The game features a gritty neo-noir style and uses graphic novel panels (with voice-overs) in place of animated cutscenes to narrate the game, as it draws inspiration from hard-boiled detective novels by authors like Mickey Spillane. The game contains many allusions to Norse mythology, particularly the myth of Ragnarök, and several of the names used in the game are those of the Norse gods and mythos. The gameplay is heavily influenced by the Hong Kong action cinema genre, particularly the work of director John Woo, and it was the first game to feature the bullet time effect popularized by The Matrix.
Max Payne received very positive reviews and was praised for its exciting gunplay and use of noir storytelling devices. Critically acclaimed, the game won a large number of accolades, including the BAFTA Award. As of 2011, the Max Payne game franchise has sold over 7.5 million copies. It also inspired a feature film under the same title.