Max Payne is a third-person shooter video game developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Gathering of Developers on July 2001 for Windows PC. Conceptualization of the game started as early as 1996, after the successful publication by Apogee Software, Scott Miller‘s company, of Remedy’s first title: Death Rally. In an interview with Matt Barton, Scott Miller recalls how he was impressed by Remedy’s work ethic, so he decided to further his collaboration for a different title, with Remedy pitching three different ideas, as it’s stated in Rus McLaughlin “The History of Max Payne” on the Escapist:
Everyone wanted to keep the momentum going. Remedy soon pitched Apogee founder Scott Miller three new ideas: another racing game, a Decent: FreeSpace– like space-combat sim, and Dark Justice, an isometric, neo-noir shooter inspired by Interplay’s twisted death-a-thon, Loaded.
Dark Justice was Max Payne’s first working title, and the title is of course a reference to the vengeance theme that persists through the game, although the game was still an isometric shooter. The plot was written by Sami Järvi (better know by the pen name of Sam Lake), but few elements of the game’s mechanic were ideas of Scott Miller, who explained part of Max Payne’s development process in a post on his blog Game Matters:
Max Payne was conceptualized during Tomb Raider’s peak run, and the design purposely avoids the special elements that made Tomb Raider unique and popular, such as swimming, the acrobatic moves, settings, horrible third-person camera, stuff like that. […] The game was designed with several interesting hooks to help it stand-out and generate buzz. The key hook is bullet-time, which I won’t go into further. But perhaps overlooked are other important hooks: The game’s film noir style, the game’s graphic novel story presentation, and  the game’s Hong Kong flick cinematic action. […] The game was originally titled Dark Justice, as this well describes the game’s theme. But, we felt it was more important to focus on the game’s lead character like we had previously done with Duke Nukem.
Given the fact that they needed to focus on the character, to build up a transmedia franchise, according to the Apogee FAQ on Rinkworks.com, Scott Miller came up with the name Max, soonly expanded in Max Heat, which later became the final title Max Payne (the title Max Heat appears in the final games, in both Max Payne and Max Payne 2, as the title of pornographic magazines and movies):
So we needed the name of the game to be the name of the character, and we needed a great, memorable character name that conveyed the essence of the character.
I came up with Max, but I couldn’t think of a good last name. At one point,the best name we could think of was Max Heat, and we spent over $20,000 trademarking this name worldwide. Then someone from Remedy proposed Payne as the last name, and immediately we ditched Heat and spent another load of money trademarking Max Payne. Truly a perfect name.
Development of the game started in 1997, with Remedy going for a full 3D game with a proprietary graphic engine, MaxFX. The lead technical artist Sami Vanhatalo in The Making Of: Max Payne recalls how:
One of the first things we did technologically was the particle system, and once you started seeing the particle effects with this huge slowdown it was like: ‘God, something good must come of this.’
The game was first shown to the public at the E3 1998 with this trailer, featuring a Max Payne’s prototype at a very early stage:
The video shows many prototype features, early stage levels and unused characters and weapons. Most notably: different sights for your weapons, unused weapon like the TASER shown at 1:50 or a pistol with a laser sight, early stage levels of Roscoe Street Subway Station, Jack Lupino’s Hotel and randoms NYC streets (presumably used only as tests levels), unused characters like a motorcyclist enemy with a UZI, a giant enemy with a striker shotgun and a smoking enemy (I’m not sure if a smoking enemy is included in the final game). I’m not sure if the comic panel shown at 0:51 is unused, and I don’t remember if in the final game Max limps if excessively wounded like he does at the end of the trailer, drop a comment in the comments section if you know.
The game was set for release for Summer 1999, however it was postponed numerous times, and a multiplayer mode was also dropped by the developers. Rockstar Games was questioned for a port to Xbox and PS2. Remedy also traveled to New York City to took pictures of streets and places potentially interesting for the game’s scenario, as documented on 3D Realms’ website. Indeed, the game was still in a very early beta status for E3 1999, as shown by this E3 1999 trailer:
(this trailer is credited by IGN.com as gameplay of the Dreamcast version, which probably was never coded)
Other notable differences in this trailer: the smoking enemy appears again, doing a mexican standoff with Max Payne (an element from John Woo’s movies, which never appears in the final game), the sight is different again, and unfinished version of levels like Roscoe Street Subway Station and the basement of Jack Lupino’s hotel.
Another trailer, this one from E3 2000, this is possibly the same beta build as the previous trailer, although in some closer shots Max 3D model is the same as the final game (notice how the part near the belt is different from other angles, and the face and the orange jacket are more detailed too):
I don’t remember the part with the exploding barrels (it could be a beta version of Casa di Angelo’s level? What do you think?)
The game was released on 23 July 2001 in North America, and the trailer from the E3 2001 looks pretty much like the final build of the game.
It’s been a long time since I played the game, can you spot more differences in these trailers or in the gallery’s images? Did you spot an error in this article? Drop a comment in the comments section and let us know what you think. Thank you for your help!
Images, 1998-99? version:
Images, 2000 version:
Images, 2001 version: