Max Payne 3 Was Ahead of Its Time and Here is Why

Even though Max Payne 3 was loved by game critics, many older fans of the series didn’t like it that much. The nihilistic core of the Max Payne series is at its harshest stage in Max Payne 3 and it doesn’t fear to show the true nihilism and ugliness of the real world. Fans were not ready for this kind of ugliness.

Max Payne 3

Back when Max Payne 3 was released, the first reaction of many people was not overwhelming. They believed Rockstar wanted to use the reputation of Max Payne to sell the new game and make more money. For many people, the Max Payne series was finished with a masterful finale of Max Payne 2: Fall of the Max Payne. The new city and looks of Max Payne 3 only worsen the matter. The truth is, the people’s judgment was clouded with the feel of nostalgia that they wanted to see Max with his raincoat and the cold streets of New York and New Jersey. Even after 10 years, people weren’t ready for the last odyssey of Max, because it would be much harder and much darker. Max Payne 3 is a masterpiece but very much ahead of its time.

The Realistic and Logical Continuation of Max Payne’s Sorrow

The first argument that was shot towards Max Payne 3, was the ending of Max Payne 2, in which Max was at peace. Maybe he was, but for a fact, we know Max has been lying to himself for the past couple of years. In the first game, he falsely believed killing the creators of Valkyr and avenging his dead family would bring him peace. But in the second installment, we saw that Max was still that grimy, sad, nihilistic person that was in the first game.

That is because avenging your family doesn’t heal your wounds. Matter of fact avenging someone is simply serving justice and what is necessary. Therefore Max never paid attention to the wounds caused by losing loved ones, he never took care of those wounds and never made peace with himself.

Why Max Payne 3 Was Ahead of Its Time

Changing hairstyle is one of the ways to show the inner change of a character.

In the comics of Max Payne 3, written by Dan Houser and Sam Lake, we see that Max’s mother drowned herself in alcohol – a habit that Max will inherent as well- and the reluctance of his father towards him and his mother, filled Max with hatred. When he meets Mona Sax, the feeling of life comes back to him subtly. The presence of Mona helps him fight with his demons, but he never destroyed them completely.

Therefore when Mona dies, he thinks he can live without Mona and fight with his inner demons. He accepted the absence of his wife and his infant, but this time he didn’t mourn for the loss of Mona. Mona helped Max to overcome his sorrow and trauma of losing his family, but who’s going to help him overcome the sorrow of Mona’s absence?

This leads to his excessive use of alcohol and drugs which simply makes his life worse. Now that he couldn’t heal the wounds left by the death of Mona, the old wounds of not being able to protect his family start to open once again. Making Max fall into the gaping hole of his past. Now that there is no Mona to help him, he just falls deeper and deeper into the abyss and nihilism, the main pillars of Max Payne 3’s story.

How Ugliness Serves the Story of Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3

The realistic action and gore of the game help the ugliness of Max Payne’s world.

The first two Max Paynes are dark and grimy, but none of them are as ugly as Max Payne 3. Every moment, street, the action of every person makes you want to puke. Not to mention the shaky and monochromic effect of each scene that makes you dizzy. All suggesting that Max is beyond redemption in Max Payne 3. There is no hope for him. He lost his chance after the death of Mona. Even though he tried to stay dry and fix everything, he couldn’t.

He is the walking hell that turns everything to ash when he touches them. But still, what makes him someone we care for and endure all his pains? The answer is quite simple, he tries as Max himself says in Chapter 12. He knows better than anyone that there is no turning back for him, there is no redemption, and there is no walking peacefully in the sunset; yet he still tries. The ultimate nihilism that leads to existentialism that leads to absurdism and again to nihilism. This cycle of death and being born into a new philosophical point of view is painful, but coming back in a full circle and reaching nihilism again is nearly impossible to endure. 

Don’t Forget the Amazing Music of Health

 The true magic of Max Payne 3 lies in the authentic and ear hurting soundtracks made by the noise rock band, the Health. Every moment and every second of Max Payne 3 is hard to endure, like the noise of fingers that have been scratched over the board. It is quite genius of Health to create such soundtracks that serve the story and narrative of Max Payne 3. Even though they haven’t worked on a video game before.

Their magnum opus of the Max Payne 3 soundtrack is TEARS. A melancholic melody with the voice of Jake Duzsik telling Max it’s time to make peace with the lost ones. Throughout the trilogy of Max Payne, he constantly fights nihilism and tries to find meaning in an absurd and meaningless world. This leads to his endless suffering until the end of Max Payne 3, where he finally accepts nihilism, the emptiness of the world, where he accepts there is no meaning, and it is absolutely fine.


HEALTH live at The Masonic Lodge


Max Payne 3 is an ugly game about many harsh realities like losing loved ones or struggling to find meaning in this meaningless world. The art and music of Max Payne 3 merely double the suffering, but all these factors lead to creating a masterful art piece about nihilism. Fans criticized the game because they believed Sao Paulo is not as grimy as New York, therefor Rockstar delivered an uglier and grimier game than before. So be careful what you wish for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>