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Review: Painkiller: Hell & Damnation


Marcus Estrada

Developer: The Farm 51

Publisher: Nordic Games

Platform: PC, PS3, 360

Release Date: December 13, 2013

ESRB: M for Mature

 

This title was reviewed on PS3 using downloadable code provided by the publisher

 

 

Painkiller is likely either a series you have fond memories of or one you’ve never touched. For whatever reason, there seems to be little middle ground. In either case, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is basically the best game for both these audiences because it is a remake of the original Painkiller from 2004. Since then, the series has seen multiple sequels but never before jumped back to its own roots.

 

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Despite those roots not being tremendously old, the game sure feels pretty dated. The story kicks off with husband and wife Daniel and Catharine getting into a car crash and dying. While Catherine is whisked off to who knows where, lead character Daniel is sent to Purgatory for eternity as demons taunt and use him for their own gain. That is, until Death appears and proclaims that he will truly reunite the pair if Daniel collects 7,000 souls for him.

 

With that said, there’s very little meat to the story beyond this. You’ll get cutscenes between the four chapters but they’re hardly going to draw anyone to the game. What Painkiller is best known for is being a violent and frantic Hell-themed shooter. As far as that is concerned, Hell & Damnation certainly delivers. Unfortunately, this type of shooter hasn’t really been in vogue for a while, dying out with Serious Sam.

 

Of course, there are definitely still fans of FPS games that just throw hordes of monsters at you and expect you to skillfully dispose of every last one. Those are the kinds of players who will most benefit from the game. Players who have since moved onto more casual or strategic shooters may have a hard time switching gears. That’s simply because this game has one note and it harps on it continuously. Walk into room, shoot hordes of things, open a door, shoot new hordes, on and on until you win or die.

 

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The first two chapters are incredibly dull in this regard. Enemies, while demonic, are hardly interesting design-wise. So too are the locations which serve as efficient but very uninteresting backdrops. I specify the chapters where this is the case because, at the halfway point, Hell & Damnation suddenly throws entertaining levels at you. They’re still mostly very enclosed spaces, but offer fun themes like a hellish carnival. Why couldn’t the game start off this way? Many players will likely never see the fun designs due to being turned off right at the start.

 

Those who like this arcade-style gameplay will be pleased to know there are a good deal of guns to choose from. You’ve got guns that shoot saw blades, stakes, and of course, bullets. With various reload speeds and styles it’s easy to find a few guns that you’re especially comfortable with. Unfortunately, there are times in the game where ammo becomes a serious problem if you’re not looking in every nook and cranny. Be sure to keep an eye out as otherwise you’ll have to set your favorite gun(s) aside in favor of weaker ones stocked with bullets.

 

If you remember the original Painkiller then you might be amped up to play through tons of stages this time around. For some reason this isn’t the case, though there are under twenty levels overall. These are split up between four chapters (each with its own gigantic boss) and take anywhere from four to six hours to clear though. Of course, you could see far longer completion rates if you play through on the highest (and also unlockable) difficulty setting. Players who seek out every secret area as well as rare goods will also extend their playtime quite a bit, but this is the timeframe for an average playthrough.

 

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Although the main game is so short there are a variety of multiplayer modes that have been implemented for this remake. You can play the campaign in two player co-op or engage in other options such as survival mode. Survival mode can host up to eight players who fight against each other. I was not able to test any multiplayer modes due to there being unable to find anyone hosting a match.

 

Visually, Hell & Damnation is already showing some wear. Yes, this game saw a PC release last year, but it appears more like a game from the middle of the 360/PS3 lifespan. There may only be so much you can do with a remake of a 2004 title. As said earlier, the monster designs are also pretty uninspired for the most part. There are some hilarious sights, though, such as some being walking around with a popcorn bag over its head.

 

Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is far from broken but it just feels like a quickly aging relic. This genre of FPS has a devoted audience and those players may enjoy the remake but otherwise the game is not likely to draw much attention. In the end, you know best what you’re looking for in a game. If the Serious Sam era is something you still fondly cherish then feel free to grab Painkiller as a secondary option. Otherwise, look toward other shooters because there are certainly a lot of them around.

 


Pros:

 

+ Some really entertaining designs on later stages

+ Boss battles are an interesting change of pace

+ Non-stop action

 

Cons:

 

- Design as well as graphics are lacking in multiple ways

- Gameplay will feel antiquated to many

- Fairly short experience without factoring in multiplayer

 


Overall Score: 5 (out of 10)

Average

 

Painkiller: Hell & Damnation does not feel like a modern revitalization of a classic series. Instead, it feels like a game pulled right out of the era of 90s arcade style shooters. It’s up to each player to decide whether that’s a good thing or not.

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