Max Payne 1, according to me, is the best game ever made. It's got brilliance written all over it, and since then, and previous to it, no other game has wrapped itself up so well and smoothened out every crease as this game did.
1) The correct way to ham: The storyline was played out through these graphic novel inspired cutscenes. But what was brilliant about these cutscenes was the script, and the voice. It had that over-the-top, over-done New York I-Stand-Alone lethal-weapon Die-Hard cop angle worked out to perfection. This is rare. Even now when I play the game, I don't skip through the cutscenes.
2) The awesome-ness that is bullet-time: This game is probably one of the only games made which has a flawlessly working bullet-time function. Other games never came as close to perfection as this game did. The matrix games added to much wall running, etc while trying to shoot things in slow motion. Even TimeShift (2009) and Killing Floor (2009) don't do justice and have little quirks about their systems. But the bullet-time in Max Payne was perfect.
3) Guns. Lots of Guns: For a game made so far back, the arsenal that the player had at his disposal was immense. Beretta's, dual beretta's, shotguns, sawed off shotguns, machine guns. Even GTA 4 does not boast of such an arsenal. This made the game unbelievable fun.
4) QuickSave: This game was one of those games which had a quicksave mode. Hit F5 (if i remember correctly) at any point and you'r game would automatically get saved there and then. Also, hitting F9 and enter (if I remember correctly) at any point during the game would load the last save point. Even on a relatively slow machine, this wasn't very time consuming. Also, if you crossed a level, and died as soon as you started the next level, the quick save would automaticall load the new level, and not your save point in the last level. This, coupled with bullet-time and the huge arsenal, had me redoing each kill over and over, until I was completely satisfied that i had got it right.This trick in hard mode made the game very interesting and beating the game without this trick was super tough in nightmare mode since the ammo you got was so limited. You had to keep trying and reloading your save points till you got that perfect way through the enemies. But backed up with solid level design and game design, this worked.
5) The complete-ness of the game universe: Sure, this game came before we had the whole lot of checklists and common texts which were a must and required by the hardware companies for consoles (read TRC). But the entire game completely adhered to and followed the art style. Every little thing in the game was over the top. When you took the painkillers, you'd hear Max say, "the pills would help to keep the pain away". When you quit, the messages (I don't remember what they were exactly) were also in the game universe. They weren't the typical "are you sure you want to quit" messages.
6) the dream sequences: The 2 dream sequences which you find yourself playing through in this game, are one of the best mini-games i've ever played. They fit so seamlessly into the story (these sequences represent Max "tripping" after being injected with Valkyr). These make for a nice break and prevent the game from getting a little monotonous when playing non-stop (like I did the first 4 times) from beginning to end.
7) The environment: The environment in Max Payne was also superbly designed. The sewers, office buildings, parking lots, towers, whore houses, shady restaurants, were all brilliantly designed. you always knew which way to go.
8) NPC behaviour: The NPC's were always doing things before they noticed Max. If you over-heard their conversations, it was always about something related to the game, and sometimes you'd understand parts of the storyline through them. The Valkyr junkies that you encountered also were quite well made.
9) other interactive elements: Throughout the game, whenever you turned on a tv, or a radio, not only did it work, but it also came on to the news channel (mostly) which had news about the storm, and how Max was a wanted man. This added that extra realism to the game.
10) Jack Lupino: This man's character is one of the best designed protagonists i have ever seen. The lines "I have tasted the flesh of fallen angels" still rings in my ears sometimes and the books and satanic symbols thrown around that level really scares the sh%$ out of you. Again, the modern underground setting fits seamlessly into the storyline for a really compelling level.
11) The sex: again, Max Payne took the Duke Nuke'm way of strippers and whores but made them a more integrated part of the storyline. It added to the dirt and filth that was the underground drug ring of New York city beautifully.
12) Mission Boundaries: you never ever encountered an area which was blocked off in a way that you couldn't get across it for no reason other then the fact that the level was built like that. you never saw a bunch of trees or something silly like that creating a boundary which you couldn't cross for no apparent reasons. Again, solid level design.
There are probably a LOT points that I could rant about if I played the game again. Which is what I will be doing now. If I've missed a few points, please feel free to add them. The discussion here would basically revolve around:
Why aren't people making games close to this anymore from a design point of view. Why is this game not being regarded as a benchmark of sorts for 3rd person shooters? Considering that's a segment which always ends up with quirky gameplay?
I've shared my two bits.
It would be great to hear yours.