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Max Payne

Max Payne


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Max Payne was a higher-profile 2001 third-person shooter video game.

Of particular note were the exaggerated noir/hardboiled narration, slightly stylised visuals for atmosphere, and the use of slow motion during the gunfights to give yourself an edge.

Though there were additional Max Payne games, this profile was written none too long after the first one.

This profile has a number of S P O I L E R S for this old game.


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Background

  • Real Name: Max Payne.
  • Marital Status: Widowed.
  • Known Relatives: Michelle (wife, deceased), unnamed baby.
  • Group Affiliation: DEA, former member of NYPD.
  • Base Of Operations: New York City.
  • Height: 5’10” Weight: 170 lbs.
  • Eyes: Gray Hair: Brown


Powers and Abilities

Max Payne is a capable undercover agent from the DEA as well as a hardboiled NYPD cop. He’s tough, skilled with guns and cynical.

When in clear and present danger, Payne will often experience an adrenaline reaction he calls “bullet time”. Everything will seem to move in slow motion for him, to the point that he can actually see bullets streak by him.


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In DC Heroes RPG terms, this is modeled by the Power Reserve. While this reaction is not uncommon in soldiers, in Payne’s case it results in a nearly superhuman reaction time since while his perceptions are slowed, his reactions definitely aren’t.

Max Payne’s first reflex when shot at is to jump and roll out of the way while shooting his foes, a tactic which his “bullet time” reaction makes very effective. He has been documented winning quite a few firefights despite impossible odds.


Video

The intro movie of the original Max Payne video game.


History

“They were all dead. The final gunshot was an exclamation mark to everything that had lead to this point. I released my finger from the trigger…and then it was over. To make any kind of sense of it, I have to go back three years. To the night the pain started…”

Three years earlier, in 1997, Max Payne had been an undercover NYPD officer in Manhattan, Midtown North Precinct, Hell’s Kitchen. He was assigned to a joint NYPD/DEA narcotics operations, working with DEA Special Agent Alex Balder to bring down major drug rings.

Max Payne (video game) splash screen

However, with a wife and a newborn baby, Max was moving away from undercover operations and doing more normal detective work instead. Max’s friend Balder still hoped to recruit the talented policeman for undercover work with the DEA, but understood why Max wanted to put his family first.

Max’s life was shattered on a beautiful evening that summer when he arrived at his home on the Jersey side of the river. He found his wife Michelle and their newborn daughter dead, killed by a group of strung-out junkies that Max promptly gunned down. The junkies had been under the influence of a previously-unknown designer drug named Valkyr a.k.a. “V”.

Fridge over troubled waters

Two odd points stood out from the whole attack. When Max first arrived at home he got a phone call from an unidentified older woman. Max had just seen the wreckage at the front door and asked her to call 911. She simply said she was glad Max was still present at the house and told him she could not help him before hanging up.

The second odd point was the dress of the junkies. They were wearing green medical scrubs, as though they’d just escaped from an institution, but no previous records for them existed.

With his old life destroyed, Max took Balder’s long-standing offer and transferred to the DEA after his family’s funeral. For the next three years Max, Balder, and Balder’s DEA partner B.B. pursued the traffickers of Valkyr, trying to get to its source.

In late Fall of 2000, the DEA got a tip that Jack Lupino, a mob-boss for the Punchinello family, was trafficking in Valkyr. Max went undercover to infiltrate the Punchinellos (who were widely-known as the most dangerous mob family on the east coast), his DEA Special Agent files replaced by a rap sheet a mile long.

Back undercover

On a cold winter evening in early 2001, Max received a message from B.B.. Max was to go to the subway station at Roscoe Street and meet Alex, who had important information concerning Jack Lupino. Max arrived at Roscoe Street Station only to find himself caught in the middle of a bank heist by Jack Lupino’s thugs, who’d also been ordered to kill anyone there.

