PainKiller: My Review 0 replies

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Tipsy

Visual Evolutions

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21st May 2004

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#1 14 years ago

Painkiller Platform: PC Developer: People Can Fly Publisher: Dreamcatcher ESRB Rating: Mature Rating: 4 out of 5 By all accounts, "Painkiller" should suck. It's a first-person shooter that's drenched in the cliches of the genre. The game is really only about shooting hundreds of demons in stereotypical shooter-friendly settings. There are only five weapons to choose from; it's from a largely untested developer; and it's published by Dreamcatcher. I can't remember the last great game Dreamcatcher published, but I do remember (and am trying to forget) the abysmal "Gore." A funny thing happened on the way to the bargain bin, however. Tylenol The threadbare story gets you right into the action. You're Daniel Garner, and you're dead. But there's no place in heaven or hell for you. Stuck in purgatory, the man upstairs gives you the task of putting a stop to hell's minions who have recently gained some ground in the afterlife. So with weapons in hand, you head out to kick some demon ass. I never dreamed that you'd be able to take out demons with a machine gun, but apparently they're made of flesh and bone like the rest of us. The first few levels of the game are misleading. Set in the same spooky graveyard we've seen in hundreds of other games, you'll effortlessly dispatch wave after wave of skeleton knights, zombies, and witches. You move from one cramped area of the graveyard to the next, continually being led in the right direction by a glowing red checkpoint marker that appears after you've killed everything in the area. With only a shotgun and your trusty Painkiller (more on the later) to use as weapons, it all feels very, very generic. But as you continue to play, you begin to notice a bunch of little things that will lead you to conclude that there's much more going on in "Painkiller." Advil First of all, there's the excellent physics. Yeah, yeah, they're all the rage these days. I know. Realistic physics applied to creatures and objects is a standard feature in the new guard of first-person shooters, and "Painkiller" is no exception. However, the over-the-top action and violence accentuates the physics to an even greater degree. Blast a baddie with your shotgun and see him fly backwards 20 feet in the air, smash against a wall, and crumple to the ground in a lifeless heap. Peg a monster with your stake gun and you'll pin him to the nearest wall. Each dead demon leaves behind a soul for you to collect. Snag 66 of them and you become an invulnerable killing machine for a short period of time. Because this game is all about volume, you'll bear witness to hundreds of bodies and body parts flying in all directions. If it weren't so visceral, I'd say it was a thing of beauty. Aw heck, it is a thing of beauty. Excedrin Then there's the flow of the levels themselves. There's a definite structure to the game. Enter an area, and all the exits are sealed. You then fight off an impossibly large wave of enemies. A path opens. You walk through and repeat the process over and over again. This could easily have been a recipe for boredom, but "Painkiller" is an ingenious mix of unique adversaries paired against a unique mix of weaponry. There are lots of different kinds of demons, each with a particular attack style. As you're often never quite sure what you're going to encounter, you're constantly adjusting your battle strategies. Even the boss monsters take a thoughtful approach if you wish to emerge victorious. Don't misunderstand. "Rainbow Six" this ain't. But it takes a deep understanding of how your five weapons work to deal as much damage as you can. Motrin You've got a shotgun, a stake gun, a rocket launcher, an electro zapper thing, and the painkiller -- a mobile Cuisinart that can also send out a holy ray of death. Each of these has a secondary firing mode bringing the total number of weapons at your disposal to 10. What's impressive here is that you'll use your entire roster of weapons throughout the entire game. Sure, there are times when the powerful rocket launcher comes in handy, but the deadly one-shot kills of the stake gun are not to be underestimated despite the long reload time and the tricky aiming. Bottom line: all of the weapons feel just right. In addition, meeting a special requirement at the end of level will grant you a tarot card. The cards grant you special abilities like extra health, super speed, or double damage. Collecting these cards give you a greater chance of survival in the later stages of the game. So you'll want to replay some of the levels, just to get one more card. Aleve Though there is little to link each level in the game thematically, you will come to appreciate the scatterbrained approach to level design. One moment, you'll be fighting in some catacombs, the next you'll be in a train station, or a snowy bridge, or a military base, or an insane asylum. This constant shift to different settings -- and even eras -- keeps the game from getting stale, and in many ways, reinforces that as a denizen of purgatory, you have no one place to call home. Deep, huh? I'm not giving away too much by saying that by the end of the game, you do indeed venture into hell. This final level is a brilliant interpretation that doesn't fall back on the old fire and brimstone cliche. Aspirin "Painkiller" is pure adrenaline. If you don't feel the rush while playing this game, you're probably dead. It's really hard not to categorize "Painkiller" as a mindless shooter. The game just revels in nonstop violence. But "mindless shooter" just doesn't do this game justice. Idon't know what kind of magic pixie dust the developers were on when they made this game, but I want some. Dan "Tipsy" Migillan