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game: Painkiller
four star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Dreamcatcher
date posted: 12:00 AM Wed Aug 25th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Wed Aug 25th, 2004

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By Blaine Krumpe

Fast, furious, and painful; this game absolutely rocks when it comes to the classic feel of blowing away hordes and hordes of monsters. The graphics, the experience, and the throw back to FPS games of the past all combine to make a very enjoyable gaming experience. But I've gotten ahead of myself. Lets start at the beginning.

The story opens as Daniel Garner (you), and his wife Catherine head out for a night of romance on a dark and stormy evening. Then it happens; a fatal car accident takes their lives, leaving Daniel to wake alone in Purgatory, hovering somewhere between Heaven and Hell. After a year of surviving the demons of Purgatory, Garner is summoned by Sammael, a messenger of God, and given a choice; stay in purgatory forever, or fight and destroy the four generals of Lucifer. In doing so, he will stop a preemptive attack by the devil that Heaven just isn't prepared to handle, and he will be reunited with his beloved wife. The choice is a little obvious.

As soon as that cut scene is over, you're thrust headfirst into the action. Personally I was a little surprised by the abruptness of the whole situation. I really didn't know what in the world I was to do. Perhaps reading the instructions would have helped, but I wanted to experience the game from a completely open perspective. Now, after playing an incredibly creepy and realistic game straight for the past three days, I find myself reaching my arm around corners to flip on the lights before going into the room, just like I did when I was little. Yes, this game does do that to you; I found myself backpedaling constantly and franticly as I struggled just to keep the hordes of demons at bay. They have the sick tendency of creeping up behind you and driving their weapons straight into your back. I soon gained the mastery of every weapon that I could get my hands on. You're forced into constant battles with these creatures of Hell, and you'll use every weapon to the extreme. One of my favorites was the stake gun - ahhhh...good ol' stakie, we had a wonderful time together. The joy of nailing a body to the wall, ceiling, or ground and watching it writhe with pain was just too much fun...

In total there are five of weapons. However, each weapon has an alternate firing mode, so in essence you're packing ten. You are also able to combo the primary and alternate firing capabilities to make your weapons do a whole new bag of tricks. Your primary weapon is the Painkiller. In the main firing mode, its rotating blades of death quickly tear your enemies apart. In secondary mode you launch a ranged spearhead that links back to you with a deadly beam of light, much like a chain. You can lodge your spearhead into walls, then run circles around your enemies with your painkiller trained on the spear head, the ensuing light rips the demons to shreds. A very satisfying weapon if I do say so myself. Your next weapon is a shotgun/freezer. The alternate fire mode ice cubes your enemy, letting you atomize the body with your shotgun. Then there's the stakegun/grenade launcher. Your stake gun is a slow loading weapon that has quite the range and an arch to the overall flight path. I'd hoped this weapon might have been like the lightning gun in UT, but I was a little disappointed after I got my hands on it. It's a hell of a fun gun, but it's just way to slow in reloading. The grenade launcher is very effective though, the perfect parabolic arc is fun to take advantage of when you're taking out masses of enemies. Yet arguably one of the deadliest weapons I've come across in the FPS genre is Painkiller's rocket launcher/chaingun. You have a choice, you can either dissimilate your enemies with rockets or you can brutally mow their corpses down with the chain gun. And since there is no reloading with either of these weapons, you have the privilege of unadulterated killing. Finally, there's the electrodriver. A very interesting weapon that shoots out shurikens (throwing stars) at blazing speeds in its primary firing mode. The alternate firing mode shoots out a lightning bolt that's continuous as long as you keep your enemy in-between your sights. Now keep in mind, you are also able to combo your primary and alternate firing modes. You'll just have to buy the game in order to experience these tertiary killing modes. Wouldn't want to spoil anything.

