Have You Played… Max Payne?

max

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

Don’t replay Max Payne. 2001’s coolest game in the known universe is all a bit Tommy Wiseau in 2017.

The first Max Payne always straddled/stumbled wildly back and forth across the line between tongue-in-cheek and actually ridiculous, of course. An argument could convincingly be made that the dialogue and voicework was satirical of hard boiled tropes, or just as convincingly that it was that pot-boiler nonsense.

The game was so state-of-the-art back then, with its photo-real faces and bullet time combat, that I forgave a multitude of sins and endorsed any claim that Max Payne knew exactly what it was doing. The absurd writing and Just 17 photo diary cutscenes were obviously deliberately silly, as a purposeful counter-point to all that technical slickness. “The sun set with practiced bravado,” we echoed fondly down the pub as evening fell. “The pills would numb the pain,” we growled as we swigged our Heineken. Then we clustered around 14″ monitors to watch others play it, because it looked so cool

That was then and this now. Some games age well, but I tend to find that those which pursue photo-reality (or what our minds tell us looks so close to real at the time, even if later years’ games prove us entirely wrong) don’t stand the test of time as well as those which are more stylised. Quake, for example, just looks better and better as the years go by.

Max Payne, sadly, is now a game in which a blockheaded, puppety man with locked elbows helplessly knocks over anything he moves close to, occasionally throws himself to the ground in the manner of a shop dummy being knocked over, and appears in static cutscenes that look like they were made in a free DIY comics app. Even the menu and loading screens look like someone spent five minutes applying every filter in Photoshop.

There’s nothing wrong with games ageing. There’s nothing wrong with yesterday’s amazing being today’s haggard old mess. But we shouldn’t always romanticise the past. Max Payne was a game of its time: it did its job and we have moved far beyond it now. I salute it, but I never, ever want to play it again.

107 Comments

  1. phlebas says:

    So if I never played it at the time, I’m too late now?

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      Risingson says:

      Kind of. FPS tropes really change in time, and even ones from 5 years ago now feel bad. It looks like a genre that expires at light speed. You have a lot of sudden deaths, platform jumping, etc. Funny how Alec focuses just on the graphics, when the problems are somewhere else.

      Still, it’s fantastic. And the final boss felt very epic to me.

      • phlebas says:

        If it helps, I haven’t played any recent FPS games unless Deus Ex counts (and that wasn’t my focus there)

      • ElementalAlchemist says:

        You have a lot of sudden deaths, platform jumping, etc.

        Christ, that bloody dream/nightmare sequence where you had to navigate around some suspended rail above a bottomless pit and magically see the gaps in the pitch black darkness…. Just the thought of it still makes me want to throw things at my screen.

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          phuzz says:

          Took me ages as well. Eventually I realised that if you looked straight down, there was a trail of blood that you could follow.
          Bloody annoying though.

      • lordcooper says:

        It’s, uh, not an FPS.

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          Phasma Felis says:

          True, but understandable. FPSes and TPSes are pretty close to the same genre.

    • Spuzzell says:

      I wouldn’t have said so, no.

      I replayed Max Payne and then Max Payne 2 a couple of years ago and they’re both still a lot of fun, though the first game does have some odd default controls that need remapping. (I would recommend mouse and keyboard strongly)

      And neither game is attempting to be serious in their overblown noir awesomeness, you can just dive into it with a gleeful laugh.

      However. Max Payne 3 is still the greatest gaming disappointment of my young and innocent life so if you haven’t played that either, I would play the first 2 and leave it at that.

      • vargata says:

        I would like to second this^^
        The original max payne, though sure, with todays standard its ugly and it has boring bits, was a real quality game, the kind doesnt anymore exists sadly. I would a million times replay it instead of any todays fps. its a game like half-life just more the psycho-story instead of the sci-fi. I say, if you have never tried it yet, and you are the kind of “gameplay over graphics” kind of guy, go on and you will not be disappointed.
        on the other hand, for me both mp2 and 3 were disappointing, the 3 was horrible.

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        Frog says:

        Agreed.
        I replayed the first two Max Payne games a couple of years ago and had fun, some clunkiness in the first game aside. And the drawn out dream sequences.
        I suppose the point is that I replayed them and had fun, as opposed to many of the newer AAA games that I never finish or don’t care to go back to.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Yeah, the first two Max Paynes were satire played deader than a pan that comes with its own phylactery. I wouldn’t say they’ve aged poorly, although there’s an obvious lack of modern day triple A polish. I guess if you’re someone (apparently like Alec) who really cares about what the menus look like you might not get on with the games. But the basic gunplay still holds up.

        I’m much more ambivalent about Max Payne 3, a game with vastly superior production value. It looks lovely but is a bit of a slog of a cover shooter. Tonally the writing is really not that far from the first two, but juuuust different enough not to feel quite right. It suffers from a sort of uncanny valley of writing.

        I didn’t enjoy the liberties Houser took with the story, with a few bits from the earlier games changed to no great benefit. São Paulo was an interesting setting for a game, and I thought the social commentary on gang violence and the rich/poor divide, while shallow and occasionally clumsy, made for a genuinely thought-provoking backdrop for a shooter.

