EXT. NEW YORK CITY
POLICE DETECTIVE MAX PAYNE is standing STOCK STILL with A WORD BALLOON over his head and A RIDICULOUS CONSTIPATED-SQUIRREL EXPRESSION on his face.
What’s with all the panels? Am I in a graphic novel? I thought this was a video game.
It IS a video game, but the cutscenes are actually comics.
Oh, because we’re inspired by comics, like how Infamous did it?
Actually, our inspiration is more pulpy crime novels. But the game calls itself a film noir. Although our main stylistic influence is John Woo, who has nothing to do with any of those things. And there’s a fair bit of Norse mythology thrown in too for the hell of it. Also --
Just get to the story, pal. Before we turn into a sitcom-esque opera based on the paintings of Andy Warhol as well.
Okay. So, still don’t want to transfer to the DEA and help me stop the peddling of the designer drug Valkyr?
No thanks, I want to be able to spend more time with my beautiful wife Michelle and adorable baby in our picket-fence house on Blissful Innocence Boulevard. Besides, I’m pretty happy with my job exclusively investigating puppy kidnappings and robberies at the chocolate factory -- oh FUCK, this is my life at the BEGINNING of the game? Maaan, things are going to get real fucked real fast.
MAX returns HOME to find that VALKYR-CRAZED THUGS have BRUTALLY MURDERED HIS FAMILY.
Called it. Now to enter angst mode from now until the heat death of the universe.
(grim grim grim)
So I transferred to the DEA. You can transfer your career, but the rest of you stays behind with the dead. You try to move on, but it’s like running with your scarf caught on a fencepost, it holds you back, chokes you, your soul impaled on the pointy top bit of the past, and you’ll never get all those little splinters out.
Ooh, purple prose, let me have a go!
We need you to go undercover with the Punchinello crime family. The death of your family can become the destruction of theirs, like -- when someone knocks over your ice cream so you knock over their ice cream so that NOBODY has ice cream!
Let me handle the metaphors, okay?
INT. SUBWAY STATION - THREE YEARS LATER
MAX goes to a meeting with ALEX. He stumbles upon SOME THUGS in the process of TUNNELLING THROUGH THE SUBWAY into a neighbouring BANK VAULT.
Sheesh, great planning on this heist. "Mickey, Joey, Donnie, you guys empty the vault. Other forty guys, stand around in nearby rooms doing fuck all. Except for you three, you'll be driving the fleet of getaway buses."
He MURDERS HIS WAY TO THE VAULT, then BURSTS IN and LEAPS WILDLY THROUGH THE AIR, which IMPROVES HIS AIM because of, uh, relativistic time dilation? GOD KNOWS.
These men were stealing Aesir Corporation bonds? I wonder how that will factor into the complex plot of this game. We’ll see, I’m sure.
Aesir. Hmm, the all-powerful megacorporation is named after the Norse gods. And the drug Valkyr is named after the figures in Norse mythology which would lift you up to heaven, but of course only after you've died. I see how this works.
Hey Max, what's up?
Uh oh. Alex, I don’t suppose you know the one thing the Norse god Baldr is remembered for?
Shit. Well, my DEA handler being killed by the very gang I'm infiltrating should be no reason to assume my cover’s been blown. Might as well stroll right into the hotel that belongs to my crime boss Jack Lupino and say hello to two of his top lieutenants.
INT. LUPINO’S HOTEL
MAX stops in to see the FINITO BROTHERS, JOEY AND VIRGILIO.
Payne, youz is a frickin’ fed! Time ta die!
Whoa guys, we’re going for a gritty crime drama here. What the hell are you doing with the stereotypical accents, the Guys and Dolls outfits, and being called Finito?
Hey, da accent’s standard guido talk for dis here game.
What? How the hell am I supposed to take this thing seriously with all the mafiosos sounding like the fucking Goodfeathers? Jesus.
He gets into a TEN-SECOND SHOOTOUT with the FINITO BROTHERS, making it ENTIRELY WORTHWHILE establishing them as SPECIFIC CHARACTERS a minute previously.
Well that was easy. I guess I’ll just walk out of the hotel now and -- hey, what’s this?
(picks up note)
"Dear Finito Brothers, please hold a major drug deal in your hotel tonight. Don’t forget to put all your thugs on instantly-kill-everyone patrol at exactly Max-Payne-wants-to-leave-the-hotel o'clock. Signed, Vinnie Gognitti." Huh, I don't know why I read that in such a high-pitched, nasal voice.
