Review: Painkiller (PC)
Painkiller is a shooter in the most unadulterated sense. The game is truly about shooting enemies. There’s no fluff, no night vision, no stealth moves, no squad tactics and definitely no funny happy-go-lucky sidekicks to help you out. “Painkiller is a shooter in the most unadulterated sense. The game is truly about shooting enemies. There’s no fluff, no night vision, no ‘find this key to unlock this door to go to this room’, no stealth moves, no squad tactics and definitely no funny happy-go-lucky sidekicks to help you out. It’s all about pumping rounds into individuals who are hell-bent (sorry, pun unintended) on perforating you like oh so flimsy notebook paper (sorry, bad analogy).
The game itself is set up with a brief opening cutscene and then you get dropped into the action. Now, I’m not saying Painkiller is boring because it’s not. It has some truly frightening moments (just wait for the Asylum… if that doesn’t conjure up some odd thoughts then you’re a little too familiar with the ‘crazy people in a house wanting to kill you’ theme) along with some truly genius level design. I won’t give anything away but after I finished the game I went back to the very last level and enabled God mode just so I could walk around and take in the truly awe-inspiring design.
To say your enemies lack AI is an understatement. This game isn’t about baddies that can avoid your fire and use tactics to maybe surround you and overtake you. It’s about that riot mentality. Wave after wave of various hell-spawned lunatics will come after you loving nothing more than to hollow you out. I would like to mention that, to People Can Fly’s credit, Painkiller does not suffer from ‘Reverse’ syndrome present in so many shooters with high volumes of baddies. What I mean is, I rarely found myself having to run backwards and just fire at a ton of enemies. Often enough they are spawned at a distance and you have time to come up with a half second game plan before holding down the trigger and hoping for the best. In all fairness, map layouts and enemy behavior does reward those with a keen eye.
Painkiller features five weapons, each with an alternate fire, bringing us up to a whopping nine weapons (just checking to see who’s paying attention). A couple of these alternate fire weapons compliment their primary fire weapons which makes things uber fun. Example: The shotgun’s alt fire is a freeze ray, making for a grand old time of freezing your enemies and blasting them into a chunky goodness with your shotty. There’s also the requisite grenade launcher, rocket launcher and chaingun among other not-so typical weapons (I’ll let you play the game to find those).
You enemies will come at you with large bladed weapons, thrown axes, MAC-10s and sometimes their bare hands (or claws). A couple monsters have unique attacks, one being your eyesight reduced to near darkness (along with damage, of course) and another monster that can still inflict damage even after they’re dead. Either way it makes for just the right amount of variety.
The game’s level design is top notch. Sure, you’ll run into a couple maps that seem pretty standard but I have to give props again to PCF for slinging some pretty swanky architecture our way. Some maps are downright massive and feature some great themes including an enormous warehouse, a cemetery (that’s pretty darn scary), a monastery and, well… Hell. Textures are detailed and overall the game runs great even on medium-class machines (I’m running a 2400+ w/ a GF4 Ti4200 and a gig of PC2100 RAM and the game ran great) although an occasional quirky slowdown occurred that required me to restart the game to clear it. I did some research and couldn’t really find anyone else with this issue so I can only assume it’s a small bug with Painkiller and my rig’s setup. However, the problem was quickly fixed (the game seems to load nice and snappy) with a game restart and all was well.
I haven’t played enough of the multiplayer to be able to give an accurate analysis of whether it’s good or bad but from what I’ve played so far it seems pretty standard. I did put in some time playing some Team Deathmatch and I didn’t really experience anything I haven’t done before. I haven’t played all game types yet, though, but I will get a more detailed review of the MP element of Painkiller up very soon.
My final impressions of this game? The single player is as addictive as gaming gets. I found myself using almost every spare moment I had to get one or two more levels in. There’s just something that clicks here with the level variety and adrenaline-laced action that just draws gamers in. Here’s to hoping we’ll see an expansion pack or two in the future.
If you’re a gamer that loves that old-school Doom feel when it comes to shooters you owe it to yourself to go out and buy Painkiller today.
Final Score: 86/100