        But in an age where so many lazy and cynical sequels get made, for some reason MP3 felt like an earnest effort. Despite its many flaws I respect Rockstar for at least trying with it.

    • kraze says:

      not too late. Try for yourself and pass own judgement. I’ve replayed it about 3 years ago and still found it to be a-ok

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      I played both of the originals for the first time just a few years ago and loved them.

      I played the sequel first, though, and that might have ingratiated the slightly clumsier original to me a bit. #2 is still one of my all-time favourite games, but the first is no slouch either. It’s a bit less tight but a bit more daft too. Great romps, both.

    • Jord68 says:

      Absolutely not. I’ve never played Max Payne 1/Max Payne 2 until very recently, it was a blast. Personally I would say Max Payne 1 was the best of the two, it had that something special I can’t describe.

      I avoided playing older games for the longest time, Max 1 & 2 changed me. I’ve been enjoying all the games I’ve missed over the years.

      • waltC says:

        Both games run exceptionally well under Win10x64, latest Preview build 16251, as well @ 2560×1440 +. Older games often have much more to offer in the way of the games themselves than more modern titles, which tend to be shallow on game play, plot-story while being excessive in graphics displays, I’ve found. Unbalanced, in other words. Older games are great especially when you can get them to run in UHD resolutions–surprisingly possible with most of GOG’s older titles–subtly revamped to display under Win10x64, etc. Scaling up DOS games at 640×480 to 2560×1440 resolutions (insert your native resolution here) is a piece of cake if you know just a bit about what you’re doing.

        Max Payne 1&2 were satirical romps at the time they were originally published & cost ~$50 ea, so that’s not really a valid criticism of the games, imo. They were meant to be classical detective games in the film Noir style. I found both games engaging and fun to play, actually–and still do after all of these years.

        Old games @ GOG are often dirt cheap these days and represent tremendous gaming value for the $, imo. Today, though, it’s the same as it always has been–great games are few and far between. Games like Witcher 3, for instance, are still as rare as they ever were. Every few years we’ll see one emerge. Great thing about the older games that GOG is offering these days is that because we are talking about the last 30 years you can actually buy the “cream of the crop” so to speak and skip all of the trash that was also selling during those years…;) Ironically, a lot of new games coming out of GOG and Steam today remind me more of the kinds of junk games that used to be available during those years than they remind me of anything else.

        Last, the mods available for many older games *greatly* improve many aspects of those games–like for Gothic 1 and 2, for instance–which look far better and play far better today than they ever did when new, because of the mods. Even recent games like Skyrim (and now the 64-bit version of Skyrim) greatly benefit from mod-making because they are several years old. And…I’ve written far more than I intended…;)

    • sneetch says:

      I also disagree with Alec here, I played through it again a couple of years back and enjoyed it immensely, liked the “retro” graphics and the cheesey noir style.

  2. Creeping Death says:

    Max Payne 2, on the other hand, still holds up pretty well (and was always the better game anyway)

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Sequel had a good campaing but it compromised the bullet time mechanic a bit, since it slowed down time for everyone except Max, as opposed to just slowing it down. So it simplified the tactics a lot, you could just run up to each goon in the room and dispatch them.

      • Imperialist says:

        I think MP2 was better in many ways…the character models were superb compared to the original, but the story and writing didnt have that same “feel” as the first. As campy as MP1 was as a satire on film noir, MP2 didnt really have the atmosphere or the music to reinforce that “straight from a detective novel” aspect. Also, i dont think it had any, or had fewer monologues. Or maybe they just werent as memorable as the first game. Its been a while.

        I also somehow enjoyed the movie on a basic level too so maybe im just weird.

        • Jord68 says:

          Agreed, Max 2 was a fun game but Max 1 had such a great feeling too it. It’s rougher than MP2 sure, but the challenge of the gameplay, the campiness, the music, the dialogue, the silly ass who just farted face. All of it makes this awesome game that I think stands the test of time.

    • LearningToSmile says:

      I never played them when they originally came out, but when I tried them a couple years ago, I loved the original game but got bored of the sequel pretty fast.

  3. Culby says:

    Played it? Still got the mousepad that came with it.

    it’s really, really gross you guys

    • megaman001 says:

      I recovered my password to this website just to say I also have that mousepad and it’s still in use!

    • poliovaccine says:

      Holy crap, I remember that mousepad! I photoshopped it to look like Jesus and sold it for thirty dollars on ebay! Said it only appeared at midnight on Easter or something. It was obviously a joke, but someone apparently got thirty bucks’ worth of kicks out of it. I did not expect I would actually have to package and mail that thing.

  4. Troubletcat says:

    Nonsense. Couldn’t disagree more. The game’s campy, but it’s not intentionally being silly. Ergo it’s the best kind of campy. It’s overly serious and overwrought, but its being genuine, rather than attempting to mock. And is therefore genuinely charming.

