Is Kratos cribbing from Max Payne?

Six key similarities between God of War and the classic shooter

It isn’t until later that both Max and Kratos learn the murders weren’t entirely their fault – or, for that matter, as random as they seemed. In Kratos’s case, he finds out that the deaths of his family – who were supposed to have been in Sparta while he went on a crazed killing spree in the name of war god Ares – were entirely orchestrated by his master, who wanted to remove all the distractions that prevented Kratos from becoming a single-minded killing machine.

Above: “Dude, I know this sucks now? But we’ll totally look back and laugh about it someday, trust me!”

For Max’s part, he joins the DEA in an attempt to shut down Valkyr, the drug that drove the junkies who murdered his family. Later, however, he learns that the murder was deliberately planned by Nicole Horne, an evil pharmaceutical CEO. It turns out that Max’s wife found out that Horne was illegally producing Valkyr for the military, a piece of knowledge Horne couldn’t allow her to spread.


This one’s pretty obvious in Kratos’s case, seeing as he literally inhabits the world of Greek mythology. In Max’s case, however, it’s just a little more subtle.

Above: The exact opposite of subtle

While Kratos actually goes toe-to-toe with everything from the Kraken to the gods themselves, Max rails against the Aesir Corporation, named after the collective word for the gods of Norse mythology. Valkyr is an obvious reference to Valkyries, the Valhalla project that produced it is named after the afterlife set aside for warriors who had died in battle, and Ragnarock – the name of a nightclub in the game – refers to Norse mythology’s version of Armageddon.

Alfred Woden, Max’s eyepatch-wearing benefactor, is a rough analogue to Odin, the one-eyed king of the Norse gods. And Alex Balder, Max’s dead partner, is named for Norse light-god Baldur, whose death by his uncle’s treachery is one of Norse mythology’s greatest tragic stories. The references don't end there, either, but that should be enough to give you the general idea.

This was the key moment that inspired this article. In fact, we might have gone our whole lives without noticing any of the other stuff, if not for this one key scene near the end of God of War III: at the mercy of Zeus and overcome by fear, Kratos slips into a dark, red-lit nightmare world, in which he has to follow a thin trail of blood while the cries of his victims – including his family – echo around him.

If you’ve played through Max Payne, you will immediately recognize this as being suspiciously similar to The Bad Dream, a surreal bear of a level. After being overdosed with Valkyr, Max has to inch along a red-lit tightrope of blood, while the voices of his family – in particular his eerily wailing baby girl – echo around him.

To be fair, the God of War III“Fear” level is a little more fun, just because you’re not in constant danger of plummeting to your death. But given the similarities, it’s hard not to see it as anything other than a clear homage.

Just sayin'.

Mar 19, 2010

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After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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