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Release Date

Max Payne
May 20, 2002 | Eddie Park

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I am a die-hard John Woo fan. And not just one of these recent wanabee fans either - I've been watching his movies since I was in high school, long before he was widely known in the U.S. People who think The Matrix started the usage of double-fisted pistols and slow-motion camera shots should recheck their facts and look back to such films as A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard Boiled to see who really started what has become a staple of action cinema.

That being said, when I heard that a game was being created that was not only inspired by John Woo, but allowed gamers to be directly involved in a John Woo-style universe, I was more than a little intrigued. My main concern, of course, was whether or not the development team would be able to pull it off, especially for a nit-picky fan such as myself. I vowed that if they screwed it up, I'd have to go Chow Yun Fat on them and run through their offices with dual pistols blazing. Or something like that.

My chance to scrutinize this title finally arrived this week in the form of a CD-R, a mock-up of the box packaging, and a couple of PR sheets. The title of this game, of course, is Max Payne - a game plenty of us have been waiting for. Just ask the myriad people that have begged me for a copy.

Heroes Shed No Tears
Though the makeup of Max Payne is heavily influenced by John Woo's style of cinematography, the story itself is more akin to the gritty action movies that dominated the U.S. movie scene back in the late 80s/early 90s. Max Payne starts off as a fine, upstanding police officer who's just smoked what he thinks is his last cigarette, due to the arrival of his baby daughter and in consideration for his lovely wife. As per the subtitle for the first chapter of the game, Max Payne is indeed living "The American Dream," and seems to have a bright future ahead of him.

All of this changes when he gets home one fateful night. He arrives to find his house strangely out of order. Rushing up the stairs, he finds his worst dreams realized - his wife and newborn daughter have been slaughtered by hyped-up drug junkies. In a rage, he kills those who killed his family, but in the end can only weep brokenly over the dead body of his wife.

These events cause Payne to become a burnt-out shell of a man, with only the vendetta of revenge keeping him from going completely insane. Transferring to the DEA department, he starts to wage a one-man war aginst the drug empire, and his investigations into a minor drug lord eventually expand into a web of conspiracies and back-deals, including major mafia figures and even the U.S. government.

As if the above information wasn't indication enough, it should be noted that Max Payne's story is not for the faint of heart. Gamers will encounter topics such as prostitution, drug dealing, backstabbing, and endless deaths during the course of the story. "Gritty," the word used by many reviewers looking at Max Payne, fits this game to a T in terms of story and atmosphere.

Though a few cutscenes are used to advance the storyline, the majority of the story in Max Payne is addressed through the use of comic book-type panels, complete with word balloons and voiced audio. Though these panels are self-running, players have the option of stopping, rewinding, and fast-forwarding through them as necessary to either catch up or skip ahead.


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