"Love hurts. When you look down the barrel of a gun, time slows down."
—Max Payne 2, trailer.
Three years ago, NYPD detective Max Payne's wife and baby daughter were killed in their home by junkies strung out on the designer drug Valkyr. Since then Max has transferred to the DEA and gone undercover with the Punchinello mafia family, intending to bring the Valkyr drug ring down once and for all. Then one night, as New York settles into the worst snowstorm in decades, Max's partner is murdered, Max is framed for it, and his cover is blown. With the police hot on his trail, Max wages a one-man war on the mafia, killing everyone in his way as he gradually unearths the truth behind the creation of Valkyr and the death of his family.
This Third-Person Shooter from Remedy was an attempt to break video games into an untapped genre, Film Noir. A mixture of both the film and graphic novel treatments of noir, it featured such stalwart elements of the genre as the hard-boiled cynical hero, the capable and mysterious femme fatale, and the convoluted criminal plot with myriad linear and tangential echelons of villains, all played under a gravel-voiced narration laden with gothic imagery and twisted arthouse metaphors. There are even a number of references to Norse mythology. Due to the game's modest budget, Remedy was only able to afford voice actors such as James McCaffrey who voiced the title character, and the developers elected to use graphic novel-style panels made by photographing the scenes and altering them digitally to resemble watercolor drawings, with the characters portrayed by Remedy staff themselves–Payne himself was modeled after series writer and producer Sam Lake (real name Sami Järvi), while Lake's own mother, Tuula Järvi, lent her likeness to the first game's antagonist Nicole Horne. With the sequel, Remedy hired professional actors and models to portray the characters, replacing Lake with actor Timothy Gibbs as Max Payne.
The game's biggest selling point, however, was the use of Matrix-style Bullet Time (despite the game being in the works before the movie came out), which allowed the player to slow down time when needed while letting them aim and react as usual, giving them an edge over the bad guys as well as looking darn cool. The game also impressed with its highly interactive environments, deep soundscape and interesting aspects of gameplay such as playable dream sequences.
Two years later, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne came out, in which Max investigates a highly organized and well-funded group of assassins who are wiping out the powerful syndicate The Inner Circle, while becoming entangled with the Circle's possibly-trustworthy-who-knows hitwoman Mona Sax. This second featured better sound and graphics, actual in-engine cutscenes with new animation beyond the standard AI movements, more varied gameplay (including having Mona appear as a playable character for several chapters), and an original song by the newly-formed Poets of the Fall. It also rewarded patient players with several additional stories they could choose to watch; if Max stopped at the various televisions scattered around the game, he could catch the latest episode of the obnoxious animated series Captain Baseball Bat Boy, the self-mocking cop show Dick Justice, the amusing period soap Lords and Ladies or the surprisingly creepy, Twin Peaks-like psychodrama Address Unknown.
Due to a combination of Max Payne 2 selling poorly and Remedy getting bogged down working on Alan Wake, it took eight years for Max Payne 3 to be developed and released. It was developed entirely by Rockstar, with no design work but constant feedback from Remedy. Set eight years after the end of Max Payne 2, the third game finds an alcoholic Max trying to make a fresh start by accepting a job as a private security guard for the wealthy Branco family in Sao Paulo, Brazil. After his employer's young wife is abducted by a band of paramilitary extremists as part of what appears to be a ransom plot, Max sets out to sober up and get her back. It has received quite favorable reviews from critics, and despite being released the same day as Diablo III, it managed to sell 3 million copies in the first week. Tying in with the release of Max Payne III is a mobile port of the first game, with War Drum Studios (now known as Grove Street Games) handling the conversion and released on iOS and Android in 2012.
In 2022 Remedy announced that a remake of the first two games in the series is in development in association with Rockstar, using Remedy's own Northlight Engine.
- Adventures in Coma Land: Max practically has dual US-Comaland citizenship.
- Aesop Amnesia: Well, not exactly a specific aesop, but the writers have had to reset Max's internal struggles with each game to keep the conflict going. At the end of the first game, Max is pretty satisfied with himself, remarking that he's a winner and that his ghosts have released him from his haunting. In regards to his killing spree, he says that Woden "had better" keep his promise to make the charges go away. In the second game he's done a 180, claiming that he had wanted to be punished for what he had done, contradicting his comment in the previous game and retains the same guilt and pain he originally had. This is at least partially justified by Max saying that he had lied to himself that it was over. By the end, Max has apparently once again made peace with himself and figured out who he is. By the third, he's become an alcoholic who ends up run out of town by the mob and drinks on the job.
- Potentially justified in that Max is really good at lying to himself...until the lies catch up with him.
- Agree to Disagree: Said word for word by Vladimir to Max in the second game.
- The Ahnold: Max Heat, an adult movie actor whose film is being watched by couple of mooks in the 'A Mob-War' level in the second game.
- AKA-47: Averted, all the weapons are referred to by either the correct name, or the manufacturer. The only exception is that Max's sniper rifle is just referred to as "Sniper Rifle".
- Played straight aside from a few weapons in the third game.
- The Alcoholic: In the second game Bravura is a recovered alcoholic. He believes Max has a drinking problem.
- Max has descended into alcoholism as of the third game, and about midway through begins the struggle to quit.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Max does this in part 3 after wiping out the entire UFE battalion at their HQ.
- Almost-Lethal Weapons
- Alternate Character Interpretation: In-universe, the games play with the idea that it was Max himself who murdered his wife including his outright statements of such on occasion, making him a Villain Protagonist. However, a lot of the hints come from Max's dream sequences which are designed to Mind Screw the player, while the rest may just be Max's guilt over everything that's happened.
- Max's belief that he killed his wife traces back to a single statement revealed after that particular dream sequence. She tried to tell him about something she saw, something about Vikings (referring to Valkyr), and Max brushed her off, saying he had to run and they could discuss it that night. He believes that because he didn't talk to her about it, his negligence resulted in her death.
- Always Close: The finale of the 'Deep Six' level in the first game.
- American Title: See Brick Joke.
- Ancient Conspiracy: The Inner Circle
- Though, when asked about it, Vlad says they are just another group of criminals who like to act like they are an Ancient Conspiracy, and there's really not much to refute that.
- Except that in the Asgard Building "there were rows of cabinets, full of files." And Max claims that "The serpentine secret society went back a long way, always pulling strings from the shadows". Besides - Vlad had plenty of reasons to lie to the guy he was about to kill about the organization he sought to eradicate.
- They may or may not be Ancient, but they definitely are a Government Conspiracy, with all these Senators in cahoots with them.
- Though, when asked about it, Vlad says they are just another group of criminals who like to act like they are an Ancient Conspiracy, and there's really not much to refute that.
- Animation Bump: From the first game to the second, and an even bigger one to the third (which drops the graphic novel portions entirely in favor of a TV-esque filter with shifting colors and static lines).
- Announcer Chatter: Any time you or a teammate activate a burst, or a vendetta is started/settled, Max will chime in with something appropriate.
Max (when a Big Dog burst is used): Their second wind came like a hurricane.
- Antagonistic Offspring: Victor Branco is eventually revealed as this in 3.
