Anthony's Film Review

Max Payne
(Video Game, 2001)

Max Payne is an exciting video game that delivers hard-hitting action...

The 2001 shooter game Max Payne, developed by Remedy Entertainment and produced by 3D Realms, could've been a shooter game like any other. But thankfully, the game's design team worked to make the game stand out from the competition. Instead of the typical first-person perspective characteristic of most shooter games, the game shows the title character in third-person, with a camera following the character from behind at all times. More importantly, the game includes a cool feature called Bullet Time, which involves slow motion to help the player have the upper hand in deadly gunfights. More on that in a bit.

Let me first talk about the game's story and overall style of presentation. Max Payne is a New York police detective who has suffered psychological trauma after coming home and seeing his wife and baby child murdered. He deals with the loss by working undercover with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to help put an end to the distribution of the street drug Valkyr, which his family's murderers had been addicted to. One day, there is a break in the case, and Payne doesn't hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity. However, things get complicated when a DEA contact is killed, and Payne is wrongfully accused for his murder, forcing him to be on the run from both the mafia and the police.

This is no doubt a noir story, in which the main character is a hard-boiled cynic who is thrust into dangerous life-and-death situations. In between the game's action that you control are cutscenes presented as panels of a dark graphic novel, which is an effective narrative technique (and was actually done because the design team couldn't hire actors to film video cutscenes). Payne's narration and dialogue with other characters clear show how tough he is. The words that appear in the graphic novel cutscenes are creatively written and memorable, making the game's plot as engaging as the action.

As I mentioned earlier, the game is a third-person shooter. You see Payne the whole time as you move him around and use weapons, including a baseball bat, one or two Barettas (yes, you have the option of using two handguns simultaneously, like in many action movies), one or two Ingrams, a shotgun, and even Molotov cocktails. There are lots of enemies to kill throughout the game, such that the total body count is no doubt a couple hundred, and the gunfights are bloody. As you kill enemies, you accumulate Bullet Time, which you can use in one of two ways. You can use a small amount of Bullet Time to perform a "shootdodge," where, in slow motion, you dive in one direction and shoot your enemies while in midair. The other way is to use Bullet Time continuously so that everything that happens slows down while you're still able to aim your weapon at normal speed, simulating Payne's ability to focus intensely and act very quickly in deadly circumstances.

From beginning to end, Max Payne is a thrilling action game with no dull moments. The story is constantly gripping, and the action is always an edge-of-your-seat experience. If there is any criticism I have, it's that the story feels a little bit short. That's not to say that the game is too short, but I would think that with an awesome gameplay experience like this one, the story ought to be closer to an epic film plot rather than, let's say, the equivalent of a television mini-series. In any event, fans of shooter games are definitely in for a treat with Max Payne, because this is a character who can, for his enemies, bring on the pain.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Max Payne, visit the Internet Movie Database and Moby Games.

In addition, check out my review of the film adaptation Max Payne.


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