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Max Payne (Mac) artwork

Max Payne (Mac) review

"The pallid light bursting from my Macintosh was the only thing my burning eyes were registering at this ungodly hour. It was 4 AM. This time belonged to the street urchins, the disease flowing through the bloodstream of this audibly dying monument to good old American ingenuity, know-how, and monstrous excess. It made my head spin just thinking about all the pests I had exterminated the past few days, with the help of two friends I kept very close to my side. In thigh holsters to be precise. The..."

The pallid light bursting from my Macintosh was the only thing my burning eyes were registering at this ungodly hour. It was 4 AM. This time belonged to the street urchins, the disease flowing through the bloodstream of this audibly dying monument to good old American ingenuity, know-how, and monstrous excess. It made my head spin just thinking about all the pests I had exterminated the past few days, with the help of two friends I kept very close to my side. In thigh holsters to be precise. The old Johnny was gone to camp and I had moved away without telling him. In the meantime I occupied myself with the sordid tale of New York narcotics cop Max Payne, taking in every detail of his descent into an apocalyptic netherworld of violence, insanity, and good old fashioned retribution. Yeah, this fellow Max was getting to be more and more like an extension of myself with every skull I ventilated, every thug I shotgunned in the guts. I hadn't had this much fun since my tequila-fuelled midnight run through Watts.

Let's take a cue from Mr. Payne and flash back to the very beginning, or at least the earliest point in memory. When I gather up the meaningless shattered fragments, which I sometimes refer to as long-term memories, I can pierce together a picture of skepticism, of promises unfulfilled in a way only George Broussard can manage. There was a bunch of Scandanavians who formed a company known as Remedy, whose maiden project was in its fetal stage for something along the lines of four years, with a number of false starts and held-back release dates adding up like so many infernal demerits against them. But you know the old Scandanavian "do or die" spirit held them through the tough times, along with the help of lots of whiskey and speed, and managed to stun the world by simply releasing their baby, known as Max Payne, to a hopelessly naive and unsuspecting audience.

Call me naive, call me unsuspecting. Call me worse. Max Payne hit me like a bad case of the clap, left me with something close to an amyl high, and dumped my fool ass in the gutter gasping for breath like a 500,000 volt cattle prod to the eyeball. There's enough sadomasochistic oldschool blood in these old veins to know that when a game runs you over like a $3 whore, this is the best sign you can hope for. Johnny, he was a fool. He was a sucker for flash. He had no appreciation for the finer things in life, like wine not in a box, or peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Johnny was Marv and Max Payne was his Goldie. Their relationship was one of true lust, plain and simple. Ever hear of lust at first sight? No need for head-scratching, I'll fill you in.

See, Max is all about a good first impression. He could charm your pants off faster than you could grab your Mace. He's got that Scandanavian know-how, you see. Any middle-of-the-road CPU can handle Max, and he had good looks that were unbefitting of such outdated hardware. You'd almost think your eyes were lying to your brain. Max had that way about him. From the second his impossibly cinematic tale unfolded, you'd be suckered in immediately. Max, he was a good cop. He had a spacious house in the suburbs, a pretty wife and a little whelp they were rearing in true Payne fashion. You know the whole thing was gonna turn sour because it would make a pretty damn boring game otherwise. But Max had this way of making cliches seem fresh and innovative, probably due to his language, which was overblown in the worst way, like George Will writing in stream-of-consciousness while on a heroin bender trapped in a room with a Smith-Corona and a tall bottle of scotch to keep things on course. Bill Burroughs would be smiling a horrible, toothless smile from wherever the hell he is right now.

Violence always starts because of more violence; in this case a few junkies broke into the Payne residence and had their way with Ms. Payne before offing her and young Max Jr., still in his crib. Max was all over them like white on rice, but simple revenge would not be nearly enough to quell the fire burning deep within him, a furnace of pure hatred that would refuse to go out until every last person connected to the double homicide was sent on a one-way trip to the afterlife. Things were set in motion in a hurry. Max was the shepherd, the black-hearted were transported through dual vessels known as Beretta M93s. On his side were powers that cannot be explained in logical terms, for they were most likely divine -- Max had the ability to slow down time, fire more precise shots (with visible rounds no less) and rip off The Matrix all at once. Talk about multitalented. Talk about your avenging angels.

