Review: Painkiller Battle Out of Hell (PC)
When Painkiller was released last year gamers flocked to its throwback style of run-and-gun gameplay. The gameplay movies released showed Painkiller getting vintage and leaning heavily on the Doom style of shoot ’em up. There was no hook to the game, only to say that the game’s hook was a lack of a hook, so to speak. PK was all about getting your enemy in your crosshairs and pulling the trigger faster than they did. So, when it was announed an official expansion would arrive for PK, titled Battle out of Hell, the masses rejoiced in the thought of more fun locales, enemies and weapons to deal out the destruction.
Could Battle Out of Hell live up to the hype generated by the massive fun machine that was Painkiller?
Battle Out of Hell makes no beef about being lean in the story department. Without spoiling the original Painkiller or Battle Out of Hell, your mission is to get back to Earth via Purgatory. In all reality, the story for Battle Out of Hell was simply a reason to add some variety to the locations where players would do battle. I can’t say I’m too upset over this decision. I mean, People Can Fly purposely left out a whole lot of story from the original Painkiller to focus on the cajones-out gameplay. Who’s to say it shouldn’t work for Battle Out of Hell? Well, for the most part, it does.
Let me reiterate that People can Fly didn’t do much in the way of cutscenes either. You get a minute or two here and there but, all in all, Battle Out of Hell is about shooting things. Lots of things. The core gameplay element of ‘shoot as much as you can’ is still here with a couple new weapons and ten all-new venues. For the most part the maps in the game are simply attractive locations used to get you from Point A to Point B.
To give People Can Fly proper credit, the first couple maps set the stage very well, maybe too well, for the remainder of the game. The opening map is a halfway house for kids and, let me tell you, the first time a screeching kid with a sheet over his head rounds the corner and bears down on you at full speed, it’s quite a rush. The creepy factor in this section of the game is off the chain. There are other maps, such as a World War II Germany map and a whacked out carnival / funhouse, that are almost as solid as this first halfway house map but the rest of the maps feel almost a bit contrived and thrown together. Perhaps it’s the disjointed feeling created by jumping from genre to genre within the map cycle that prevents the game from having the same flow as the original.
People Can Fly has also taken the old school flavor in regards to the game’s enemy AI. What do I mean? Well, there is none. Pretty much every enemy has a zombie mentality and just charges at you full speed. I know, dodging isn’t AI but your enemies don’t really even attempt to dodge. It’s almost as if they know they’re cannon fodder and they’re just waiting to be reincarnated as a crazy clown or a mutated deep sea lifeform later on in the game.
I’d like to say there’s more to the gameplay element of Battle Out of Hell but that simply isn’t the case. It’s all about maneuvering and running and shooting. There are a couple puzzle elements but they are almost too simple to be called puzzles. There’s also some jumping puzzles as well and, unfortunately, the controls in this area are a little muddy and could cause some frustration. Luckily, the jumping sections are very few and far between so this little sidetrack is forgiveable.
Other than the required accurate jumping, the controls of the game feel tight. Granted, you’ll get very familiar with WSAD and your mouse (as you’ll use little else) but movemenet and aiming feel deliberate and precise.
Two new weapons have been introduced, although they do have an alternate fire giving you four new ways to deal death in Battle Out of Hell. The new weapons are a combination assault rifle / flamethrower and a new stake gun. The rifle is more powerful then previous leadflingers and the flamethrower looks and plays great. It’s good fun to light up your enemies and watch them stop in their tracks as they fry. The new stake gun fires a few stakes at once and the alternate fire is a zoom, allowing you to snipe baddies from a distance. You can also lob an array of bouncy grenades as well which seem to sometimes even bounce off of enemies. They’re really only good as a last resort, i.e. you have no more ammo. While the weapons from the first game had good variety these two new additions don’t quite make the cut in the innovation department. Sure, they’re amusing for a level or two but they quickly become old hat. Battle Out of Hell introduces two new multiplayer modes, Capture the Flag (which, arguably, should have been included in the original Painkiller) and Last Man Standing, basically a deathmatch mode focusing on dying less instead of killing more. What? Where’s the co-op mode you ask? Not this time. Maybe in PK2.
It may seem as if I’ve been ragging on Battle Out of Hell just a bit and, well, I have. But, this game makes up some good ground in the audio / visual department. Battle Out of Hell’s graphics are absolutely stunning and run at a great framerate even on midrange hardware. Battle Out of Hell also introduces some new graphical effects to the Painkiller engine that will have those gamers with higher end hardware drooling. The sound is also still very good with satisfyingly sickening thuds when blowing up enemies. The weapon sounds are still great (even the new ones, although the rifle should have a bit more punch) and enemy’s screams while burning or their ambient sounds while coming after you add to the whole hair-raising feel of Battle Out of Hell.
Does Battle Out of Hell take PK to new ground? No. Does it do more of the same? Yes. Does it do it better than the original Painkiller? That’s iffy.
Battle Out of Hell seems to be a worthy successor to the Painkiller franchise if mindless running and gunning is your thing. Was Battle Out of Hell made to keep the hype machine’s momentum while PK2 is in development? Perhaps. All in all, Battle Out of Hell does what it sets out to do; provide gamers with a few hours of aim-and-fire gameplay in some neat scenery with some scary opponents. There’s even a dab of solid multiplayer havoc to be had as well.
FINAL SCORE: 77/100