    In terms of the technical aspects… it doesn’t look amazing by modern standards, but it looks a damn sight better than most of its contemporaries in my opinion. Gameplay-wise it still holds up 100% – the movement and aiming both feel spot on still, which, again, better than most of its contemporaries.

    Max Payne is a game that has aged exceptionally well and it surprises me that anyone thinks otherwise.

    If you want the real star of the series though, that’s definitely Max Payne 2. Now there’s yer all time classic.

    Rockstar’s shot at the franchise is passable. Good fun, and one of only a few modern attempts at a more classic-feeling third person shooter. But I can’t help but resent it just a little, as a fan of the classics…

    • mrmistermeakin says:

      100% agree, Max Payne is the only game that I return to now and again to complete. Love every second of it!

    • cpt_freakout says:

      You can see it’s taking itself super seriously by the tone of the later installments, which makes MP 1 even better. I agree, though, MP 2 nails perfectly what 1 was trying to do ever since the first scene.

      I do agree with others that the problems with 1 were elsewhere – that horrible platforming nightmare sequence will forever be in my mind, and not because of the nightmare ambience.

      • Troubletcat says:

        Yeah, that’s kind of the one caveat I have recommending the first game. The nightmare sequences are abysmal. Absolutely dreadful.

        But in the end, they make up a very small part of an otherwise excellent game.

        • Werthead says:

          Yup. MP1 is 10-11 hour game. The “blood trail abyss” bits are 5 minutes at most. And once you realise you just need to follow the audio cue and not fall off, they’re incredibly easy.

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      The Almighty Moo says:

      “what’s the password?”
      *Sighing* “John Woo”

      So good.

    • poliovaccine says:

      “Campy but not intentionally silly” reads like an oxymoron to me..

  5. MacPoedel says:

    I have played it over and over in the early 2000’s. Yes it was silly but to 13 year old me it was so awesome, and the first game I felt my Geforce 3 (my first proper gfx card) could really work its magic.
    Last time I finished the game on pc was in 2007 I think.

    I have replayed it more recently, Rockstar ported the game to Android/iOS in 2012. And even though the idea is completely insane, I’ve finished that one as well. In the end I even got used to the controls on a touchscreen, I guess there is a lot of auto aiming.

    Also extraordinary to imagine that 10 years after my Geforce 3 and Pentium 4, I was running this game on an ARMv6 smartphone (which was already a low power chip at the time).

  6. dangermouse76 says:

    This is the one and only game I ever pirated ( since purchased ), I played it through in one go from about 10pm till the sun came up. I loved this game.
    And I did the same with MP2 great simple mechanic. Fun story that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
    MP3 I own and have played 30 minutes of it. Maybe I should go back and give it a proper try.

    • Hao-Sen Lin says:

      I’d recommend giving it a shot, it’s a really nice game to play over a weekend as it’s fairly short and is paced in a way that makes it well suited to being played over the course of three or four sittings.

  7. Thirith says:

    I never finished Max Payne 1 but loved MP2 and completed it several times. I actually think MP3 does some interesting things, and I definitely prefer it to a mere retread, but since I never cared much about the first game, I’m probably the wrong person to judge it as a Max Payne game.

  8. Jenuall says:

    Not played it for a while but don’t think I would suffer any of the problems that the writer is describing here were I to go back. This reads like someone who never really liked it in the first place, rather than someone who has gone back and changed their mind.

    Also Quake looked terrible in 96 and it still does today.

    • Troubletcat says:

      Yeah, that was a particularly odd point in the article I thot. There’s a lot to like about Quake.

      The graphics is not one of the things one might reasonably like.

    • RichUncleSkeleton says:

      Late 90’s 3D environments are an acquired taste. id clearly put a lot of focus on atmosphere and I think Quake’s use of prerendered lightmaps and its color palette and general art design have held up over time. A lot better than, say, Half-Life which just looks like crap when viewed with modern sensibilities.

      • Troubletcat says:

        I’d strongly disagree… Quake 2 is a closer comparison, but they both look rubbish compared to Half-Life.

        I agree that late-90s 3D environments are an acquired taste. Apparently I disagree as to which ones were the better.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      I could not agree more re Quake. As others have said, it didn’t look that amazing when it was released – although coloured lighting was nice – never mind today.

      I find quite a lot of Alex’s writing harder and harder to relate to as the years pass, actually.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        What the… Quake looked completely amazing when it game out, and then the version supporting proper 3D looked even more amazing.

    • tomimt says:

      I was thinking the same. None of the 90’s 3D games have aged with grace. There’s a certain amount of charm in the blocky, low resolution textured models, but it’s more in the terms of how a derelict house can look charming despite it’s falling apart from decades of neglect.

  9. Preyer says:

    Weird that you think so. I replayed Max Payne 1 & 2 last time around 2010, and I thought they were still great. Don’t see what would’ve changed anymore after that.

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      That’s when I played them both for the first time ever, and thoroughly enjoyed myself… though 2 is scads better.

      Pity about 3.

