Painkiller Review

In these days of historical, realistic, and tactical shooters, we can easily lose track of what made first-person shooters so popular in the first place. Remember? Itís just plain fun to fight off hordes of monsters with an arsenal of weaponry, blazing away as you run right at your enemies. Stealth? Stealth?!? We donít need no stinkiní stealth! Well Painkiller is here to remind us what the glory days of first-person shooters were like, except with better graphics. If you have a yearning for some pure shooting fun, then Painkiller may be just the thing to scratch that itch.

Bring on the monks.

The gameís story, such as it is, puts you in the role of an unfortunate young soul who dies in an auto accident and ďawakensĒ to find himself in purgatory. Your timing is perfect as heavenly events are unfolding that has heaven in desperate aid of need. The demons of hell are mounting a full-scale invasion of the higher realms and purgatory is on the front lines. If youíre willing to fight off the hordes of demons and end their invasion then youíll be rewarded with a one way ticket to paradise. So you pick up your holy demon flayer and set off to send the demons back to hell. Well thatís the set-up, but in actuality thereís not much story to the game. The story is basically used to give a rationale for why youíre fighting off legions of demons and the generals of hellís armies. This is just fine as youíll be having too much fun to really care about the storyline.

The gameplay is straight shoot-em up action. You move from location to location within a level, the metal music cranks ups, and youíre attacked from every which way by a mob of monsters. If you survive, then the music fades and you move on to the next battleground to begin another battle. The gameplay will remind you a lot of Serious Sam, but with the sense of humor replaced by a unique sense of the macabre.

Sure, on the surface the play sounds pretty basic, but itís an adrenaline rush of action. The demonsí attacks and weapons are varied, and it takes quick thinking and reflexes to keep them at bay. After all, thereís just one of you and a whole lot of them. Adding to the excitement level is the gameís amazing physics engine. The problem with a lot of games that feature rag doll deaths is that it looks like your shooting, well, rag dolls. In Painkiller demon bodies react realistically to gunshot blasts and explosions, spinning, tripping, falling, or flying as appropriate. You can feel the power of your shotgun when you unload it into a nearby enemy and watch him fling backwards and trip up his cohorts. When bodies hit an object or wall itís obvious that momentum and angle of impact affect the bodiesí reactions. Demonic corpses (or whatís left of them) will slump against walls, drape over stones, and lie splayed over steps. I canít think of a single instance when I saw a body partially pass through a wall or lie suspended over stairs.