2004 Reviews

Painkiller: Black Edition

  • Review Date: 2011-04
  • Release Date: 2004-04
  • Developer: People Can Fly
  • Rating: 9.0

Painkiller is a game where you either love it, or hate it. Developed by a new studio from Poland, People Can Fly, Painkiller is one hell of a debut. I'm reviewing both Painkiller and the expansion pack Battle Out Of Hell, which is basically more of the original game.

It features the same kind of gameplay as Serious Sam, but it looks a lot better than not only 2001's Serious Sam, but also 2005's Serious Sam II. Although not by much, as Serious Sam II was a spectacular looking game.

The difference is Painkiller is much darker with levels taking place in cemeteries, cathedrals, asylums, castles, palaces, monasteries, an orphanase and even a very twisted and unique version of hell. In fact the entire game takes place in Purgatory (though why there is a funpark or Leningrad in purgatory I don't understand).

This is where Painkiller really shines; the levels look fantastic. Released early 2004, Painkiller hails above just about everything from 2004 and previous. With the exception of perhaps Farcry and Halflife II (neither of which I've played so I can't confirm), Painkiller is the best looking first person shooter up until 2005. This mostly comes down to a great looking engine, great gaming effects and flawless textures. The set-peices and architecture is all fantastic, however the game is let down slightly by its lack of vertical gameplay. The same problem Serious Sam had, the levels are all too flat. There's very little vertical variation (apart from the insanely vertical climb that was Stone Pit in the mission pack). Which means all the gameplay is in huge flat areas.

The other major flaw in the gameplay is it's focus on checkpoint type gameplay. You enter a room, a door behind you appears out of nowhere trapping you in, and you fight through hordes of enemies until the doors open. Enter the next area and the same tactic applies. The entire game runs like this, and it becomes one mindless battle after another.

Fortunately, after battling through way too many realistic shooters lately, I was eager for some high-paced gaming action. But this can get old after a while. It also doesn't help that just about every enemy in the game requires 1-2 hits from the shotty and seems like the same enemy as the last just with a slightly different close-range weapon or projectile. There's very little enemy variation. Even so, there's more variation here compared to a realistic shooter that features the same human enemies throughout the entire game.

The models all look great. While some are a little silly (puking or burping at you as an attack), they aren't as cartoony and out of place as Serious Sam's enemies.

There were plenty of great weapons to use, absolutely tonnes of ammo for them all. The game on normal difficulty really wasn't that hard at all, but does force you to replay at higher difficulties in order to unlock the secret levels (bad idea People Can fly!). Alternatively you can download Powermad and unlock them anyway, but all three hidden levels were pretty short. The BOOH hidden level was just a poor boss fight.

A lot of players won't like the repetitive arena style horde combat, but I enjoyed it. With fantastic design which is completely different on every single level (there are 24 in Painkiller and 10 in BOOH) makes Painkiller one of my favourite games. Pity about the sequels...