- Anti-Frustration Features: In the first game, the final part requires an explosive weapon and a sniper rifle. Two mooks will inexplicably have these just in case. In the third, your health will reset to full if you die and need to go back to a checkpoint, even if you were on the verge of death when you trigger it.
- Anti-Hero: Max is a III or a IV.
- Anticlimax Boss: Several. Jack Lupino is as tough as a boss should be, since he takes more bullets than most groups of enemies you meet to kill, but most bosses are either relatively easy to take down, or suffer from a crippling weakness to being shot a dozen times. In the second game, Kaufman is made out to be a really tough guy, to the point that when you meet him, you know it's going to be tough, but he still goes down to a third of a magazine (ten bullets) from an AK-47.
- Even Lupino is laughably simple, since you fight him in an absolutely huge cathedral and his only weapon is a teeny little sawn-off shotgun with no range at all. It's his cadre of Elite Mooks that makes him dangerous.
- Played straight and averted in the third game; Becker and his cohort aren't too tough themselves, the former being more of a mere survival gauntlet and the latter being that and a Puzzle Boss, but a couple of times throughout the game, Max encounters armored foes with heavy weapons who are nigh impossible to kill quickly without taking insane amounts of risks. This is especially the worst at the Imperial Palace, where you have about twenty seconds to kill a single one of these guys or die and get sent to the last checkpoint of the whole section; many players get stuck here.
- Arc Words:
- The opening monologue of each game includes the phrase 'they were all dead'.
- In part one: "The flesh of fallen angels." Usually spoken by junkies tripping balls on V. In particular, Jack Lupino loves this phrase. It is later used in the fun house in part two.
- In part two: "...dearest of all my friends," spoken by Vlad to Max and other people whom he ultimately betrays.
- Each Part of the story also has a name that tends to relate to the overall situation.
- Arrow Cam: Employed whenever Max or Mona use a sniper rifle. The third game includes slo-mo bullet hits for some enemies, usually the last one in a group.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Max finds Nicole's computer, he says, "Hacking through Horne's computer would have unearthed criminal plans, strategies for world domination, spy helicopter reports, illegal wire tap recordings, Internet porno, all of the above, take your pick."
- Art Evolution: In the first game, all the characters in the graphic novel sequences were played by random dudes from the programmers' offices, and it definitely shows (the goofy grins that everyone sports in the supposedly "serious" scenes is a pretty big giveaway). In the second game the character models were based on actual professional models, giving the cast a more polished, if less unintentionally amusing, appearance.
- Artificial Stupidity: Cleaners in the second have a tendency to run after their own grenades. Halfway referenced by Max:
Max: "Cleaners" was a misnomer. They were making a mess of it.
- Art Shift: In the first game, the Captain Baseball Bat Boy series is a Peanuts-esque newspaper comic with the titular character being a Charlie Brown lookalike. In the sequel, it is in the style of a Saturday Morning Cartoon, and the titular character is now in full-on super-hero getup, wearing a mask, a cape and wielding a laser baseball bat. A commentary on Television Adaptations perhaps?
- Awesome but Impractical: The laser sight attached to some of the weapons in the third game actually makes your aim actively worse.
- Awesome McCoolname: Max Payne. Even the villains lampshade this.
Frankie: Max Payne. I envy your name.
- Awesome Yet Practical: You'll find yourself leaping through the air firing your handguns akimbo a lot.
- Badass Bystander:
- On one level in the ghetto, a random civilian SUV drives by an alley you're stalking through. If you are particularly trigger-happy and shoot it, it will crash and the driver will come after you, guns blazing.
- In an early level in the second game, you have the ability to rescue a prostitute and a wino (who happens to be an ex-maverick cop) from a burning building. Both are carrying pistols, and will gladly take on the mob with you.
- There's also an old lady with a shotgun.
- The third game introduces Brewer, a nutty survivalist of a neighbor in Max's new apartment in Hoboken. He blows the face off a mob assassin to save Max, then detonates a suicide vest in the hallway to "cleanse them in fire" and blows up a good half-dozen mobsters.
- Badass Beard Of Sorrow: Max's scruffy beard in the third game.
- Badass Mustache: Bravura.
- Badass Normal: Mona Sax's ability to mow through mooks can be explained by the fact that she's a professional assassin. Max Payne is just a detective, and how much he survives over the course of all three games is... yeah. He's probably killed close to two thousand people by the time the credits roll on Max Payne 3.
- Bad Dreams: Boy howdy, does Max have these. Often, these segue into Nightmare Fuel, and the levels in the first game move into Scrappy Level territory.
- Bag of Spilling: Max is twice relieved of all or most of his weapons in the first game, and three times in the second. Generally Justified (captured by bad guys, left for dead, in a hospital, etc). The third game constantly justifies it with most missions taking place on different days and Max showing up with the logical equipment for the job, instead of meeting his boss with a grenade launcher strapped to his back.
- In the later levels of MP3, Max's inability to hold on to his arsenal gets to the point where it's almost worthy of an Alan Wake-style running gag. At various points in time, he's robbed at gunpoint twice, disarmed by captors, arrested, and ditches all of his bigger guns in favor of a silenced 9mm.
- Bang Bang BANG: Averted with the 9mm pistol, which actually sounds fairly like the real thing. Played straight with every other gun, though.
- Bank Robbery: Max stops one of these near the beginning of the first game, completely unintentionally (he was there for a meet with Alex about something completely unrelated).
- Batter Up: Captain Baseballbat-Boy and Frankie "The Bat" Niagara. A baseball bat is also one of your possible melee weapons in the first game.
- Battle Couple: Max and Mona
- Bedlam House: Pink Bird Mental Institute in Address Unknown in the second game.
- Bench Breaker: In the first game, Max waits until Franky is out of the room and then falls backwards on his chair in order to crack the wood.
- Benevolent Architecture: Every single door in the city seems to be double-hinged.
- BFG: The Pancor Jackhammer in the first game. The Striker-12 shotgun and Mona's Romak PSL in the second game. The M82 anti-materiel rifle, RPD and HK 21 E in the third.
- Black Helicopter: Shows up near the end of the first game. Trying to fight it is suicide (it has a minigun, you don't), but you still have to do it (just once, though).
- Big Applesauce: The first two games are set in New York, using fictional locations. The third has flashbacks as well.
- Big Bad Friend: B.B. in the first game, Vlad in the second, and Victor in the third.
- Big No: Max does this after his family was killed in the prologue, and it's full of Narm-y goodness.
- Bilingual Bonus: Given that the third game takes place in Brazil, it's natural that much of the dialogue spoken by enemies and side-characters isn't in English. Max doesn't speak Portuguese, so the subtitles provide no translation.
- Notable in that there is so much flavor dialogue in Portuguese (and Spanish).
- Bittersweet Ending: Well, it is Film Noir.
- Bling Bling Bang: Golden Gun parts can be collected for use in single-player and multi-player in the third.
- Blown Across the Room: When you use a shotgun, count on Mooks getting this treatment.
- In the first game especially, any kill shot, from any gun will do this.
- Bodyguard Betrayal: Happens to Alfred Woden near the end of the second game.
- Also to Rodrigo Branco in the third.
- Book Ends: In the second game. Less explicitly, "Dearest of all my friends."
- Boss Subtitles: Done for the introduction of every major character of the second game.
- Brand X: Various "Kampela" products in the second game. The word is Finnish for a flounder fish, by the way. Weirdness.
- Breakaway Pop Hit: "Late Goodbye" by Poets of the Fall, played during the credits roll of the second game and repeatedly sung by characters or played on piano throughout the game.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
- During the second Valkyr nightmare, Max reads a note telling him he's in a graphic novel. The cutscenes are told in a graphic novel format, and that particular scene even shows a a previous cutscene laid out like a comic page. The second letter read in this section tells Max he's in a computer game. It even hangs a lampshade on Bullet Time.
- Smaller funnier moments ensue by interacting with the environment: blast an alarm or an elevator speaker and Max will thank you for it; he'll even play rimshot on the drums, and try (unsuccessfully) to play the Max Payne theme on the piano.
- In the third game, if you linger around the tram terminal too long without activating the power, Max gets fed up and directly calls the player (you) an "asshole".
- Brick Joke: Part I of the first game is entitled "The American Dream". Part III of the second game is entitled "Waking Up from the American Dream".
- Broken Bird: Mona Sax. Her twin sister was tortured to death, and she was shot in the head. She's fine in the second game though... right?
- Brother-Sister Incest: Referenced in the "Lords and Ladies" Show Within a Show in the first game.
- Bullet Time: The Trope Namer.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Vlad to Woden.
- Callousness Towards Emergency: Justified in the first game, since the lady at the other end is the Big Bad.
- The Capital of Brazil Is Buenos Aires: All over the place in the third installment. One would wonder why the Brazilian characters speak in a Spanish accent... or why the vegetation and climate are from a completely different part of the country.
- Captain Ersatz: 3's U.F.E are heavily inspired by the BOPE of Rio de Janeiro.
- The Comando Sombra were likewise inspired by a real-life São Paulo gang called the PCC.
- Career Killers: The bad guys that Max guns down, particularly the Trio from the first game, are hitmen. Mona, on the other hand, is an assassin. The second game almost universally has Cleaners - Mafia goons who hit a place and clean crime scenes up - as a ubiquitous enemy.
- Catch Phrase: Vlad calls almost everyone "dearest of all my friends".
- Cerebus Syndrome: While the series overall is pretty dark, the third game lacks the small comedic conversations between the mooks and the meta-jokes are almost completely cut away.
- Character Title
- Chickification: In the episode of the Show Within a Show The Adventures of Captain Baseball Bat Boy in the second game, Bicycle Helmet Girl is more of a snarky Faux Action Girl. In the episode seen in the third game, she's a flat Damsel in Distress who immediately cries for the title hero's help the moment there's danger.
- Clear My Name: Max's primary objective in the first game is to find out who actually killed Alex Balder, a crime that he's framed for in the fourth chapter of Part 1. He ends up killing almost a thousand people.
- Cliché Storm: Oh, yeah. Max lampshades this in his narrative monologue: "Nothing's a cliché when it's happening to you." Invoked, both in the story and with the Show Within a Show (and self-parody) Dick Justice, which is a blaxploitation, Over the Top take on Max Payne.
- Climbing Climax: End of the first game.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Vinnie Gognitti. In the first game, it's a Cluster Frick Bomb. The sequel gives us the genuine article. Vladimir Lem lets out a good number of F bombs too, mostly when things start going sideways for him.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Max tortures Gognitti in order to find out Lupino's whereabouts in the first game.
- Passos in 3 tortures an injured gangster to find the location of some stolen ransom money.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Near the end of "The Great American Savior of the Poor" in 3, the pillars that Max has to place C4 on are red.
- Continuity Nod: Max guessing that he'll find the third game's final boss (Victor) at an airstrip. "Rich people love to fly away."
- Continuity Cavalcade: Max Payne 3's mission "Ain't No Reprievement Gonna Be found Otherwise." Everybody's buried in the same cemetery.
- Convection, Schmonvection / Hollywood Fire: On both games you have to navigate through burning buildings and the heat isn't a problem at all. If you touch the flames, however, you get damaged. In the sequel, characters at least cover their mouths against the smoke. A section of the third game takes place in a bombed building that's badly damaged enough to be practically melting under the heat, but Max and the enemies don't seem to mind much even when walking on glowing red beams.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Nicole Horne.
- Victor Branco in 3
- Creepy Monotone: Max himself.
- Critical Existence Failure: Max never actually heals himself in any way. He simply chugs down painkillers. By the end of the game, he could easily have taken enough damage to empty his life bar a hundred times over and be full of so many bullets you'd have trouble finding something to shoot at that was still him, but as long as he can't feel it, he's fine and dandy. But should he suddenly be in a position where he feels actual pain, he falls over in slow motion.
- Crusading Widower: Max.
- Cutscene Incompetence: The third game has many situations that look like they're set up so the player can get the drop on the enemy, only for Max to bump into something or walk out in the open before the player regains control.
- One of the early occasions in the third game has Max lampshading his "natural grace and finesse". Given the sheer amount of times he gives himself away as well as his in-game tendency to dive into furniture, walls, and fixtures, it would seem to indicate that he is indeed something of an oaf.
- Da Chief: Bravura, in the sequel.
- Dark Action Girl: Mona Sax.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Despite the third game's more closely resembling Gears of War-style cover shooters, there is NO Regenerating Health. Until you get this into your head, expect to have much trouble due to being over-reliant on that mechanic.
- Deadpan Snarker: Max adds lots of snarky comments in his monologue during levels. And Mona isn't exactly snark-free herself.
- Decoy Leader: Max kills a lot of people, mistakenly thinking they're behind everything, only to find out that he aimed too low, and subsequently going after the next person on his hit list.
- Despair Event Horizon: Max starts the second game on the cusp of this. By the end, he's gone so far over it that he actually breaks out the other side.
- Detective Mole: Detective Winterson in the second game.
- Determined Defeatist: Max goes through the entire first game knowing perfectly well that there are only two outcomes for him: either being killed during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge or being put away for life upon completing it. In fact, after he goes free thanks to The Man pulling a few strings, he considers himself to be a Karma Houdini, and subsequently suffers for it.
- Determinator: Rampaging through hundreds of enemies while subsisting only on painkillers. In the second game, Max squares his badassness and determination: He gets shot in the chest, thrown off a high cliff, is next to a bomb when it explodes, and ultimately gets shot in the head with a magnum, and not only lives from all of these incidents, but keeps on truckin' to get shit done. Damn. Early in the third game he even takes a glancing shot from a .50 BMG anti-materiel rifle and all he needs is some painkillers and bandages to get him back to normal.
- Dirty Cop: The entire UFE in part 3.
- Do with Him as You Will: When Max is confronting Arthur Fischer, the surgeon who works for the organ thieves, the meeting is interrupted by a visibly disturbed and angry Serrano, who has been imprisoned along with the other unfortunate organ-theft victims. After a moment's consideration, Max lowers his gun, and allows his former enemy to kill the doctor with a scalpel.
- Driven to Suicide: Victor Branco hangs himself when he gets incarcerated in the epilogue of the third game. Though it is implied it also could've been a faked suicide as retribution.
