Max Payne is a Remedy game, released about 10 years before Alan Wake. By playing this, I can better understand how Remedy thinks and designs their games, as I can draw lines between them. (Except Death Rally, because that was made with a very different design philosophy.) Both are all designed around people with metaphorical names. "A. Wake" deals with nightmares, and Max Payne has a lot of pain.
Gameplay revolves around third person combat with a variety of weapons (mostly guns). Environments stick to hotels, factories, warehouses, offices, parking garages, and other confined spaces. Since this game was developed when everyone was fawning over The Matrix, Remedy decided to make bullet time the novelty feature of Max Payne. Using bullet time drains a meter, but killing enemies recharges it. If you are severely injured (but not dead), you regenerate health up to 20%. In keeping with the game's theme, instead of health packs, Max uses painkillers.
The writing seems pretty good. During cutscenes and at random points, Max says some gritty lines with rich metaphors, like he's in a detective drama. I'm particularly liking the extra detail that goes into the cutscenes, which are comics. Growing up, I had two Dick Tracy comics with cassettes (like an audiobook with a comic strip), and these cutscenes are reminiscent of those, and I liked these. Near the middle, I particularly enjoyed how the fourth wall broke.
Max Payne (the person) is an NYPD detective, whose wife and daughter were murdered by drug addicts, thus setting a heavy film noir atmosphere. Three years later, he finally has a lead. He goes out in the middle of a blizzard to go to some very dark places. Max gets involved the local gang war, killing lots of mobsters, and uncovering a government conspiracy. Occasional dream sequences suggest Max was the one that killed his wife, but I wasn't clear on why he was having these (as he wasn't there to stop things). I guess that was the guilt? The story was great, although there weren't any Shadowrun-grade twists.
During my 12 hour playthrough, I noticed some notable difficulty spikes. There's one level where you need to run through a burning and exploding building (keep running, and jump over tables). Near the end, you're invading a skyscraper and you need to get past three guys with rocket launchers (sniper rifle zoom and bullet time). I looked up some guides to get past them.
This game is good, and I recommend that any semi-serious gamer worth anything should play it. I'm looking forward to the sequels.