ByShawn Farner/Updated: April 9, 2022 3:43 pm EST
TheMax Payne franchise started out as a true project of passion. The main character and series namesake was initially portrayed by his creator. That creator also wrote Max's script, which is notable for its poetic yet haunting dialogue. And though later games went on to become bigger-budget over time — even spawning a full-length feature film — fans have stuck by Max Payne, their damaged, cynical anti-hero. There have been threeMax Payne entries, and fans want another.
Unfortunately, it's not going to happen.
The series has developed something of a cult following these days, with those devoted to Max praising the "bullet time"mechanics he helped popularize, while also longing for the dark, grim noir setting his games were known for. But times have changed. The companies behind the series have changed. And video games as a whole have changed, too. Max had his trilogy, and the powers that be seem content to let that be that.
Or, to put it more poetically:if Max Payne is trying to buy more sand for his hourglass, it doesn't look like anyone is selling any. Here's why.
He got a proper sendoff in Max Payne 3
If you're reading this and wishing for a Max Payne 4, you've likely played through every story the Max Payne series has to offer. But if you haven't finished the third game in the franchise, you might want to stop reading. There are spoilers ahead.
The most simple answer for why there will never be a Max Payne 4 is simply this:the end ofMax Payne 3. It's the classic hero's goodbye, though in true Max Payne fashion, it isn't the cowboy riding off with the girl into the sunset. Rather,Max learns that he's successfully played a role in dismantling an organ harvesting ring and that the villain he apprehended in the late stages of the game has been hanged in prison.
For the first time in a long time, Max has no enemies in front of him. There are no bullets flying his way. No blood being spilled. No more vengeance to be had. Instead, there's only the setting sun, the rolling tide, and the beach. Max walks away and the credits roll.
Somewhere, Max Payne is still on that beach. Bringing him back at this point just doesn't feel fair.
Max Payne doesn't fit Rockstar's "games-as-a-service" focus
Rockstar Games has struck gold in the streets of Los Santos.Grand Theft Auto V is the "most profitable entertainment product of all time." It boasts over90 million copies sold, and enjoys an increasing stream of additional revenue from its microtransactions and multiplayer component,GTA Online. The game came out in 2013, yetstill manages to chart on NPD monthly sales reports. It's a complete juggernaut, and it's shown Rockstar that an always living, constantly updated game can become a cash cow. Which is why it's not a surprise that the company looks to be adapting thatGTA formula for its next title,Red Dead Redemption 2.
Max Payne just doesn't fit that script.
TheMax titles are single-player at their hearts. Sure, there have been multiplayer modes in the past. But they never felt as important as the narratives put together by Remedy and, later, by Rockstar. An always-online mode would feel out of place in theMax Payne universe, not to mention that "bullet time" isn't quite feasible to use in a world full of other gamers.Max Payne Online would be a bolted-on addition rather than something that seamlessly fits into an already-open world, and for that reason, you have to believe that Rockstar will pass on doing it.
Which means they'll have no interest in doing anotherMax Payne.
GTA Online and Red Dead Redemption 2 consume a lot of resources
And the idea of supporting yet another massively multiplayer online game is crazy talk, anyway. Grand Theft Auto'stransition into that space was a learning experience for Rockstar, which realized that it had to devote entire teams to the task of keeping the game fresh after release. The sale of Shark Cards certainly helps fund that, no doubt, but Rockstar's hands are pretty tied up inGTA Online.
Not to mention thatRed Dead Redemption 2 game everyone is talking about.
For the past several years, Rockstar has had studios working on an entirely new entry in theRed Dead franchise. It's going to be an open world game, just like its predecessor, and as was stated above, it's going to incorporate always-online components in a similar way toGTA. OnceRed Dead 2 comes out in October 2018, Rockstar will have teams working on post-release content for two very big titles.
That doesn't sound like an opportunity to bring back an old IP. Instead, it sounds more like Rockstar will have most of its resources committed to keeping its two moneymakers up and running.
Max Payne 3 failed to meet sales expectations
And speaking of money, ifMax Payne 3 had sold gangbusters and become the series everyone clamored for overGrand Theft Auto orRed Dead, there's an excellent chance that aMax Payne 4 would be in the cards, or that you'd be playing it already. But there's a reasonMax Payne is sometimes looked at as a cult classic franchise and not one that sits among the pantheon of GTA, Call of Duty, Madden, and the like.Cults don't speak for the mainstream, andMax Payne 3 didn't sell enough copiesto those people.
The first quarter of 2012 was not a friendly one for publisher Take-Two. The company posted a $110 million loss, with much of it blamed on low sales of bothMax Payne 3 andSpec Ops: The Line (an underappreciated game in its own right). For a publisher that can boast big-name franchises likeGTA,Red Dead,Borderlands, and the2Kseries of sports titles, games that don't sell well tend to stand out. And it's never a good sign when a game is specifically called out in a quarter with, as Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick put it, "disappointing results."
You can put two and two together. Publishers want games that sell, and in Take-Two's case, it has several that consistently do.Max Payne didn't, and it doesn't appear either Take-Two or Rockstar are willing to gamble on a fourth try.
Rockstar is publishing fewer games and taking fewer risks
Whether it's because of pressure from Take-Two, or because Rockstar has realized that bothGrand Theft Auto andRed Dead can essentially print money, one thing has become evident in recent years:Rockstar Games is not taking risks anymore.
Rockstar was a much, much different company back in the Xbox/PS2 and early Xbox 360/PS3 generations. It was a company that experimented. It published games from outside studios. It gave players weird games they never asked for but fell in love with anyway. And it always had a hand in a bunch of different genres.
Rockstar had the honor of publishingOni on the PS2 before Bungie became a Microsoft-onlyHalo machine. It published theSmuggler's Run series. It gave detective work a try with L.A. Noire. And internally, it brought us games likeMidnight Club,Manhunt,Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, Bully,andThe Warriors.
All of that, along with theMax Paynefranchise, seems to have faded into obscurity. Rather than roll the dice on the what-ifs, Rockstar looks poised to be a two-game studio going forward. And that's not only sad forMax Paynefans — it's sad for video games.
Remedy is now busy with a new IP
And somehow, we almost made it back to the beginning. Back to the birthplace ofMax Payne, inside Remedy Entertainment and — more specifically — inside the mind of his creator, Sam Lake.
Remedy gained notoriety for theMax Payneseries and, since then, has become a studio that people look forward to seeing games from. Remedy leftMax Payne and dreamedAlan Wake into existence. The studio then merged video games and television together to createQuantum Break. And now Remedy is working on a brand-new IP that it unveiled at E3 2018 calledControl.
But hope lived briefly in the hearts ofMax Payne fans when Sam Lake, a founder of Remedy, gave an interview ahead ofQuantum Break'srelease. In it, he stated that he'd found closure with the franchise following the completion ofMax Payne 2, but that he and his team "could come up with something cool" if given a shot at the fourth installment in the franchise.
Those words carried a lot of weight in the hearts and minds of fans. But alas, aMax Payne deal never did happen and a game didn't pan out. And now Remedy has yet another new project to work on, which means they won't be returning toMax Payne. At least, not anytime soon.