Max Payne. The fallen detective. A man eternally down on his luck. There was a time when people were worried about him and his next game. How can something be noir when it’s set in the sun drenched streets of Sau Paulo? What about New York City? And where did all of his hair go?
Rockstar stepped up to the plate and made the Payne game that they wanted to make, and it paid off. One of the most important facets of noir is the treatment of the main character.
According to Otto Penzler (famed bookstore owner and compiler of popular pulp fiction), noir is about losers, and Max is just about the biggest loser on the planet at this point in his life. Max is addicted to not one, but two substances, and he is forced to flee the country because of a drunken mistake in a dive bar involving a gun and a mob boss’s beloved son. From there things only go downhill. Let’s just say the tropical climate isn’t the reason he shaved his head.
Other themes of the noir comic alive brilliantly under the neon lights and shady slums of Sau Paulo. Max can’t spit without hitting either some corrupt police officer, gang member, or a rich person with a vile agenda. The music also delivers, providing low sinister beats for the quiet moments and fast paced throbs for the slow-motion gun battles.
Of course being a video game those gun battles are a little more Hard Boiled than Chinatown. But that’s part of the joke, isn’t it? The only man who’d rather be dead to the world at the bottom of a whiskey and pill bottle, and he’s the one doling out the death certificates. He can’t escape the situation he’s fallen into no matter how much he’d prefer to do just that.
Sounds to me like Rockstar hit those noir notes in their usual Rockstar style. Here's a selection from the soundtrack to get you in the mood: