This game has both improvements and shortcomings. Overall a definitive must for hard-core PK fans like me...
The problem is, that from it's 10 offered levels, only half bring the outstanding quality like the original game did, and having that in mind there are only 10 levels total, what makes this game a little rip-off.. Despite these negative factors the game brings enough to be a worthy true successor to the original.
Story and presentation: i am not going to spoil anything here, the important thing is that the story of the original game continues here as you play the same character Daniel Garner. However disappointing is the presentation: suddenly Daniel Garner looks somehow terrible compared to what we saw in the original, the movies do not look that nice, and you just have basically the intro movie and the ending one. But that does not really matter right? We are here for the gamplay and challenges..
Gameplay: this time the developers really strove hard and delivered a much more complex and challenging gameplay. The principles of gameplay did not change from original Painkiller, but certainly increased are the difficulty and complexity of the game. In original Painkiller you played every level more or less the same way, with slight exceptions. In Battle Out Hell, however, these exceptions are huge.. In some levels, like Stone Pit, the gameplay is all about searching, exploring and climbing mountains, leaving fightings as secondary thing. In levels like Stalingrad, no longer works the formula "run and gun, kill everything that moves" - here you clearly have to use alot of camping and strategy, basically attack from hidden positions. In some levels, the opposite way, you are locked either in a roller coaster or in a van and can not move, totally exposed, but just aim your weapons as fast as possible in every direction and try to kill as many as you can or simply try not kill anyone at all - both work and deliver a versatile gameplay. 2 new weapons are included, those make a nice addition and fit very well. New tarot cards are available to unlock also.
Level design: this is where i have mixed reactions. The bigest problem for this expansion pack not to score higher than the original is that half of the game levels deliver some mediocre gameplay and their level design is poor. For example Laboratory, Pentagon and Dead City have both of these attributes. Coliseum has a nice design, but the gameplay feels totally linear and too much prolonged. I was actaully bored the very first time i played it. Underworld rail-van sequence works only if you want to make yourself a challenge and kill all the monsters while in the vehicle, otherwise - it is an example of bad gameplay. Then again the surroundings of the Stalingrad level feel so uncompleted, but somehow manage to deliver a challenging gameplay by making it the hardest level in the game. But of course there are levels that definitely beat even the designs of the original Painkiller - Loony Park is definitely the most memorable level of this expansion pack and adds a great deal of challenge and unintended exploration value. Stone Pit is perhaps the most not linear level in the whole franchise - from all of the levels in every Painkiller game, this is the only level, where you can skip the linear gameplay and if you have skill in wallclimbing - you can just go where you want. At last Shadowland is definitely the pearl and the crown jewel of the game. One the most visually stunning and entertaining final boss battles you can find in any FPS game ever released is exactly here - in Shadowland, where you face off against a HUGE King Alastor in a huge "free to to go where you want" apocalyptic map, rendered in stunning detail and offering you a great time attack challenge. The fight itself is alone entertaining and the detail level in King Alasotor is something i have never seen before in any game, not even Crysis. This single entity has been really crafted better than the other game elements. That being said we move on the graphcis...
Graphics: what can i say more than supreme? When original Painkiller arrived in DirectX 8.1, it had the best visuals at that time, until the release of DirectX 9 games like Far Cry and Half-Life 2. Now Painkiller expansion is upgraded to Half-Life 2 standarts with DirectX 9.C, and new features are present like bloom, warp, coronas and ultra dynamic lightning as well as improved AF. It looks amazing, and although it might lack the shadow detail that Doom 3 presents or lack the facial realism that Half-Life 2 has, it certainly surpasses Doom 3 in the visuals of the level design, since all Doom 3 has are his dark schity places, those are made of the same metal pieces, those are repeated again and again and again all over the maps... Since Painkiller Battle Out Of Hell is installed on original Painkiller, it happens so that the original game is also upgraded with the new graphical attributes of the expansion and therefore levels like Atrium or Cathedral, where the architecture and visuals were already looking good, now look brilliant. What does Doom 3 have to offer like this? Nothing.
Soundtrack: just as in the original game, you will be delighted by the well fitted instrumental background music as well as by the battle music. Battle music is custom taste - this time there are less metal riffs, and more industrial pop - i can not really comment on that. You can turn the music off.
Sound: the in-game sounds are very well delivered. Wherever you go, just like in the original game, you hear all sorts of well fitted sounds those set the perfect atmosphere and mood in those particular levels. Clearly without these in-game sounds the quality of gameplay would worsen.
Customization and menu: very customizable menu and hud - just like in the original game. Nothing lost.
Challenge value: almost as great as in the original game. 5 stars, soul collecting, speedruns, black tarot cards and so on... I have to say that this expansion is alot more challenging and harder than original - it is alot harder to collect the tarot cards or to get the 5 starts score in the end of the game..
Minor challenges are aslo harder. The only disappointing thing is that there are only 10 levels, and only 2 are boss levels, from which only one is a good and challenging level. The Pentagon boss is actually not a boss but an oversized monster with increased stats, one of the stronger of course..
Mutliplayer: see original game review. What is important to mention that there are 3 important patches after the installation of this expansion - 1.61, 1.62 and 1.64. These patches mostly address and improve multi player related things, add new maps and make Painkiller ready for the installation of the official PK++ mod, which, when installed, enables competitive multi player gameplay, benchmarked by the professional gamers and CPL.
Final words: for any Painkiller fan this is a must play game (not like Painkiller Overdose). This expansion - Battle Out Of Hell lacks some great level design, seen in the original game, and therefore, with only 10 levels in general feels like a little rip-off, but overall the new features like improved graphics, new tarot cards, new weapons and an increased challenge value together with some of the best packed levels make this game worth the time.
PS: I have finished this game on nightmare/trauma with 5 starts challenge accomplished and black tarot cards collected. Any questions asked - i will answer. I know the game very well.