Interview: Writers Dan Houser and Sam Lake On Max Payne ‘After the Fall’

With Max Payne 3 a little under two weeks away, today Rockstar will begin providing Max’s fans with the larger story of the troubled ex-NYPD Detective’s even more troubled history. Max Payne: After the Fall is a digital comic written by Sam Lake, who also wrote the first two Max Payne games, along with Dan Houser, Vice President of Creative at Rockstar and the writer behind Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. Featuring inks by Fernando Blanco and covers by Greg Horn, the series will tell stories set around and before the first two games, heading into the third.

With that in mind, we spoke to Sam and Dan about the creation of the book, getting back to Max again after all this time, and what goes on in the damaged detective’s head.

What makes Max Payne tick and how do you feel that Max has evolved as a character over the last decade?

Dan Houser: I’m not sure Max Payne exactly “ticks” – he’s someone who has long since lost the ability to know what makes him tick, or how to live in the world. He’s hiding away, drunk and lonely and has been for years. I don’t think he’s evolved – I think he’s devolved into a drunken, drug-addled mess. He’s never dealt with the grief of losing his family nor his guilt from the events of Max Payne 2, and he’s lost his career, so now he sits around and drinks.

Multiplayer: The idea of noir is often about institutional rot and corruption, a thread that runs through many Rockstar titles. From the dirty lawmen and broken government in Red Dead Redemption to, well, just about anyone in the GTA universe (even the school administration in Bully had a bit of dirt about it). What is it that draws you to these themes?

Dan Houser: I’m not quite sure there are any other stories! I mean, the corrupting influence of power, the de-humanizing impact of institutions, and the gap between idealism and reality are at the heart of the modern human experience, so it is hard to make a game, or anything, about humanity without touching on these themes. The world you built would be very dull and very unrealistic if everything was at should be, and no one was lazy or corrupt or hypocritical or idiotic.

Multiplayer: Can we expect any interplay between elements in the comics and the narrative of Max Payne 3?

Dan Houser: Yes – the comics will provide the glue for fans of Max 1 and 2 to connect those games more fully to this, and for new comers help fill in the back story. They are not required reading to enjoy the game, but they will provide a great deal of insight and clarity.

Multiplayer: How does it feel returning to Max Payne after all this time? How has nearly a decade away from the character affected your approach to him?

Sam Lake: It has felt wonderful, like meeting a long lost friend. A very refreshing experience, all in all. Having been away for a few years certainly gives you an objectivity that allows you to see things more clearly and makes it possible to consider angles that you would be completely blind to otherwise.

Multiplayer: What were you most interested in investigating in these new stories about Max?

Sam Lake: There are two aspects that have not been told before. The first one is Max’s childhood, how he became the man we all know. And then there are those untold years between Max 1 and 2 when he was working as a NYPD detective, solving a number of repulsive cases involving serial killers and worse.

Multiplayer: Could you talk about what you know so far about Max in the third game as an extension of the character you wrote for the first two games?

Sam Lake: To me it feels very much like a logical piece in Max’s journey through the night. There are a few soul-shattering scenes that map out his life in New York after the events of Max 2, very recognizable moments for anyone who has played the earlier games. He is lost in his life, a punching bag really, and then there’s that turning point, when he takes back the control, the scene where he shaves his head, when he once more becomes that very dangerous avenger we all know and love, that to me is the defining Max Payne moment that brings it all home in the best possible way.

The first installment of After The Fall is available online at the Rockstar Newswire. Mb>Max Payne 3 will be available May 15th on the 360 and PS3, May 29th on the PC.

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