Painkiller

Review

posted 7/23/2004 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: PC
2004 is turning out to be the year of the first person shooter. With Far Cry and Unreal Tournament 2004 already on shelves and Half Life 2, Doom 3, and Halo 2 due out later this year, it’s just a great year for fraggers. Somewhat lost amongst the hype of these games is Painkiller, a delightful FPS published by DreamCatcher games and developed by People Can Fly.

The plot of Painkiller is a little different from your typical FPS. Instead of a marine, or ex-special forces, or nerdy scientist you play a somewhat average guy name Daniel Garner who’s killed in a car accident while on a trip with his wife. Rather than joining his wife in heaven, he is sentenced to an eternity in purgatory. In order to “move up” and join his wife, he must wage war on the devil’s army and help turn the tide of the great battle between good and evil. Along the way, you’ll try to figure out why you were denied entry into heaven. OK, it’s not that much different but it does provide some background to the orgy of violence in the game. The plot is advanced through cut scenes between the major chapters of the game. While it’s nice to have cut scenes in a game, the ones in Painkiller have a nice “B” movie feel that matches the tone of the game.

The single player mode is the heart of the game and it’s where the game really shines. The game is broken into chapters with several missions per chapter. The last mission in a chapter is the typical boss monster fight However, these things aren’t your typical end mission bosses though. These guys are 70 to 100 ft tall and are one of the most impressive parts of the game. They just tower over you and are a pain in the rear to kill. The first time I saw one of these monsters come on to the screen I was in awe. If you played Serious Sam, you know about the huge boss at the end of the game. These bosses are like that except there are more of them and they are much bigger.

Another cool feature of the game is that dispatched enemies leave a small soul orb which you can pick up. These orbs provide two functions. The first is that they regenerate a bit of health and the second is that after you collect around 67 of them you’re transformed into a demon. In demon mode, you can one shot kill most enemies but it only lasts for a few seconds. The trick is to ensure that when you whack a bad guy that you can get to the body to recover the soul. It’s also a bit tricky to time the collecting of souls as it’s not very helpful to enter demon mode after you’ve run out of enemies to kill.

While you can play the single player mode straight through, the game does provide some incentive to explore and try new things. Each level has a goal such as completing a level within X amount of time or using a particular weapon. If you complete the goal, then you earn a tarot card which can be used in future levels. The cards are purchased with the gold coins you find in the level to provide power ups during the next level. It’s a nice inducement to get you to explore the game and the power ups can be used to earn further cards.
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