Dodgy name, great game
Evil_Insane wrote this review on .
You are Daniel Garner, a man who, along with his wife, Catherine, has been killed in a car crash. While Catherine ascended into Heaven, Daniel is kept in Purgatory. After a number of years, he is approached by Sammael, a messenger of God.
It seems that Purgatory is the ideal ground for Satan (or Lucifer) to plan his attack on Heaven, as it is directly between Heaven and Hell. Thus, Satan has been amassing his army of demons in Purgatory and has been slowly taking all of Purgatory's souls down to Hell to make his army grow ever larger.
Sammael gives Daniel a proposition: help destroy Satan's advancing army and gain entry to Heaven. Daniel reluctantly accepts and, with the help of Eve, has to take down four of Satan's generals to stop the invasion.
The plot, though, has no relevance to the game, really. The levels change from graveyards to castles to towns to factories to bogs in a seemingly unrelated fashion. The enemies are dependant on the level, but can be ninjas, ghosts, witches, necromancers, zombies, knights, armour-bound skeletons and everything in between.
The plot is only revealed through the cutscenes that appear every five levels or so, and seems like almost an afterthought, as if the game was created first and the story second. Which is good, because the story, although intriguing, doesn't affect the gameplay at all, and vice versa.
Ohhhhhhhh, such fun to be had! The gameplay is rather simple: You are thrown into a level. You follow the onscreen arrow to an area, which will, more often than not, be locked down, encasing you in there with about twenty bad guys, who you then shoot until they die of death. Upon doing this, the area will become unlocked and you follow the arrow to another area and then go crazy in there.
Sounds boring doesn't it? Well, you are, in fact, very wrong for thinking that and shame on you. The game actually excels in this simple premise. The levels, as I have mentioned, bear no correlation to anything else that happens in the game. You can move easily from a medieval town to an underground cave to a graveyard to a construction site in the space of a few levels. Although the bad guys appear in relation to the level (crazies in the insane asylum, workers in the docks, knights in a palace etc.) the order in which they appear makes no sense, either temporally (renaissance towns appear at the same time as modern-day machines on a bridge) or in space (from Japan to England, for example), it seems as if the games creators threw together a game filled with all the set pieces they could think of, and then added the story in on top of it, as I have said before.
But who cares? Cos we don't want mind-numbingly complex stories, do we? No, we wanna shoot wooden poles through zombies and blow up entire legions of hellish knights. And that's exactly what Painkiller delivers. Of the five weapons, each with a secondary function, you can find numerous ways to deal death to Hells minions.
Your initial weapon is the Painkiller, a cross between a lawnmower and a magnet. The primary function allows you to mow zombies down in their droves, whilst the secondary fires out a shot that attaches onto the bad guys and pulls them towards you, allowing you to saw them into tiny pieces.
Your next weapon is the Shotgun. The primary fire is, of course, a shotgun blast. The secondary function, however, is a blast of liquid nitrogen, freezing your enemies in their tracks. Any attack, even from other enemies, sends the frozen shattering into pieces.
The Stakegun is, without a doubt, one of the most original and fun weapons I have ever had the pleasure of shooting. I suppose it probably started life as a melee weapon of some kind – the standard stake – however, the developers attached these sticks o' pain onto a catapult and let them get fired towards the enemies, impaling them and sticking them onto the wall. The secondary function releases a grenade that bounces towards the enemy and detonates, sending them flying in all directions.
The Electrodriver shoots tiny little metal shards at the enemy and also doubles up as an electric shock device. The Chaingun is a handy machine gun with a rocket launcher attached. Ideal for taking down crowds of hellish scum.
The game uses ragdoll physics of the Havoc 2.0 engine, which is particularly pretty when you lob an explosive into a pack of enemies and watch them scatter through the air. A nice addition to the physics is that when you hit an enemy with a powerful weapon, such as an explosive or shotgun blast, instead of just spiralling into the air, their body actually disintegrates into pieces – generally a torso, limbs and head – and scatters about the place, spraying blood in all direction. The enemies will also occasionally grab other enemies to use as shields, which is nice.
