Max Payne 3: When nothing remains

I’ve just started playing Max Payne 3. Some initial reflections follow.

Max has been drowning in pain ever since we first got to know him. He lost his wife and child to a murderous drug syndicate in the first game, spiraled downwards even further in the sequel, and has put up camp at rock bottom in the third. The aging ex-cop is no longer going through a crisis – he has resigned to the now chronic torment, and no longer carries any hope to ever get out of his private hell. What he lost he lost forever, and to him that makes him a loser.

Alcohol mixed with pain killers might not take the edge of the pain, but it makes it fuzzier, vaguer. Drinking himself to sleep, unconsciousness comes as a welcome gift. That kind of self destructiveness is a sure sign of a man that wants to destroy the little that is left of him. Max doesn’t care to live any more.

Max Payne 3 portrays this through first person voice-overs, just like in the previous games’ film noir pastiche, but this time he expresses a hatred against himself rather than at some enemy. Still the protagonist, he is now also the antagonist – it is himself and his demons that he must defeat if he is ever to overcome the trials that have been thrown his way as a gun for hire.

Max’s state is also shown through post processing effects. Short moments of seeing double or triple, and distorted video effects, makes you feel his sickness. Sometimes it’s almost like a feverish dream. Max is deeply, deeply messed up, and I feel for him. I want him to find peace, or at least for him to be ok.