Max put a stop to the robbery of the Roscoe Bank and discovered that Lupino’s men were trying to steal Aesir Corporation bonds ; the Aesir Corporation was a recent success story with quickly rising stock, which must have attracted Lupino’s attention.

Max ran into Alex as he was leaving the scene, just in time to see Alex gunned down by a shadowy figure who quickly fled.

A storm is coming

Escaping the subway station, Max decided to go to Lupino directly. Lupino led his operation from two places, a sleazy hotel and a slum block of tenements. Max went to the hotel first, which was run by the Finito Brothers. Max met with the Finitos only to find out his cover had been blown.

The Finitos had orders to kill Payne, but he managed to turn the tables on them. As Max was escaping the hotel, he also foiled a V-deal and gunned down recently-recruited Punchinello enforcer Rico Muerte, formerly of Chicago. Muerte had a letter on him signed by Don Punchinello himself, the first bit of evidence that Punchinello was fully aware of the V-dealing by his underlings.

Max Payne dual-wielding pistols in a subway station

Before he left, Max overheard television broadcasts bringing him good and bad news. The good news was that a fierce winter storm was approaching, which would keep the streets clear of bystanders during Max’s war on crime. The bad news was that Max had been framed for Alex Balder’s murder and the NYPD was after him.

From the hotel Max went to Jack Lupino’s slum block to track down Lupino’s lieutenant Vince Gognitti. He arrived just in time to see Gognitti’s building racked by explosions from bombs planted by Russian Mafia boss Vladimir. Max later learned that Gognitti had started a war with Vladimir because he though Vladimir was as gutless as Vince himself was.

Gunfire

This turned out to be a serious error on Gognitti’s part. Vladimir was tough as nails and believed in the old clichés about honor among criminals. Gognitti’s cowardly attacks grievously offended Vladimir, who was proceeding to dismantle Gognitti’s network.

Max plunged headlong into the chaos to find Gognitti. As he was moving through the building a payphone started ringing beside him. On a whim, Max answered it to find a gravely male voice warning him the NYPD would be there soon. Mystified but undeterred, Max hunted Vince down in a frenetic rooftop chase. Max put the squeeze on Gognitti and found out where his boss Lupino was : the Ragna Rock night club.

Max headed over to Ragna Rock and promptly brought the drug den back in line with the original meaning of “shooting gallery”. Jack Lupino was in his perverse church at the top of Ragna Rock, a polyglot mix of every occult fad known to modern man with an emphasis on Norse mythology, littered with ancient Latin texts lying beside paperback editions of the Necronomicon.

After a fierce gun battle with Lupino’s thugs, Max blew Lupino away, emptying a second clip into the doped-up screeching madman just to be sure.

Lots and lots of gunfire

Before Max could even step away from Jack Lupino’s corpse, he was confronted by a new player: Mona Sax, the twin sister of Don Punchinello’s wife, Lisa. Sax was a mob enforcer, a femme fatale with a charming smile and a .50 Desert Eagle. She was not after Max, though.

Sax said she’d never kill a “nice guy” and more importantly she wanted to team up with Max to save her sister from her abusive husband.

They celebrated the partnership with a round of drinks…which she had mickeyed. As Max was passing out, Mona apologized for drugging him, but she couldn’t risk him going berserk and accidentally killing Lisa before Mona could pull her out of the Punchinello manor.

Gang wars

As Max slept off the drugs, he dreamt of that horrible night when his family was murdered. The Norse mythology surrounding Lupino’s club reminded Max of the odd Army dossier that had been mistakenly delivered by courier to his wife’s office the day before she died. It had been labeled “Project: Valhalla”.

Max woke up to the leering grin of Frankie “the Bat” Niagara, who proceeded to work Max over with his trademark baseball bat. Frankie decided to go get a cold one at the bar before finishing Max off and Max was able to break free of his bonds.

Ironically, Max had been taken back to Lupino’s hotel. Punchinello had sent his men to the hotel to try and reclaim whatever property they could before the police cleaned the place out; they’d even murdered the police investigators still examining the scene due to the earlier shootings.

Outraged, Max re-armed himself and took out the thugs. He caught Frankie Niagara in the same hotel bar that he’d found Rico Muerte in the night before and repeated history by taking Niagara down, too. Max also found out to his dismay that Mona Sax had been caught by Punchinello’s men and was being given to the Trio, Punchinello’s most brutal enforcers.

A deal with Vladimir

Vladimir of the Russian Mafia intercepted Payne as he was leaving the hotel and made him a deal. If Payne would take down Vladimir’s traitorous underling Boris Dime (who had gone over to the Punchinellos’ side), then Vladimir would give Payne access to an armory of weapons with which he could take down Don Punchinello, their mutual enemy.

Payne agreed and caught a ride to the shipyards where Boris Dime’s ship, the Charon, was berthed. After eliminating Dime, Max helped himself to the plethora of goods in the armory of Dime’s cargo ship.

Vladimir also offered Payne a job with his organization, being thoroughly impressed by Payne’s skills and determination, but Max declined. Nevertheless, Vladimir told Max to call him anytime he needed something. Payne accepted this offer — Vladimir was an old-time gangster whose rough code of honor made their association palatable and they both wanted to take down Punchinello and end the gang war.

Loaded down with enough weaponry for a small war, Max called Punchinello to arrange a meet. Using the pretext that he wanted a free walk in exchange for returning the drugs seized off of the Charon, Max got Punchinello to agree to a meet at the capo’s restaurant.

Punchinello was more pissed than Max realized, though : the restaurant had been rigged with explosives. Max barely escaped the blast and had to shoot his way past the thugs blocking the way out of the disco inferno. Max was not discouraged : Punchinello had just tried to douse Payne’s flames with gasoline.

Catching a ride from Vladimir, Max hauled his personal armory and a heart full of hate over to Punchinello’s mansion. Max was relieved to discover that Mona had apparently escaped, leaving a dead thug with a stake through his heart as a calling card. Payne continued rocking and rolling through the mansion, doing the countdown on the Trio until there was none.

Captured

One of the phones in the residence began ringing as Max ran by ; it was the gravely voice again, warning Max that a helicopter full of armed men had just landed. Max also discovered a woman’s body — he could not tell if it was Mona Sax, possibly recaptured and tortured to death, or if Lisa Punchinello had been killed in Mona’s stead.

Payne confronted Don Punchinello in his office, only to see the capo break down sobbing, claiming he was just following orders. Just then, a group of G-Men in well-tailored suits kicked in the door and hosed Punchinello down with automatic fire.

Max was taken captive by the group, which was led by a woman whose voice was familiar: it was she that had called him three years ago when Max’s family had been killed.

She had Max injected with an overdose of Valkyr, leaving Payne for dead to take the rap for Punchinello’s murder and neatly tie up the mess. The dagger-heeled lady had underestimated Payne’s durability and he awakened from his Valkyr-induced coma horribly ill, but still alive.

Deep six

Throwing off the effects of the Valkyr overdose, Max proceeded to the Cold Steel foundry, which he’d overheard the lady ringleader mention as he was slipping into his coma. Payne went in to render unto them a reckoning and lo, there was great collateral damage and much weeping and gnashing of teeth by mortally wounded mercenary guards.

Payne discovered a secret federal government facility underneath the plant called Deep Six. Some of the G-Men were down there, setting the base for self-destruct to keep prying eyes from discovering any clues there now that the plant was obviously compromised. Max did that voodoo that he do so well and away went the G-Men.

The things that Max discovered down in Deep Six would have confirmed the paranoia of the worst conspiracy theorist. Deep Six concealed Project: Valhalla, the same project that had been on the dossier mistakenly delivered to Michelle Payne three years before.