      • Hao-Sen Lin says:

        What’s all this about 3 being a pity? I thought it was a fantastic game and I remember it being very well liked when it was released so it’s weird to see the consensus here being that it was a let-down. I loved the voicework and the story telling, the music was great, the setting well realised, and the gunplay just felt really damn good.

        • Spuzzell says:

          I’ve never been more disappointed in a game than I was in Max Payne 3.

          I’m glad you liked it, but to me the gun play was tissue paper thin and I hated the constant cut scenes, the controls just felt off somehow and I really hated the characters.

          Everything that was great about Max Payne and Max Payne 2 was being in your own version of The Matrix, diving around in superslomo and inventing your own action sequence.

          MP3 took all that away in exchange for annoying QTE cutscenes. Don’t make me slide down a roof! Let me jump off and fall in superslomo 20 feet into a pool, firing rounds into heads as I go. Or fall down the stairs. Whatever, its MY film.

          In general bullet time in MP3 just didn’t work in a way that made it feel cool.

          I couldn’t ever get over the stupid way Max would retain his bullet wounds in cut scenes either. “Max. You clearly have a bullet in your heart. And kidney. You should sit down.”

          Plus the setting just wasn’t right, the whole feel was off.

          It actually felt to me like a bad long GTA mission rather than a Max Payne game.

  10. Canadave says:

    I replayed the first game a few years ago, and I still quite enjoyed it. It’s campy and over the top, yeah, but it’s obviously supposed to be. The whole story is an extended riff on Norse mythology and it makes sure you know it.

    If anything has aged poorly about it, I’d say it’s the way it handles health and difficulty. It’s a bit of a pain scrounging around for pills, and many areas require a number of repetitions until you get the timing and locations of enemies down nearly perfectly. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it definitely feels a bit like old-school shooter design.

  11. Dorga says:

    good game is still good.

  12. RichUncleSkeleton says:

    Max Payne still has some of the all-time best writing in any video game. Just a pitch-perfect sendup of cheesy 40’s and 50’s detective potboilers.

  13. Paul says:

    Max Payne has been fantastic, is fantastic, and always will be fantastic. Sorry to say this, but trash article. I replayed it year ago, as fun as ever. Eventhough I do consider KungFu mod a fantastic addition that anyone should use.

  14. ObiDamnKenobi says:

    Nonsense. I’ve replayed max payne 1 at least 4-5 times since 2000 and it’s always great. Who care if the heads are blocky? it has oddles of charm!

  15. nogglebeak says:

    Faces still look better than Mass Effect Andromeda’s… and cost 1/20th as much to make by 1/50th the staff on a fjord in finland.

    • Ace676 says:

      Fjords? In Finland? You’ve got it all backwards. That would be Norway. This game was made in the middle of a forest, in sauna.

  16. Sin Vega says:

    It was definitely completely sincere, but very self-awarely so. “Sirens wailing in the off-key harmony of a manic-depressive choir” remains one of my favourite phrases in anything ever. It also deserves some credit for being about some really dark scenes without being all EDGY or cheap and cynical about it.

    It’s been aeons since I played the first, but I had a crack at the second a couple of years ago and it’s still a decent little shooter. I never did finish it though, I got maybe halfway through. No particular reason.

    That fourth wall breaking shit with the baby crying and the slow motion platform maze on narrow pipes could fuck right off, though.

  17. iyokus says:

    That baby crying sound on loop as you chase a blood trail around tiny walkways in a completely dark environment, with instant death drops on each side. Oh and you’re doing all this in slo-mo because it’s a dream and you also have to jump between those walkways.

    Still a classic though, and as everyone has already said, MP2 is even better.

  18. OpT1mUs says:

    Completely disagree. I replay both every couple of years and it’s still a great game. I think I even prefer it to 2, because I find Max’s original model/look much more interesting. Great game.

    This article blows and has a blocky head.

  19. Werthead says:

    Massively disagree. The game has aged like a fine wine. There’s a little clunkiness, but not much, and the budget graphic novel scenes are oddly charming. Remedy didn’t have much money to make the game and what they achieved with very little is overwhelmingly impressive. The Max Payne voice actor is excellent and the action is tremendous.

    The character models are a little blocky, but you can swap them out easily enough: the game is highly moddable. You can swap in the Max Payne 2 character model if you want, or activate the samurai sword mod (one of the first mods I ever installed on a game and played through with it).

    Max Payne 2 is arguably more focused, intense and works a bit better as a more serious game (and the idea of making a violent game a “love story” still feels fresh fourteen years on), but it’s also extremely short (less than half the length of MP1). MP1 also has a far better ending, with the ascent of the evil corporation’s headquarters setting the scene for every “well-realised office shooter” that followed (like FEAR).

    The only serious question I have is whether this, Anachronox or Hostile Waters was the best-but-underrated game of 2001. Damn fine year for games, actually.

    • khamul says:

      I love MP2 for just one thing.

      You are in a building full of ‘cleaners’: guys in boiler suits, with guns. You get into the rhythm of – door – slow-mo – dive through door – spot cleaner – open fire.

