The Punisher Updated Impressions

THQ and Volition show off some brutal new gameplay features in this comic book-based, third-person action game.

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While The Punisher movie came and went, THQ and developer Volition continue to work on The Punisher game for the Xbox and PlayStation 2. Based on the Marvel comic book property rather than on the movie, The Punisher game won't follow the movie's plot at all. This is probably for the best, given the disappointing box office numbers for the movie. THQ brought the latest version of the game to its LA press event and showed off some of The Punisher's new gameplay and features. Long story short: This is one brutal game.

The Punisher isn't exactly known for his self-restraint. Click "Stream for Free" for higher resolution.

The Punisher is the story of Frank Castle, a combat veteran who turns to vigilantism after criminals murder his family. It's a dark tale of revenge as the Punisher dedicates his life to battling criminals by becoming their judge, jury, and executioner.

Ironically, while the game itself will follow the plot of recent Punisher comic books and not the movie, THQ did reveal at the event that it has signed actor Thomas Jane to voice the Punisher in the game. Jane starred as the Punisher in the recent movie, and given the fact that the game isn't related to the movie, this may seem a bit strange. But as THQ representatives explained to us, they had brought Jane in to perform a script reading and really liked how he read. That said, the character model in the game bears more of a resemblance to the Punisher of the comic books than to Jane.

The Punisher doesn't mind slowly killing his victims... but he's real good at quickly killing them, too.
The Punisher doesn't mind slowly killing his victims... but he's real good at quickly killing them, too.
When we last saw the game in May, we took particular note of the game's interrogation system, which will allow you to use the environment to question bad guys that you've captured. In one example, you can hold a bad guy inches away from a wood chipper, or you can dangle his head over a pool of piranhas. Volition has spent the past few months adding even more instances of environmental interrogation. In one example, we saw the Punisher holding a bad guy's head against the spinning barrels of a chaingun, while in another example, he locked a pair of giant fireplace tongs around a guy's neck and held his face inches away from a fire.

As brutal as the interrogation system sounds, Volition has also added a whole new--and graphically spectacular--feature to the game called "quick kills." Basically, quick kills can be employed by the Punisher to take out bad guys in one fell swoop. One of the most intense examples that we saw occurred during a large indoor battle that saw the Punisher turning a corner to come face-to-face with a bad guy. Instead of shooting him, the Punisher tossed his shotgun at the bad guy, who raised his arms to catch it in surprise. With the bad guy's hands full, the Punisher took out his really big knife and planted it in the bad guy's face. We have to admit that this is just viscerally satisfying--in a way.

In a couple of other quick kills, the Punisher battled against two foes in a hallway by using his shotgun to blast one bad guy at point-blank range while twirling around to plant his knife through the top of another bad guy's skull. Based on these two instances, it's probably a safe bet to say that the knife will quickly become one of the more popular weapons in the game.

The Punisher will be a heartwarming tale for the whole family to enjoy. Or was that Tak 2...?
The Punisher will be a heartwarming tale for the whole family to enjoy. Or was that Tak 2...?

Meanwhile, the combat in The Punisher is almost-over-the-top in a way that should appeal to fans of the comic book. In perhaps the most outrageous encounter that was demoed, the Punisher battled his way into a huge trophy room (dubbed the "big room of death") that had animal heads mounted on the walls. The Punisher would grab a guy and toss him at the elephant head, thus impaling him on the elephant's tusks. Or he'd grab a guy and shove his head into the bear head's mouth. No doubt, there are other gory means of death that players will be able to discover in the room.

Volition is definitely looking to up the body count in The Punisher before it's done with the game. We saw both the PS2 and Xbox versions in action, and both look good. We can expect The Punisher to ship on both platforms sometime in January of 2005.

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