Painkiller's graphics are absolutely beautiful. I was incredibly impressed by the sheer detail in not only the environments, but also in the bodies and how they behaved when destroyed. The first rate Havok 2.0 engine really performs in this game. The interaction between the bodies and the environment was like nothing else I've seen in an FPS game. Roll a powder keg next to a horde of demons and they realistically cartwheel through the air as you shoot and explode it, even impaling themselves on surrounding objects. If you're quick enough, you can even pin a demon to the wall with the stake gun after exploding the keg. These interactions are not only realistic, but they are also accurate. The dynamic lighting is also extremely good, shadows, explosions and coronas act as you'd expect them too. When it boils down to it, the graphics and environmental exchanges are some of the best I've seen in any game.

After my inherent praise of the graphics, weapons, and the sheer creepiness of the game, I must now discuss the game play and plot. In total there are two dozen levels to this game, interspersed with four generals of Lucifer. These generals are extremely intimidating when you come across your first one, however, they do give a break in the streams of constant fighting that accompany each and every room, level, and checkpoint. They are huge beings, but have their weaknesses. You must poke and prod with your weapons until you find what's right with each boss. To help you out with this sort of project, you're able to collect a soul from each of the 26 various types of daemons throughout the game. Upon collecting 66 of these souls your vision blurs into black and white and the enemies stand out blood red in you HUD; you've turned... into a demon! You can now rampage around without fear of death or running out of ammo, everything you touch either dies or explodes. This only lasts a few seconds, but it can effectively turn the tide for you in desperate battle.

Throughout the levels you can enhance your abilities with Black Tarot Cards. These cards are hidden in the level or are achieved by completing the level in a certain way. To use these cards you must have enough gold coins, you collect coins by breaking the vases, crates, and other destructible items in the game. These Tarot cards are an excellent enhancement; however, they are not necessary to complete the levels. In essence, Painkiller is extremely linear. You walk through a door or pass a checkpoint and you are locked in that room until you kill all the bad guys. This does get highly repetitive, even though the scenery does change. When I first got the game from my editor, I had a vision of purgatory that was completely different than the one the game portrays. You'll be fighting in many different environments, ranging from an airplane hangar, to a castle dungeon. This diversity helps distract you from the repetitive nature of the game. The demons also mix up the game a little too; sometimes they decide to charge you, and sometimes they just take their merry time getting over to your side of the ring. They also cooperate with each other; weaker demons are bossed around by more powerful ones, usually ending up charging head first into your oncoming steel. The soundtrack in this game is also above par. Whenever you enter a room all you hear is the ambient music and environment noise. That's when it happens, you're struck with heavy metal fighting music blaring through your speakers. This sometimes happens when you can't even see enemies around, and that's when you know you're really in trouble. On a couple of occasions I even saw some of the demons fighting each other, knocking weapons out of each others hands. I thought that that was a very good touch by the developers. Multiplayer fighting is extremely exhilarating. The different modes are as follows: Free for All, Team Deathwatch, People Can Fly, Voosh, and the Light Bearer. I was only able to play a few rounds from the multiplayer aspect of this game, suffice to say, you are in for one extremely exhilarating and white knuckled ride. The battles are fast and furious and have the feel of the old Quake multiplayer. When it comes down to it, the Polish based developers, People Can Fly, did an extremely good job at making a fun and stimulating game. There is definitely the old feel of the shooters of the past. The graphics and physics are simply some of the best I've seen in the FPS genre. I do have a few points to pick at though. Quick saving is instantaneous, but quick loading is slow, and quickly looses all of its value. You don't just pop back to where you last saved; the game does the whole loading process all over again. Definably frustrating and anticlimactic. And speaking of anticlimactic, sometimes your compass up top would just stop working, leaving you stranded with no one to kill and a whole area to wonder around in without direction. As I was playing through the game I realized there just wasn't much of a plot build up. After each boss there's a cut scene, but throughout the levels there is nothing in the way of character development and game development. I understand that this game was developed with the old shooters in mind, but in my book, I need a little bit more in the plot development department. Painkiller is an awesome game that definably delivers on the scale that it was meant to. Highly recommended in my FPS reserve.