- Dull Surprise: The uninterested "Aaaaah" sound the Mooks make when you kill them. Many people also commented on Max's strangely constipated expression in the first game.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Beating the 2nd game in the hardest difficulty setting nets you an ending wherein Mona survives. Given the 3rd sequel in the game, this is probably not canon.
- Ear Worm: Both the game's theme tune and the song "Late Goodbye" by Poets of the Fall in the second game. The latter is also an in-universe example, as various characters in the game are heard singing it or playing it on pianos.
- Elevator Action Sequence: Inverted; the elevator rides are often a heaven-sent chance to reload, let the painkillers kick in and generally draw breath. Until the very last level. Look up, through the glass panel in the roof of the elevator. Yep, those are claymore mines lining the shaft.
- While Max is riding a glass-walled elevator down in the last level of the first game, a helicopter shows up and starts blasting away, forcing him to jump to another elevator.
- Enemy Mine: The Escort Mission in Max Payne 2.
- Enemy Chatter: You can listen in on the Mooks talking about action movies and TV series.
- Escort Mission: In Max Payne 2, to the irritation (or amusement, considering who the escortee is) of many players. The third game also has an annoying one involving covering Passos with a sniper rifle as enemies keep coming after him.
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: The very first line of the first game: "They were all dead." Also occurs in the third game during the attack on Branco's building after telling Rodrigo to close up his office...
- Evil Counterpart: Max and Mona for Vlad and Winterson. Even their clothing colors mirror each other, and the criminal/cop genders are reversed. Note also how Winterson and Vlad apparently can't keep their hands off each other, while Max and Mona barely touch the other. Except for that one scene.
- Evil Is Not Well Lit: Aesir Plaza and, in particular, Nicole Horne's demonic-looking office.
- Evil Twin: Mona jokingly describes herself as Lisa Punchinello's evil twin when she and Max first meet (though considering Lisa is the wife of the Don of an incredibly violent Mafia family...).
- Exploding Barrels: A stab at realism is made by using gas cylinders, and only putting them in areas where there's a reasonable explanation for them being there. Shooting at them causes the valve to pop off and a jet of flame to appear at the neck (probably Truth in Television if they're full of acetylene), sometimes letting you use cylinders that have fallen over as field-expedient cruise missiles. Then they explode violently for no apparent reason except Rule of Cool.
- Eyepatch of Power: Senator Alfred Woden wears a half dark glasses of political power. This, along with the name, helps feed the speculation that he's really Odin.
- Face Heel Turn: Vlad, though he was never really a face, just on Max's side for a time.
- Facial Composite Failure: In Max Payne 3, Max sees a newscast that reports that he is wanted for questioning as the unidentified man that has been seen leaving Rodrigo Branco's blown-up company headquarters, the report also shows a facial composite that looks almost nothing like Max in-universe, but fans of the series will recognize it as the constantly constipated Max Payne from the first game that was based on Sam Lake's face.
Max: "Oh Jesus... Look at that!"
- Fake Nationality: Raul Passos from 3 is actually Colombian whereas Max believes him to be Brazilian.
- Family Values Villain. "Vladimir was one of those old-time bad guys with honor and morals, which made him almost one of the good guys." Even in the sequel he tries to confine his battles to fellow criminals. It doesn't work, as he realized far too late that Death Seeker Max would drop his death seeking in favor of pursuing one of those... "complicated" relationships with Mona. It's a Long Story, but the result puts him in Max's gunsights, making his death pretty much a Foregone Conclusion.
- Fatal Family Photo: Subverted in Max Payne 3 by Anders Detling. Max stops him from showing him a picture of his wife and kids after finding him in a nightclub restroom during a kidnapping, and he makes several more appearances all the way till the end of the game completely unharmed.
- Foreshadowing: One of the TV's you can watch during the third game mentions an attack on a boat in the Panama Canal. Towards the end of the game, one of the levels takes place during the attack and you get to learn why the boat was attacked in the first place.
- Forgot About His Powers: In Chapter 2 of the second game, Max will single-handedly clear out an abandoned office building full of cleaners. Then he's forced to leap out a window to avoid an explosion, and the rest of the chapter is spent playing as Mona providing cover fire for Max. He'll get pinned down behind barriers several times over the next several levels and will be helpless until Mona can take out the lone man firing on him.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: As noted under Hyperspace Arsenal. A few other examples pop up from time to time.
- Genre Busting: While the gameplay is fairly standard third-person shooter fare, the games as a whole are a curious blend of Film Noir, Hong Kong action films and conspiracy fiction.
- Giant Mook: In Max Payne 3, Max fights a few of these at various points throughout the game (at the office building, the derelict hotel and the police station). They're armed with light machine guns and can survive almost Juggernaut-levels of damage before going down.
- Gun Porn: The guns have detailed animations, which was uncommon in third person shooters at the time of the first game. They also make pretty sexy sounds while reloading during Bullet Time.
- He Knows Too Much: The reason Michelle was marked for death in the first game.
- Hero Insurance:
- Explicitly explained in the first game. In exchange for killing Nicole Horne, Alfred Woden promises that no charges will ever be filed against Max for any of the murders he's committed in his quest for revenge. Quite justified, because Woden needs something to offer to Max.
- One wonders how Max managed to beat the rap from his antics in the second game, given that he kills hundreds of goons, actively assists a wanted assassin in killing even more goons, and Act III outright has Max being hunted for shooting his partner. Plus, Woden gets killed near the end of the game leaving Max without any friends in the power elite to bail him out. For what it's worth, everyone Max kills is either a mobster or secret society rent-a-commando actively trying to murder him, and his partner was literally in bed with the Big Bad.
- Taken to extremes in the third game, where Max essentially massacres the entire São Paulo police Special Forces division, right before shooting down a powerful politician's private jet with a grenade launcher, and one week later is shown walking off into the sunset unburdened. Then again, unlike the previous two games, Max is never caught by the police, and there are no living witnesses to his actions, and it also helps that a local cop works with Max to expose the fact that the politician and police Special Forces were pretty much engaged in systematic mass murder against the city's poor population and criminal element.
- He Who Fights Monsters: By the end of the third game, Max seems to seek and find fulfillment in [constructive] violence, rather than being guilt-ridden and brooding over his body-count. Surprisingly, this is a positive development, since life has forced Max Payne to return to his kill-racking ways over and over again. Given that he can do so constructively (e.g., by taking down government conspiracies), being able to feel proud of (or even just being able to accept) what he has accomplished, violently or not, is one of his healthier responses.
- Hired Guns: The cleaners in the second game. A whole army of them.
- The Crachá Preto in the third.
- Hit Scan: One of the first games to make a big deal of averting this; all of Max's weapons fired modeled projectiles, the bullet-time mechanic was created largely so you could see this more clearly.
- Hollywood Satanism: Jack Lupino's obsession in the occult in 1, where he has a room in his nightclub strewn with Satanic paraphernalia all over. Turns out that his devil-worshipping schtick was due to his addiction to Valkyr driving him to a hell of a delusion, making him believe that he was a wolf and a messenger of Hell.
- Hollywood Silencer: Taken to egregious levels in 3, where Max duct tapes a water bottle to the end of his pistol at the beginning of Chapter 12. And it works.
