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Painkiller (Windows)

Mature
ESRB Rating
Genre
Perspective
Theme
81
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Zovni (9360)
Written on  :  Dec 28, 2004
Rating  :  3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars

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Summary

Have some Quake with your Serious Sam.

The Good

Seems Serious Sam really made a dent out there, as we are officially seeing the first clone of it right here in DreamCatcher's Painkiller, an FPS that's heavy on the action and light on the brains.

Just like "Serious", Painkiller is nothing but a shooting gallery on steroids. A throwback to the more simplified early days of FPS gaming where you'd walk into a seemingly empty hall with a big weapon or power-up floating in the air and as soon as you grab it all exists close and a gazillion enemies spawn instantly coming for you from all sides. Forget tactics, forget realism, it's all about killing the bad guys in a frenzy of bullets before they get you. And like Serious Sam proved, that concept is more entertaining than you would first believe. You can't say it's groundbreaking but it sure is entertaining... for a while anyway.

This mold of simple yet entertaining gameplay is the one Painkiller takes and coats with a dark theme much like Quake's as you are not a cartoony hero defending earth from alien invaders, but instead take the role of a "Hitman from Heaven". A wandering soul that's tasked with cleaning out the Armies of Satan from the purgatory as exchange for him getting into heaven and rejoining with his long dead wife, taking the souls of his enemies as he dispatches them... The game thus plays in the purgatory, which as imagined by the developers looks pretty much like a distorted and dark version of earth (think Silent Hill). As another reviewer noted while the level design itself is completely straightforward, the layout and art direction is not so, and manages to be a standout feature in the game, with some pretty impressive locations like the sanitarium and the opera house deserving some serious praise.

I don't know what engine the developers used but the results are pretty impressive. Not only on the levels themselves, but also on the enemies (which also have localized damage and rag-doll physics) and special effects such as when you trigger your "god mode" (acquired by collecting a determined number of souls) and which blurs and distorts your vision and surrounds all the enemies with an eerie glow (and also allows you to kill them just by looking at them!)

As for the enemies and weapons, they are all your standard "darkie" stuff you know from games like Quake or Blood, with the inclusion of some rather impressive asian-themed enemies and the hyper-gigantic bosses that steal the show and prove to be the most exciting opponents in the single-player game. As an original touch the game throws mini-objectives for you to complete in each level, usually dealing with a certain number you must reach in some of the game's many stats (killing X amount of enemies, recovering X amount of souls, etc.), should you complete those, the game rewards you with tarot cards that can be equiped before you go into the next level, and which have all sorts of different effects that you can call forth at anytime to aid you in the fights (such as stopping time, dealing cuadruple damage, etc.) a nice idea that has proved itself in other games and works like a charm here also.

Finally, the multiplayer component (the real deal-maker here) is superbly designed with enough options and quality gameplay to satisfy the most jaded frag-addict.

Oh, and the cutscenes are reeaaally good, and the goth heavy metal soundtrack Kicks ASS.

The Bad

Well, it IS a clone of Serious Sam... With everything bad that entails...: A braindead action game with braindead enemies and braindead gameplay. Continued playing either takes you to a zen-like nirvana state or makes your brain explode, as it's the same retarded shoot-everything-that-moves thing over and over and over again....

It also has some rare bugs that get you stuck in a pixel and crash the entire thing... but I'm sure that's going to be solved eventually.

The Bottom Line

It's simple enough: Liked Serious Sam? How about some Quake flavor on top of it? That's Painkiller. If you liked Serious Sam then "more of the same" doesn't exactly pose a problem to you, so you are sure to enjoy every action-soaked moment of it. However the rest of us with somewhat more diverse interests might consider the novelty but quickly forget about it as soon as anything barely more interesting comes along.