It’s easy to be dismissive of the increasing popularity of classic game remasters — after all, why create something new when you can sell something that already exists? That said, some of the most beloved games from previous generations deserve to be updated for modern hardware, and Max Payne is one of them. Rockstar Games and Remedy Entertainment have announced remakes of the first two games in the series: Max Payne and Max Payne: The Fall of Max Payne.
We’ve seen numerous older titles reemerge in the last few years, including but not even remotely limited to Warcraft III, Command and Conquer, Mass Effect, and Diablo II. Some of these projects have been more successful than others, but starting with content people like is a safer bet than launching a new franchise. And that brings us to Max Payne, which I and many others played obsessively in the early 2000s.
The writing is a little overly dramatic, especially by today’s standards, but that’s what you’d expect from a hard-boiled detective story. The Max Payne games were third-person shooters with a bullet-time mechanic, allowing players to dive through the air in slow motion as they fired round after round at enemies. The first game came out just two years after the original Matrix film, and it no doubt benefitted from a similar combat style. There was even a mod you could install to replicate the famous lobby scene from the movie.
Remedy will develop the remakes in the Northlight engine, which has been used most famously in 2019’s Control. This “physically based render system” seems like a great match for Max Payne, which had elaborate physics for a game of its era. I remember being floored by the way bullets from different guns actually looked different as they floated past the camera in slow motion. Targets that were struck by shotgun blasts behaved differently than those you only managed to wing with a low-caliber pistol. Hopefully the new engine will let them fix Max’s permanently constipated expression.
The remake will include both of the original titles. While there was a third installment, developed and published by Rockstar, it didn’t launch until 2012 and had only limited connections to the first and second. It’s too early to assign the remake a launch date, but it will be available on PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5.