MAX proceeds to MAKE HIS WAY OUT via PRETTY MUCH EVERY FUCKING ROOM IN THE HOTEL. He shoots ABOUT A MILLION THUGS and ABOUT A MILLION THUGS SHOOT HIM.
OW, FUCK, QUIT IT! Man, getting your internal organs perforated sure does sting. Better take some painkillers.
(swallows handful of pills)
Ah, much better! I may be more bullet than man right now, but as long as nobody tells my pain receptors, I’m right as rain.
Eventually MAX runs into LEGENDARY MOB HITMAN RICO MUERTE in the HOTEL BAR.
Rico Muerte? What are you doing here?
I was sent here to oversee the drug deal and never pull up my pants.
You mean with those guys in the other room? They’re dead, Rico. I killed them all while you were in here getting a blowjob. I loudly murdered every single person in this hotel and you didn’t even notice. You’re really terrible at this, you know that?
He quickly SHOOTS RICO DEAD, so once again, CHARACTERISING HIM was a real good use of our time.
I wonder how this drug deal will factor into the complex plot of this game. We’ll see, I’m sure.
INT. LUPINO’S TENEMENT SLUMS
Having had no success at LUPINO’S HOTEL, MAX looks for him at his TENEMENT BUILDING instead, because goshdarnit, this game just isn’t quite ready yet to be done with INTERCHANGEABLE DIRTY ROOMS FILLED WITH RANDOM THUGS.
What's this on the radio? Going by what makes it through the static, it seems to be an important news story about Valkyr, and police chief Jim Bravura, and the killer storm, and Valkyr, and police chief Jim Bravura, and the killer storm, and Valkyr, and police chief Jim Bravura, and the killer storm.
DEA agent Alex Balder was murdered earlier tonight by Max Payne. You guys all know who Max Payne is, right? We’ll assume that you do.
So the cops are after me, huh? I look forward to them not impeding my murderous rampage even slightly and being completely irrelevant to the story.
MAX FIGHTS his way to MID-LEVEL MAFIOSO VINNIE GOGNITTI, who immediately starts to SQUEAL. Oh no wait, he's just TALKING NORMALLY LIKE THAT.
Don't shoot me! My voice gets more high-pitched every time you do and I'm already on a par with Joe Pesci!
MAX shoots VINNIE and sends HIS VOICE right up to JANICE LITMAN-GORALNIK (NÉE HOSENSTEIN). He FLEES to the ROOF.
Crap, I gotta chase him across the rooftops? Outside, in this nigh-apocalyptic blizzard they keep going on about? I’ll probably be blown off the roof and freeze to death on the way down, but here goes nothing.
He goes out onto the ROOF and finds THE OCCASIONAL SNOWFLAKE DRIFTING DAINTILY TO THE GROUND.
Fucking media, always blowing these things way out of proportion.
He catches up to VINNIE and SHOOTS HIM NON-LETHALLY FIVE MILLION TIMES. His VOICE can now only be heard by DOGS.
Where's Jack Lupino?
AGH! Screw you, fed! I ain't talking!
Oh I think you’ll talk. Words itching at the back of your throat. Like holding back a scream of pain. Like holding your corrupted soul in your coward body, aching to --
Okay, I’ll talk, just fuck off with the stupid metaphors! Lupino’s at his nightclub!
Considering my investigation so far, that’s almost definitely where I would have gone next anyway, but thanks I guess. You can live.
Yeah, because letting a foul-tempered gangster you’ve shot, threatened and humiliated walk free is a great plan. Good to see you’ll murder every two-bit thug you come across, but draw the line at killing a nasty, woman-beating prick.
INT. RAGNA ROCK NIGHTCLUB
MAX goes and confronts JACK LUPINO, who turns out to be a CHUBBY GUY IN A HAWAIIAN SHIRT. HUH.
BRRLARRGH! I DECLARE MY ALLEGIANCE TO A CONFLICTING MISHMASH OF DIFFERENT DEMONS, INCLUDING BOTH SATAN AND LUCIFER, AS WELL AS THE FICTIONAL CHARACTER CTHULHU! I’M BASICALLY A MAD MAGAZINE PARODY OF MYSELF!
People have been taking orders from this guy? Seriously?
Hey, he’s not such a bad boss. As long as you bring in your quota of virgin blood each week, you get to choose which arcane symbol he sears into your flesh!
MAX kills all of LUPINO’S HENCHMEN and then LUPINO. But then, in strolls FEMME FATALE MONA SAX.
Wait, femme fatale? No offence, but you look just a tad too homely to fit that label.
