20 years on, Max Payne is as stylish as ever
You've got to give it to Remedy: they know how to start a story off with a bang. As Max Payne opens, our antihero is on the summit of a skyscraper while sirens wail in the gloom below. "They were all dead," Max says with that famous frown. "The final gunshot was an exclamation mark to everything that had led to this point."
We go back a few years next, to the brutal double murder of Max's wife and newborn child, then follow his revenge mission (guns do the talking, and two wrongs do indeed make a right). By acts two and three, the guns are bigger and the body count has mounted while the web of lies are slowly untangled. The next thing you know, the dénouement comes again - Max back on his perch above the tinny whine of those police cars.
Starting at the end and coming full circle means Max is able to narrate the entire tale: a classic literary trick that more games ought to use. The meat of Max's bone-dry narration overlays graphic novel panels that come at the chapter breaks and during levels as well. I spoke to Kiia Kallio, who was in charge of bringing the panels to life. "Initially there were ideas for doing video cutscenes," Kallio tells me, "but there was no budget for that, so graphic novel panels were used as an alternative method of storytelling."