It's time for another blast from the past as we take a look at a Nintendo 64 classic.
Painkiller: Hell and Damnation
Daniel Garner is a soul trapped in Purgatory, who only wants to be reunited with his love, Catherine. But when Death itself comes and makes a deal with you, how can you say no? Especially when he promises to reunite you with your lost love for the mere price of seven thousand souls. So he takes up arms against legions of monsters in order to fulfill his part of the deal, all the while hoping that Death will keep his . . .
Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is an update of an older game, one that’s spawned quite a few sequels. Given the interest in retro-style games and the release of other older titles (Doom BFG Edition) the time was pretty much perfect for the Farm 51 to release a Painkiller redux.
Painkiller is a first person shooter, and it has all the regular hallmarks of one: loads of enemies to kill, cool-looking weapons that annihilate enemies in interesting ways, and maze-like levels to wander, killing monsters all the while. It also uses the same general key set-up, so there’s no surprises here that way. Healing is done by killing enemies and stepping through the resulting green energy ball, though they spawn far enough after the creature expires that you can’t count on them to heal you as you mow down the enemies still chasing you.
Daniel has all the weapons he needs to eliminate his enemies, though some are more effective than others. It’s up to the player to determine which weapon will work best against what, though there may be a clue in the large amount of shotgun ammo lying around in the various locations . . . Whatever weapon you choose, watching enemies explode or break up or fly backwards before turning into a small ball of green flame that heals you is very satisfying. The hordes of Hell don’t seem to have much of a plan to kill you, other than making suicide runs with their buddies to try and take you out. Again, this is pretty standard for FPS’ that don’t rely on you taking cover every five seconds and firing from a position of semi-safety. The monsters don’t seem to care that they’re being mowed down though, and sometimes so many enemies are stacked against Daniel that he simply can’t fire fast enough to kill them all. There’s no variation in this tactic throughout the whole game, and while that’s definitely a feature of the retro shooters, I’d have loved to see some better tactics in the monsters that would make me need to be resourceful and just a little bit careful.
Wading through the legions of Hell, or shooting them down one by one as they run directly at you, is still a lot of fun, especially if you’ve played one too many games where tactical combat is king. It’s a bit repetitive, but the scenery and levels are different enough to keep it from becoming truly boring or too much of a slog. There are also hidden areas to discover, which always livens up a level. While I’m not sure Farm 51 was aiming this game at players who lived in the golden era of the FPS, I think that’s who will most get the enjoyment out of it, because while the graphics are updated the gameplay is still back in the Shooter Era. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, but I just can’t help thinking that maybe adding a new wrinkle to Painkiller might have been worth the time and expense. One thing that was disappointing is that Painkiller is only an update of a number of the popular levels and not the entire game. While Painkiller was fun and I liked the monsters and weapons and the general setup, I’m not quite sure I liked it enough to go back and pick up the entire series to see the parts of the story I missed. I’d also have preferred to know that going into the game, instead of finding it out later on.
Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is available for PC on Steam.