      And then, in this one room, there is a broom with a cleaner uniform hanging from it, and around it is paint cans and dynamite. You dive through the door, see a cleaner, open fire… BOOM!

      That was genius. After reloading, when you walk in, you can’t believe you ever mistook it for a real cleaner. A completely legitimate gotcha.

      I can forgive the game almost any fault (mostly, being much too short) for just that one moment.

  20. Danda says:

    People have very different opinions about this series! I will just add mine…

    MP1 was great back then, and arguably even today. It looks VERY dated, yes, but the whole point is still the shooting, and the story. It’s sincere, it’s silly, but it’s also special. Sam Lake is probably not even a good writer, but he definitely has a voice, and that’s good.

    MP2 is a great sequel, of the Doom 2 type (“more of the same, but better”). I enjoyed it even more than the original.

    MP3 is amazing. I know this is not a popular opinion, but I honestly think it’s my favourite third person shooter ever. It doesn’t get any better than this. I honestly wonder why people despise it so much.

    • Mister eX says:

      Totally agreed on MP3! I think a lot of people can’t get over the first impressions – that it’s sunny, bright, colorful, and Max is basically present day John McClane. If you stick with it tho’, its story is still *very* noir. And I personally thought that this was a logical place for Max to be in (psychologically AND careerwise), given his past. And the shooting (gameplay) itself mechanically was just perfect. Rockstar did a waaay better job than I thought they would.

    • Asurmen says:

      MP3 ruined the central mechanic of bullet time. Instead of just letting me do it everywhere that was useful or cool, having to pay more attention to where you’re doing it so you don’t jump into a wall and basically die was dumb.

      • Mr. Robot says:

        You can activate bullet time at any time in MP3. No need to shoot dodge.

        • Asurmen says:

          Which basically proves my point. Having to not use the iconic feature of the series and instead use the more inefficient activated bullet time which looks less cool is an absolute crap addition.

    • Werthead says:

      The main problem with MP3 is the overwhelming, non-stop cut-scenes and the checkpointing. When the game actually lets you play it, you can have a lot of good fun with it, but the game never lets you go more than five minutes without some slick, amazing-looking but rather dull cut scene kicking in with lots of redundant exposition. It was like Dan Houser realising he had a captive audience who were going to have no choice but to sit through this story (unlike GTA, where a lot of players avoid his words by not playing the story missions), and made sure they’d sit there and get a story.

      The other problem is that whoever designed the checkpointing was actually deranged, with the checkpoints often placed in illogical locations or very far apart. The first two games did far better with just having quicksave. Oh, and that bit where you die instantly if you even look funny at the water on the side of the level is also ridiculous…because you see Max swimming in a cut scene five minutes later.

      The soundtrack was superb though. Actually, the original music in Max Payne was excellent (the killer main theme, and its more haunting revamp in the sequel) and MP2 and 3 used great songs that fitted the mood very well (Late Goodbye by Poets of the Fall and of course Tears by Health).

      • Mister eX says:

        I can agree with you too. And I would add that sometimes I thought “Damn, Max just won’t shut up, will he? He’s talking constantly.” :D There were times he was talking over the action (gameplay) and I couldn’t pay attention to him, although I wanted to. It was tiring. :D But I still loved it. :)

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      MP3 has been in my library since release. I have only ever managed to get about 45 minutes in, for various reasons. I can’t tell you much about the game but I can tell you it’s as annoying as fuck that it takes so long to get into the game due to the opening sequence being unskippable. And that, for me, is unforgivable.

  21. Cyrus says:

    Fantastic game in my opinion. Amongst my favorites of all time.
    Replayed them last summer to get the right build up for the third game. Good stuff

  22. unacom says:

    In my opinion the roughness of the game mechanics in Max Payne mirrors pretty well the roughness of Max´s life. I have therefore rather enjoyed that. In contrast, MP2 is much more polished, but I rather disliked it because Max´s life didn´t have the worn down miserable feeling to it anymore.
    Oh, and I still really dig the pinched Mickey Rourke Mug of Max Payne in the first part.

  23. Stingy McDuck says:

    Never finished Max Payne 2. I couldn’t. I had just played Max Payne 1, and when by the end of MP2 I learned who “V” was, I couldn’t bring myself to play that last mission. We were buddies, he saved my life in the first game. Besides, Mona wasn’t worth it. Also, I may be alone here but I really enjoyed Max Payne 3.

    Great games overall.

  24. zulnam says:

    Yes but are you really going to listen to the opinion of somebody who went to the pub and drank heineken?

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      The popularity of Heineken outside the Netherlands is puzzling. We have other better beers, as do the Belgians.

      • Sin Vega says:

        So do many ditches.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          Careful with those burns, you might ruin the fermentation process. I should perhaps have said “we also have beers” (some of which are good). Personally though I tend to prefer the Belgian brews.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    While it’s graphics had faded like pictures on an old crumpled newspaper there was still a charm to the dizzying dance of bullets and quips, diving strangely unscathed through so much gunfire…

    I never did care much for the sequel, the protagonist’s face strangely unfamiliar, friends now foes for no apparent reason, a festival of shootouts – a feeling of deja vu – two-bit gangsters tumbling to their deaths, like ragdolls… A noire love story it was not.

