"I felt thin as death. I had been living on an endless supply of week-old donuts. They were fuel for this crazy furnance inside my head. I couldn't remember when I had last seen the Sun. I was on a permanent graveyard shift.
"When the darkness fell, New York City became something else - any old Sinatra song notwithstanding. Bad things happened in the night, on the streets of that other city: Noir York City."
A game, developed by Remedy Entertainment, released July 27, 2001 after years and years of development. It's a shooter (from third-person perspective) with absolutely stunning graphics and visual effects. And they even committed a sacrilege and made a decent storyline...
Also, the name of the game's main character. Max is a former undercover cop, now a DEA agent, who has lost his family and who was framed. Now, he's being hunted by both the criminals and the police... and trying to make sense of the tangled web of crime and violence around him and to find the head of the criminal organization.
What's so special about the game?
Max Payne is a good continuation of the recent trend of making "immersive shoot-em-ups" - the game needs to be credible to be enjoyable. Realistic environment, realistic character (Max is just as vulnerable as everyone else in the game), realistic enemies, realistic weapons... The only cinematic advantage Max has over the enemies is the Bullet Time. (And, of course, save/load. =)
In Max' case, you can really feel you're deep in the darkest alleys of the Big Apple, in the middle of darkest and coldest winter storm in history... hunted and hunting.
The real "innovation" in the game is the Bullet Time / Shoot-Dodge / Cinematic-Shot mode. With the click of right mouse button, everything slows down, but you're still able to aim normally (of course, this works only for a limited time). Imagine several hours of action a la the lobby scene from The Matrix...
Of course, as this sort of thing would not be particularly easy to do in multiplayer mode, the game doesn't have one. However, the game comes with a full set of editing tools.
For stuff, see http://www.maxpayne.com/
Smallish update: Yeah, this is the computer game noir experience. I actually needed to turn the lights off to see a goddamn thing at times. =)
(Yes, I later noticed the brightness control, too - but I do think the game is best played in the darkness...)
Oh, yeah, about the detective story cliches: I llloved them. =)
The storytelling in Max Payne splits opinions. Others find it tolerable or hilarious, some find it absolutely frustrating. One of the factors is probably that MP isn't clearly a serious work or a work of parody, and borrows elements from many sources that some people feel this stuff has no business to be in the storyline.
The story itself is quite dramatic with its good load of crime, violence and murder. Very serious story with serious environment and realistic weapons. Max's style of telling stuff is, however, way too poetic and metaphorical, more so than most detective stories, and just that makes it funny. Some people didn't like the fact how this continued throughout the game.
Anyway, it's like zen: if you need to ask why the story is good, you'll never understand. =)