Max Payne fans have dodged a bullet. The first two games in the series are receiving full, AAA remakes from Remedy, not remasters from Rockstar.
When Rockstar released the disastrous Definitive Editions of the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy, some gamers worried the beloved Max Payne franchise was doomed to receive the same poor remastering treatment, but with the announcement that Remedy will be handling the remakes of Max Payne and its sequel, fans have dodged that bullet, as the remakes should be in much better hands. The Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition had a shaky legacy, consisting of upscaled console and PC ports of prior mobile ports of the series’ PlayStation 2-era titles. These offered little in the way of quality-of-life improvements, and the graphics were worse, in many cases, than earlier versions of the games. Remedy is taking a better approach with the remakes of their first breakout hits, using the same Northlight engine used to make Control and Quantum Break.
The Max Payne remakes are not Remedy’s only project involving their back catalog, as the developer is also producing an Alan Wake sequel that embraces survival-horror. Alan Wake 2, and the remakes of Max Payne and its sequel, are slated for release on Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC. Where Alan Wake veered into the supernatural with a story reminiscent of the works of Stephen King, the first two Max Payne games were gritty noir shooters about a New York City police officer out to avenge the death of his family. Those Max Payne titles featured a bullet-time system inspired by the films of John Woo and The Matrix series, and later videogame adaptations of those source materials, like Stranglehold and Enter The Matrix, mimicked the gameplay innovations of Max Payne. Remedy later sold the rights to Max Payne to Rockstar (which is financing the remake project) but not before creating Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, a game the developer considered a fitting end to the short-lived series.
Many responded positively to the Max Payne remake announcement, which crashed Remedy’s website due to an influx of fans searching for information on the project. Outside of the press release there is not much information available at this point, as it notes the games are “currently in the concept development stage.” The information that is available paints a positive picture for the remakes. The first two Max Payne games were made by Remedy and helped put the developer on the map. More recent successes like the television series/third-person shooter fusion Quantum Break, and the critically acclaimed Control, show Remedy has only improved over the years. The combination of visceral action and quality storytelling featured in the first two Max Payne games came to define Remedy’s signature style, and the developer has refined their skills over time, making the remakes an enticing prospect. According to the Remedy press release, the games will be financed by a budget “in line with a typical Remedy AAA-game production.”
A Max Payne Remake Lets Remedy Better Showcase The Game’s Inspirations
In an interview with ScreenRant, Max Payne creator Sam Lake noted Remedy never planned on a Max Payne 3, and they considered Max Payne 2 the final chapter for the character. The Rockstar-developed Max Payne 3 was a significant departure from the first two games and proved divisive among fans. Though Lake noted that he was glad Rockstar decided to pursue their own take on Max Payne instead of trying to imitate what Remedy would have done, fans of the first two games’ style will be happy to know the remakes are being handled by their original creators. The stylish bullet-time combat alone would have made the Max Payne games memorable, but the comic-book style storytelling combined with surreal dreamlike elements made the games truly special. While the original Max Payne games are classics, they remain relics of the pre-HD era of 3D games, and their graphics have aged poorly, making a remake of these titles a fantastic prospect for fans.
The remake of Max Payne 1 & 2 offers Remedy a chance to honor the game’s artistic inspirations better than ever. Although Zelda: Link’s Awakening may have been the first game to take inspiration from Twin Peaks, the Twin Peaks connection to Max Payne was more evident to players. Televisions throughout the game displayed a quirky soap opera called Address Unknown which was a clear homage, and some of the surreal dream sequences of Max Payne also suggested a Twin Peaks inspiration, including imagery resembling the series’ iconic Red Room. Later Remedy titles leaned further into Twin Peaks as a source of inspiration, but with the Max Payne remakes Remedy has a chance to make Address Unknown more than a series of still images on television screens and deepen the connection. Max Payne also took cues from the “Heroic Bloodshed” genre of films by director John Woo, and a modern-day AAA-game remake should help bring the game closer to the experience of movies like Hard Boiled and The Killer than the PlayStation 2 originals ever could.
Modern Remedy games like Control have revealed links to Alan Wake, suggesting a sort of shared universe for the Remedy’s games. Gamers curious about which games are part of Remedy’s universe may assume Max Payne is one of them, but it should remain separate, absent significant alterations in the remakes. Max Payne is certainly thematically linked with Remedy’s other games, but unless the remakes alter the story, it won’t be connected to the shared universe concept. Alan Wake featured novels like The Sudden Stop which were written by the titular author and featured detective Alex Casey. These novels appeared as a metatextual reference to the developer’s earlier Max Payne games. This positioned Max Payne’s over-the-top violence as a fictitious concept in Alan Wake, which instead leaned into the supernatural. Control followed suit with its government agency that monitored the strange and paranormal, but both of these games are far removed from the more grounded stories of the Max Payne series.
Pre-HD Games Like Max Payne & Fall Of Max Payne Deserve Full Remakes
Remedy recently co-produced a remaster of Alan Wake that included all DLC in a single package. With Alan Wake originally releasing on Xbox 360, a remaster was likely an appropriate choice, but for games that launched prior to the HD-era like Max Payne or Grand Theft Auto 3, a full remake is typically a better choice than attempting a remaster. The bizarrely crude handling of the remasters of Rockstar’s first major breakout hits, Grand Theft Auto 3 and its successors, remains a sore spot for many gamers. This makes the confirmation that Max Payne and The Fall Of Max Payne will be remade by Remedy – and not remastered by Rockstar – a huge relief. The announcement of the project ensures the best of both worlds: Remedy’s storytelling skills and gameplay craftsmanship should ensure the remakes are quality products, and Rockstar’s financial backing gives Remedy the budget they need to turn the cult classics into modern AAA-games. Though the project is still as a conceptual stage, and it will be some time before the public can experience these remakes firsthand, all signs point to the Max Payne remakes avoiding the what went so wrong with GTA: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition.
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