We loved the original Painkiller on the PC and liked its expansion pack, Battle Out of Hell. The Xbox version of Painkiller has been due out for a while and just recently got a firm fall release date. We've seen next to nothing of the game, until now. DreamCatcher Entertainment has the game available for play at its E3 2005 booth, and we were excited to get some hands-on time with it. While the build definitely had some seriously rough edges, we found the gameplay to be just as fun as it ever was on the PC.
First thing's first, Painkiller on the Xbox is not a straight port of the original PC game. It's actually something of a director's cut between Painkiller and Battle Out of Hell. Essentially, developer People Can Fly has taken the best levels from both games and cut them together into one game. Considering that both games had a few levels that weren't so great and that all the levels were so disparate to begin with, this kind of creative editing seems like it wouldn't affect the storyline in any way, and indeed, the developers say that the story won't change at all. The game will also feature five new single-player maps, as well as five new multiplayer maps. On top of that, the Xbox version will include a new weapon (which DreamCatcher wouldn't talk about) and a brand-new multiplayer mode to go with all the existing multiplayer modes from the PC version (again, DreamCatcher wouldn't dish out the goods on what it is.) DreamCatcher also assured us that 16 players would be able to play online.
But seriously, how does it look? As is often the case with PC-to-Xbox ports (with perhaps the sole exception of Doom 3), Painkiller looks a little rougher around the edges than it did on the PC. Specifically, there was a fair amount of aliasing all over the environments, and some of the textures looked downright bad in certain areas. Others, however, looked pretty good, so it's likely that People Can Fly is still working on hammering those out. The frame rate ran mostly smoothly, though in the area with the less-pleasant textures, it did chop up somewhat during explosions. Furthermore, a lot of the rag-doll physics didn't seem to be present. DreamCatcher assured us that all the rag-doll physics from the PC game would be present in the final code and that the frame rate would run smoothly throughout the game. Now, with all of that said, the gameplay seemed to be totally intact. We played through only one section of the game, but the shooting felt just as satisfying as it did in the PC game, and the enemies still came out in the same kinds of overwhelming waves. So, in summary, it wasn't as nice to look at, but it plays just as good as its PC counterpart.
You can expect to see Painkiller on the Xbox this fall, and DreamCatcher clued us in that the game will retail for less than full price. Exactly how budget it will be was not detailed, but you won't be paying $50 for this one. We'll bring you more on Painkiller for the Xbox as it becomes available.