  26. Kodaemon says:

    Kung Fu 3.0 is the secret ingredient to making Max Payne enjoyable again.

  27. Spacewalk says:

    I wish I could play Max Payne again but it just doesn’t wanna play with my PC.

  28. pasports31 says:

    I gotta say, I really disagree. I played it for the first time a few years ago (I think it was 2014) and I loved it, it was one of my favorite games I played that year. For a game as old as it is the graphics hold up fine, imo. Gameplay is great, the writing and presentation is cheesy yet enjoyable. By no means was it a game I played and thought it held up horribly

  29. megaman001 says:

    It pleases me to no end that there is so much discussion on a game that came out sixteen years ago. I love this game dearly and I bought it originally on the PC (mousepad!), followed by the PS2, then again on Steam.

    I just wanted to give a shout out to Kenneth Yeung’s fantastic ‘Kung Fu Mod 3.0’ (easily found via Google), which turns Max Payne one into this weird hybrid of a third-person hand to hand combat game. You retain bullet time, but gain the ability to find hand to hand and with a staff. Now, various button / mouse combos produce punches, kicks, and various flying maneuvers.

    It really turns the game on its head. Cannot recommend it enough for a novelty playthrough.

    • poliovaccine says:

      YES, that mod *still* makes any number of Matrix games obsolete, to this day! Nvm what it does for actually playing Max Payne too, haha.

  30. poliovaccine says:

    People used to actually praise the writing in this game, and not always for camp value. I remember that. I remembered that acutely when people were so hard on the first Watch Dogs game, when people just *roasted* it for having such a stolid, absurd protagonist to gravelly-grunt his way through a story so pulpy it sticks in your teeth, when it was an otherwise technically-innovative and entirely-novel third person action game. I thought that was precisely why we loved Max Payne back in, holy crap was it really 2001? …so the inexcusability of Aiden Pearce just seemed… egh… incongruous, I guess.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Max Payne has personality.

      • poliovaccine says:

        *The game* has personality. Max Payne the character has one emotion to feel, and one grimace by which to express it.

        Both games have solidly passable action gameplay with some novel mechanics in there to spice things up. Both games have overwrought male masochists for heroes. I honestly think the difference can be boiled down to utter fatigue for everything Ubisoft.

        I mean yeah, Watch Dogs had that shiteating hat. But Max Payne wears a *leopard print vest.* And a chain. And hair gel. And yes, its devotion to John Woo indicates that it *was* meant to be at least somewhat serious. And “somewhat” is entirely too much for a *leopard print vest.*

        Correction: looking closer, it looks like it’s probably actually paisley. PAISLEY.

    • Asurmen says:

      Because Watch_Dogs tries wayyy too hard. It’s actually trying to be serious, so serious it hurts.

  31. WJonathan says:

    I remember playing the entire game, enjoying its presentation and unfolding drama, but continually being irked by the gameplay mechanics. Specifically, Max’s full-speed-or-stop movement engine seemed to be made for a larger shooting venue, like the open arenas of Quake. Max’s cluttered world had me constantly slamming into walls and knocking down scenery. Even after getting comfortable with Bullet-Time, I never could progress through the environment and play the game at its natural pace.

  32. ansionnach says:

    Surprised to see the reaction here. Never played it much but I’d have agreed with Alex. I did only play the tablet version on a terribly unresponsive screen, though. Even if I played it on PC it seems terribly clunky and I found the narrative awful. Not funny awful, but embarrassing in its over-sincerity. The way-overcooked phrases used to describe everything are so badly written that it’s astonishing.

    I probably have to go and play the real version now. I imagine that anyone who was blown away by its technical wizardry at the time will be disappointed. Games need gameplay to survive the test of time. Sometimes impressive tech demos get a free pass on release and everyone gets carried away by the hype… but they were never that great.

    Quake is a masterwork. I didn’t really like it much to begin with coming from Duke3d with its more appealing graphics, silliness, interactivity and gameplay. Quake just seemed ugly… and slow. I’m glad games were rare things for me back then as perseverance revealed just how good it was. I still prefer Duke but the two are very different and accomplished at what they do. The oppressive atmosphere of Quake is still there. The music really adds to this. I used to turn the music off in FPS games and needing the CD in the drive for Quake’s meant I rarely bothered with it. One of the things that makes Quake better than it was at the time is that FPS games lost their way a very long time ago. I blame Half-Life. The addictive central loop of the Quake games has the purity of Robotron (not my observation). Who in their right minds would add cut scenes and a story to that?

    • ansionnach says:

      The tablet version is a travesty. I knew better but wanted something that showed off what the Tegra graphics chip could do. They should offer the PC version free of charge to those ripped off by the tablet version by way of apology.

      I got Jet Set Radio for the tablet as well. I live that game but it was simply uncontrollable on tablet. Still have the DC version. Anyone know how the PC one compares?

