Having bought Max Payne, alongside Max Payne 2, for just £3.50 a few months back on Steam, I've been meaning to play it for a while. A few days ago, I finally grasped a chance to dive into it, and 7 hours of gameplay later, I emerge an extremely pleased young man. The well-crafted gameplay, and ammusing story more than negated the old graphics and poor textures, to a point where it has been one of the more satisfying games I have played this year.
The experience was stunningly fun, and I was constantly surprised with how I would think about playing it during times when I couldn't actually do so. Some games do that, they just linger in your mind throughout the day, until those two hours just before you have to go to sleep, where you can just play it. Even in 2012, Max Payne did that, and I genuinely didn't think that it possibly could.
The story is self-referential, funny, slightly dark, but knowing. It certainly doesn't take itself too seriously, and some moments are actually rather clever. The third-person shooting doesn't feel overly clumsy, even in the age of Gears of War 3, and it really allowed to me to remember just how impressive this game was when I first played it in 2002 when I was 9. Admittedly, my parents had no idea what it was that I was playing, and to be honest, neither did I. Regardless, there are so many moments I remembered intimately, even 10 years later.
The save mechanic is certainly something that many games don't include, and I suppose there are some fairly good reasons as to why. Personally though, the quick-save anywhere and at any time truly opened the experience up to allow for experimentation, and refining the handling of a particular situation. I felt free, and in control, and despite it being a minor inclusion, the way this game handles saving progress lends itself beautifully to the type of game that it is. With a standard checkpoint system alone, the game would be entirely different, even if occasionally I was stupid enough to quick save with almost no health and 5 enemies surrounding me.
As I neared the end, I could not stop playing. Fortunately it was a Saturday night, and so staying up until one in the morning did not seem as irresponsible as it would have on a week day. However, the execution of the pacing kept me playing through until that last mission. Admittedly, there was a slightly repetitive nature to the final encounters, but the various challenges you are confronted with keep it fresh enough to allow the fun story beats to carry you through.
Finally, something that possibly intrigued me and excited me more than most other aspects of the game; the lack of guidance. Now, 'lack of' sounds derogitory, but my statement is far from negative. Enough of the in-game context is laid out to keep the player in the know, but, crucially, Remedy do not hit you over the head with what you must do to proceed. The levels are carefully created to make it self-explanatory, and they leave the player constantly feeling like they truly escaped a certain situation based on wit. I honestly don't know how games have managed to regress in this respect, but I think it's most certainly time for us to step-back to requiring the player to actually use some problem-solving. It's no coincidence that people love Portal when it leaves the hard work up to the player.
By the time the credits rolled, one of the many emotions that rushed through my brain was the lust to make a game like this. I would have loved to have been a part of the development process of Max Payne, because the whole way through you are exposed to the love, and the passion that Remedy had for Max Payne. I felt as though the creative environment would have been a hugely relaxed and entertaining one, and I was almost jealous that I wouldn't get to be a part of it. Nonetheless, there are too many opportunities in the world to ever dwell on this fact for more than a second, and so I only hope that whatever job I may land in, I get to feel just as much happiness as I imagine the Remedy team did after finishing this extraordinary game.