Yeah, there wasn't really any room in the budget for attractive reference models, so the friends and family of the developers stepped in. Jack Lupino was actually the pizza guy.
Geez, I wonder who I have to thank for this face? I mean, am I holding my breath or chewing a wasp?
Anyways, Lupino didn’t frame you. It was his boss Angelo Punchinello, my sister’s abusive husband. Let’s have a drink then go kill him together!
Sure, I trust you. I mean, I’d suspect maybe you were going to drug me so I wouldn’t go making with the gun violence at your sister’s place, but if you wanted that, you would’ve just not told me her husband framed me. I mean, I was going to just go home and pout.
Um -- all true -- look, just drink up.
(drugged into unconsciousness)
INT. WEIRD DREAM HOUSE
MAX is in a trippy, wobbly version of HIS OLD HOUSE.
Ooh, a playable dream sequence, interesting! Stretchy hallways! A maze-like trail of blood suspended over a black void in --
(falls to his death)
Wait, I can die here? But doesn’t it sort of kill the dreamlike tone if --
(falls to his death)
Okay, seriously, the jump physics in this game are total shit, building an entire sequence around --
(falls to his death)
Come ON, there isn’t even any rational way to navigate this maze, it’s pure trial and --
(falls to his death)
INT. LUPINO’S HOTEL AGAIN
MAX wakes up tied to A CHAIR in the BASEMENT, where he is being BEATEN with a BASEBALL BAT by FRANKIE "LOGICAL NICKNAME" NIAGARA.
FRANKIE "THE BAT" NIAGARA
Phew, hitting you twice with that bat has worn me out! I’m gonna just put it right here within reach and leave you alone tied to the world’s flimsiest chair in a room locked with the world’s flimsiest padlock.
MAX gets free, kills EVERY BODY and JUST LEAVES.
Well, I guess I'm off to kill Angelo Punchinello.
Wait, not yet! The second act of this game is short enough as it is!
Oh for God's sake, could we stop introducing new characters already?
Not at the rate you're running through them. Look, you should go steal Punchinello's gun shipment. It's on a boat called the Charon.
So his henchmen won't have the guns to stop me?
Well no, they'll still all be armed to the teeth. But you'll have a lot more guns and ammo!
You really think "not enough ammo" is an issue for me? If I see the words "Ingram ammo full" one more time, I think I'm gonna scream! So come on, what is the point of stealing this shipment of --
Wait a minute. The bank robbery. The drug deal. It's all coming together! IT'S PADDING! This isn't a complex crime plot, it's a paper-thin revenge story with a bunch of meaningless distractions bolted on, isn't it? Fine, let's do the stupid gun robbery.
MAX goes to the DOCKS and starts SHOOTING DOCK WORKERS, because DOCK WORKERS are EVIL. At one point, he stumbles across EVIDENCE that RICO MUERTE had been hired to ASSASSINATE THE MAYOR by some MYSTERIOUS --
Oh no, I'm not falling for it anymore! That doesn't have anything to do with anything, does it?
So yeah, he just keeps SHOOTING DUDES.
That's what I thought.
(shot through shoulder, neck, spleen)
Goddamnit! More pills.
(pops fistful of painkillers)
Man, it's a good thing there aren't any adverse effects from swallowing your own body weight in painkillers. Otherwise I'd be FUCKED.
He makes it onto the CHARON, kills the crew and cleans out ALL THE GUNS in the hold.
Charon? That's GREEK mythology, morons.
INT. PUNCHINELLO'S RESTAURANT
MAX continues his MURDER INVESTIGATION, which really means he INVESTIGATES BY MURDERING A LOT.
Okay, I could go straight to Angelo's house and kill him, but the place would be filled with his armed thugs. I figure I'll arrange a meeting with him at his restaurant! Which he could then fill with armed thugs who know exactly when I'm going to show up.
Instead of being FILLED WITH THUGS, the restaurant is FILLED WITH EXPLOSIONS.
SHIT! How did I get all the way up to the top floor without realising that the place being mysteriously deserted wasn't a good sign?
He ESCAPES THE RESTAURANT and decides to try ANGELO'S MANSION after all.
INT. PUNCHINELLO'S MANSION
Got my work cut out for me here. To get to Angelo, I've got to kill Vince Mugnaio, Pilate Providence a.k.a. "Big Brother" and Joe "Deadpan" OKAY SERIOUSLY WHO ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE STOP THROWING NAMES AROUND AND EXPECTING ME TO CARE ABOUT KILLING THE MINIBOSSES WHO HAVE THEM.
