Painkiller Review: Fast, Frenetic FPS Madness
Painkiller is a fast paced first-person shooter which is all about old school violent action. Blasting your way through hordes of enemies in linear levels before facing down boss characters with a range of weaponry. It may not be clever but it is a lot of uncomplicated fun.
Painkiller is a fast-paced first-person shooter which was released back in 2004. It is a linear game with old school game-play which charges the player with blasting their way through a series of hellish levels killing a variety of demonic enemies. The player takes on the role of Daniel Garner and the opening cut scene sees him die in a nasty car crash which also claims the life of his beloved wife. Daniel has to battle his way through purgatory and prevent a war between heaven and hell by killing Lucifer’s generals and armies and then facing the big baddie himself. The eventual aim is to defeat hell and reunite with his wife.
The focus of Painkiller is frenetic action and this means most levels are packed with hordes of enemies. The environments are varied and show off aspects of the dark side of human existence from medieval witch burnings to war torn cities. The player has a range of weaponry at their disposal and must clear each level of bad guys before facing down boss characters in order to progress. They kept things simple with this game so there are no puzzles to solve this is just pure adrenaline fuelled violence with a heavy rock soundtrack.
The best feature in the game is the varied weapon set which includes the eponymous painkiller, a sort of mechanical weapon which when activated opens to reveal rapidly rotating blades, secondary fire is a beam which can be attached to the environment and used to scythe enemies down. The rest of the weapon set is more conventional so you get a shotgun, a chaingun, a stakegun and an electrodriver. Every weapon has a primary fire and secondary so the chaingun works as a machine gun in primary fire and secondary fire is a rocket launcher, the electrodriver fires shurikens and has lightning as secondary fire, the shotgun has a traditional primary fire and secondary fire is a kind of freeze effect. My favourite weapons is definitely the stakegun, stakes are fired by primary fire and can nail enemies to the environment, while secondary fire converts the gun to a handy grenade launcher which fires bouncing grenades. The expansion pack added a flamethrower and a bolt driver to the line up.
As you despatch enemies you can collect their souls and destroying things in each level will reward you with gold coins which you can spend on power-up tarot cards between levels. These are familiar concepts but the different style of implementation creates new game challenges and gives Painkiller a better replay value. Each section features a few levels followed by a boss fight and as usual the bosses can only be defeated in a specific way, this is as close as the game gets to providing you with a puzzle.
The game is nicely realised and the levels are huge and extremely detailed although you tend to run through them at quite a pace only pausing to waste demonic creatures and smash anything that looks destructible. The textures are a little washed out but on the whole the environments look good and they are helped in that respect by the dynamic lighting system. The creatures are quite imaginative and skilfully modelled although they don’t have a huge range of animation. The fact that enemies ragdoll on death, which is now very common, was a selling point on release and it is undeniably satisfying to nail a corpse to a pillar and watch it swing.
The multiplayer modes are something of a disappointment and multiplayer gaming for first-person shooters has moved beyond this. The levels are designed for game-play so there are teleports and unrealistic layouts reminiscent of Unreal Tournament but these maps are not as well designed. The physics based weapons have definite lag problems and so, for example the stakegun is rendered useless. There are additional modes beyond basic deathmatch but none of them really add anything new or exciting. This is not the game to go for if you like tactics or realism, the characters don’t even make footstep sounds and the pace is furiously fast.
The game shines in this department and will run beautifully on most machines. All you really need is a 1.5GHz processor, 384 MB RAM and a direct x 8.1 compatible video and sound card. The install is a reasonably small 1.2GB. I’ve played this on various machines and encountered no problems with frame rate or performance.
If you like simple strafe and shoot action with hordes of enemies then Painkiller is likely to bring you a few hours of joy. It certainly doesn’t push the boundaries and instead of introducing new game-play it offers a familiar experience which is well made and solid. If you like the sound of wasting several hundred demons with an assortment of weaponry while the rock soundtrack screams in your ears then pick this up. If you prefer slow or tactical game-play then avoid this completely. Fast, dumb and full of fun this is pure style over substance.