Painkiller is a simple first-person shooter at heart, but it's very well-put-together and does what it does exceedingly well.
First-person shooters have been one of PC gaming's preeminent genres for about 10 years now, and those who've kept up with it over the years know that, for one thing, these games have gotten a lot more complicated. Whereas the early games that defined the genre gave you no incentive other than to blast your way from one end of a level to the other--or they had you blasting any other player that moved, in the case of their multiplayer modes--today's most-popular shooters feature complex team-based modes, deep narratives, and Hollywood-style trappings. Not Painkiller. This game is a throwback to the older classics. Specifically, it's a throwback to id Software's Quake, whose multiplayer deathmatch mode popularized an aggressively fast-paced style of play. Painkiller is a simple game at heart, but it's very well-put-together and does what it does exceedingly well. That is, it offers up lots of spectacularly visceral, bloody, in-your-face action through its numerous, action-packed single-player levels. And it looks beautiful, it sounds great, and it's got a pretty good old-school multiplayer deathmatch mode, for good measure. If you enjoyed the genre's pre-Half-Life classics or more-recent arcade shooters like Serious Sam, then you'll love Painkiller.
Painkiller does have a plot, which isn't evident and doesn't unfold at all during the actual levels, but it's presented in fairly unimpressive and surprisingly drawn-out cutscenes in between the game's five chapters. After dying in a car accident, Daniel Garner finds himself in purgatory, which is somewhere between heaven and hell. He's given a choice that's not much of a choice at all: The forces of hell are planning to wage war on heaven, and Garner must single-handedly head them off at the pass, while also setting his sights on the four generals of Lucifer's army. So Dan takes the job--lucky you. This means you get to kill lots and lots of monsters using some overpowered weapons, and, at the end of each chapter, you'll square off against a huge and towering boss monster.
Painkiller's two-dozen single-player levels offer no nonsense. Each level is self-contained and starts you off with full health and a limited amount of ammunition. Progress through the stages is basically linear, and an onscreen compass needle is there to (usually) always point you to where the enemies are or to where the next checkpoint is. What happens is, enemies materialize in your vicinity, some heavy metal music starts playing, and you start shooting--often while desperately trying to run away from your savage foes. Once the coast is clear, you can catch your breath, cross the next checkpoint, automatically regain all your health (at the default difficulty), and then repeat the process. This isn't complicated stuff--but that's not a bad thing at all.
This isn't the depiction of hell or purgatory that you might expect. Rather than have levels consisting of all flames, demons, and caverns, Painkiller consists of a wide variety of different themes. As a result, the game may have you blasting zombies and lunatic freaks in a haunted insane asylum in one level, battling ninjas and samurai in an opera house in another, gunning down weird biker-thugs in industrial complexes in the next, and then taking on knights and mad monks in a medieval castle after that. Remarkably, the eclectic variety of settings somehow ends up having a cohesive feel to it, and the variety itself is definitely to the game's credit. Though not all the game's enemies behave differently, it's great to encounter different types of foes in almost every stage, and the game just does a good job of keeping you guessing as to what sort of weird location you'll find yourself in next.
There are only five weapons in Painkiller, although each one has a completely different alternate firing mode, and each one is useful, so it's really closer to 10. For example, one of the weapons is both a rocket launcher and a chaingun, thus making it quite possibly the most versatile and powerful gun in first-person-shooter history. Most of the weapons also have a unique effect for when you combine the primary and alternate firing modes. For instance, the combination double-barreled shotgun/freeze ray can be used to immobilize and then shatter enemies. You never need to manually reload, and, like in the original Quake and other, older shooters, there isn't even an animation for weapon-switching. One gun just vanishes, and the next one appears, allowing you to readily cycle through all your weapons as needed, even in the middle of a hectic battle. Also, due to the generous use of checkpoints, you pretty much never even need to stop to quicksave, though you can do so if you wish. In the end, it's not difficult to blast through most any of the game's levels in 20 minutes or fewer. It's still a good amount of single-player content overall.
- Player Reviews: 162
- Game Universe:
- Painkiller (PC, XBOX),
- Painkiller: Resurrection (PC, X360),
- Painkiller Universe (PC),
- Painkiller: Overdose (PC),
- Painkiller: Gold Edition (PC),
- Painkiller: Battle out of Hell (PC),
- Painkiller: Redemption (PC),
- Painkiller: Recurring Evil (PC),
- Painkiller Hell & Damnation (PC, X360, PS3, UNIX, MAC),
- Painkiller Hell & Damnation: Medieval Horror (PC)
- Online Modes:
Competitive, Team Oriented
- Number of Players: