posted 7/23/2004 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: PC
Visually the game is an absolute treat. The art designers on the game did a terrific job of creating a bright beautiful world to explore. Instead of facing a different variety of the same enemies over and over again, you face a wide assortment of enemies throughout the game. I’ve gunned down everything from demonic bikers to monks with axes and attitude problem (the enemies section of the full color manual is the largest section of the manual).

Good enemies aren’t any good if you don’t have a good environment to place them in and this is another area where Painkiller excels. While the levels are a little linear, they are well designed and look solid. Overall, it’s hard to complain about the look and feel of the game and while it’s a little bit below Far Cry you won’t need a high end computer to run the game (although it doesn’t hurt).

The sound in the game is solid. The weapons all have a nice oomph and sound just about right. The only thing you might find a little grating about the sound work is the music. If you hate heavy metal music, you’re going to want to turn the background music off before you even fire up the game. If you like metal, then you’re in luck as the game features some decent guitar laden, head banging music. The music is keyed to combat so as soon as you hear the guitars you know you’re in for a firefight.

FPS games are made by the weapons they provide gamers with. If you can’t deal death in new and interesting ways, then what’s the point of playing, right? The weapons in Painkiller are solid. There are only five weapons in the game (each weapon has an alternate fire so you could say you have ten weapons). Along with the alternative fire mode, you can perform combination attacks with some of the weapons. For example, you start the game with the Painkiller, a short range set of spinning blades that slice and dice enemies. The alternate fire of this weapon shoots out an orb which can be used to knock out enemies at range or can be lodged in a wall and when aligned with the player it shoots out a beam of energy when can be used to zap multiple enemies at one time. However, if you get the blades spinning and activate the alternate fire, you can send out a spinning set of blades which will mow through mobs of enemies. The rest of the weapons are a mix of your typical FPS weapons (chain gun, shotgun) along with some new twists (such as the stake gun). It’s a nice set of weapons but after playing a lot of Unreal Tournament 2004, it did feel like there wasn’t a lot of variety to the weapons.

Besides the audio and video goodness, what really makes Painkiller a lot of fun is the inclusion of the Havok 2.0 physics engine. Almost everything in the game can be moved, blown up, or manipulated which is quite a bit of fun. One fun thing the game allows you to do is take explosive barrels and push them down hills towards your enemies and when they get close to them you blow it up wiping out groups at a time. It does feel like the physics are a little juiced so things fly a little farther than they would normally but it adds to the fun of the game.

The biggest disappointment in the game is the multiplayer. While it’s decent, it’s just not up to the same level as some of the other FPS games in the market. All of the multiplayer modes are death match based with a few twists. While this matches the focus of the game, a CTF or similar mode would have been nice.

Overall, Painkiller is a blast to play. It’s not a particularly deep game but you get a lot of bang for the buck. The game is a visual treat and you could spend hours just playing around with the physics engine. The multiplayer is a bit of a disappointment but hopefully, that will be tweaked in one of the upcoming patches.

Painkiller is a lot like a Golden Retriever puppy. It is fun, high energy, and not necessarily that deep. If you’re a fan of the original Doom and Serious Sam, you’ll enjoy this game. However, if you’re looking for a deep plot and multiplayer, then you may want try something else.

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