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Rockstar, Remedy shake hands on new Max Payne 1+2 remaster series

Promotional image for video game Max Payne.

Remedy Entertainment and Max Payne are together again—and the reunion is coming in the form of a full-blown remake of the hard-boiled series’ first two action games.

The news arrived on Wednesday in the form of a press release signed off by both Remedy, the series’ creators, and Rockstar Games, the franchise’s current rightsholder after the license passed between companies in the early ’00s. The two companies have entered a publishing partnership that will see Rockstar finance a remaster of Max Payne and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne as a combined gameplay package.

Both games will be remade using Remedy’s proprietary Northlight game engine, which was most recently used in Ars Technica’s 2019 Game of the Year, Control. In addition to a launch on PC, the resulting two-game package will be a current-gen console exclusive on Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5. This means the game could possibly flex the same ray-tracing muscles seen in 2021’s Control Ultimate Edition, also a current-gen exclusive. No date for the game has been announced, and “The project is currently in the concept development stage,” according to the press release.

A new deal to numb older Paynes

Coincidentally, this news comes on top of Remedy’s existing publishing deal with Epic Games. That deal guarantees that Epic and Remedy will work together to launch two multiplatform games “in the same franchise:” One game will be triple-A in scope, and the other will be smaller. No date for either Epic-related game has been set since that March 2020 announcement, and neither company clarified whether the franchise in question is new or based on an existing Remedy IP like Alan Wake.

Remedy has not announced any target storefront for the PC version of its Max Payne remasters. Based on Rockstar’s recent track record, the game will likely appear on the Rockstar Games Launcher as at least an option, if not an exclusive. (We hope that Remedy will steer this project in a better direction than another recent Rockstar remaster debacle.)

The last time Remedy formally spoke about its relationship with Max Payne was in 2018 during the run-up to Control‘s 2019 launch. Studio lead and Payne co-creator Sam Lake confirmed that the shuffling of the series’ license in the early ’00s meant that Max Payne 2 was the final game Rockstar wanted Remedy to deliver. Nearly a decade later, Rockstar went on to produce Max Payne 3 as an in-house project with a decidedly different scope (though this third game at least kept Payne’s original voice actor).

As I wrote in a 2012 review of Max Payne 3 for the now-defunct iPad-only magazine The Daily:

Occasionally, the game unleashes Rockstar’s knack for convincing character relationships, but for the most part, those have been swept away to make room for a criss-cross of crime syndicates and crooked cops. That plot won’t elicit a second playthrough; neither will the score-more-points replay mode nor a numbingly average take on online multiplayer. That being said, the set pieces, shootout choreography, and satisfying gunplay make this one of the industry’s best story-driven single-player games in some time, and the plot and dialogue are far from garbage. Still, the way Rockstar stretched a 2-hour plot over a 10-hour journey makes one thing clear—linear material isn’t Rockstar’s bag just yet.

This came after Rockstar’s piddling 2008 attempt to turn Max Payne into a Hollywood franchise. The Mark Wahlberg vehicle remains one of Rotten Tomatoes’ worst-scoring films of all time.

Remedy has yet to clarify whether the gameplay or the dialogue for either game will be revised in any way to align with modern expectations. Though both original Max Payne games remain beloved as relics of the PlayStation 2 era—complete with hard-boiled dialogue and their use of a still-novel “bullet time” mechanic lifted from films like The Matrix—other third-person action games have blown past those standards in the decades since.

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