Max Payne (PC) Review

Matrix style action in a film-noir detective story. Max Payne is a Finnish success story.

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"Soomi mainittu!" Max Payne 1 and 2. The pinnacles of Finnish game design?
“Soomi mainittu!” Max Payne 1 and 2. The pinnacles of Finnish game design?

Remedy’s second big game project, takes you to the cold and dark streets of New York as you experience the story of hardboiled NYPD detective Max Payne. Max lives the classic American dream until his wife and daughter are mysteriously murdered by drug addicts in his own house. As Max the player is bound to get revenge and find out the criminals responsible for the attack.

At the heart Max Payne tells a classic revenge story of a vigilante not only in conflict against New York’s underground thugs and criminal leaders, but also with himself. So the protagonist’s name serves a double meaning of inner pain of Max and of the pain you deal to others. It is truly a tale of a man who has nothing to lose.

Screenwriter Sami Järvi incorporates many recognizable action movie references and sequences to the game, even including bits of Nordic mythology to the mix. The plot is fairly straightforward but it keeps you interested through the game as you delve deeper in to the criminal underworld. I really liked the design choice of the story and the narration being told through graphic novel panels instead of in-game cutscenes. They look great and stand the test of time very well. The panels also serve as a short break in the action filled gameplay sections.

Story and dialogue is presented in combination of voice acting and comic book illustrations.
Story and dialogue is presented in combination of voice acting and comic book illustrations.

The main selling point of the game back in the 2001 was obviously the highly anticipated stylish combat gameplay with famous “bullet time” mechanic which was all the rage back then. When only couple of years earlier Matrix had established it as one of the coolest new things in the action genre. What then Max Payne did to gaming world was what Matrix and John Woo had done in the action film industry. Remedy’s game set the new standards in 3rd person action and shooter games for years to come.

As of now 15 years later after the game’s release I have to say the gameplay is still very solid, although bit crude by today’s standards. I think the fluidity and the responsiveness of your actions are much better than in some of today’s 3rd person shooters, where you are hugging walls and cover most of the time. So the gameplay is still quite remarkable for a game this old.

"Bullet time" is the key to winning firefights. It was also the key selling point of the game.
“Bullet time” is the key to winning firefights. It was also the key selling point of the game.

Gameplay mainly consists of action sequences and an occasional platforming sequence, which were the only downside of the game for me. The combat is entertaining though, awesomeness of bullet time and attention to detail keep the firefights intense and satisfying. The score also works well with things happening on the screen, ranging from moody to tense depending on the occasion. Max’s nightmare sections enhance the storytelling by expressing the dark and gloomy inner struggle of the protagonist.

I can truly recommend this classic and its sequel for every fan of shooters and action games, just because it is of one the milestones of the 3rd person action genre. But also for the fact that it is one of the biggest successes in Finnish game industry and design so far.

 

Developer: Remedy Entertainment

Publisher: Gathering of Developers (PC)

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Mac OS, Game Boy Advance, iOS, Android.

Release date: 27.7.2001. EU (PC)

PEGI 18

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