IntroductionDreamCather Interactive’s Painkiller is the latest FPS to hit the market. With store shelves full of titles in which the player’s main objective is to shoot everything in sight, the creators of this title set out to add something new to the mix.I have to admit that the previews and advertisements I saw for Painkiller were intriguing. I like games where I get to carry a gun and blow stuff up. Mind you, I am not violent by nature, but there is something oddly satisfying about blowing away everything in site on my CRT. Next to Diablo, I have probably spent the most time playing UT and Quake. On the surface, Painkiller seemed to fall neatly into this style.This game has many elements that reminded me of movies I have seen or other games I have played. I was reminded of a mix of characters and environments from films such as h**raiser, Jacob’s Ladder and Witchboard (I can not believe I used to watch this stuff!). From games, titles would include (of course) Doom, Wolfenstein, and Undying. As to whether this “quilt of horror” works, read on.StoryThe story in Painkiller is patently unnecessary. You take the role of a young man who, while driving on a rainy night, is killed in a car accident along with his female companion. In a story bordering on the theologically ridiculous, instead of going to heaven or h**, you meet with a character who explains that you have some work to do. The minions of Lucifer (you know, the devil) need to be beaten into submission, and you are appointed “heaven’s hit man.” Cut scenes attempt to justify the unending shooting spree that you will be carrying out.Anyone who ever attended summer bible school, or even heard of the bible, will find the story inane. Despite your background in religion, you are probably aware that things from h** are pretty much either already dead, or incapable of dying. Therefore, a shotgun is probably not the first thing that will come to mind to do the “killing.”GameplayIf you have ever, even once, played a first person shooter, you will have no trouble picking up this game and playing. As a matter of fact, unless you can’t figure out that “tarot cards” are things you collect to make the game worth playing (arguably) more than once, reading the directions is superfluous.WASD to move. Left click to fire. Right click to alternate fire. Scroll wheel to change weapons. Simple and effective twitch gameplay. I do not mean to imply the this game has no depth, I mean to state it outright. If you are insulted by a title that lacks thought, you may want to pass this up.One aspect of Painkiller that I really liked is the waypoint system. Not only is our next waypoint easy to spot and close in proximity, the developer decided to include a direction arrow that glows red when you are headed in the right direction. Essentially you play through a bunch of acts that make up a five chapter story. The differentiation between acts and chapters boils down to new locales and tougher enemies.Most of the weapons in Painkiller are similar to those seen in other games, although the alternative fire options are strange. For example, your shotguns’ primary fire is obvious, but the secondary fire is a freeze bolt. Your default weapon’s primary fire is a spinning blade, like the one on the robot (I think his name was Max) from Disney’s unpopular and somewhat comical, “The Black Hole,” while its secondary fire results in device that is part laser and part grappling hook (it grapples enemies and yanks them toward you). The stake gun’s secondary fire is a mortar shell. I think you get my point. I am not sure of the logic behind these weapon setups, as they can really confuse you when you are in the heat of battle (which is most of the time). There are a few other weapons, but none that I found contain a real wow factor.The enemies in Painkiller are fairly generic, considering that they are supposed to be coming from h** itself. Some reminded me of monsters out of 50’s horror wielding horrible weapons. Just imagine being hunted by robed skeletons carrying glowing quarterstaffs or hooded death-like figures with, brace yourself, swords. Some even carry (gasp) two! Then, just when you catch your breath, you will face the h**-ninjas!On a more serious note, I must admit that the level bosses give new meaning to “big.” I cannot recall having felt quite so dwarfed in a game before. Fortunately, fighting the boss is merely a matter of identifying the Achilles heel and then attacking until the life meter drains. Nothing groundbreaking, but it works.Multiplayer in Painkiller is good, and offers a few new twists to the repetitive “death match” of so many other games. Each of the three game versions features a bit of s**e to help keep interest. The most unique, in my mind, is People-Can-Fly, in which damage is only taken when you are in the air. It is quite challenging, but very addictive. Since the single player game is not one I would play through again (tarot cards are not that interesting to me), it is nice to have some built in replay-value.TechnicalIf ever there was a mix of good and bad, it is the technical aspect of Painkiller. One flaw that I am compelled to mention is that upon installation you will receive an error message if you try to play a game. I have never written a game, but I am certain that if I did, it would load when a user launched the game. A patch is available to remedy this, but it is sad that it was released with such an obvious error.The graphics are very nice with good and logical level design. The environments are creepy, leaving you no doubt that you are in some other-world location. The ambient lighting is very good, allowing for a feeling of fear as you go about blasting everything to h**&h**ip;er, back to h**. The physics engine is excellent. Bodies react to where they are shot, and limbs fly about in chaotic fashion.The sound design is, at times, very creepy. You will hear ethereal voices, screams of terror and a driving heavy metal soundtrack. Yes, you heard right. Everyone knows nothing brings out the fear in a person like a driving and annoying loop of heavy metal music. This is pure genius. Seriously though, what was the developer thinking? The only thing I can think is that they really, truly believe that, in h**, one has to listen to this stuff. Personally I would go for the music you hear at the dentist or in an elevator.The save system is straightforward. Auto saves occur at each checkpoint, so dying tends not to set you back in time too much. Level loads are a bit on the long side at times, but, considering the size of levels, this is not too surprising.Final ThoughtsIf you are a fan of the tactics and stealth movement of Rainbow Six or the depth of Operation Flashpoint, do not play this title. This is the antithesis of thought and strategy. It is a carnival ride, an action movie and an all-you-can-eat-burger bar. This is the quintessential twitch game. If you like that style of game you may want to give it a try, just try not take this one too seriously.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.