Payne lived up to his name, delivering divine retribution through the more unsavory parts of the Big Apple, the places they gloss over in tourism campaigns. All lovingly rendered, too. An entire hotel, a subway line, a warehouse and ocean freighter straight from The Usual Suspects, all turned into Swiss cheese with the help of Max and his guns. He had this unhealthy obsession with guns, which I once gladly shared myself. You've got your .50 cals, your sawed-off shotguns, your Mac-10s, your sniper rifles, your assault rifles, your concussion rifles, your grenade launchers, and of course your Pneumatic Sigma Propulsion Blasters to round off the ensemble of death. Max, like many otherworldly action studs, could comfortably hoard an arsenal to hold off a Red Army faction in the confines of his stylish leather jacket and slacks. He had this tendency to blast apart any totally destructible environment he blessed with his presence. Maybe this should have tipped me off that he wasn't the most pleasant houseguest.

To be blunt, and I certainly try to avoid that, Max Payne got real old, real fast. Oh, I had my late nights with him, ripping holes through low-life gangsters like the Finito Brothers, who are given expert voice work and idiosyncratic personalities for the precious few seconds they are on screen until Max renders them bloody cadavers. In fact, he would even stoop to entering my dreams after extended sessions. I'd be thinking about Max storming through a seedy tenement building roasting mumbling drug addicts with Molotov Cocktails when I wasn't actually doing the horrible act. Their screams haunted my conscious life as well. It was hard to concentrate in study hall when I was lovingly reenacting the slaughter of 50-odd Mafia hoods by the purifying flame of dual Mac-10s which Max, in all his shepherdly Scandanavian prowess, could hold unwaveringly despite the weapon's notorious amount of recoil. Sister Agnes would then show up, her face scrunched up like an ancient tree trunk, and scream "Johnny, by the good Lord's name, desist with your thoughts of mass murder!". Then I would get rapped on the knuckles and I was back where I started, a no-good sucker.

I helped Max get to the obligatory Evil Corporation, where I was confronted with a squadron of gentlemen armed with grenade launchers and a helicopter-mounted minigun among other hazards, when Johnny decided to stage a one-man intervention during a rare bathroom break. First, I realized that all the enemies acted exactly the same, lining up like lambs to a certain grisly death at the hands of their perpetually grimacing shepherd. Or maybe Max was just constipated like they theorized at IGN, whichever. Second, Max was a negative influence on me. I would be better off hanging out with the stoners, who were at least too baked to engage in quests of vengeance, much less even hold a gun steady for more than a second. Third, and most importantly, Max's story was not challenging, nor did it bring anything new to the already overcrowded table of action games. I sunk into a deep depression, there on the porcelain throne, when I came to the realization that the last original action game I remember playing was Half-Life so, so many years ago.

He hung around like a damned ugly albatross around my damned neck after I finished his ridiculously easy mission from God or whoever. Max seemed to be quite insistent that he would return for further adventures, and my suspicions were confirmed when his next bloody quest for vengeance arrived on shelves in 1/4 of the time it took the first one to reach our shores. Max did give me a lasting gift, however. The game came with this free foam rubber pad which I would place my mouse upon for easy, unobstructed movement. I suppose it was superior to my Leisure Suit Larry mousepad which had an odd-smelling stain on it from probably a decade earlier.

So here I am, back at the beginning. Looking back on our relationship, I can safely tell you it was pretty one-sided. Max just kept giving and giving, and was all too eager to keep on giving had I not said "to Hell with giving, Max, and to Hell with you and your quests." Note that I really said those words, too, to an unfeeling Apple G4 at 4 AM, when the only other souls awake were urchins scouring the open bloodstreams of the city, looking for their next score, or the sneering Italians wandering this little slice of Hades looking for the next innocent man to screw over, and over the edge if at all possible. Then there are your good-intentioned heroes who look to do about the same to innocent consumers. And, as I sit back here next to my loaded hookah, I can tell you I've made the better choice as far as role models go.

johnny_cairo's avatar
Community review by johnny_cairo (May 21, 2005)

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