The Valhalla badge was a stylized V with a down-thrust sword bisecting it, which bore an unmistakable resemblance to the V with down-thrust syringe tag that V-junkies had been painting walls with for the last three years. Max also found prisoners being held for medical experimentation, wearing the same green scrubs that his family’s attackers had worn.

The truth

In this same location was a computer that had been left on during the evacuation. Files on the computer indicated that Project: Valhalla was a military program meant to create a new drug that would boost soldiers’ physical and mental stamina.

Begun in 1991, Valhalla resulted in the creation of a drug called Valkyr, named after the Norse maidens of myth that would carry warrior’s spirits to Valhalla, the Norse afterlife where fighting men battled endlessly by day and healed all wounds overnight.

However, Valkyr had numerous side-effects, inducing addiction and psychosis in its users. In 1995 Project: Valhalla was discontinued as a dead-end, but someone had continued the research using street people as test subjects.

One of the project dossiers was mistakenly delivered to Michelle Payne’s office, which prompted the Valhalla group to send some of their test subjects out as assassins in hopes of destroying the document and killing the Paynes, who might have already read the contents.

B.B. exposed

The self-destruct charges had begun to detonate, so Payne had no time to grab any useful evidence (and had gone beyond caring anyway — collecting evidence had gone by the wayside a few thousand bullets ago) and ran like hell to get out before the final blast.

Max fled the Cold Steel site as explosions lit up the night sky. Soon afterward he received a message from B.B., who wanted to meet in the Choir Communications garage. Putting the pieces together, Max realized that B.B. was a backstabbing bastard who’d set him and Alex up to die during the Roscoe Bank heist.

Max showed up for the meet anyway and after the drama was over, the Choir Communications garage was littered with a platoon of newly-winged angels.

Woden’s watchful eye

It was also at the garage that the gravely-voiced man reached out and touched Max again, this time identifying himself as Alfred Woden and asking Max to meet him. Max accepted and went to the Asgard Building at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Woden explained that the Inner Circle, a group of powerful politicians and businessmen led by Woden, had been involved with Valhalla’s inception during the Gulf War, but had not approved its continuance after 1995 and wanted it stopped.

The dagger-heeled lady from the Punchinello Manor was Nicole Horne, head of Aesir Corporation and a member of the Inner Circle; it was she who had illegally continued the Valhalla Project. While Woden wanted Horne stopped, he didn’t want the project to become public knowledge, so his hands were tied.

He made Payne a deal : if Payne would take down Horne by himself and thus keep the Inner Circle out of public view, they would see to it that Payne was cleared of all charges.

Before Payne could answer Horne’s men burst into the Asgard Building and gunned down the council. Payne escaped the council room and made his way through the Asgard Building while cutting down Horne’s G-men and mercenaries like wheat before a chaff.

A security monitor station revealed that Woden had survived unharmed, faking his death and surreptitiously exiting without Horne’s men noticing him.

The video

As Max worked his way out of the Asgard building, he discovered another reason Woden had been reluctant to openly oppose Nicole Horne. Horne had paid a prostitute to tape her sessions with Woden (ironically enough, that same prostitute worked at Jack Lupino’s sleazy hotel, at least until she was killed during Max’s gunfight with Rico Muerte).

He then sent Woden a copy, threatening Woden with exposure if he gave Horne any trouble. Max took the videotape in case he needed leverage with Woden later and left the Asgard Building.

Max knew he had no chance of survival unless Horne was removed from the equation. That being the case, he drove around town letting his anger build and then went to Aesir Plaza to confront Nicole Horne and her private army directly. In a pitched battle that raged throughout the tower, Max fought his way up to the top floor.

Mona’s back

On the way to the top, Max ran into Mona Sax again. Sax was working for Nicole Horne and had been ordered to kill Don Punchinello as the weak link in their organization. This wasn’t a problem for Mona, since Punchinello really had been a wife-beating bastard as Sax had claimed earlier and Mona was planning to kill him anyway.

Mona was at Aesir Plaza to stop Max, apparently not realizing the depth of Horne’s own sins, but she wasn’t willing to kill him: “Relax, Max, I don’t kill nice guys.”

Before the discussion could go any further, more of Horne’s goons showed up. Mona pushed Max aside and gunned down the first couple before taking a round herself. Thinking Mona dead, Max went on a rampage and wiped the goons out.

When he was finished he turned to find that Mona’s body had disappeared. Not sure what to think, Max pushed it all aside and continued after Horne.

Nicole Horne, desperate to escape, called in a helicopter despite the harsh winter storm. She managed to lock off the helipad before Max could catch her, but Payne wouldn’t be stopped so easily.

Sniping the guidewires to the Aesir Plaza’s massive radio tower, Max got the tower to fall on the helipad, crushing the helicopter and causing both it and the helipad to break loose and fall to the ground many floors down.

With the architect of his family’s death dead at last, Payne surrendered to the police, confident that Woden would keep his promise. Sure enough, Max saw Woden in the crowd of bystanders looking on outside Aesir Plaza, a triumphant smile upon his face. That made two of them.


Description

Max Payne is a Caucasian male of average height and build with a lean face. He wears his hair in a style halfway between a flattop and a duck’s-ass.

While Max was an NYPD detective, he wore nicely color-coordinated off-the-rack suits while on duty. After he went undercover, he had a more roguish garb. The basic outfit was a white T-shirt and black jeans with black and white two-tone shoes.

Over this he wore a leopard-print vest (or some similar, loud motif) and a black leather coat. He also had a pewter necklace, a thin chain with a small medallion of some kind. He carries a Beretta 9mm automatic pistol at all times. In a shoot-out Max will invariably also arm himself via on-site procurement.

Max almost always has a strange, amused smirk on his face, as if witnessing something comically absurd only he can comprehend.


Personality

Max is weary, cynical and puts a strong distance between himself and reality. It’s unclear to him if he’s a cop, a vigilante avenger or an already dead man. His overall feeling is that of a noir, hardboiled detective with a strangely over-the-edge angle.

Payne was a dedicated and conscientious police officer before the tragic events that led him to the DEA. He took his domestic responsibilities very seriously as well, giving up undercover work to spend more time at home and giving up smoking because it was bad for the baby.

Though earnest about his obligations, Max was a fairly relaxed, laid-back kinda guy who enjoyed poker games and delighted in the rest of the macho bullshit (in Max’s own words) that came with being a cop. Max had a dry sense of humor that never left him no matter how dangerous the situation.

Though he was not a fearless man, Max usually tackled problems head-on. This was partly due to his sense of responsibility — if he was there when a situation needed to be taken care of, then he figured he might as well do it himself and do it now.

Other traits

This approach also suited Payne’s very direct personality, particularly since he placed more emphasis on getting into the thick of things and avoiding harm by staying in motion rather than spend a lot of time planning. Payne’s opinion was that in most of those situations it was all chaos and luck and all you could do was hang on and try to come out the other end in one piece.

Max blamed himself for the death of his wife and child, so much so that one of his recurring nightmares was of gunning himself down as a murderer. This led to a certain amount of recklessness – if not insanity – on Max’s part ; he wasn’t looking to take a reunion round, but he was apt to consciously walk into traps and shoot his way out rather than taking a more prudent approach.

Taking out the woman who ordered his family’s death seemed to ease that feeling of being haunted by their ghosts, though time will tell whether or not this wound to Max’s soul has truly begun to heal.

Max’s death wish during those events made him indifferent to killing a large number of mercenaries and criminals – he was in Hell, and consumed by the necessity for vengeance.


Quotes

“Collecting evidence was a hundred bullets away.”

“Something wicked this way come – Max Payne is at large.”

“Vince Gognitti, just the man I’ve been killing to see.”

