The welcome cliché of Halloween marks the worldwide release of Painkiller: Hell and Damnation, a lovingly re-made package combining the best of “Painkiller” and “Painkiller: Battle out of Hell.” While this may sound like a quick cash-in and an outright lazy way to make a new game, Hell & Damnation adds more content than you can shake a stake at.
The initial menu you are greeted with really sets the tone for the game with hellish structures and gothic architecture sitting in the background. Unlike most games you find little menu music other than cult chanting and a loud droning sound when an option is selected. While it may be a minimal feature, the naming of the difficulties to things such as “Insomnia” and “Trauma” add their own little touch of Hell to the atmosphere. While the game does feature some good textures and phenomenal model detail in some cases, the video options are quite minimal. That said all the standard video options are in place such as resolution, geometry and texture detail.
The singleplayer opens with an optional tutorial in which the “old school” hits like a freight train. You will soon learn that bunny hopping is your main method of transport and that reloading is for chumps. You are faced with a few hordes of enemies which pose little threat to your double barrelled shotgun, all while the basics are introduced. All the things you would expect from an old school shooter are here, from instant weapon switching to secret areas with piles of loot.
The story follows a man named Daniel who is lost in purgatory. The opening CGI cut scene shows the physical merging of Earth and Hell for Daniel which was shockingly impressive. However, if you were looking for more of this you will find yourself sorely disappointed as there is very little in the way of cutscenes or story. Once we’re back in purgatory, Daniel is tasked by the Grim Reaper to collect 7,000 souls. In return, his girlfriend Catherine will be brought back to life. The game is quite “hit and miss” when it comes to voice acting and really falls apart towards the end of the game, almost moving into ArmA 2 territory. As you would expect, the story doesn’t develop much further past Daniel vanquishing hordes of twisted enemies in order to see his significant other once again. The introduction of the chubby third wheel, Eve, seems unnecessary as she does little more than tease you with some cryptic statements and then disappear until the next cutscene.
It would be wrong of me to get bogged down with the lacklustre story when the star of the show is clearly the gameplay. The game features some of the most incredible weapon designs known to video games, with everything from grenade launching stake cannons to electric conducting shuriken machineguns. The enemies you will be encountering in this game feature some amazing design and detail, a lot of which is lost on you when severing limbs from afar with Death’s own sawblade launcher. However, examining their corpses clearly shows that there was a lot of love put into the designs of these characters. The levels themselves are essentially hellish twist on earth-like locations, such as a metropolitan themed level which eventually leads to a massive theatre style arena to top it all off. Each level features themed enemies, with ones such as the orphanage level having many Damien-esque children as enemies as well as some more twisted types, such as exploding bodies covered in bed sheets that look like a walking metaphor for smother victims.
The feel of how this game plays is something else altogether. With the closest comparable game being Serious Sam, it really stands out as unique among a menagerie of current, generic FPS games. It combines the fast paced action of any classic shooter, with inhumanly fast movement speed and the ability to bunny hop even faster in any direction. The feeling of slaying demons with a powerful arsenal of weaponry to the game’s heavy metal soundtrack, while somewhat cheesy sounding, is something that gets you completely pumped while in the moment. Thankfully, the UI is non-intrusive, which is a rarity in today’s games for the most part. However, very little of the UI is explained to the user in the tutorial. While the ammo counter may be a given, it took me some time to figure out the difference between health, kill count and soul counter. The game also features a compass which is absolutely mandatory for navigating the games maze-like levels. While it was a very minor glitch, at one point the compass decided it had enough of me and left for the entirety of the second level. The marriage of the gore and physics engine within the game make kills extremely satisfying. Freezing someone with the shotgun and watching the corpse slide around the map like some greased up bowling ball is just one of the ways it has surprised me.
One of the main objectives of this game is to collect souls that appear on slain enemies. The reaper has explained that you need to collect 7,000 of them however it seems as though how many you collect has little weight in the outcome of the story. Once you have collected 66 you will temporarily transform into a demon. This will highlight enemies and will allows you to obliterate them at any range with what appears to be some kind of force cannon attached to Daniel’s face. When playing I found that souls take some time to appear after killing an enemy. As these are said to be the objective of the game, it became a little bothersome having to backtrack to a pile of dead ghouls just to collect some soul scraps that took far too long to appear.
Painkiller’s single player was an absolute joy from beginning to end. The combination of fantastic weapon design, music, gore and physics make being Hell’s janitor one of the best things you could be this Halloween. While simplistic in its ways, the game has very little that makes it feel like an unfinished product.
Each time you begin a new level you will find yourself soaking in your surroundings to discover the different themed enemies are interesting level architecture. Each level has its own unique music with two variants, ambient and combat, both of which almost always do well to enhance the atmosphere.
NOTE:- There are a wealth of multiplayer options attached to the game which unfortunately could not be reviewed at the time of this review’s release due to the servers not being switched on. We will update this review as soon as possible.