Painkiller Review

Pass me them painkillers!

Review by Tracy Bosworth
Published 26th April 2004


  • Developer: People Can Fly
  • Publisher: DreamCatcher
  • Release Date: 16th April 2004

When he and his wife Catherine are killed in a car crash, our hero Daniel Garner finds himself trapped in a dark existence somewhere between heaven and hell fighting an ongoing battle for survival until he is given the chance to change things. A representative from heaven gives Garner the opportunity to escape his torment but first he must confront four of the most powerful generals in Lucifer’s army and prevent the forces of darkness from waging war on heaven. In return, his soul will be purified and he and his wife will be free to live their afterlives in peace.

The story is simple enough which in turn makes for very simple, but addictive gameplay, walk around killing enemies while restoring your own health, picking up extra weapons and meeting specific checkpoints dotted around each level. There are no tactics needed, no puzzles to work out and no path finding to do, just concentrate on where you’re pointing that weapon and you’ve got the game pretty much sussed.

The areas in which you will be spilling blood are nicely varied from cemeteries, industrial zones and lunatic asylums. Enemies come in all shapes and sizes, behaving differently and providing varying levels of difficulty with unique abilities and disadvantages. Enemies such as the Beast, Dark Ninja, Evil Monk, Hell Angel, Hell Biker and Leper Monk can attack you from a distances with a range of weapons such as machine guns, spears, darts and throwing axes whilst other enemies use a variety of killing techniques to take you out from draining your health on contact, poisoning you or simply casting spells in your direction.

Obviously you don’t take on the evil ones empty handed and although there are only five types of weapon available to you in the game they are easily some of the best I’ve personally ever witnessed in a first person shooter. Surprisingly I found the Painkiller (the games primary weapon) to be the most effective and impressive enabling the player to literally run through hordes of bad guys with a spiral of rotating blades cutting them up into pieces as you do so, it kind of feels like getting a carrot and pressing it down slowly into a food processor! Even when the enemies are destroyed the painkiller can be used to chop up bodies like a blender. What’s more, the Painkiller has a secondary attack, a laser beam which rips through anything in its path.

Also on the weapon front is the Shotgun which is best used for short to medium attacks, this weapon also doubles up as a freezer for its secondary attack shooting out Liquid Nitrogen turning any enemy into a frozen, easy to smash object. The stake-gun fires wooden stakes at enemies and when given enough time in the air the stakes burst into flames before impact giving it better damage capabilities. The Stake-guns secondary attack is a grenade launcher. The rocket Launcher is the most powerful of the weapons and doubles up as a Chaingun and finally the Electrodriver which shoots out throwing stars at high speed and its alter ego, The ‘electro’ shoots blasts of electricity leaving long lasting damage on anyone unfortunate enough to come in contact with it.

Different enemies react differently to various weapons and thankfully the weapons themselves are quickly changeable whenever the need arises. Checkpoints are generously employed around the games levels so saving your last move never really becomes a big issue and an arrow at the top of the screen shows you which direction to head in so you’re never left wondering the same area looking for the way forward.

Not only does the action on a whole feel great but it also looks the part with enemies flying across the screen, blasted backwards, pinned to walls and grated up into pieces, it all looks great and makes the killing all that more satisfying to do. Souls from dead enemies can be collected to restore health however some enemies are even a danger to you when dead throwing various lethal body parts at you and even leaving you their ‘bad soul’ to mistakenly pick up.

Besides the single player mode, Painkiller also features a decent multiplayer option allowing you to play over the internet in one of five different games. Free for all is your basic kill or be killed death match, challenging players to kill as many opponents as possible within a set time. Team Deathmatch has players working together to take out the enemies, People Can Fly is again a death match but will only allow people to attack opponents when they are airborne, Voosh which acts as a random weapon switching game forcing players to use what they have until it changes and finally, The Light Bearer which focuses on one player grabbing the ‘power up’ and holding onto it until he dies, therefore it only becomes available when the bearer is killed.

Visually Painkiller is excellent with a large variation of nightmarish enemy character models and animation and equally good environments in a number of settings. Graphics are smooth and clean and detail in the game is never compromised with interactive surroundings, excellent weapon effects and great animation of the action taking place. On the whole the games graphics are responsible for giving out that creepy and sometimes manic atmosphere.

As equally as good as the graphics is the games sound which works together with the visuals to portray a world only experienced in nightmares and horror films. One thing that stood out was the chilling cries of faraway souls as you walk through the cemetery, did you ever see the little girls dressed in white, which used to sing ‘1, 2 Freddie’s coming for you?’ in the movie Nightmare on Elm Street? Well the same effect is heard here along with manic shouts and screams from the numerous monsters and the sounds of blazing battles taking place is excellent. The music is also very fitting featuring a rock/heavy metal sound track to portray the fast paced action of the game.

To finish up, Painkiller invites players into its warped, demonic world and forces them to embrace the immediate surroundings, engrossing constant action and frightening monsters. There is nothing but action and stunning graphics in the game and if you like to kill and kill again then Painkiller is definitely for you.

Review Score: 8/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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