@NeowinGaming: Revisiting Max Payne - the game that revolutionized gunplay

This is an occasional feature in which we revisit games that influenced the future of gaming and established their position as a classic, so that we still reminisce them years after their original release. Head over to Neowin's Gamers' Hangout to share your own memories of classic games and you might get featured next time!

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Max Payne is a third-person shooting game revolving around the titular detective who is hell-bent on avenging the murder of his family. Developed by Remedy Entertainment - whose latest titles include Quantum Break and Alan Wake - Max Payne made its way to numerous platforms including the PC, PlayStation 2, Gameboy Advance, and the original Xbox during 2001-2003.

This was a time when consoles like the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox were relatively new, and games were evolving in terms of gameplay and graphics. Prominent games from this time period include Halo: Combat Evolved, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Silent Hill 2.

When it launched, Max Payne became very popular for its neo-noir visual style and art, some great voice-acting, surreal locations, haunting monologue, cut-scenes - both graphic novel-style as well as those rendered in real-time - and an intriguing story. However, one feature that stood out above all the rest is the title's revolutionary third-person gunplay.

Players could trigger "bullet time", more commonly known as "slow motion" nowadays, to engage in exciting gunfights à la The Matrix. Being the first game to utilize this feature, it inspired a lot of creativity when planning how to approach an enemy who is currently unaware of your presence as well as allowing players to truly absorb the combat, which would have otherwise been difficult to focus on.

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What made bullet time even more fun to play with were the special moves that a player could perform, including a variety of dives. The fact that time was slowed down to an extent that would allow players to see enemy bullets flying in the air made the combat more strategic and meaningful. When the last enemy in a particular scene was killed, the camera would either follow the bullet similar to Sniper Elite, or show the enemy respond to the impact of the bullet in slow motion. While the arsenal of weapons in the game wasn't exactly what one would call vast, it was enough to satisfy most gamers of the time.

All this made up for a very enthralling experience. While Max Payne didn't offer much in terms of replay value, due to the title following a linear story of vengeance, it did allow some indirectly. Players could save their state at virtually any point in the game, and when loaded, they could start at exactly the point where they saved it. While the main purpose of this was to progress through extremely difficult missions by way of trial-and-error, it also allowed players to engage in gunfights in a variety of different manners. For example, many players who took a bullet in a gunfight would load their previous states and perfect their gunplay technique.

All in all, Max Payne has established itself as a cult-classic; one that has inspired two arguably great sequels and even a movie of the same name. Although Hollywood's take on Max Payne was viewed as flawed by critics and fans of the character alike, it was a commercial success. Even in 2017, Max Payne is an extremely fun game to play and one that has stood the test of time. Its continued popularity among its fans can also be seen by the fact that the title received an HD overhaul on Android and iOS, when it was released on the platforms in 2012.

Have you played Max Payne? What is your take on the title? Is the game rightly praised for its gunplay mechanics or is it overrated? Let us know in the comments section below!


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