“That’s where I wanted Punchinello, mad enough to trip over his own feet, preferably into a grave.”

“He had a baseball bat and I was tied to a chair. Pissing him off was the smart thing to do.”

“I don’t have a clue these days, I just shoot ’em as they come.”


DC Universe History

The main character in Max Payne is New York City – a red-light, depressed, violent, gritty New York City during a harsh winter. A place of prostitution, gunmen, murder, omnipresent corruption, conspiracies, gang wars, failure, poverty, and bleak grit with no future.

If you want to adapt the story, in the DCU Valkyr was a derivative of Velocity-9, the superspeed drug. Valkyr did not grant as high a level of superspeed, but it did provide some regenerative properties in addition to minor speed enhancement — Superspeed: 04, Regeneration: 05, long-term users gain a CIA to the drug and have a +2CS penalty to the OV of all actions when they’re not doped up.

Green Zombies (long-term users who had taken a large dose) were as tough as they were psychotic, also gaining Mind Over Matter: 05 and Catastrophic Rage. All of these effects are more or less what Valkyr seemed intended to do to in the game anyway, so it’s not much of a stretch.

Max Payne’s bullet time ability is a metagenic response to the superspeed of the Valkyr users who attacked him and killed his family. Max might have encountered a number of superheroes in the course of his DEA work.

Arsenal is highly likely, since he also helped the DEA pursue drug-traffickers. It’s also probable that Payne met the third Flash while following leads linking Velocity-9 and Valkyr.

Alfred Woden is an alias of Vandal Savage. As this happened after DC One Million Savage would even have the one blinded eye that Woden had in the game.

After the Aesir Plaza affair and the death of his friend Balder, Max might leave the DEA. He could turn up as a cop in Gotham City or Blüdhaven (both of which are appropriately gritty), or even get recruited on the sly by the DEO.

In the Marvel Universe, Max would probably be related to Eric Payne, the Devil-Slayer. Alternatively, this all could have happened whilst the Asgardian gods were amnesiac and trapped in mortal form on Earth, for reasons that should be obvious upon reviewing the story.


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Max Payne

Dex: 06 Str: 03 Bod: 05 Motivation: Justice
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 03 Occupation: Undercover cop
Inf: 05 Aur: 04 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 016 HP: 045

Powers:
Enhanced Initiative: 04, Power Reserve (Acrobatics, Weaponry (Firearms)): 04

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Enhanced Initiative is Contingent upon Power Reserve.
  • Power Reserve an Ammo of 03, with 1 point of Ammo being expended for each Phase it is active. Ammo is refilled at a rate of 1 point for every 3 Phases *of combat* in which Max does not use Power Reserve.

Skills:
Artist (Actor): 05, Detective: 05, Evasion (Ranged only): 06, Military science (Demolition): 04, Vehicles (Land): 04, Weaponry (Firearms): 06, Weaponry (Melee): 05

Advantages:
Area Knowledge (New York City), Iron Nerves, Scholar (Narcotics detective work), Schtick (Paired firearms).

Connections:
DEA (Low), Street (Low), Vladimir (Russian Mob Boss, Low), Alfred Woden (Government Spook, Low).

Drawbacks:
Guilt.

Equipment:

  • Max generally packs a Beretta 92 w/extended clip [BODY 04, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 18, R#2].
  • He will often gets the guns from the thugs he kills, including another Beretta for Shtick (Paired firearms), .44 Desert Eagles [BODY 04 Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 12 (extended clip), R#02], Remington shotguns, sawed off shotguns, Ingram M11s (submachinegun), Colt M4s (automatic rifle)…

Previous Statistics

Prior to the events of early 2001, Payne had DEA Agent Alex Balder as a High Connection.

Prior to his family’s murder in 1997, Max had a Low Connection to the NYPD and Married (Michelle Payne).

By Sébastien Andrivet and Roy Cowan.

Source of Character: Max Payne video game.

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