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Not sure an opinion based on a tablet port of an ancient pc game is going to carry much weight around here….

      • ansionnach says:

        My main observations are about the story and clunkiness of the animation and not the controls. Then there was the bit about actual PC games.

    • Asurmen says:

      I think you’re taking the story too seriously. It’s pulp noir nonsense on purpose. It’s not meant to be Shakespear.

  33. skyturnedred says:

    Do not pay attention to this article, apart from the title. The game is still phenomenal. I played it earlier this year and it’s still as good as ever.

    Also, FEAR is better than Doom and Quake. So take my opinion as you will.

  34. lowenz says:

    “Max Payne was a game of its time: it did its job and we have moved far beyond it now. I salute it, but I never, ever want to play it again. ”

    FALSE :D

    Play it with:

    *this great UNNAMED Fix: link to vogons.org
    so you can enable some blazing D3D11-wrapping:
    *dgVoodoo 2.54 + ReShade 3(.0.8)

    and if you won’t play @1440×1080 (1080p 4:3 custom resolution) use this:
    *widescreen mod by ThirteenAG (you must rename the WS fix DLL to “dinput.dll” )

    With these tweaks our good old friend Max runs perfectly on Win10 64 with FXAA, Sharpening Filter (I use LumaSharpen) @1920×1080 (or above, the WS fix use the desktop resolution).

    • lowenz says:

      Here we are: link to s22.postimg.org

    • jeremyalexander says:

      Thank you so much for posting those. Gonna give them a try.

    • Premium User Badge

      Indigo says:

      Can you share your ini setting file for reShade? Can’t get the setting menu to work…!

      • lowenz says:

        You can simply modify it by hand!

        DXGI.ini:

        [INPUT]
        KeyMenu=113,0,1
        KeyScreenshot=44,0,0
        InputProcessing=2

        [GENERAL]
        PerformanceMode=0
        ScreenshotPath=E:\Steam Games\steamapps\common\Max Payne IT
        EffectSearchPaths=C:\ReShade 3\Shaders
        TextureSearchPaths=C:\ReShade 3\Textures
        PreprocessorDefinitions=RESHADE_DEPTH_LINEARIZATION_FAR_PLANE=1000.0,RESHADE_DEPTH_INPUT_IS_UPSIDE_DOWN=0,RESHADE_DEPTH_INPUT_IS_REVERSED=0,RESHADE_DEPTH_INPUT_IS_LOGARITHMIC=0
        TutorialProgress=4
        PresetFiles=E:\Steam Games\steamapps\common\Max Payne IT\RS3_1.ini
        CurrentPreset=0
        ScreenshotFormat=1
        ShowFPS=0

        [STYLE]
        Alpha=0.950000
        ColActive=0.200000,0.500000,0.600000
        ColFPSText=1.000000,1.000000,0.000000
        ColBackground=0.275000,0.275000,0.275000
        ColItemBackground=0.447000,0.447000,0.447000
        ColText=0.800000,0.900000,0.900000

      • lowenz says:

        And the effect list (RS3_1.ini):

        KeyLUT=0,0,0,0
        KeyBloomAndLensFlares=0,0,0,0
        KeyAdaptiveSharpen=0,0,0,0
        KeyGoldenRatio=0,0,0,0
        KeyDeband=0,0,0,0
        KeyClarity=0,0,0,0
        KeyLumaSharpen=0,0,0,0
        KeyDaltonize=0,0,0,0
        KeyAmbientLight=0,0,0,0
        KeySurfaceBlur=0,0,0,0
        KeyCartoon=0,0,0,0
        KeyTonemap=0,0,0,0
        KeyBorder=0,0,0,0
        KeyTechnicolor2=0,0,0,0
        KeySMAA=0,0,0,0
        KeyColorMatrix=0,0,0,0
        KeyGaussianBlur=0,0,0,0
        KeyYACA=0,0,0,0
        KeyColourfulness=0,0,0,0
        KeyAdvancedCRT=0,0,0,0
        KeyCurves=0,0,0,0
        KeyRingDOF=0,0,0,0
        KeyMagicDOF=0,0,0,0
        KeyGP65CJ042DOF=0,0,0,0
        KeyReflectiveBumpmapping=0,0,0,0
        KeyFilmGrain=0,0,0,0
        KeyMatsoDOF=0,0,0,0
        KeyMartyMcFlyDOF=0,0,0,0
        KeyEmphasize=0,0,0,0
        KeyMotionBlur=0,0,0,0
        KeyFilmicPass=0,0,0,0
        KeyFXAA=0,0,0,0
        KeyVibrance=0,0,0,0
        KeyHDR=0,0,0,0
        KeyLightDoF_Far=0,0,0,0
        KeyHighPassSharp=0,0,0,0
        KeyHQ4X=0,0,0,0
        KeyLevels=0,0,0,0
        KeyLiftGammaGain=0,0,0,0
        KeyLightDoF_AutoFocus=0,0,0,0
        KeyTechnicolor=0,0,0,0
        KeyLightDoF_Near=0,0,0,0
        KeyMXAO=0,0,0,0
        KeyMonochrome=0,0,0,0
        KeyTiltShift=0,0,0,0
        KeyVignette=0,0,0,0
        Techniques=LumaSharpen,FXAA

    • Premium User Badge

      Indigo says:

      Thanks. No luck, alas…

      I suspect I have a weird issue on my laptop with the Integrated graphic card and the dedicated nVidia GPU…

      If I use dgVoodoo, I cannot use the dedicated GPU (game crash on start), and the game lags a lot on the integrated graphics. But reShade loads (I can see the message “press SHIFT+F2, but I cannot move the mouse in the reShade menu).

