High definition updates are pretty much commonplace on the console market at the moment, companies revisiting some of their classic games from previous generations, with a new spit and polish but sticking to the ideals of the original. There have been many success stories but also a few that have upset the original fans and what with all the harrumphing around the recent Doom 3 rerelease it would be a brave production team to go back and tinker with yet another first person shooter (FPS) classic. Well inevitably it has happened again, this time to 2004's PC title, Painkiller, which now also has a remake under the new moniker, Painkiller: Hell and Damnation.
Sadly I missed the first time around with this game, but what with more affordable gaming PC's and a PS3/Xbox 360 release in the New Year; most now have a chance to try out this fast and gory title. Played as a very simple first person shooter, the aim is just to kill everything that moves. Following a fatal car crash and killing both passengers, Daniel Garner finds himself in Purgatory, the gap between Heaven and Hell and in a rather unique position, he should not be there. With an offer from the Grim Reaper, he must collect 7 Legions of souls for the Reaper, who on collection will grant him the chance to see his wife Catherine who ended up in Heaven). Though I am relying on Wiki here it appears that the story has been completely rewritten in this version, changing Daniels role in Purgatory significantly and allowing for a more open ending which allows for plenty more action in the future. Though that has changed, the levels do seem to be the same from the original Painkiller and Painkiller: Battle out of Hell.
With the chance to see his wife again and get out of Purgatory, Daniel then makes his way through the many deadly and dark lands, slaying every demon he can find and storing the souls for final payment. The world of Purgatory hosts 14 levels to battle though, each one more twisted than the last and inhabited by a freakish selection of demons. Starting at a cemetery, it gets worse from there with a ghost house, coliseum, opera house and even a seriously insane theme park. If the locations don't send a tingle down your spine than the gory demons will, coming across duel bladed samurai, skeletons, witches, knife wielding school boys that split in half or school girls that set themselves on fire, old testament knights and what I can only describe as Pinocchio, who uses his every growing nose to try and spear you.
Graphically I can't fault the game; using the Unreal Engine 3 there is a great depth of imagery to keep you on edge littered all around the well created worlds from dark and dank sewers with little light to obscure paintings on the wall, each level full of well animated and gruesome looking baddies that die with a satisfying spurt of blood or clatter of bones. My only problem with the visuals and one that I couldn't stop being annoyed about is that there is no weapon swap animation, you change weapons and it just magically appears in a split second in your hands.
Being a very basic FPS, it is really all about the frag count and with that you need weapons and Painkiller: Hell and Damnation has plenty to keep you satisfied ranging from shotguns, chainguns, machine guns, bolt throwers and crossbows to the more original Painkiller which is essentially a very fast spinning blade that will make mincemeat out of your enemies and a Soulcatcher which can throw out huge blades. Each weapon also has a secondary fire mode that you also need to gather ammo for, like the Soulcatcher can be used Ghostbusters style to attach a beam to an enemy and suck the souls straight out of them, the chaingun also having a rocket launcher attached or the shotgun that can freeze enemies which you can then shatter. With these secondary actions you can also combine them to make even more useful powers like with Soulcatcher, once you have caught enough souls with the gun you are able to shoot a group of enemies who will then glow green and start fighting on your behalf or the rapid fire shuriken gun that also has an electrocution beam can be shot into a crowd, causing electricity to arc through them all. With so many decent weapons on offer it is just as well there are so many demons to slay.
Daniel also has a few extra powers to call upon when needed, the first being the ability to transform into a Demon himself upon the collection of 66 souls. When you reach this the world turns grey, highlighting every enemy in blood red so you can see them easier. Your firearm then turns into some sort of extremely powerful blaster, hurling enemies and their dismembered body parts all over the place and though short lived, it can be a real life saver. Daniel is also able to collect Tarot cards by achieving in game achievements on each level; usually kill a set amount of enemies or complete within a certain time. There are two types of Tarot, silver and gold. Once selected, the silver cards will always be active, granting powers like more ammo found in boxes and demons souls appearing for longer, the gold Tarot cards can only be used if you have enough coins to spend (located by destroying barrels and boxes) and they grant additional powers like receiving half the damage or slowing down time for a short period. You can only have a few of each selected at a time so finding the perfect combination will be key to completing this game on the higher difficulty settings.
Considering this is a 2004 release it's hard to believe this came out the same time as San Andreas and Doom 3, so much has moved on since then. Revisiting a game and giving it a new lick of Unreal Engine 3 paint is one thing, but to keep a lot of the dated gameplay is another. I will be first to admit sometimes you just need a game to run around and aimlessly shoot things but even that gets tiresome, and even with a short 5 hour campaign it still manages to get tiresome quite quickly. To progress in the game you need to kill everything in the level before a checkpoint unlocks, it is fun whilst the enemies are thick and fast, supported by a suitable thrash metal track that wouldn't be of place on a Dragon Force record, but miss a straggler and the pace drops like a stone, leaving you wandering around trying to find that last demon. The enemy AI is also something from the dark ages, they just run at you, all of them; leaving you to pretty much strafe and shoot until a room is cleared. The biggest disappointment are the boss levels, the first two you come across are visual show stealers, blocking out the sun with their giganticness until you realise it's just the same shoot and strafe tactic, leaving a very lacklustre final two bosses with the same tactics but not as visually appealing. The mundaity of the constant shooting is helped a little by the inclusion of a co-op mode, granting you local or online team-ups to join forces and take on all those demons, with the game adjusting accordingly, be it even more monsters or more direct hits to kill them.
Painkiller: Hell and Damnation also has multiplayer support with a hefty selection of modes like Deathmatch, Duel, Team Deathmatch and a survival mode. More will mentioned of these once the game is released and the servers are up and running on the 31st October and will be included at the bottom of this review.
Like I stated earlier, I didn't play original Painkiller so it is hard to tell if this is offending fans of original or not, but what we do have here is a game that is trying to be nothing special other than a damn good frag fest, it just feels a little dated.
(Version Tested: PC)
Words by Ash Buchanan.
- Classic first person shooter
- Looks great
- Looks great
- Gets very samey
- A little short
- Very basic AI
- A little short
- Very basic AI