When you start the game, you get to choose your difficulty. By starting at the easiest difficulty (Daydream) you can have fun playing the game without any difficulty, however, you won't get the full game. By advancing into the higher difficulties, you unlock more and more areas. Also, the higher difficulties allow you to use the Black Tarot cards.
When you play a level, the game will set you a specific task such as "Kill all the enemies" or "Don't use explosives" or "Collect all the money". If you complete the level within the given parameters, you are given a Black Tarot card. These have special powers that can be given to you such as quad damage, extra health etc. and can be activated during the game. To equip these cards you need money, and this is easily found in the game as there are destroyable artefacts such as coffins, vases, crates etc.
When a bad guy is killed, his soul is released. If you pick it up, you get a little bit of health back. Collect 66 of them and you'll turn into a demon, which kicks ass as your vision turns black and white, enemies show up bright red, and any attack shoots a blast at your enemies, killing them in one shot. Powerful.
The graphics were and still are incredibly good, even by today's post-F.E.A.R standards. The lighting effects, the massive locales, literally dozens of enemies, as well as the ragdoll physics makes this game amazing to look at.
For instance, take the town level. The whole thing is in night time and has narrow backstreets with fires blazing in houses, casting shadows over the walls; enemies stumble towards you, throwing pieces of themselves at you; you lob a grenade at them, they scatter like bowling pins, spiralling through the air. Beautiful. The textures are amazing, very detailed, and the explosions, sparks, particle effects and everything else are a sight to behold, especially on a souped up machine, where it all flows perfectly.
The only downside to the graphics is that some of the enemies look very "spiky". That's all well and good when they're biker skeletons where spikes are part of the costume, but sometimes the characters appear "pointy" when they're supposed to appear "smooth". This is probably due to technical limitations – the models had to be constructed of as few polygons as possible so as more can be fit on a screen, so its acceptable, especially as you rarely notice this during the game as its so fast-paced.
The sound effects are very well-done. Monster's growls and shouts sound decent enough and the weapon noises are quite authentic and meaty. The music is generally ambience and moves into heavy metal as you fight some bad guys, which is gets you worked up, but tends to be repetitive. Other than that, the sound is quite satisfactory.
The menus are all laid out with gothic imagery, which works well. The level selector is also nicely made like a pentagram, and the level loading screen shows you some concept artwork of the level. The HUD shows you all the usual information, such as a pointer to tell you where to head to next, health, armour, ammo and amount of souls you collected this level. Pressing TAB also brings up information such as objects destroyed, time in level and monsters killed. Tasty.
The controls can be customised fully, but there isn't really many of them to customise to be honest. Your standard movement buttons as well as primary and secondary weapons fire and scrolling through weapons is all you need to worry about.
Extra features 6/10
If you play the game on the harder difficulty settings, you get a few more levels, as well as the power to use the Black Tarot cards. I suppose if you want to, you can collect all the Black Tarot cards, but, apart from that, there's not much extra within the game.
Play Time 7/10
It should take you about ten hours to complete the game normally, give or take a few depending on the difficulty setting and if you want to replay levels in order to collect all the Black Tarot cards. That's if you fly through the game, but more fun is to be had by strolling through it, enjoying the massive expanses and having some fun killing the monsters. To get the most out of the game, you'd need about fifteen to twenty hours.
Besides playing the harder difficulties for the extra levels and attempting to get all the Black Tarot cards, there isn't a reason to play it again unless you want to relieve some stress by shooting up some zombies. That's still a good reason, like.
Buy or rent? 10/10
Buy. It's a bit cheap now anyways, as it was made a few years ago, and you get what you pay for – a good few levels of shooting up the undead with shotguns and lawnmowers.
All in all, a fantastic game. Doesn't have much of a plot, but its great for relieving stress and just playing a game for the sake of playing a game.
Percentage: (The separate scores added together) 72%
Gamespot score: (Not an average) 8.0