Let's break Max Payne :D This is Davey's First Speedrun

Content Warning - see the section below for a bit of information about this game.

Hello everyone!

GamesDoneQuick made me super duper want to learn to speedrun a game, so I picked Max Payne - one of my favourite games from when I was a teenager. Turns out, that was a terrible decision, because the game requires multiple frame-perfect tricks, the first of those being ten seconds into the run.

I stream the game on Twitch and will be uploading progressively longer videos as I add new chapters of the game. I’m currently able to consistently run up to the end of the chapter Fear That Gives Men Wings.


I stream live as I play, at: https://www.twitch.tv/daveydweeb

Part 1 - 20 Jan 2019 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-_p6Oid4XU

The Game

Max Payne was released in 2001 to generally strong reviews and sales. It follows Detective Max Payne of the NYPD, whose work tracking dealers of the deadly drug ‘Valkyr’ (‘V’) is interrupted by the murder of his wife and young child by junkies high on the drug. He continues his work undercover, until a rendezvous with his NYPD handler Alex is cut short by his partner’s murder, amid Max stumbling into an apparently unrelated bank heist. Hunted by the NYPD after being framed for a number of killings, and desperate to avenge his family, Max strikes at the heart of New York’s underbelly and discovers a deep conspiracy behind the mysterious drug Valkyr.

The Speedrun

Max Payne is a great first game to speedrun! The concepts are simple to learn but difficult to master, and the gameplay is fluid and enjoyable.

A few of the standard tricks I’ll be using include:

  • Cutscene movement: If you successfully quicksave on the same frame as a cutscene begins, reloading will give you control of Max while the cutscene plays. This is used extensively throughout the run.
  • Dead Man Walking: a variation on cutscene movement, this takes advantage of Max being unable to die during a cutscene. Running into the train in Chapter 2 ‘Live from the Crime Scene’ causes max to be killed, respawning where he would appear after the cutscene, but with zero hitpoints and in a zombie state. In this state, enemies will not aggro onto him because he is ‘dead’, but he can move around as normal. However, any environmental damage at all will kill him - including, annoyingly, simply being struck by objects as they fly through the air.
  • Superjumps: this technique is also used extensively throughout the run. Jumping exactly one-third of a second after changing from a 2-handed weapon to a 1-handed, or the reverse, causes Max to jump several times higher than normal. This is a frame-perfect trick (welcome to speedrunning, Davey!), and occurs as early as ten seconds into the run. It’s very challenging, but compulsory for several major skips in the game, particular in Chapter 6, ‘Fear That Gives Men Wings’.

Thread Rules

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Content Warning

Max Payne deals with a few topics that are extremely sensitive, namely: murder, infanticide, drug addiction, prostitution and other adult themes.

The game hasn’t aged as well as some others of its era, but it generally deals with these topics through the prism of people struggling with poverty, mental health and systemic abuse, and casts most of even the ‘bad guys’ as ordinary people. The game is quite well known for depicting even the enemies as having ‘everyday’ conversations about ‘little’ topics, and a casual playthrough is actually a pretty great chance to listen to these candid talks.

As a speedrun, a lot of these themes are minimised, in two days: the context is largely removed, but so is most of the exposure to these themes. It can be hard to judge the game from a speedrun. So, fair warning - it can be a bit difficult to watch if you’re not expecting it.