MobyGames Classic: Max Payne

Max Payne delighted and surprised many gamers and critics alike when it was released back in 2001 for the PC with its blend of solid 3rd-person shooting and gritty noir-style presentation. The introduction of Bullet Time--which allowed players to slow time to a crawl while dodging and returning enemy fire--was brand new, and quite a huge deal at the time. Comic book-style cut-scenes and some appropriately melodramatic voice-over narration blended with the revenge-themed story to create an experience brimming with as much style as gunplay.

Today we add 2001's classic third-person shooter, Max Payne, to our growing list of video game classics, presented by MobyGames.com.

BOOM video 3376

"The story is told in still screens with comic-book pages on them, which is an original and stylish idea," notes MobyGames reviewer Unicorn Lynx. "The dialogue, and most of all, Max's own comments, are well-written and convincingly spoken. An interesting thing is the usage of humor. At first sight, it seems there's nothing to laugh about here, but the more you advance the story, the more you realize it has a double edge. Its stylistic references to action movies are so obvious that it nearly becomes a self-aware parody."

Kasey Chang sums the game up quite nicely in his MobyGames review, stating: "Max Payne is about as close as you will come to 'play' an action movie. It may be short (but then, so are most action movies), it may be a bit trite and cliche (but then, so are action movies), and it may be over-the-top (again, like action movies) but it sure is fun."

MobyGames reviewer Kadath Bird also illustrates how the game still holds up quite well, even though gamers who didn't have a chance to play it when it was new might not immediately appreciate it. "Max Payne was an innovative and unique action title for its time. Sadly, its gameplay draws such as bullet time have been worn and torn so bad that if you describe Max Payne to a modern gamer who missed it first time around, they'll simply go 'meh, its been done,'" he explains. Then he qualifies: "Even I (for awhile) was so worn out from games with bullet time and 'John Woo-style' gameplay mechanics that I dismissed Max Payne as dated. But a recent playthrough proved to me that this game is just as good as it ever has been."

Tell Us Your Stories! We want to hear about your experiences with Max Payne. Tell us your stories. Why did you love it? What drove you crazy? Remember it fondly with us in the comments below. We'll select some of your thoughts and memories and add it to a Weekend Update to this feature.

Max Payne on MobyGames.com

Max Payne was a police officer of the New York City police. On one terrible day, his wife and newborn daughter were killed by three junkies, who broke into his apartment after having ingested a new designer drug known as Valkyr. After the tragedy, Max quit the police force and joined the Drug Enforcement Administration. Three years later, during a raid on a mafia compound that was reportedly trafficking Valkyr, his best friend and fellow DEA agent Alex is killed, and he becomes the prime suspect in his murder. Now Max is all alone in the cold, snowy night of New York. The mob is out to get him. The police are out to get him. The only way out is with guns blazing, because he has nothing to lose.

Max Payne is a third person shooter stylistically influenced by film noir, "hardboiled" detective stories, and Hong-Kong action cinema. Max can perform rolls and leaps to try and dodge enemy fire. The weapons at his disposal range from baseball bats to Ingram sub-machine guns, grenades, Molotov cocktails, and others. A unique feature of the game is the usage of the so-called Bullet Time - a time-slowing ability that was popularized by the first Matrix movie.

    MobyGames Classic is our chance to look back at the games that helped shape the video game industry with the help of our sister site MobyGames.com. It combines a short history lesson on the title and anecdotes from the Shacknews community.