- How We Got Here: The first game opens immediately after Max kills Nicole Horne, and then flashes back to how he got involved in the whole thing. The second game start right after Mona dies, then flashes back to Max in the hospital after falling down a hole earlier that night, which serves as the first level of the game. At the end of the level, Max finds Winterson's body, which causes him to flash back (that's right, a flashback within a flashback) to the events that led to Max shooting and killing Winterson and falling down a hole, starting with a routine mission the previous night. By the time that flashback ends, there are only a few levels left of the game, which are spent telling how Max wound up at the scene of Mona's death. The third game shows how Max got from the NYPD Detective he was in the second game to the alcoholic screw-up that he is in the third game. Unlike the first two games that took place over two or three nights, the third game will take place over a few months and the flashback sequences are spread around evenly.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Max can fit a ludicrous number of guns in his jacket in the first two games, but it's averted in the third game. He can carry one large rifle or shotgun and two smaller weapons (also letting him mix and match them, so he can carry an Uzi and a revolver, one in each hand if you wish). Max will even realistically carry his longarm in his off hand due to the lack of a sling, even during cutscenes. And if he needs to go Guns Akimbo, he has to drop the long gun. The game even edits cutscenes to take account of whether or not Max entered the scene carrying a rifle and has to put it down or have it taken, and he later carries a duffel bag throughout a level.
- The Beretta Model 12 submachine gun has also had its stock and foregrip removed to allow it to be fit in Max's shoulder holsters (although both it and the Sawed-Off Shotgun still look ridiculous when they're stowed there).
- There's an element of Gameplay and Story Segregation in play in the early games, however, as several frames in the graphic novels in the first game depicts Max carrying a duffel bag full of weapons.
- I Call It Vera: Played with. The evil commando calls his gun "Dick Justice."
- Idiot Ball: In Max Payne 3, Max is apparently so drunk during the Panama mission that he completely overlooks how suspicious Passos is acting, and only starts realizing how hinky the entire thing is in hindsight, when he's sober and talking about it two months later with de Silva. It's possible he reacted to finding the ship's passengers' bodies by crawling even further into a bottle and has been trying not to think about it at all, but it's still a fairly significant plot hole.
- Also when Max sees Fabiana and Marcelo being held at gunpoint by Serrano and his cronies, he carelessly busts through the door, turns his gun on Serrano, yells at everyone to drop their weapons despite the fact that he's outnumbered at least 12 to 1 and he almost immediately gets disarmed and Fabiana gets shot as a result, wouldn't it have made more sense for Max had shot Serrano and his mooks through the window? then maybe he could've saved her.
- Max notes how stupid he's being throughout the game. In the final level, he even points out exactly how stupid his plan was and how a perfectly sensible one was available. The implication seems to be that Max has something of a death wish and/or is an adrenaline junkie and/or his substance abuse is really screwing him up.
- Some of Max's dialogue hints at a desire for some much needed catharsis for which he requires a (not unjustified) bloodbath. This would account for his "path of most resistance" mindset in the latter half of the game.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Lampshaded by Max during Mona's section in the second game:
Max: "They have hit everything but me here. If you don't hurry they'll eventually shoot me by accident."
- Painfully averted in the first game, where enemies can peg you in the face with a pump-action shotgun blast from the other end of a football field, and in the third game, where some soldiers can drop smoke grenades that don't impede their aim at all.
- Important Haircut: Max shaves his head in the third game after failing to prevent a kidnapping and murder.
- Indecisive Medium: The comic book cutscenes.
- Inexplicably Awesome: At no point is it ever revealed how the eponymous seemingly ordinary New York cop in an ostensibly realistic noiresque setting can have fighting abilities like some refugee from Heroic Bloodshed and can take ridiculous amounts of injury as long as he has painkillers at hand.
- Infant Immortality: Gruesomely averted in the first game. We see a bloody crib and what's left of Max's baby in the very first level.
- Ink Suit Actor: People might not initially be aware, but in Max Payne 3, young Max looks an awful lot like his voice actor, James McCaffrey. It seems that this time around, Rockstar modeled the character after his original actor instead of either Sam Lake or Timothy Gibbs.
- Inspector Javert: Bravura in the original game was out to capture Max Payne. Even ignoring the fact that he was framed for Alex Balder's death, Payne killed at least a dozen mooks before that scene, and hundreds after.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: heard in Max's first nightmare along with his dead baby's cryings.
- It Gets Easier
- It Got Worse:
- Almost these exact words are used by Max in the first game, after he finds out about Project Valhalla.
- In Max Payne 3, Max is in even worse straits, if that's even possible.
- Just One Man: Nicole Horne describes Max this way. "What do you mean, 'he's unstoppable'? You are superior to him in every way that counts. You are better trained, better equipped, and you outnumber him at least twenty-to-one. Do. Your. Job."
- Karmic Death: Nicole Horne gets killed when her chopper is crushed by a tower (courtesy of Max) just when she was about to escape.
- The doctor doing the organ harvesting in the third game is killed when one of the people he was going to harvest kills him with a scalpel.
- Kill'Em All: By the end of the second game, every single character whose name is uttered more than once is dead (save for Payne himself, a badly shot Lt Bravura and, depending of what difficulty you play, even Mona Sax).
- Kinda Busy Here: Max in the second game's mission where both him and Mona storm the Mook's hideout.
- Large Ham: Jack Lupino in the first game. Vladimir in the second.
- Last Stand: What Max will try to do in 3 if he has extra painkillers, and takes a shot that maxes out his pain meter. Slow-motion automatically activates while Max falls down. Kill an enemy during this time, and the painkillers will be used to keep Max alive. Fail, and he dies.
- Le Parkour: Early in the first game, Max chases Vinny Gognitti over and across several rooftops, while the latter has a motherlovin' gunshot wound to the belly.
- Mad Bomber: Vlad's general schtick.
- Made of Iron: Just give him some painkillers, and Max can walk off anything. In cutscenes, he's survived a lethal overdose of Valkyr, having his skull used for batting practice, wandering through the worst snowstorm in New York's history without even buttoning up his coat, getting shot in the head (several times, once with a Desert Eagle), falling off a cliff, and having high-powered explosives detonate with him standing nearby. The third game introduces bullet wounds (including exit wounds) for both Max and the enemies, so it's not uncommon for a cutscene to have Max littered with holes and still going about business as usual.
- In the first game, Elite Mooks and bosses could survive truly incredible amounts of damage before dying. The second game tries to be a bit more realistic and averts this, with even kevlar-wearing commandoes going down with only a few shots from a decent automatic weapon. The second game also mostly does away with boss fights; Kaufman is the only real "boss" in the game, and even he only has about 4 times as much health as a regular Mook, while the final opponent is largely a Puzzle Boss fight.
- The Mafia: Most of Max's villains.
- The Mafiya: Vlad's other schtick, though it turns out he's fighting for control over the Inner Circle in the second game.
- Man in White: Vlad in the second game.
- Mangst: Max pretty much defines it.
- Meaningful Echo: In the beginning of the first game, immediately prior to going home and finding his wife and daughter dead, Max stubs out a cigarette in front of Alex and says "See? My last smoke. It's bad for the baby." Three years later, when B.B. is trying to persuade Max to abandon his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, he offers him a cigar, to which Max venomously retorts, "I don't smoke."
