Mindless violence, the way it should be…
Sometimes it is nice to take a break. All of that ducking behind cover, waiting for a glimpse of the enemy and then performing that perfect headshot to watch the enemy slump to the ground – it can be tiring. Sometimes it can be nice to just run in, guns blazing and wipe out everything that moves, leaving behind pools of blood and severed limbs. No need to think, just act. It’s a simple dream, but one which is granted in Painkiller: Hell & Damnation.
The original Painkiller came out a fair few years back and has been expanded upon time and again. This latest incarnation of the game, from Nordic Games and Farm 51, is essentially an HD remake of the original game and the Battle out of Hell expansion, with a few cuts and a few additions. But whatever else has been added or taken away, players who “fondly” remember the original will welcome the all out mindless action and the incredibly tough boss battles, along with the improved visuals.
The story, for what it’s worth, involves the character of Daniel, who admits that he was not a very nice person when alive. Basically, he died in a car crash and must now collect a huge number of souls in order to see his dead wife again. I said basically, but that is pretty much it. It may be obvious at this point that the story behind Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is not really a strong point. But neither is it important and the game is all about the simple action of killing demons and harvesting their souls. You don’t need a story. Still, it was nice of the developers to throw one in…
So players are dumped into a level, which come in an interesting selection of demonic varieties, and charged with killing everything that moves, before it kills you. This is old-school shooter action which will have the player running around at high speed, jumping like an idiot and generally trying to stay alive amidst the ever increasing piles of demonic body parts and rivers of blood. It’s not clever, but it is a lot of fun. It’s the kind of gameplay that gets the adrenaline pumping.
Of course, this type of run in and shoot everything action requires some seriously impressive weapons. Painkiller H&D doesn’t disappoint, with a range of wacky ways to maim and dismember your demonic adversaries. The weapons all come with alternate fire modes, allowing even more variety for your death-dealing, and include such classics as the stake shooter which pins the enemies to the wall, and what is basically a hand held blender. New to this game is a weapon which fires circular saw blades through the bodies of your foes, or sucks up souls and forces your enemies to fight on your side in alternate mode. Fun much?
Other new additions to the game include some new enemies to fight. The range of the different enemies is quite impressive, and they all look suitably demonic. As for what has been removed, the game has become a lot shorter with only 14 levels included and a rough play time of five or so hours, making it a little on the short side. That being said, it doesn’t help that everything goes past in a blur as the player gets fully immersed in the game. The boss battles are the only place where the action slows down, as these become a frustrating grind against creatures with more health than they would ever need and well hidden weak points.
In contrast to the original games, H&D looks stunning. This is thanks in large part to the use of the Unreal Engine 3 by Farm 51 to bring the game more up to date. That is not to say that Painkiller H&D could compete with the modern AAA titles, the game still has a retro feel to the looks, but for gamers who played the original, it really is impressive. The sound in the game is rather basic, but makes sense given the overall style of the game.
The solo game may be a little short, but finishing it doesn’t mean an end to the severed limbs as Farm 51 have included a fair chunk of multiplayer goodness as well. To start with, you can have double the fun by getting a friend to tag along in the campaign with the co-op option. The action gets ramped up to compensate for the two players, and manages to get pretty crazy.
Otherwise players can indulge in some classically hellish Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch or Capture the Flag fun. The very quick gameplay makes Painkiller H&D ideal for this type of competitive play – just make sure you bring your skills with you. Then we have a survival mode in which the player will be running around trying to survive wave after wave of enemies. It doesn’t get much more hellish than that.
For all of the reminiscing about the good old days of first-person shooters, it is a sad fact that gaming tastes have changed. It is nice to see the return of Painkiller, but the game really does feel dated now, even with the shiny new graphics. It is also rather short. That being said, if played in short bursts rather than marathon sessions, even the newest of gamers should be able to have a blast while banishing the minions of Hell and collecting souls.
Painkiller Hell & Damnation is an old school shooter with a new coat of polish. The main game is only short, but there are plenty of multiplayer options to keep players interested once they finish the story. The game is coming to PS3 and Xbox360 in January, but for now can be found for around £17.99 on PC, making it a bit of a bargain. Pick it up if you fancy some hellish retro fun.