Painkiller: Hell & Damnation Preview
These days, I say too many games take themselves too seriously. It’s great to have the intensely dramatic and emotional adventures, especially because it forces the industry to employ better writers and actors. But every now and then, it’s therapeutic to sit down with a straightforward old-school shooter that consists of little more than sadistic weapons, freakish enemies, and lots and lots of blood. Painkiller: Hell & Damnation doesn’t have a brain in its head (as PC gamers discovered last fall) but maybe that’s precisely what we need after a long, tedious day.
First and foremost, this new series entry should look a lot better thanks to the Unreal Engine 3. It won’t be setting any graphical benchmarks but considering how dated previous installments have been from a visual standpoint, it’ll be nice to see some updated clarity and detail. Furthermore, familiar levels like Loony Park and the Cathedral will be making their triumphant returns, so Painkiller followers will be able to compare and contrast. Beyond that, expect a Serious Sam-like, totally over-the-top, ridiculously gory romp through dark, foreboding, enemy-infested areas. The premise is (forgive the pun) painfully simple— If it moves, shoot it.
By glancing at the screenshots, you’ve probably gathered that the foes you face in this game are something straight out of your worst nightmares. And that’s a good thing because you’ll want that dash of fear coupled with the adrenaline and sense of urgency that comes with a fast-paced FPS. Daniel Garner reprises his lead role and although the theme and setting is similar to past adventures, the story is only loosely based on the original game and its Battle Out of Hell expansion. Garner is trapped in between worlds and Death promises to reunite him with his wife, Catherine. But of course, there’s a catch: Death wants 7,000 souls, and you gotta go get ‘em.
Each ridiculously damaging weapon will have an intriguing alternate-fire mode, and there will be plenty of hugely insane firearms with which to experiment. On the downside, we’ve heard that the majority of weapons aren’t anything new, so fans have definitely seen them before. But can you really get tired of the stake gun or the electro shocker? Do those ever get tiring? Besides, we have seen one new gun in the previews, and it apparently fires circular saw blades reminiscent of the Ripper in Unreal Tournament. That should likely serve as a competent beheader and limb-slicer. The nastiness that comes running your way is begging for such treatment, though, so don't feel bad about it.
The game sounds like oodles of fun, but bear in mind that it probably won’t take longer than five hours to complete the fourteen levels, and there isn’t much reason to go back through each stage. You can unlock black tarot cards for extra perks but that’s about it. Then again, going through this blastfest with a buddy could be great entertainment, and a worthwhile option for a rainy afternoon. You shouldn’t expect much besides running and gunning – over and over and over – but like I said above, sometimes that’s just what we need to unwind. Maybe there’s something wrong with “unwinding” via blood and guts, but…well, it’s for adults. Not children.
You hear that, mainstream media? Get it? Good.
1/3/2013 Ben Dutka