A classic in every sense of the word.
Max Payne is one of those games that works very well on paper, as well as in action. Executed beautifully from start to finish, minus a couple dream sequences.
The game starts with our protagonist, Max Payne, coming home from a day of work in the New York Police Department. Upon arrival, his house appears to be ransacked, and he soon makes his way upstairs, only to find his baby and wife murdered by a group of "thugs" high on a new drug named Valkyr. After this, you are thrust into present day, and sent on a crusade by your vengeance. The story has many plot twists to it, and is told through intermittent graphic novel cutscenes with full voice acting and sound effects to enhance the storytelling.
The gameplay is original, in that it was the first game to utilize shootdodging(a technique used to dodge bullets and shoot at the same time), as well as bullet time(no explanation here, as it's fairly common these days). The controls handle like most PC shooters, with the crouch key playing a minor role, and instead the shootdodge key taking up the slack. Very good handling, overall.
The audio design is really exeptional, with voice actors who sound like they're straight out of a James Cagney flick. The sound effects are appropriate, and the bullet time in particular is really unique in that the sound for triggering it is a modified whipping effect. Very cool.
It's graphics were great for the time, and still hold up fairly well. They used then-cutting edge technology to map facial features and expressions to characters. There's a lot of gray and brown in the color scheme, but nothing terribly down-toned. Of course, there's also the blood, which adds some color. :P
All in all, Max Payne is a pure classic that any fan of shooters or great storytelling shouldn't miss.