He SLOGS HIS WAY through ALL THREE NON-CHARACTERS, downing HALF A PHARMACY and expending ALMOST ONE PERCENT OF HIS AMMUNITION, and finally makes it to PUNCHINELLO’S OFFICE.
Phew! After how tough his henchmen were, I hate to see what Punchinello himself will be like.
(whimpers, pisses himself)
Oh God I'm sorry, p-p-PLEEEAASE don't kill me, boo hoo hoo!
Well, this is dissatisfying.
Wait wait, it gets more dissatisfying! Just watch!
A bunch of KILLER SUITS shoot PUNCHINELLO and then get KILLED by MAX, who as it turns out NEEDN'T HAVE EVEN BOTHERED SHOWING UP. He goes to LEAVE THE ROOM, only to find A DOZEN MORE SUITS waiting outside for him.
Ah, yet another room full of heavily-armed killers. I'll just dive behind the doorframe as usual and -- hey, why can't I move? Oh fuck, I've got CUTSCENITIS!
Greetings, Mr. Payne. I'm the main villain of the game, finally bothering to show up.
Nicole Horne? Okay, if you take Nicole and remove the first letter you get Icole, which kind of sounds like Loki spelled backwards.
Don't overthink it. Now, while my men could reduce you to a fine red mist like they just did with Angelo there, I think instead I'll give you an overdose of Valkyr and leave you alone, assuming you'll die at some point.
You expect ME to die from too much DRUGS? Lady, you need to pay better attention.
HORNE drugs MAX and leaves as he SLIPS INTO UNCONSCIOUSNESS.
Take me to Cold Steel.
What do you want to do there?
Nothing whatsoever, as far as I can tell. I just needed to give Max his next clue right before he passed out.
INT. DREAM HOUSE AGAIN
MAX lapses into ANOTHER NIGHTMARE.
Another dream sequence! Oh geez, this looks just like the last one. Please tell me I don't have to go back through that goddamn --
(falls to his death)
(falls to his death)
(falls to his death)
FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!
MAX wakes up, having SURVIVED the massive overdose JUST BECAUSE.
INT. COLD STEEL
MAX heads for COLD STEEL, which turns out to be a FOUNDRY.
Something tells me this place is a front for something. Maybe it's the incriminating documents just lying around the place. Or the fact that instead of steel workers it's staffed entirely by heavily-armed men in balaclavas. Or maybe it's the big incongruous set of elevator doors here, which apparently I don't need a code or a key or anything to access. Who can say?
MAX takes THE ELEVATOR underground, where he discovers A BIG SECRET LABORATORY that is being destroyed by HORNE’S MERCENARIES.
Perimeter breach! A single intruder got past our first line of defence, so let's destroy all the research, kill all the scientists and blow up the building! No, YOU'RE overreacting!
Holy shit, turns out Valkyr was a secret military project! And what's this, on the one undestroyed computer left in the lab?
(on sound file)
"Hey, goons! Michelle Payne accidentally got hold of a file concerning Project Valhalla. Send some Valkyr-crazed junkies to brutally murder her. And for God's sake, delete this incriminating memo! I don't want to find this order still just sitting on some computer desktop several years after it was carried out."
Yowza! This game just took a sudden jump from gritty street-level crime drama to preposterous conspiracy bullshit.
He escapes the EXPLODING LAB.
Well, there goes my one lead. Guess I'll just have to putter around for a bit while I wait to see what disconnected set piece this shambles of a story lurches onto next.
Maxeeeeyyy, remember me? I got mentioned literally once at the beginning of the game? We should totally meet up!
Wait a minute, since me, Alex and B.B. were the only ones who knew I was undercover -- and I didn't blow my cover and kill Alex -- and ALEX didn't blow my cover and kill Alex -- OH MY GOD YOU GUYS I THINK I JUST FIGURED SOMETHING OUT!
EXT. PARKING GARAGE
MAX goes to the meeting with THE OBVIOUSLY EVIL B.B., because it's NOT LIKE LAST TIME he went to meet with A VILLAIN he was nearly BLOWN UP or anything.
Behold my billion-dollar suit and gold shoes! I'm not even going to bother pretending not to be hopelessly corrupt!
Not even to Internal Affairs, by the looks of things.
B.B. runs away, idiotically CORNERING HIMSELF at the bottom of THE PARKING GARAGE, where MAX SHOOTS HIM.
What an impressive villain! If they ever make a movie out of this, he should totally be the main bad guy. Wait, I didn't get any information out of him, so I'm right back where I was! Hmm, I obviously shouldn't hold out hope for another barely-mentioned character to just call me on the phone and --
Hey Max, this has dragged on long enough. Come to the Asgard building so we can hand you all the remaining clues already.
