Rockstar Games are gearing up for the release of Max Payne 3 on May 18, and we thought now was a good time to go over the one thing that makes the story really stand out, the story. Some of you may have missed out on the first two titles, and you want a better understanding of Max before you enter the explosive campaign that awaits in next month's sequel. If you can't get your hands on the original game (which was just re-released on iOS, read our review here), or you simply can't be bothered tracking them down and playing them, we've got you covered.
WARNING: This article is 100% spoilers. If you're planning on going back to these classic titles, then stay away from this article. Don't say we didn't warn you -_-
Max Payne (2001)
The story takes place in New York City, just as the iconic city finishes experiencing the worst blizard in history. We're introduced to Max Payne, a renegade DEA agent and former MYPD officer, who has gone undercover to pentrate the Punchinello crime family. Max's identity has been kept secret from the entire police force, except for his colleague B.B and his best friend, Alex Balder, who is alse a DEA agent.
Max has a personal interest in his situation. Three years prior, he returned to his home to find it ransacked, his new-born daughter and his wife murdered by thugs who were drugged up on a new product called Valkyr, known by its street name as V. Max was certain that Punchinello was running the drug operation, so this undercover setup would give him an avenue to exact revenge. That is when he transferred from the NYPD to the DEA.
Max is contacted by B.B who instructs him to meet Alex in the NYC subway station. When Max arrives he stumbles upon a bank robbery in progress by Jack Lupino's men, a rival mafia family who are enterting the bank vault through the subway station. After shooting his way through that mess, he finally meets up with Alex who is murdered by an assassin before he can deliver the message to Max. Payne becomes the prime suspect as no one knows he is undercover, and he is spotted as he flees the scene. In addtion to that pressure, the crime families have discovered his real identity and they want hime dead.
Max is hot on the trail of Lupino when he busts a Valkyr deal, discovering that Russian mobster Vladimir Lem is engaged in a fierce turf was against Punchinello's men. After presuing this line of evidence, Max eventually runs into Lupino's right-hand man and learns the location of Lupino's hideout, a nightclub named Ragna Rock.
Max enters the club to find Mona Sax, a contract killer who pours him a drink which turns out to be laced with a sedative. Max is then captured by the Mafia and is tortured in a slaughterhouse. It's here that he strikes up an alliance with Vladimir, agreeing to kill one of his traitors and his men aboard a cargo ship at the Brooklyn riverfront, which contains a mass of Russian weaponry.
Max uses his new-found weapons to ambush the residence of Don Angelo Punchinello, and it is here he learns that the Mafia is just a puppet in the Valkyr race. The mafioso is killed in front of Payne by agents of Nicole Horne, CEO of the Aesir Corportation who are mentioned multiple times throughout the campaign. Horne injects Payne with an overdose of Valkyr, and leaves Max for dead.
He manages to survive, and he follows his only lead which takes him to a steel foundry located over a hidden underground military research facility. It's here that we learn that Valkyr is the result of the Valhalla Porject; an experiment in the early 1990s for the U.S milirary which attempted to improve soldiers stamina and morale. The initial experiements yielded poor results, but Horne and Aesir restarted the project. Max learns that his wife found out about the project by accident, and Horne herself let the Valkyr addicts loose in his house.
B.B finally contacts Max and arranges a meeting in an underground parking lot. It's here we learn that B.B killed Alex and framed Max for the murder, which errupts into an epic gunfight. After B.B has been killed, Max is contacted by a man named Alfred Woden, who invites Max to the Asgard Building. Alfred reveals himself to be part of a powerful , secret society called the Inner Circle, which has strong ties to the U.S government. The Inner Circle wants Horne to be dealt with, and ask Max to take her out in exchange for having all charges against him dropped. Aesir operatives burst into the room and kill all the Inner Circle members, but Max manages to escape, and we learn that Woden simply pretended to be shot.
The game finally ends in a massive fight at the Aesir corportation where Max runs into Mona Sax again. She refuses to shoot Payne and is shot in the head, her body simply disappearing. Max chases Horne who boards a helicopter, and he takes it out. The final moments of the game are actually the very beginning moments. We see Max being arrested and lead from the front of the Aesir building. We also see Alfred Woden standing there, and Max smiles genuniely knowing that Woden will ensure his safe passage through the judicial system.
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (2003)
Two years aftet the events of the first game, Max resigns from the DEA and returns to his former job as a detective for the NYPD. During the investigation of several murders by a group of contract killers known as The Cleaners, Max runs into Mona Sax, who was assumed dead at the end of the previous game. Sax is wanted for the murder of Senator Gates, and she is arrested despite Max's protests. Back at the station, Payne overhears his new partner, Detective Valerie Winterton, speaking about Mona while on a phone call. Suddently The Cleaners attack the station, searching for Sax. During all the confusion, Mona escapes from her cell and disappears into the darkness.
Max heads over to Mona's residence, where they fight off a wave of The Cleaners who had followed Max there. Here we learn about the conspiracy behind Mona's case, and Max joins forces with her to uncover the truth. Their search leade them to a construction site, which involves another fight with The Cleaners, before Detective Winterson arrives on the scene and holds Mona at gunpoint.
Mona claims Winterson is trying to murder her, and Winterson claims she is trying to capture a fleeing fugitive. Max gives this careful thought, before shooting Winterson and allowing Mona to escape. Winterson dies, but manages to shoot Max on her way out, which winds him up in hospital.
When Max gets out of the hospital, he starts searching for answers. He is kidnapped by Vladimir Lem and lears that The Cleaner work for him, eliminating all competition to his businesses. Vladimir is also part of the Inner Circle, which is still run by Alfred Woden, who is now a senator. Lem plans to kill Woden and gain control of the Inner Circle for his own purposes. Max also learns that Mona is a hired gun for Woden, with orders to kill Lem and Max. Lem reveals that Winterson was his mistress before shooting Max and leaving him for dead in a burning building. Mona arrives on the scene to save Max, and they both head off to Woden's mansion to save him from Lem.
At the mansion, Mona knocks Max to the ground in an attempt to follow her orders, but discovers that her feeling for him make that impossible. Lem shoots her after realising she won't kill Max. Woden lunges at Lem and is killed during a struggle. Max and Lem battle it out, Max eventually killing the Russian mobster. Max returns to Mona's side, and she dies in his arms as the police arrive. If you manage to finish the game on its highest difficulty, Mona actually survives the encounter.
So there you have it, the saga of Max Payne written from start to finish for those who can't access the games, or maybe you just want a refresher before launching into Max Payne 3 next month. If you only have time to play one of the games, we suggest you tackle the first Max Payne. The story is far more relevant when creating the image and backstory of Max as a fragile and thought provoking character.
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