[ Review Comments | Screenshots ]Painkiller Review
Category : Action
Publisher : Dreamcatcher
Developer : People Can Fly
Release : 04/09/2004
MSRP (US): $39.99
1.5 GHz or faster
OS: Windows 98/ME/2K/XP
RAM: 384 MB RAM
Video: 64 MB RAM DirectX®/Direct3D compatible video
Hard Drive Space: 1.2 GB
the new FPS offering, Painkiller, a young happy couple heads
out for an evening on the town in their car. Never reaching their destination
poor Daniel Garner finds himself in a horrible accident, ending his life,
and starting his new job. Unbeknownst to Dan, he finds himself the unwilling
muscle man for Archangel Michael and the forces of Heaven.
The plan, fight his way through hordes of
evil creatures, to one of four lead generals in Lucifer’s army,
and lay the smack down on each one. Why? Because Michael says God wants
you to. Stranded in a place between Heaven and Hell, your time of judgment
is at hand. The Underworld is on the verge of unholy war, and you are
but a pawn in the infernal battle. As you fight for your purification,
the truths behind the deceptions are revealed.
is all about being back to basics in the FPS single player arena. If you
want a gripping storyline, go buy something from the Half-Life
stable… For what it is, Painkiller is excellent. A fast
paced single player shooter action game with a great fun factor. Checkpoint
saves are frequent almost negating your need to quick save the game through
a level, and the endless stream of bad guys in between checkpoints will
keep your trigger finger flexing and your ears open for monster sounds.
Although it's a hell of a lot scarier than Serious Sam ever was.
The game supplies you with 5 basic weapons,
each with two very distinct firing modes. You can stake, dynamite, freeze,
chop and bash your way through the myriad opponents with rapid fire glee.
Weapon change animations are minimal allowing for quick changes in the
heat of battle. My personal favorite, is the elimination of the need to
reload a weapon manually. All of the weapons reload automatically and
very quickly, keeping your focus on killing hellspawn as fast as possible.
The levels are widely varied, from gothic
temples to ruined villages to creepy graveyards, all of which are well
constructed mid sized maps. With a fair amount of attention to detail
and a nice leveraging of terrain and building physics each level has it’s
own unique style and monster behaviors associated with it, with a few
minor surprises built in to keep you on your toes (and of course, some
hidden goodies too…).
Monster behavior and AI is fair, however
even on the hardest settings the difficulty is really only increased by
numbers rather than by tactics from the enemy. Monsters do track well,
and will endlessly follow you through the current map forever. The numerous
types and basic group tactics in monster selection keeps the pace of combat
varied and interesting. The sub boss category brings in elements of the
levels and monster style that adds a good feel to each chapter in the
game. For final touches, the ending bosses in Painkiller are
larger than life, offering you a extreme chance of having that "David
and Goliath" feeling. When it comes to boss strategy, Painkiller
raises the bar a bit for FPS games, by requiring you to think a little.
For instance, how are you going to take out that 40ft tall vampiric lord
boss? Think about it for a bit, your puny weapons ain't gonna do it! This
is one area that shines better then most FPS games, as Painkiller
is occasionally a "thinking person's" shooter.
the graphics department Painkiller does very well. With full
DirectX9 support all you high-end graphics card owners (reviewer on a
6800GT) are in for a treat. Painkiller comes with plenty of eye
candy. Particle and smoke effects are excellent, the use of lighting and
flame effects equally excellent. Under the 1.2 patch shadows come to life
and shading effects appear with a lot more realism (thank you Dx9).
Boss monsters are impressive and very obvious
as the level ‘boss’ by shear size alone. But they also show
a step up in AI, and a HUGE increase in damage ability. Here map physics
come into play as the boss ‘interacts’ with the objects loaded
on the map in some unusually spectacular ways (don’t want to spoil
The sound is great in Painkiller.
Not only are the audio effects excellent (zombie groans, evil knights
shouting out challenges) but the music score is terrific! An almost thrash
metal sound track kicks in every time combat starts up, and the pounding
beat keeps you focused on your goal of kill-kill-kill throughout the action.
Similar to other single players the music shifts and changes depending
on exploration vs combat action, so it not only gives you something great
to kill by, but it also acts as a cue to the start or end of a wave of
Of special mention is the physics in Painkiller.
People Can Fly Studios has added the rather amazing Havok 2.0 physics
engine. The first time you take out a leg and watch a zombie fall over
the right direction, you may think ‘cool’. When you stake
a knight through the chest, and he sticks to the wall behind him hanging
from that impaling, you’ll say ‘That was cooler’. Finally
when you drop an explosive in the middle of 5 zombies, and watch them
fly 30 feet across the map, in all directions, and bounce realistically
off a wall (or cart, or other zombie) and collapse in a ragdoll heap,
then you say ‘THAT was very cool!’. The developers' proprietary
PAIN Engine puts out an unbelievably high polygon count, while adding
increased texture quality.
multiplayer aspect of the game is a throwback to the days of the original
Quake. It's a simple fragfest for the most part, with old standbys
such as teleport gates, floating weapon and armor pickups and the old
"berserk" power up. It looks fantastic of course, and the Havok
physics and weaponry make it quite an entertaining romp with friends.
Painkiller thankfully features a built-in server browser (unlike
Quake), allowing you to jump into an online match at almost the
drop of a hat.
Modes of play are limited to variations
on traditional deathmatch modes, and there are a limited number of MP
maps, most of which start to feel crowded after about 8 players. There's
a free-for-all mode, a team deathmatch mode, and a few others. One of
the best modes is called "voosh," and in it, all players are
automatically equipped with the same weapon and unlimited ammo...but only
for a short period of time, at which point they randomly get a new weapon.
Makes for an interesting variation on the classic fragfest of deathmatch.
"Light bearer" mode is a very bloody variation on the game of
tag. There's a quad-damage power-up somewhere in the level, and once someone
picks it up, the effects don't wear off, so that player gets to go on
a rampage. Other players then concentrate on taking the rampaging player
out so that they can relieve their corpse of the power-up to carry on
Finally, the "people can fly"
mode (named after the Poland-based developer of the game), is set in cylindrical
stages where everyone's got a high-powered rocket launcher with unlimited
ammo. There is a catch however.... you can only score kills on airborne
players, so what follows is a completely wild match where people constantly
getting blasted into the air while constantly trying to draw a bead on
the other players who are bouncing around. Very fun to watch this mode
with the Havok engine in play.
is a great single player first person shooter, fast paced, heavy action
and rockin soundtrack make this the Resident Evil of the FPS
world. You can play for 20 minutes, you can play for 4 hours, however
long you want to frag the minions of hell, they’ll be there for
you. By comparison, new releases like Doom 3 show more development
in AI and movement, and certainly more story development, but a very strong
first entry into the FPS genre from Dreamcatcher.
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