Two years ago, nascent developer People Can Fly emerged from the shady underworld of Quake modding with its own original game, Painkiller. The game was a throwback to the heady days of the original Quake, which let you run at about a hundred miles an hour and reduce everything in your path into gross little piles of gibs. Given the glut of slowly paced, tactical shooters on consoles these days, next week's release of Painkiller: Hell Wars on the Xbox may come as a breath of fresh air. The game is sort of a "best of" resulting from the PC version of Painkiller and its expansion pack, Battle Out of Hell, as it will feature the best maps and other elements taken from both of those games.
If you're not up on the Painkiller storyline, you'll play as an unfortunate soul who's been killed in a car accident and then, inexplicably, tasked with repelling an invasion of purgatory by the forces of Hell. Sounds like a pretty bad experience to us, but really it just serves as a reason to populate the game with a tremendous number of ghastly, gothic foes, environments, and weapons. The armament on offer here doesn't vary radically from that of most first-person shooters--you've got your shotgun, your rocket launcher, and so on. It's worth noting, though, that almost every weapon does double duty, with an alt-fire mode that's entirely separate from the primary function. The rocket launcher doubles as a chain gun, for instance, so you only need to pick up half the weapons.
A few months ago, we checked out the single-player component of Hell Wars, and now we've gotten a look at the multiplayer side of things. Of course, the game will be fully playable on Xbox Live with up to eight players, and a system-link option is available as well. Just about all the multiplayer modes you saw on the PC are here in the Xbox version as well, with typical game types such as deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag on offer.
There are a couple of more-unique modes, as well. The light bearer is a sort of "kill the man with the ball" mode--except instead of a ball, we're talking about a power-up that imparts a massive damage bonus. Killing the player who has this power-up will make him or her drop it, so naturally everyone will be gunning for the light bearer (hence the name). Then there's the oddly titled but entertaining voosh mode, which starts all players with the same weapon, with unlimited ammo. The twist is everyone's weapon randomly changes to another weapon after a few seconds, so you never know what you're going to be fighting with. Voosh also plays with other match variables such as gravity, so you might hit jump and find yourself bounding 20 feet into the air at certain times.
From what we've seen so far, Painkiller: Hell Wars should make for a solid action experience both online and off for Xbox shooter fans. There's nothing radically different from the PC version here, but then the modest $30 entry fee doesn't really hurt if you're looking for a fast and gory blast-fest. Stay tuned for a review of Painkiller soon.