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24th July 2016
How Remedy Pays Homage to Max Payne in Alan Wake

I was first introduced to Remedy and the community back in 2011 with Alan Wake. After playing it, I played the developer's previous titles, and shortly after that I began work on this site. It was a weird experience thinking about AW while playing the older titles and realising the references that had been in that game. By 2011, Max Payne had already been sold to Take Two a decade before, and Rockstar was already deep into development into the third instalment of Max's life. Despite Remedy moving onto new adventures in Bright Falls, it was nice to see them return to New Jersey from time to time.

Below is a list of references Remedy placed in Alan Wake, to pay homage to their previous protagonist:

Alex Casey by Alan Wake
Alan Wake

Before the craziness in Bright Falls, there was the craziness in New York. As an aspiring writer, Alan Wake's first real opportunity was on the Night Springs writing cast for a year, which led to him later branching out and taking his own journey with the release of The Errand Boy and, later, the highly successful Alex Casey series. 

At the start of episode two, the player can walk around Alan's New York apartment, getting a glimpse into the protagonist's lifestyle. That portion of his life is taken on the edge of a new milestone; after a run of six books, Alan controversially killed his character (Alex Casey) in the latest book, The Sudden Stop. In addition to being able to read a couple of pages from his latest work, the player can check out the other five novels on his bookcase. Each of the books references a Max Payne element or quotation.

The first book, Alex Casey, is a link to Remedy's style of game titles which, until Quantum Break, focused on their protagonists. The second instalment, What I Can't Forget, links into the series' themes; that no matter what event happens, there's a gravitational pull between him and his past. The third novel, Return to Sender, references the Address Unknown TV series which appeared in both of Remedy's Max Payne games. The Address Unknown episodes in Max Payne 2 were shown in a marathon entitled Return to Sender. The fourth book, called The Things I Want, is the name of a level in the second MP game but is also a section of Max's dialogue; "The things I want, by Max Payne. A smoke. A whiskey. For the sun to shine. I want to sleep, want to forget. To change the past. My wife and baby girl back. Right then, more than anything I wanted her." . The fifth instalment is The Fall of Casey, a reference to Max Payne 2's full title, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne.

The Voice of Max Payne
Alan Wake, Alan Wake (The Signal DLC)

James McCaffrey is probably best known in the Remedy community as being the voice of Max Payne, a role he's portrayed since the original adventure. But even years later, with the IP in new hands, he continued his work with Remedy, this time on Alan Wake, portraying Thomas Zane and Alex Casey. The former is one of the game's main guides but isn't completely reliable. The latter is a character of Alan's creation, which the Remedy created to pay homage to Max Payne. 

For Max Payne fans, it was a surreal experience to have Alan guided by Remedy's former protagonist. And for those fans, there was a tiny voice in the back of their brain going "noooo, this man makes terrible life choices. It will only end badly" before realising that both descriptions fit both protagonists and it's a match made in heaven. 

The Sudden Stop Manuscript Pages
Alan Wake

Speaking of the Alex Casey series, the final book was called The Sudden Stop, which is packed with Max Payne references. This is perhaps my favourite Easter Egg in Alan Wake.

While Remedy likes to add little references to previous games in their work, I don't think many fans were expecting this. Unlike the other manuscript pages in the game, this one is narrated by James McCaffrey who reads his lines in Max Payne's voice. The metaphors, the references to Late Goodbye, the style, they brought back so many memories!

Best Friend Suddenly the Bad Guy
Alan Wake

In Episode Four (and my favourite episode of the game), Alan stumbles across a cabin near the Anderson Farm, believing Barry Wheeler to be there. He isn't. But what he finds is Walter, the intoxicated resident he met previously, sleeping off a night of partying in Episode Two. 

Walter isn't in too great of a shape after a sudden attack by his best friend Danny who suddenly transformed into a Taken. When Alan catches up to him, there's nothing he can do. Walter complains about  the events, feeling physically and emotionally injured from his buddy's betrayal. "I lost him, something’s gone wrong with him, it’s not a real bad follow-up to a real good movie, where the best friend’s suddenly the bad guy." In Max Payne, something similar happens. In the first game, Max meets Russian Mob Boss, Vladimir Lem, the person closest to being classed as Max's friend. The two help each other in the original game; Lem needing an individual killed, and Max needing more firearms and ammo. In the sequel, the relationship turned sour, with Lem becoming the game's antagonist. 

