The Picture, also known as The Polaroid and The Photo, is a keepsake of Jacket's that he values highly, and is his motivation to kill in the first game. It first appears in Hotline Miami and its origin is given in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number.
Hotline Miami Edit
Several allusions to "a picture" are made in Hotline Miami, first from Don Juan ("A picture is starting to take form here...") and then from Richard ("You'll never see the whole picture, and it's all your fault").
On June 23rd, 1989, after killing off the heads of the Miami-based Russian mob and stepping out onto a balcony, Jacket throws off his mask, lights a cigarette, and removes The Picture from his jacket pocket. He looks at it briefly and throws it to the wind. The game rolls credits on it blowing through the neon void .
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number EditOn March 17th, 1985, Jacket and Beard leave a military bar and meet a war correspondent, whose photographer is taking pictures of a helmeted officer in uniform. The correspondent asks for a second of Jacket and Beard's time to take their picture. Beard wants a copy and almost gives the correspondent his address to mail it to him, but the camera is a new Polaroid so giving out personal information isn't necessary. They step out into the sun for lighting, Beard puts his arm around Jacket and Jacket gives a peace sign. They snap two copies and Beard takes the second one. Evan thanks them for the shots and wishes them good luck, to which Beard says "No worries, man, good luck to you too!"
On October 30th, 1985, after losing Barnes and Daniels in the power plant raid, Beard drags a critically wounded Jacket to safety and rendezvouses with local American forces in the jungle. He radios in a request for CASEVAC under the codename Ben Smith. He's asked to repeat and almost gives the codename, but instead yells "Fuck it!" (just as Jacket threw off his mask in 1989) and urgently gives them his location and coordinates. He tells Jacket that "they'll be here real soon," and Jacket reaches out to him. Beard hands him The Picture and says "No need to thank me kid, it's on the house," and smiles. As the chopper comes in, he tells Jacket to keep the picture so he "[doesn't] forget who saved your ass."
On April 3rd, 1986, Beard is consoling Jacket about a recent break up from his newly purchased convenience store in San Francisco. He tells Jacket time heals all wounds and asks him if he ever got around to mailing him a copy of The Photo. Jacket hasn't, and Beard tells him to send it to him "whenever he gets the chance." Beard then ends the call to inspect something outside his shop, and is obliterated by a Russian nuclear strike.
Notably, Evan's first line in the series chronologically is a request for "a second," indicating his regularly emphasized need for time. His request that Beard and Jacket step into the sun could draw reference to Hotline Miami 2's extremely prevalent sunset imagery and the main menu's conflation of the 1991 Miami nuclear detonation with the sun. The ending to Apocalypse features picturesque moments of each character's life before they're flashed away by nuclear detonations, perhaps an analogy to the The Picture and its pedestrian-moment-turned-huge-significance.