E3 2002 Painkiller Impressions

We take a look at the PC version of DreamCatcher Games' upcoming first-person shooter.

We visited with DreamCatcher Games at E3 and got a good, close look at a very early build of Painkiller. This first-person shooter is in development at People Can Fly, and it takes place in a fictitious modern-day setting in which various parts of the world are being attacked by undead monsters. Each of the game's levels is infested with undead creatures, and it's up to the game's main character to hunt them down and destroy them. However, players will also have special powers of their own, such that whenever they destroy 100 enemies, they'll gain the limited use of supernatural abilities.

Interestingly, all of the game's character models that we saw, including hags, skeletal gunmen, and tall, muscular demon warriors, looked extremely detailed, despite the fact that the game will use low-polygon character models. The developers are making good use of bump mapping to add detail to their character models without adding lots of extra polygons for the engine to render. As such, the developers plan to fill their levels with lots of monsters to throw at players, like in Serious Sam, though Painkiller's monsters won't magically appear out of thin air--they'll be strategically positioned throughout each level. In addition, the developer isn't simply planning to make every last level of the game consist of nothing but frantic fights--there should also be some more-suspenseful levels that will play up the horror-themed nature of the game.

We saw two of Painkiller's levels: a gothic church and a crate-filled military base. The environments in both levels seem to have solid textures that show a good amount of detail without slowing the game down in the least. We also saw examples of some good dynamic lighting and shadows in various areas, including a human skeleton that was strung up next to a sunlit window--the skeleton's shadow was reflected clearly on the wall behind it. We also got to see an example of Painkiller's physics, which are created by the third-party Havok physics engine--lighter objects can be easily pushed by walking into them, and they can also be pushed by shooting them repeatedly. We also watched a lengthy demonstration of how crates can be shot into the air with exploding grenades, then pushed about in midair by shooting them continuously.

Though the game is a ways off, and the E3 build was missing several weapons and didn't seem to have any enemies to fight against, what we saw of Painkiller does look promising. The game is scheduled for release sometime next year.

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