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Reviewed: Painkiller
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: July 19th, 2004
Page: 2
First up: the game's simple. As in, simple simple simple. You're given five weapons to work with, and ONLY five weapons. Each has an alternative fire mode, for a total of ten weapons; not ridiculously many, especially since they're all for the same purpose.

First off, there's the Painkiller. It's your default weapon, the first one given, and the only one that doesn't use ammo. Primary mode is a buzzsaw attack of three spinning blades, that puts the Doom chainsaw to shame for its ability to mow through enemies. If that weren't enough, alternate fire lobs a missile - which, as long as you're pointing the gun at it, creates a damaging beam of light. Alternatively, if it strikes an enemy, it does damage (and upon a kill, hurls them towards you, which can be a bit painful if their melee weapon is still able to do damage).

The rest of the weapons, of course, are equally painful. The Shotgun's your normal shotgun, but its alt-fire mode freezes enemies solid, to be blasted to pieces at will. The Stakegun launches stakes that at short to medium range impale enemies, and at long range burst into flames for more damage (just watch that you compensate in your aim for gravity); its alt-fire mode is a standard grenade launcher. The Rocket Launcher is standard, but necessary to get all the items in various levels - and, thankfully, the developers included macro keys for rocket jumping and forward rocket jumping. In its alt-fire mode it's a massively fast machine gun, for which the only problem is keeping enough ammo. The final weapon is the Electrodriver, which in primary fire mode launches shurikens, and in alt-fire mode is a lightning gun that burns ammo at, if it's possible, a rate even faster than the machine gun manages to.

Despite being given 10 ways to kill enemies, or perhaps because of it, the basics of gameplay are simple. If it moves, shoot it. If it doesn't move, shoot it anyways.

Gigantic bosses are par for the course.

Most of the time, you're facing massive hordes of enemies.

Nasties abound; this guy's about to smack me with a scythe.

I'm not kidding - the MO of the game is simple, even though options for replay are varied. Just as Doom kept players occupied for years, Painkiller offers lots of options. Levels are replayable at will, which is important - many goals aren't attainable without weaponry found in later levels. For each goal reached, a new "Black Tarot" card (upgrades, basically) is made available; these can be activated before or during missions to be used as powerups, increasing damage, making items last longer, and so on.

Highly expansive areas are the norm. The lighting system's something else. Environments are all varied, but uniformly dark and disturbing. You ARE fighting the minions of Hell, after all.

The ultimate upgrade is available in all but the toughest difficulty mode, however, and isn't a Tarot Card. When an enemy dies, it leaves behind a green, glowing object, arbitrarily called a "Soul." Collect 66 of these and you're turned into a "demon"; the screen turns white, enemies are outlined in red, and merely clicking on them causes them to die, falling all to pieces.

This guy's nothing but trouble. Collect enough souls, become a "Frickin' Demon" Sometimes, you just have to shoot it till it falls over.

The multiplayer's not bad either, just normal - like every game out there, teamplay modes and deathmatch abound equally. The game includes macros for giving orders to teammates, which is a nice touch.

Is it a perfect game? Unfortunately not. Those who've played will note that the screens are from only the first level; this isn't by choice, but rather because I fell prey to a rather nasty bug that corrupts savegames, and didn't have any savegames past that point to fall back on when collecting screens. And, ultimately, it does nothing to extend the existing boundaries of FPS gameplay, just exists as a stellar game within those boundaries.

And, of course, all this graphical niceness comes with a price - the rather high (though Doom3's will be the same) system specs required to play the game.

Added:  Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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