Max Payne and it’s two sequels are PC gaming classics. If you own a PC and have even a tangential interest in shooters you must own these games. It combines an equal love for graphic novels, cop noir drama and Hong Kong action flicks into a high octane action shooter. While I do think that the two sequels are better games with their extra mechanics and added layer of polish, the first game is still worth your time.


So the story begins with Max’s family being killed by addicts of a new street drug called “Valkyr” that turns it’s addicts into crazed killers that could go off at any second, which is where the game’s cheese starts to come in, and trust me there is plenty of it on hand. So from there he quits the New York police force and becomes an undercover DEA agent with an itchy trigger finger who plays fast and loose with the rules in order to find his families killers.


Pretty standard cheesy cop noir fare and it’s quite obviously not meant to be taken seriously in any capacity. The visuals only serve to reinforce this notion with characters having 2D photomapped faces stuck onto early PS2 era body models for an extremely creepy look.

The cutscenes also use a graphic novel style with photos of live-action characters that are more often than not either showing the wrong pose or emotion for what they are supposed to be doing or completely overacting. It all adds to the B-grade cop TV serial vibe that the game executes so well. It even has it’s own B-grade cop serial that can be found playing on some of the TV’s throughout the game. While it may sound like I’m ragging on the style that couldn’t be further from the truth, I absolutely adore it.


As the story progresses it becomes more of a conspiracy theory tale as you slowly uncover the source of the mysterious “Valkyr” and it all caps off with a secret society opposing the millitary industrial complex. Brilliant.

The cheesy B-grade cop serial atmosphere would mean nothing without some good gameplay though, and while the gameplay certainly isn’t bad, it leaves a little bit desired. The mechanics are fairly stripped back and the game doesn’t really have the level of polish required to pull that off. However everything that is there works well.


The only real mechanics other than movement and shooting are bullet time and dodging. You can use the spacebar with a directional button to dive or roll in a given direction, or if you use the shift key you will enter “bullet time” as you dodge, which is for all intents and purposes slow motion. However even when you are dodging the enemies aim is still pretty accurate so I often opted to just use cover instead of dodging around and shooting.

In fact the only time I really used bullet time was when I wanted to score some easy headshots or use the sniper rifle in close quarters, which is fun as hell to be fair.


The game has pretty solid game feel on the weapons and there is some decent weapon variety which makes the basic gameplay a bit better. Close range gun blasts and explosions send enemies flying and each weapon has it’s own unique function and application in combat.

The weapons in the game include everything from 9mm Berretas that can be dual wielded to an M79 grenade launcher. You can also carry all of the guns in the game at the same time so you’ll always have the weapon you need for a given situation and you can switch around between weapons to keep things fresh.


In terms of the games technical execution it’s quite obvious that it’s a very early PS2 game on  a pretty small budget. The visuals are muddy and at times laughably bad (see the faces) The voice acting is pretty hammy and over the top save for Max’s, which is probably why they used the same voice actor for both of the subsequent games even though his delivery is overly brooding a lot of the time.


Max Payne
Max Payne is a game with some stripped back, but well made gameplay and a story and atmosphere that will make any B movie fan grin ear to ear the entire time through.
7.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

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