2009 Reviews

Dreamkiller

  • Review Date: 2012-04
  • Release Date: 2009-10
  • Developer: Mindware Studios
  • Rating: 5.5

So who loved Painkiller and is aching for just a little bit more mindless Painkiller horde combat? If this sounds like you, do yourself a favour and grab Dreamkiller. It's not as good as Painkiller, but after rating Painkiler a 9/10, I wasn't expecting a better game. If you're not wanting more Painkiller, skip this game.

Mindware Studios was a development team creating a mod for Painkiller until DreamCatcher granted them the rights to release their mod as a full sequel, or at least a full-priced game, titled Painkiller: Overdose. As a sequel it fell short - it was really just more of the first game, though not quite as good. But as a mission pack it was good and I rated it a 7/10. I sure as hell didn't pay full price for it though.

I'm not sure what happened with this game and if it was at some point intended to be another title in the Painkiller franchise, but Dreamkiller is just more Painkiller. The combat and gameplay is identical, the levels just as creative are crazy. I'm sure it's the same engine as well. The only difference is the character and story.

The action takes place in dreams, so locations are all based on a person's personal phobia: a zoo infested with spiders, an arctic area full of sunken ships, a factory-like place filled with living machinery, a hospital, twisted forest, and more. Each level is usually culminated with a battle against a boss, which is an enforced version of an enemy previously encountered. The levels in Dreamkiller are probably the most creative yet, which keeps the visuals interesting. I enjoyed most of the levels, so we don't have some of the filler that Overdose had.

Overdose also had a few enemies that were off-balance and too difficult, whereas Dreamkiller is more consistent. That being said, it's the same type of enemies from every other Painkiller game. They're really just given a new model and look, but the AI and type of attacks are all the same as before.

The premise was a very interesting one: you play as Alice, a very special psychologist, who enters her patients' dreams and battles their fears, which take forms of insane monsters. As she clears the minds of her patients, she learns of an evil entity, the Dream Devourer, that feeds on human dreams, corrupting them and bringing insanity. Eventually, she is forced to battle in her own mind, where she finds a way to locate the entity. In order to put and end to insanity it brought to the real world, she enters the Dream Devourer's domain and slays it. Sadly, the story is told through very poor static graphics like a comic. Mindware put very little effort into creating cutscenes that would have been considered average even if they were done 15 years ago. And even as the static artwork that they are, their artists clearly need a lot more practice. Just look at the shitty cover and you'll see the quality of the art.

The problem with Dreamkiller is the repetitive nature of the gameplay. It's just mindless running and gunning until the room is clear, then you can move onto the next room for exactly the same. At some points you need to destroy certain objects to stop enemies spawning, but it's not made clear enough. I spent several minutes battling horde after horde not realising what I was supposed to destroy. This happens a lot in the game, including the boss fights which are all the same, and actually get easier through the game.

Released the same month as Dreamkiller was Painkiller: Resurrection. I'm yet to play what would be the fourth official Painkiller title, but going by Metacritic it was even more poorly received than Dreamkiller (both under 50% aggregate). So I only recommend Dreamkiller if you're really, REALLY wanting more of Painkiller. And even then, I found it more fun putting on a rapid-fire cheat to speed things up. Strafing around watiing for the reload is no fun. I got through the entire game in under five hours, easily.

Word of warning: don't play this in one sitting, you'll get motion sickness!

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