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  Reviewed by Andy Grieser
May 7, 2004
First-Person Shooter
People Can Fly
Painkiller is a literal blast, a throwback to the days of straightforward shooters where the only goal was to survive long enough to get to the next level.

The plot is arbitrary at best. You play Daniel Garner, killed in a car accident and sent to Purgatory. Apparently, the big guy upstairs thinks you can head off a demonic invasion of Heaven. Kill the devil's four generals, and Garner gets to reunite with his beloved wife.

Really, the plot has no bearing on actual gameplay, which is: Go places and kill demons. See, Purgatory is set up a lot like Earth, with random cool locations like graveyards and asylums and mountain passes and the like. In fact, the locations are more fitting of the game's original plot, where you control a merc named Painkiller who travels the world killing demons. The fact that either plot fits equally well tells you just how little credence to give anything but survival.

While I'm the poster boy for scripted sequences, I loved the opportunity to just blow through hordes of the undead. It's satisfying in a primal way. Really, that's the entire goal for each level: You'll enter an area and be “locked in” until killing a certain number of enemies, at which point doors open to the next area, where you'll be "locked in" ... and so on.

Aside from the stock arsenal of weapons - shotgun, rocket launcher, etc. – you'll be able to fight using the Painkiller, one of the best default weapons I've seen. Shooters usually reserve slot 1 for a knife or fists useless after the first level; the Painkiller is a nice melee weapon but also a very useful infinite-ammo ranged weapon. You'll also get to use "Black Tarot" cards – cards collected for meeting certain goals during each level that can do everything from slow time to make the Demon Form more powerful.

Yeah, like The Suffering and other recent titles, collecting a certain number of souls (dropped by dead enemies) morphs you into a demonic killing machine with a sort of Predator view of the world and a one-hit-kill attack.

Aside from that Predator view, which I found awkward, Painkiller's graphics are topnotch. Levels are often beautiful just to look at, and the enemy models are done well if a bit repetitive. The game's rag-doll physics are great. At one point, I laughed at loud after pegging an enemy ninja-demon with a stake launcher – the poor sod was actually nailed to the wall, a very nice effect. Painkiller does feature cutscenes in animation rather than using the game's engine. The cutscenes try to establish a plot, but the story is irrelevant in the face of non-stop action gameplay.

Sound is good, with ambient sound very spooky in places (like the Asylum). Battles are marked by a metal score that does its job in getting adrenalin pumping.

For a modern take on the old-school shooter, Painkiller is the way to go. It's an excellent title that does everything it sets out to accomplish.

(Click to Enlarge)

Minimum Requirements...
1.5 GHz Pentium III or AMD Athlon processor; 384 MB RAM; 8X CD-ROM; 1.2 GB hard drive space; 64 MB DirectX 8.1 card with hardware Transform & Lighting support (NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS or better).


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