      However, if I only use the d3d8.dll from the Widescreen fix, without dgVoodoo, the game seems to use the dedicated GPU and runs smoothly. But I can’t get reShade to load… (be it through d3d9.dll or dxgi.dll)…

      Damn :(

  35. Grobmotoriker says:

    I play MP1 and MP2 at least once every year and I will do so in
    the year 2060 when I´m ninety, lazing around in the nursing home, half blind and shaking hands. Nurses looking over my shoulder who don´t even know how a telephone with dial plate works, rolling their eyes in incrompehension like people already do, wondering that a rotting zombie like me is able to run through MP2 in 2.5 hours and has a shitload of fun with it. These games have a very special place in my heart for a hundred reasons and now excuse me, I have to meet the neighbour of the beast

  36. jeremyalexander says:

    It’s strange you feel that way about Max Payne. I recently played through the series again, and I don’t wear nostalgia glasses and this is still my favorite pure shooter of all time despite the clunk and the rust. It was the third one that I actually didn’t like and felt like the controls were clunky.

  37. Klydefrog says:

    I remember playing bits of Max Payne on PC when I was very young and then a little later, probably when I was about 10 or 11, playing the GBA port. That was incredibly impressive for the GBA, with full voice acting in the storyboard cutscenes and fairly impressive 2.5 environments.

    At that age having not seen any real noir before I remember being in awe and slighting intimidated by the tone of the story, the creepy phone calls in particular scared me. I haven’t really played it since and my memory of it is somewhat hazy but the moment that still sticks out to me the most is when the gang leader is giving a speech near the end and says “I have tasted… The flesh of fallen angels”. I was still very much ingrained in a pretty religious Catholic family at the time and the devil and satanism probably scared me more than pretty much anything else and that scene terrified me, I’m surprised I managed to keep going and finish the game really. Even thinking back on it I get a slight chill just from the memory of how much it affected me then.

    Now I’m wondering if I should go back and play it again or just leave those powerful memories as they are. I’m happy to be reminded of it all though, thanks for the article, Alec.

  38. G_Man_007 says:

    I must have replayed Max Payne 1 at least half a dozen times over the years, and it’s never been anything less than it was when I first played it. Admittedly, I was using the Kung Fu mod, but that’s just the way Max was meant to be played…

  39. Rainshine says:

    It was the first shooter I deliberately bought. I had a couple others — Half Life and Soldier of Fortune 2 — but neither had really been bought knowing what I was getting. Max Payne was covered in PC Gamer — I still have the physical magazine with the review, in fact, as that was the issue with Arcanum (both review and demo), and Arcanum holds a special place for me. Max got a high enough score that I figured I had to at least give it a try.
    Bullet time was fun, but shooters really aren’t for me. The drug use frankly gets me a little nauseous, and the nightmare sequence was pretty bad. But yes, played.

  40. Buggery says:

    Well now I want to go hunt down my old discs and play the games again so thanks for that. The prices on Steam are unbelievable.

    Max Payne 1 was possibly my first love in PC gaming, until Max Payne 2 came and stole my heart away. Where some people think of Metal Gear Solid as being the invention of “cinematic gaming,” I will always love Max Payne. Remedy is bae – even if the likes of Quantum Break aren’t really that fantastic, I love the soul they sink into their titles. Alan Wake is also a treat, a really beautifully fleshed out world.

    Max Payne 3 was okay but the combat wasn’t as satisfying to master as 2 and the story was to the previous games as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sequel that Eoin Colfer wrote was to Douglas Adam’s books.

  41. Zaraf says:

    I join the “Max Payne still great in 2017” bandwaggon. Played all 3 games recently, and the 1 is still great fun. Some levels didn’t age well (restaurant on file, as it mostly rely on visual effects), but others are still very pleasant to play (mafia and inner circle mansion), in particular with the Kung-fu mode. Regarding the caricatural vendetta story, narratives and dialogues, they were purposely exaggerated.

  42. consp77 says:

    Not having been into video games at all at the time it was released, I only tried playing Max Payne in the last year, once upon a Android emulation, and once upon a PS2 emulation on PS3, and the problem I had in both cases was the controller. I see someone recommends mouse and keyboard, but if you buy it on Steam, will it still work on Windows 10?

  43. RaphaelKnowsPizza says:

    I played this for the first time on my tablet, good controls, good graphics for mobile, great fun. I loved it, it’s very high quality for a mobile game and I couldn’t recommend it more.