Painkiller Hell & Damnation (hands on impressions)

by: Chuck -
Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is out this week and I will have a review up later this week but I haven’t had enough time with the multiplayer side to render a final verdict on the game.  Instead here are my impressions of the single player portion of the game.

If you missed Painkiller when it came out over a decade ago, you play Daniel Garner a man who is killed in a car accident while taking his wife out for a birthday meal.  He wakes up and finds himself in Purgatory and then strikes a deal with Death so that he can be re-united with this wife.  In order to prove that the deal is real, Death gives Daniel the dancing hula hoop girl from the dashboard of his car as a reminder of his wife.  If you consider Resistance 3 to be a game about a mitten then Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is a game about a tawdry dashboard ornament.  Yes, you’re not really here for the plot of the game.

Much like the Serious Sam remake earlier this year, Painkiller Hell and Damnation is a return to old school run and gun FPS games.  There’s no reloading, there’s no cover, and there certainly isn’t a lot of complexity in the game.  What makes this game interesting is how the weapons change the game play.  In Serious Sam you are constantly back peddling against the hordes of monsters thrown at you but in Painkiller you are almost running at them or circling them because of the overpowered weapons at your disposal.

The arsenal at your disposal is what you would expect if the Insomniac guys went on a meth and bourbon bender.  Sure there’s a shotgun but the alternate fire freezes people.   There’s also a rocket launcher/chain gun combination, a stake gun/grenade launcher combo, and my personal favorite the Soul Catcher or as I called it the Soül Cätcher.  Why Soül Cätcher?   Because a gun that shoots circular saws and sucks the souls out of people needs to have at least two umlauts in the title because it is that freaking metal.  There’s also the classic shurikens and lightning gun which is still as awesome as ever.

I am about three quarters of the way through the single player campaign and while sporadically fun this is definitely a remake and not a modernization project like Serious Sam 3.  The level design is lifted straight from the original game and what worked back in 2004 doesn’t work as well in 2012.  The level design is extremely basic and while the game has been ported to the Unreal Engine, it doesn’t look like the actual levels were cleaned up much as they all feel like one serious of blocky rooms after another. 

The single player campaign does encourage re-play though as there are level specific goals and times to beat to earn Tarot cards.  Tarot cards allow you to change various factors about how the world works (much like the skulls in the Halo games) so you can do things like double the damage you do or slow everything in the level down by a certain factor.  It’s a fun concept that’s well implemented but you’re really going to have to love the levels to want to go back and play them all again.

The game does have some cool looking multiplayer modes and that is where the game really earns its stripes.  I’ll have that information in the full review later this week.
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