When Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne got released, the future of the franchise was unclear. Even though the game’s credits mentioned Max Payne’s journey through the night would continue (something akin to the older Bond movies), it wasn’t a secret the sequel was already developed under unique circumstances. After the immense success of the first game, Remedy sold the franchise rights to Take-Two and Rockstar Games in an attempt to strengthen the studio’s independence. The newly acquired funds would then allow the studio to create other story-driven experiences. An idea that sparked excitement within the studio. However, part of the deal with Take-Two stated they had to return to develop the sequel. Remedy accepted, well aware this would be their last Max Payne game.
A Late Goodbye
The first Max Payne game was developed on a tight budget. Many of the studio’s employees, as well as friends and family members, were cast in the game. Cinematics, which were very expensive to make at that time, was replaced by the – now iconic – graphic novels. But with Take-Two backing the development of the sequel that would change. The increased budget allowed Remedy to incorporate a more intimate story with professional actors, vastly improved graphics, and groundbreaking ragdoll physics. The studio was also granted full creative freedom. Well aware the sequel would be their last Max Payne game, Remedy was able to say goodbye to Max on their terms. Even though the sequel is regarded by many as superior to its predecessor, the game failed to sell as well as the original. With many of its cast killed, the disappointing sales, and Remedy moving on, fans around the world believed the franchise would be laid to rest.
A few months after the release of Max Payne 2, Take-Two’s then CEO Jeffrey Lapin confirmed Max Payne 3 was coming. While stating the company intended to create a new game in the franchise, he quickly added it would take a few years to make sure it would be “something spectacular”. Lapin did not reveal what studio was attached to the project and with no new information and new CEOs as time passed, many wondered if the project was in development at all. And so started a long period of uncertainty. Rumors started to spread Max Payne 3 was back in development in 2008. Rockstar Vancouver (know for Bully) would be at its helm.
“For the studio, creating another linear adventure that would take place in an American metropolis just didn’t feel exciting enough.”
Max Payne 3 was announced officially in March 2009. The first details released would confirm a new bald Max would leave New York City behind for Sao Paulo, Brazil. The announcement would generate controversy among fans. With a story fully concluded and the shooter genre being exhausted, there wasn’t much for Rockstar to go on about. For the studio, creating another linear adventure that would take place in an American metropolis just didn’t feel exciting enough. To this day fans of the franchise remain divided whether or not to like the different tonal direction of Max Payne 3. Before Max Payne 3 was released, however, the title was pushed back several times. Ambitious of scale, the game was eventually caught up in more controversy. Comments about mismanagement at the studio and a harsh work environment revealed the title had been rewritten up to three times. As the game required more hands-on-deck to get done, the title evolved from being a Rockstar Vancouver game to a collaboration between other Rockstar Studios all over the globe.
That Old Familiar Feeling
Weeks before the game would release, Rockstar Games reached out to us to fly over to New York City for a chance to play the game. I received that email on April 13, 2012. A Friday nonetheless. A surreal experience that occurred nine years ago. When that thought hit me earlier this week, I realized Max Payne 3 has been with us for almost a decade now. I’ve written countless words about it since and, while tonally different indeed, I’ve grown very fond of it. Max Payne 3 has simply raised the bar for third-person shooters with its innovations in storytelling and gameplay. The franchise has something of a cult following these days, as its future once again is in limbo. Those still devoted to Max are begging Rockstar Games for another sequel. However, Max Payne 3 sold lower-than-anticipated and there hasn’t been any news about our titular hero since.
In the meanwhile, an entire console generation has come and gone. If another sequel might be extremely unlikely, what about a remastered collection? Technological advancements are making it more and more difficult to play the older games in the franchise. The first two require mods produced by the community to re-enable sounds and support modern widescreen displays. Even a re-release of the third game can be justified now 4K and 60FPS is the facto standard in gaming. While remasters are not really Rockstar’s thing, the studio did re-release L.A. Noire on previous generation consoles and even the Nintendo Switch. So there’s still hope. Hope we might hear of Max again in the next few years. While his journey into the night might have come to an end, for now, I refuse to believe we’ll never get to play his adventures again.