- Meaningful Name:
- Max Payne. He deals and feels lots of it.
- John Mirra in Address Unknown, riffing on "Mirror."
- Alfred Woden, the one-eyed figure who knows everything going on in the first game. "Woden" is the Old English/Anglo-Saxon name for "Odin."
- The ill-fated Alex Balder is named after the Norse god Baldr, who is betrayed and killed at the beginning of Ragnarok.
- Don Punchinello is a reference to the Victorian-era puppet show character, signifying that the don is Nicole Horne's puppet.
- Horne's last name itself is a reference to her evil nature, given the traditional horned appearance of The Devil.
- Also, she's referred to as "the hag" repeatedly. In keeping with the Norse theme, that's N. Horne = Norn.
- Jack Lupino's name conveys his wolf-like tendencies. During his crazed tirade, he makes a reference to "the wolf" and howls. This might be considered another Norse reference as well, to Fenris.
- Rico Muerte's last name is Spanish for death.
- The Sax twins' names are Mona and Lisa.
- Ragna Rock is a reference to Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse.
- The Aesir Corporation is named after the Aesir, the chief pantheon of Norse gods.
- Max learns about Project Valhalla by accessing a computer network called Yggdrasil, the name of the giant tree from which Odin was hung, an ordeal which gave him secret knowledge.
- Valkyr drug makes user high with potential deadly results. Much like Valkyries, flying creatures who take the warriors to Valhalla. After they die, of course.
- Most of the names of the second game's levels. Though most of the allusion goes to the quotes present within the level, some are relevant to the general situation ("No 'Us' In This" is a level where you would expect to have Mona as a sidekick, but she runs off) or even gameplay features ("Dearest Of All My Friends" is exactly how much you have to protect Vinnie during the game's Escort Mission).
- Mercy Kill: You have the option to give one to Becker in the third game, but he dies on his own if you refuse, which also nets you an achievement and unlocks his burnt, half-dead corpse as a playable character in multi-player Deathmatch.
- Mighty Whitey: A Smug Snake military leader accuses Max of trying to be this in a confrontation towards the end of the third game. It rings pretty hollow considering that he and his men have been pretty much re-enacting the Holocaust with the city's poor and criminal element by kidnapping them and harvesting their organs.
- Misaimed Realism: In 3, the aim point realistically shakes and moves along with Max's hand movements when Laser Sights are equipped. An interesting idea in a hardcore tactical shooter like ARMA: Armed Assault or Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six (the original one). In a Heroic Bloodshed-inspired game where the One-Man Army protagonist liberally uses Leap and Fire Guns Akimbo? That's just Cool but Inefficient at best, outright harmful at worst.
- Mook Promotion: In the first game, Vinnie Gognitti is a ratty, low-level flunky who Max chases and torments for information, and is so pathetic Max figures he's not even worth killing. By the second game, Vinnie seems to be pretty much running the entire Mafia, due to Max having killed everybody else in the Family hierarchy during the course of the first game.
- Multiple Endings: In Max Payne 2, Mona lives if you beat the game on the "Dead on Arrival" difficulty.
- Mythology Gag: Max Payne 2 has a bunch to the original, such as "Dick Justice", a blaxploitation retelling of the original game, the fact that Vlad's new restaurant used to be "Ragna Rock", a nightclub run by Jack Lupino, Captain Baseball Bat Boy, etc. Also, some one-off lines from the first game ("frigging zombie demons from outer space", "Noir York City", a thug naming his gun "Dick Justice") show up as story elements in the shows-within-a-show woven through the second game.
- A police sketch of Max in the third game looks like his facial model from the first game.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Nicole Horne, Jack Lupino, Rico Muerte, and Max Payne himself.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Max's alliance with Vlad Lem in the first game sees him stealing a huge shipfull of illegal contraband for the Russian mobster in return for his assistance in taking down the Punchinello crime family. Years later Vlad's private army of assassins are bringing New York to its knees and Max is being shot at with guns that may very well have come from that boat. Oh bugger.
- Nintendo Hard: Even since the first game, a small bite in your luck can result in Max taking a large amount of damage that could become troublesome for you down the road, whether via wasted painkillers or otherwise. Through gratuitous usage of Quicksaves, however, one can essentially retry a specific gunfight as much as they want to lessen the amount of health/ammo expended or so forth.
- Naturally, the hardest difficulties put a limit on the amount of quicksaves per level you could do, to the point that if one doesn't ration them carefully, a single enemy getting a good shot in could send you pretty far back, if not to the beginning of the level entirely. Console gamers were stuck with checkpoints.
- Gets worse in Max Payne 3; there are no quicksaves, console version or PC, and the checkpoints tend to be spread apart. A single death could send you a good distance back in later levels. One begins to feel glad when a cutscene occurs, as typically these are the checkpoints.
- No-Gear Level: The escape from the basement of Lupino's hotel in the first game, and the escape from the hospital in the second game.
- Noodle Incident: During 3, Passos and Max sometimes mention "Panama". Turns out it's a playable mission and part of the plot.
- They also mention working a wedding in Aruba.
- Nostalgia Level: Nostalgia Level: The nightclub "Ragna Rock", which serves as the final level of the first chapter in the first game, and is revisited twice in the sequel in various stages of renovation.
- Hoboken in 3. A Max Payne game without a seemingly never-ending supply of mobsters? Blasphemy.
- Not What It Looks Like: Vinnie's Captain Baseball-bat Boy collection.
"What? I'm a collector! There's nothin' nerdy about it, I'm a collector! Lots of tough guys are into this stuff! Frankie was into this stuff, he was a fuckin' tough guy! Just you wait till I sell my collection on eBay..."
- Numbered Sequels
- Obstructive Vigilantism: One of the graphic-novel cutscenes has Max contemplating this, but he ultimately decides to come clean. Sort of.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Vlad says this to Max when they meet the first time. Then he says that he always wanted to say that.
- Once Killed a Man with A Noodle Implement: Rico Muerte excitedly relates a story of two mobsters who were about to kill each other—then decided to settle their differences by playing Mortal Kombat or some such. The anticlimax so disappointed Rico that, in frustration, he strangled both of them with the controller wires.
- One-Scene Wonder: Brewer from the 3rd game.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: B.B. Lampshaded by Max:
Max Payne: Right, what's it stand for anyway? Backstabbing Bastard?
- Outrun the Fireball: Max's escape from Cold Steel facility in the first game.
- Past in The Rearview Mirror: From the second game:
Max Payne: With no way to deal with the past, I kept my eyes on the road, off the rear view mirror and the roadkill behind me. I chased lesser mysteries, other people's crimes.
- Plot-Powered Stamina
- Police Brutality: Vinnie screams "Stop! Police brutality!" while Max tortures him, to which Max quips "Uh-huh. I rate pretty high on that."
- Not to mention the UFE in the third, who essentially gun up an entire favela and burn Marcelo alive.
- Private Eye Monologue: How Max tells the story throughout the games. Coupled with Purple Prose that gives it its narmy goodness.
- Progressively Prettier: Provides the trope image. For the first game, Max's face was modeled on one of the writers, Sam Lake, and ended up looking squinty-eyed and constipated. For the sequel Timothy Gibbs was hired for the face model and (sadly) looked a lot less constipated.
- Lampshaded in the second game. One of Max's rambling doubles during a dream sequence says, "I didn't used to look like this!"
- Then in the third game, a news report clue shows an artist's rendering of Max, and it's the Sam Lake face in all its squinty, eyebrow-raising glory.
- Psycho Serum: Valkyr; originally conceived as a Super Serum, the military abandoned it after the negative side effects (addiction, hallucinations, violent tendencies, declaring yourself to be the Fenris Wolf) became known. Nicole Horne, the project lead, decided to sell it as a street drug. In the process, she had Max's wife killed.
- Punch Clock Villain: One overheard conversation in the first game has a mook telling other that he isn't a cold-blooded killer, but a family man working 9 to 5.
- Puzzle Boss: Both games' final bosses stay well out of your line of fire, requiring you to find an indirect way to kill them. One boss in Max Payne 3 has to be coaxed out of cover by shooting the weak ceiling above him.
- Ragdoll Physics: Implied in the first game, but actually present in the second. The third game uses the Euphoria software that was present in Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV, allowing for more realistic bullet damage and physics. Even Max's shootdodging incorporates Euphoria, leading him to painfully slam into whatever objects the player nonchalantly flings him into or tipping him over onto his back or shoulders from his legs hitting a desk on the way over.
- Rare Guns: Less than twenty Pancor Jackhammers were ever produced. Funny how more than that can be found in New York City.
- Real Is Brown: The present-day missions in Maxy Payne 3 occur in São Paulo, while the flashbacks take place in icy New Jersey.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Vlad gives one to Max near the end of second game.
- Revision: In the first game, the Inner Circle is some sort of Ancient Conspiracy, but in the second game, it's revealed they're just a very old and influential crime organization.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Two full games worth (though in the second game, the "revenge" part doesn't really kick in till about two-thirds of the way through)!
- The third game starts out as an extended rescue mission, but pretty much turns into a rampage in the last third of the story.
- Rooftop Confrontation
- Sadly Mythtaken: A minor example, but several times during the comparisons to Ragnarok, comparisons are made to Fenris Wolf eating the sun. Actually, the wolves who pursue the sun and moon, and who will eat them during Ragnarok, are called Sköll and Hati, both separate from Fenris.
- Sarcasm Mode: Max loves this, along with Deadpan Snarker, and it pisses off a lot of his enemies.
Frankie: Nice to meet ya, I'm Frankie "The Bat" Niagara.
Punchinello: Dime? Angelo Punchinello here.
- Save Scumming: Quicksaves makes the games much easier. They are limited on harder difficulties.
- Sawed-Off Shotgun: Played realistically. More on trope page.
- The Schizophrenia Conspiracy: In Address Unknown. Justified, because he really is a paranoid schizophrenic.
- Schmuck Bait: While in the police station in the second game, you can come across a heater with a big sign on it saying, "DO NOT USE." Use it, and apparently the temperature in the station goes way up; not only do the two people nearby call Max out on it, but other people complain about the heat and think someone turned on the broken heater.
- Shout-Out: In one level, Max bursts into an apparently empty apartment, with a machine pistol lying on the kitchen counter. Then a thug casually walks out of the bathroom.
- In the first game, you can find a picture of a Dopefish.
- This exchange between two bums:
- A mobster can be found killed with a wooden stake in a boarded up room. Near him some letters in blood on the wall spells "BUFF".
- Show Within a Show: Televisions around the environment will give plot information or strangely mirror Max's current situation.
- Both games feature reports from the fictional NYCNN news channel commenting upon the in-game events.
- The first game features one episode each of Lords and Ladies, an over-the-top period soap opera, and Address Unknown, a Twin Peaks-esque psychological thriller.
- In Max Payne 2 there is Dick Justice (a blaxploitation parody of the first game), The Adventures of Captain BaseballBat Boy (based on the comic strip of the same name, which appeared in the first game), and Max Heat, a porno. Lords and Ladies and Address Unknown episodes are also seen throughout the game.
- Shown Their Work: In 3, Max carries a G36 assault rifle variant by the carrying handle. Despite the name and appearance, that's not what that part of the gun is used for. It is, however, a common mistake made by people unfamiliar with such weapons, such as former New York cops with drinking problems.
- Singing in the Shower: At one point in Max Payne 2, Max comes upon Mona singing "Late Goodbye" in the shower.
Mona Sax: I'll tell you one thing, Mona, you're no singer.
- Slipping a Mickey: Mona does this to Max in the first game, right after he says "As long as you don't try to slip me a mickey."
- Sniper Scope Sway: A pretty standard version. Hold your breath and all movement ceases. Move and the sway becomes much worse, crouch and it lessens. The sniper shot bullet cam can get pretty annoying.
- Snow Means Death: New York City is gripped by a historic blizzard in the first game. It's snowing in Jersey during Max's mob troubles in the third.
- Soap Within a Show: Lords and Ladies.
- Solemn Ending Theme: Max Payne 2 has "Late Goodbye" by Poets of the Fall.
- 3 has Tears by Health.
- Sprint Meter: The third game adds the ability to sprint.
- Standard FPS Guns
- Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: Vladimir Lem in Max Payne 2.
- Super Window Jump: Max performs it in all three games.
- Survivor Guilt: Max has a bad case of this; in the first game it's because of his family, in the second there's all that stuff he did in the first game on top of that. He keeps trying to rationalize it away, and fails miserably.
- Take That: At one point, a TV review about Aesir says that it "may become a bigger monopoly than *static* ever was". You can clearly hear "Microsoft" in there, though. Talk about biting the hand...
- Think of the Children: The police precinct in 2 features a civilian reporting on her husband, whom she's convinced is learning to kill from playing violent video games.
- This Is Reality: In a blatant comment on the first game's reveling in Film Noir and revenge tropes:
Max: There are only personal apocalypses. Nothing is a cliché when it's happening to you.
- Title Drop: All of the chapter titles are spoken during cutscenes, usually as part of Max's Internal Monologue.
- Tone Shift: 3 dispensed with the noir setting, cartoonish bad guys, and graphic novel format, though the meat of the gameplay is unchanged. Fans complained in droves, so Rockstar added some flashback levels to pay homage to Max's origins.
- Took a Level in Badass: Against all common sense, a past-his-prime, out-of-shape Max Payne, caught flat-footed and so drunk off his ass that his vision is blurred, manages to be even more badass in the third game than before. Probably because he is that drunk.
- Took a Level In Dumbass: Possibly due to the aforementioned drinking, Max holds the Idiot Ball at least twice in the third game (see above).
- Train Escape: Done by Vinnie Gognitti in the first game.
- Tranquil Fury: Max, usually. Particularly notable during the last chapter of the first game, which is Max making his final strike on Nicole Horne's building. Rather than play up-tempo action music, throughout the entire level the only music sounds like a heart beat and a church bell. It gives the level a very calm atmosphere. Also, in the cutscene preceding the level he says he drives around for a while first to let his rage build.
