s story could’ve ended there.
Given what we know so far about the third game, it would be a terrible understatement to say that there are doubts that the new “Max Payne 3” will live up to the accomplishments of its predecessors. To take Max out of the city and deposit him in South America and replace the hardboiled detective with someone who looks more like Bruce Willis and less like Sam Spade is a disservice to the series protagonist. It’s like taking Nathan Drake out of the jungle and putting him in a business suit. It just doesn’t work.
Unlike the first two games, “Max Payne 3” will not be set in the New York City of the Max Payne world, and will instead be set in sunny Sao Paolo. The difference, as evidenced by the screenshots, is like night and day. The disparity between the expectations of any “Max Payne” fan and what is presented couldn’t be more jarring
The fact that it’s being developed at Rockstar Vancouver instead of its Finnish creators at Remedy Entertainment is also cause for concern. Reports from the studio are anything but positive–as the “Rockstar Wives” scandal broke out prior to the release of Red Dead Redemption, word from inside the studio was that the Canadian-based studio was beleaguered by similar problems to its counterparts in San Diego. As a result, the game’s development had been delayed, with no details coming out from the studio since the announcement of “Max Payne 3” in 2009, meaning there’s a good chance that it’ll see a significant overhaul.
With that in mind, what does “Max Payne 3” need to be? Well, considering how Max Payne is so intrinsically tied to his setting, it’s only fair that we ask for the game to be once again set in New York City–preferably one caught in the middle of yet another deadly storm. It’s a return to a familiar and dangerously welcome setting. What could be better than that? It’s what I’ve come to expect from “Max Payne”.
Just to be clear, I really do want to see more of the same game. A true “Max Payne” title developed for the current generation of console platforms and the PC would be incredible, to say the least. With better graphics and some slight tweaks to the game mechanics, it’d be a revitalization of the franchise in the same way that “God of War 3” delivered the core experience of the first two games in newer, high definition graphics. Instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel, “God of War 3” fitted spokes and steel hubcaps on an already sturdy set of wheels and drove the series to even greater heights.
Hopefully, “Max Payne 3” will do the same for its franchise.
Max Payne 3 Videos
Max Payne 3 Screenshots
(Click on image to view in gallery)