Pain Final Hands-On
The PlayStation 3's most excruciating downloadable game is almost available, and we winced through a session with the agonizing finished version.
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If you gave Beavis and Butthead a game-development team and a Havok physics license, Pain is the kind of game we'd like to think they would eventually produce. Those of you who have kept up with Pain over the last few months will know this is basically a human version of Burnout's crash mode, where you launch a poor guy or girl from a gigantic slingshot into an urban environment to see how much damage, chaos, and pain you can cause. Sony dropped off a finished version of the game for us to mess around with, and so far we've felt a little guilty about how much silly fun we've been having launching our hapless in-game avatar through glass, into speeding trains, and under big, fat trucks.
Sony and developer Idol Minds have made some nice, intuitive tweaks to the interface since the last several times we saw Pain. There's now a clearer indication of your trajectory and your eventual destination based on your current aim and slingshot tension, which makes the aiming experience a lot more intuitive overall. You'll also be required to go through the "crash course" tutorial before you get access to the actual game modes, and this tutorial does a good job of introducing you to the more advanced mechanics, such as the after-touch ability (called "ooch" here) and the numerous poses you can assume as you fly through the air. Some of these, like the leg-helicopter-spin, affect the way you fly through the air, while others, such as the legs-spread pose, just look like they hurt a lot.
Two of Pain's challenge modes, mime toss and spank the monkey, got us acquainted with the game's other mechanics. You can grab in all four directions with the face buttons, and mime toss puts that ability to the test by launching you at a mime suspended in midair. It's up to you to grab the mime, then use your spinning momentum to hurl him through a series of glass panes. The spank the monkey mode tasks you with hitting monkeys hanging out throughout the environment, and you'll often have to hit two monkeys in the same launch to complete a combo. To do this, you'll have to use your "ooch" after hitting the first monkey to scoot along the ground and take out the second one before losing all your momentum.
We also had a chance to mess with Pain's multiplayer modes. In addition to horse, which has you and other players competing for high scores like you would in the traditional basketball version, there's a bowling mode in which one player launches his character at the bowling pins down the street in an effort to knock them down as per standard bowling rules. What's not so standard is the other players' abilities to trigger environmental booby traps at any point during the active player's launch. You can blow the lid off a manhole, set off explosives that will send construction materials swinging through the scene, and more. Then there's an explosives mode that peppers the environment with tons of explosive crates. Sony described this mode as human pinball, which is exactly what it is. You'll try to bounce from one crate to another--again, using your ooch to cover the last few feet if necessary--and essentially keep a combo going as long as possible to get the highest score.
Pain is entertaining and funny in the same way Jackass is, and we're not ashamed to admit we've laughed out loud plenty of times in the couple of days we've been messing around with it. We're not quite as amused at the game's pricing structure--you'll pay 10 dollars for the base game, which includes one environment and two selectable characters. Subsequent characters and levels will be made available after release for as-yet unspecified fees. At least you'll be able to purchase the extra content right from within, say, the level-select screen, rather than having to drop back to an arbitrary store interface. And, to be fair, we could see getting a lot of mileage out of the one map that's included in the game, since you've got quite a few game modes to play on it. Let's hope Sony doesn't go overboard with the nickel-and-diming on Pain's extra content, because what we've played of it so far has been highly enjoyable. Sony is still nailing down a final release date for the game but expects it to hit right around the end of November.