INT. ASGARD BUILDING
ALFRED WODEN introduces MAX to the INNER CIRCLE.
We're your typical society of shadowy bureaucrats who secretly run the country. We were involved with Valkyr back when it was an experimental military super-soldier project. When the project was cancelled, Nicole Horne went rogue and secretly started selling it as a recreational drug. Although I don't know how secret it is when you don't even bother to change the drug's name.
Please, I didn't even change my name when I went undercover and nobody caught on. So let me get this straight. Nicole Horne, president of the billion-dollar Aesir Corporation and a member of the most omnipotent secret society in the country, thought it was worth risking all that so she could run the world's most expensive meth lab and sell the product to twitchy street junkies who eventually go crazy and kill each other?
Pretty much. We need you to take her out for us. There's nothing we can do ourselves, we're just a bunch of ultra-powerful billionaires with access to limitless resources after all. Whereas you're a pill-popping ex-cop with a sawn-off shotgun!
Okay, I'm in. Gotta ask though, if this little club of yours is so secret, was it really necessary to invite me right into your headquarters and let me see all your faces? Or hell, to even tell me you existed? You knew I wanted Horne dead anyway, you could have just said: "Here's her name and address, go nuts."
Allow me to allay that concern right after I duck under the table for just a second.
HORNE'S KILLER SUITS burst in and shoot EVERYBODY. WODEN plays dead while MAX jumps out the window.
What the HELL? Even putting aside for a moment the question of why the shitting fuck Woden was willing to let his fellow Stonecutters get whacked, did he mean for me to die then too? Or was my frantic ninja leap through a closed window all part of his plan? Screw it, I don’t care about answers anymore, let’s just go kill Horne and be done with it.
INT. AESIR PLAZA
MAX slaughters his way up HORNE'S BILLION-STORY ULTRA-HIGH-TECH MONEY PALACE.
Sheesh, look at all this security. They’ve even got one of those laser hallways where if you trip a laser you fucking EXPLODE. Can’t imagine the occupational safety guys were wild about that little add-on.
He goes to take an ELEVATOR, but who should step out of it but MONA SAX!
That’s right, I work for Horne I guess! Time to kill you! But part of me wants to get revenge for my dead sister instead, so I should really let you go and get Horne. What to dooo?
Wait, what? I’m confused, wasn’t your sister killed by her sicko husband, Punchinello? Who was then killed BY Horne? Horne should be your goddamn hero, logically.
Look, does it really matter whether my motivations make sense or not? I've only had like four lines in this game and now I’m about to --
She GETS SHOT! The ELEVATOR DOORS close on her and when they open again, SHE’S GONE.
Oh no, she’s dead! Totally, actually dead. Yep, we won’t be seeing her again. Because she died. That’s why there’s no body. Because of how much she died.
He goes up to confront HORNE, who is awaiting him STOICALLY AND WITH AN UZI.
So it's come to this, has it? A fight to the death, mano-a-mano, just you and me -- and my GUARDS!
She throws YET MORE KILLER SUITS at MAX while she TURNS TAIL AND SPRINTS FOR THE ROOF, jumping into her ESCAPE HELICOPTER.
Ha ha, a helicopter?! At night and in a raging blizzard? I give you two minutes until you crash into a skyscraper! Thanks for doing my job for me, you idiot!
Although that’d mean that of the main bosses from each act, I'll have only killed the overweight drug addict. Might as well take out the middle-aged businesswoman too I guess.
He DEMOLISHES HORNE’S HELICOPTER and then stands around to GET ARRESTED by the POLICE, who are FINALLY ALLOWED TO DO SOMETHING now that the game is OVER.
So that’s it. Woden’s going to get the umpteen bajillion counts of murder swept under the carpet somehow and I’ve finally gotten revenge against all the people involved in my wife’s death. Maybe now I can get some closure and move on.
A JAMES BOND-ESQUE STINGER promises us that "MAX PAYNE'S JOURNEY INTO THE NIGHT WILL CONTINUE."
Oh nope, looks like I’m going to wallow in my grief forever like an emo bitch!
Grief. It’s like a tortured metaphor. You try desperately to find meaning in it, to try and validate your suffering. But in the end you realise that God is just a pretentious would-be poet who thinks it’s oh so artsy to make everybody miserable all the time. I mean, what kind of douchebag makes his creation in his own image, anyway?
DEVELOPER SAM LAKE
Just for that, you get an escort mission in the sequel, fucker.