[Update: BoozeMillionaire, a lovely Barry Wheeler parody Twitter account, reminded me that the Alan Wake series takes this one step further. At the end of The Writer DLC, Wake has to fight against Taken wearing the faces of his friends; a perfect link back to the pictured moment.]

[Updated] Painkillers and "The Face"
Suggestion by ComunidadRemedy
Alan Wake

At the start of episode six, the player has the opportunity to explore Alan's New York apartment further. Things have changed, the protagonist with it. It's a few months into The Sudden Stop's publicity campaign and things haven't been going well. Long nights, numerous parties and an overwhelming press focus has been taking its toll on the protagonist, and he wakes up in his bed with a pounding hangover. In desperation, Alan needs to find something for the pain; he grabs his sunglasses from the bedside table and painkillers from the medicine cabinet in his bathroom. For Max Payne fans, this is a very small but familiar flashback. In the MP series, Max uses painkillers as medipacks,  packed in a similar style container, healing any wounds he might have. The bottles in both series rattle alike.
In the same scene, a little further ahead, Alan can turn on the TV, catching the end of a recent interview he did for The Harry Garrett Show. On the set, he is accompanied by four other guests; Sam Lake, Marko Saaresto, Olli Tukiainen and Markus "Captain" Kaarlonen. In his closing speech the host turns to Lake, asking "once more, do the face for us," the "face" being the Max Payne expression used for the original game. The other three guests are the original members of Finnish band, Poets of the Fall, who wrote the song Late Goodbye which can be heard in Max Payne 2

Mirra was Here
Alan Wake (The Signal DLC)

In the Alan Wake DLC pack, The Signal, Alan returns to a distorted version of Bright Falls. Walking through the Oh Deer Diner, he finds himself surrounded by ghosts of the Bright Falls residents, memories of the past he can't interact with. As Alan explores the location, he hears the disembodied voice of Thomas Zane talking to him through the bathroom mirror. In the original game, this section was blocked off by the Dark Presence to prevent Stucky and Alan meeting. During Alan's and Zane's discussion, the player can move around and enter the cubicles. In the final stall, there's a message on the wall reading "MIRRA WAS HERE."

The message is a direct reference to John Mirra from the Address Unknown television series in Max Payne 2. In the episodes, the protagonist is hunted by his evil doppelgänger who he sees in the bathroom mirror. The phrase's presence in the Alan Wake series takes a darker turn for anyone who has played American Nightmare.

Alan Wake, Alan Wake's American Nightmare 

Remedy has always had a fascination with doppelgängers. In Max Payne, the theme of the evil double reemerged at several moments throughout the game, as Max struggled frequently with the darker part of himself. In the sequel, the in-game TV series, Address Unknown, reflected the theme in addition to mirroring the game events, again reflecting Max's distrust and anger at himself. But Max's doppelgängers were metaphorical, Alan's double were tangible threats and never more so than in Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Near the end of the original game, Thomas Zane introduces Alan to Mr Scratch, an identical copy of the writer. Calmly, Zane says "Don’t mind him, he’s Mr. Scratch. Your friends will meet him when you’re gone." That statement alone injures his trust that the player had given him. Mr Scratch is dangerous, and in the spin off title, American Nightmare, Wake attempts to track down Mr Scratch who is causing havoc and deaths in his name.

While the present of doppelgängers in both Max Payne and Alan Wake series isn't a strong case for a connection, the fact that both doppelgängers appear as a representative of the protagonist's darker side is. 

In the MP series, the evil double is seen in nightmares and on television, taunting Max and tricking him to believe that he was the one behind his family's death. For Max, he represents the guilty side that punishes himself for not preventing his family's death. In Alan Wake, the origin of Mr Scratch is said to have come as a result of negative tales about the writer that later took form. Scratch elaborates on his birth in one of American Nightmare's collectible TV broadcast: "at first, I was just an idea. But they kept telling all those stories about you. You already had that rep, and then you disappeared mysteriously. And then... the stories about bad, crazy Alan Wake came true. And here I am! That’s the best part, isn’t it, when that happens? You can always count on Cauldron Lake." For Alan, Scratch represents the darker side of himself that he became when he struggled with fame and, later, his writer's block. In addition, Scratch also encompassing the negative and dark side of Wake's imagination that he tapped into while writing the Alex Casey series. It's also important to note that Alex Casey is based on Max Payne, meaning that Max and Alan both shared those dark reflections in their separate journeys. 

For more posts celebrating Max Payne's 15 Anniversary and to win a copy of Max Payne 1 & 2 on Steam, click HERE.


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