- Averted in the third game, where he becomes, for lack of a better word, "offended" enough to just not hold back. See Unstoppable Rage.
- Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: Trying to attack while near enough to an enemy in the third game will cause Max to use a nasty melee finisher, often involving Pistol-Whipping to the face, Use Your Head and/or Boom! Headshot!.
- Two Shots From Behind the Bar: There is a shotgun tucked behind the (unmanned) reception desk in one of Vinnie's apartments, near the laundromat.
- A bartender in a strip bar in 3 whips out a sawn-off shotgun to shoot at Max and keeps a pair in a storeroom behind the bar.
- Unorthodox Reload: In bullet-time in the second game, Max spins around when using his dual pistols.
- Unreliable Narrator: It is important to have in mind that the accounts of Max's Roaring Rampages Of Revenge is always told from his own point of view, and always after the fact. The developers has hinted that certain details, such as the absurd amounts of mooks he guns down throughout the games, might have been embellished through the lens of Max's guilt complexes and addictions.
- Unstoppable Rage: The second to last level of Max Payne 3 finally flips Max's switch once he learns the Awful Truth. The final level has Max deciding to quit pussy-footing around and just assault a heavily fortified, special-ops infested airport.
- Verbal Tic: Matriarch of York's "good, good" in Lords and Ladies.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: The rag doll physics in general offer no shortage of opportunities to watch corpses act in amusing ways. One level in the second game sets you down right behind a mook overlooking a yard with his back to you, standing on the edge of a ledge. Depending on where you shoot him, with what weapon, and from what distance, you can send him flying through the air in an infinite number of amusing ways. You're also free to shoot the scenery up - smash TV's and watch them fall over, set carpets on fire with a molotov cocktail, shoot plates hung on the walls, silence 'Lords and Ladies', etc.
- Videogame Demake: An odd official example, Max Payne saw a release on the Game Boy Advance. The game was a 2D-based isometric view platformer with levels that were based on the levels of the original, albeit heavily simplified, and many levels were also removed entirely(including the opening level in Max's home and both Valkyr dream sequence stages). Even so, the game did retain bullet time and much of the plot as well as many intact cutscenes with full voice acting, as well as much of the blood and cursing from the original Max Payne.
- Villainous Breakdown: Both Horne and Vlad undergo these as Max closes in.
- Vocal Dissonance: Max's voice really doesn't fit the facial expressions Sam Lake uses in the first game.
- Walk It Off: If Max or Mona are injured beyond a certain point, they walk with a limp and the amount of damage slowly decreases until it is at this threshold. The second game dispenses with the limping.
- In the third game, Max takes a .50 to the arm and is left stumbling and half-coherent from blood loss and shock, but is back to normal with painkillers and bandages.
- More to the definition of the trope, the third game's multi-player features health regeneration, affected by how much weight the player is carrying.
- Wasn't That Fun?: Subverted in Max Payne 2. After getting rid of dozens of mobsters trying to kill Vinnie Gognitti and finally escaping, Vinnie comments "Well, that was fun - in a fuckin' terrible, sick, not-at-all-fun way".
- We Can Rule Together: B.B. offers this to Max in the first game. Max doesn't even flinch for a second in rejecting it.
B.B.: "You can't win this one, Max."
- We Gotta Stop Meeting Like This: Mona Sax says this to Max upon meeting by drawing guns on each other for the second time in the game. It's also the line spoken by Mona upon their first meeting in the second game.
- We Have Been Researching Phlebotinum for Years: Max Payne: "We were all involved in the early stages of the Project during the Gulf War..." This refers to Project Valhalla, the origin of the mysterious drug Valkyr that has caused Max so much trouble, to put it mildly.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: A voice mail in the final chapter of the game reveals that Vlad is this with Woden.
- What Measure Is a Mook?: Played with in the first game - Max himself does not even try to pretend his actions are morally justified, and at the beginning of the next game is wracked with guilt about all of the people he's killed. However, the news anchor Kyra Silver continually tries to paint him as some sort of heroic, crusading vigilante, much to his and Bravura's consternation.
- The third game averts it by virtue of having every enemy be a lethal and hostile aggressor, usually killed in self-defense while being harried and threatened. Later on in the game, you learn that all the people you kill are very likely terrible, terrible people who will otherwise never be held accountable for their crimes. Yes, there are that many of them.
- Why We Can't Have Nice Things: During the escort mission, if you shoot Vinnie's Captain Baseball-bat Boy collector's items, he will begin protesting your actions, claiming that they would have been worth a lot of money. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be caring for more than a few minutes....
- Why Won't You Die?: Vlad delivers one to Max in the second game.
Vlad: "What the fuck is wrong with you, Max, why don't you just die!!! You hate life, you're miserable all the time, afraid to enjoy yourself even a little. Face it, you might as well be dead already. Do yourself a favor, give up!"
- World of Symbolism:
- The original game is all an allegory for Ragnarok. The story is set during the worst blizzard in the history of New York, which parallels the Fimbulwinter that starts off Ragnarok. It begins with the murder of Alex Balder, who represents Baldr. Jack Lupino explicitly identifies himself as the Fenris Wolf at one point, and runs a club called Ragna Rock. Alfred Woden (Odin), a one-eyed and secretive man who apparently knows all the secrets in the world, dispatches the lone mortal hero against the forces of the duplicitous Nicole Horne, who has already ensured the deaths of everyone in Woden's circle except himself. The drug Valkyr is also a reference to Valkyries, who transport the dead to the afterlife.
- The second game includes a number of references to Paradise Lost and Genesis, with Vlad representing the serpent/Satan, Woden representing God and Max & Mona representing Adam & Eve. The final level includes wall art depicting the Garden of Eden.
- Wreaking Havok: Most obvious in one of the rooms in the backdrop of the funhouse, in which the player is given the opportunity to lob rubber balls at various props purely to show off the physics engine. The third game moves over to the Rage engine and comes with all the requisite next-gen physics upgrades, including a section where you can shoot the wheel block away from a truck and let it roll down a ramp to crush some bad guys loading it up.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: The Cleaners fall into this a few times, often getting action movie tropes completely wrong... and them completely dead.
Two mooks try to disarm a bomb:
- Wrongful Accusation Insurance: He got off whatever charges that could be laid against him from the first game, due in no small part to Alfred Woden. Lampshaded by Max Payne noting that he must have had to work big time to cover up him raiding a corporation.
- X Meets Y: Max Payne 1 & 2 is John Woo's Heroic Bloodshed genre meets Film Noir meets The Matrix.
- You Watch Too Much X: When Woden introduces Max to The Inner Circle, he says that they have watched too much The X Files.
The blue bar crept up on me like an angry ghoul from some dark pit, grotesque claws of recognition dragging me to a sharp realization of fact. I was on a trope page. Funny as Hell, it was the most horrible thing I could think of.
- he doesn't, but he does have an addiction to painkillers, given how many of them are in his apartment; in the third game, he sometimes refers to "one vice at a time" while picking them up
- Because of the graphic novel style, it's unclear if Max actually tortures Gognitti, or simply threatens him. However, he does pick up someone else's gun, point it at Vinnie's head, and pull the trigger (it was out of ammo), which is what convinces Vinnie to talk. Psychological torture, if nothing else.