Daniel Garner has been lost through the realms of purgatory, killing endless hordes of demons and monsters throughout many installments of the Painkiller franchise. This latest installment, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation, is no different, as it’s a remake of the first game, which means plenty of running and gunning.
The series itself began with the original Painkiller and the first expansion Battle Out of Hell, which was developed by Polish studio People Can Fly in 2004. While the original developers have moved on to different projects, such as the PC version of Gears of War and Bulletstorm, Painkiller H&D developer The Farm 51 has veterans from the original Painkiller team, so you know that the franchise is in good hands.
The single-player campaign is simple enough. You, Daniel Garner, have been lured into a deal with the personification of Death. Your job is to kill large amounts of demons, monsters and Necrogiants that Lucifer ‘stole’ from Death. Armed with a wide array of multifaceted weaponry, you’ll return these demonic hordes back to their original owner, all 7000 of them, in exchange for a reunion with your wife, who happened to die with you in a car crash (which is why you meet Death in the first place). There is tons of back-story going back to when Daniel first died and how he had to fight the hordes of hell to save heaven from possible destruction, but it isn’t necessary to know all of this in order to enjoy the fast-paced campaign.
Painkiller H&D features some very nice visuals. When set to the highest graphical setting, the game looks absolutely fantastic. Level design is very Quake-like, with large castles and courtyards full of evil and dark imagery, and plenty of space to strafe and flank your enemies. Everything has a Gothic look to it, which perfectly complements the dark and demonic storyline. Creature design is also varied and fun to take a look at. Before you even start playing the game, the menu features a giant monster stalking around, which is kind of indicative of the scale of bad guys that you’re going to be facing throughout the game. The monsters themselves vary in design, and as you progress you’ll find bigger, badder monsters, but between skeleton babies and necrogiants I don’t know which one creeped me out more. That’s a good thing.
The game basically boils down to killing bad guys with an arsenal of very large weapons. Among the nice selection of weapons, my favorites are a shotgun that can freeze enemies with its secondary fire, the dangerous-looking Soulcatcher, which as the name states grabs souls from enemies, and a awesome rocket launcher that is also very conveniently a minigun. Talk about excessive! And thanks to the Unreal 3 engine, you’ll be able to blast your way through enemies at a breakneck pace.
While the environments change after every couple of stages and you’ll be facing new enemies every so often, the AI sadly never really changes. Enemies have only one objective in mind, and that’s charging straight at the player with little to no concern for personal safety. Sure, this game is a remake of an older game, and AI was kind of dumb back then, but it’s no excuse for dull AI present in the remake, which makes for some repetitive action regardless of where the person is in the game.
Co-op is one of the new features in Painkiller H&D that lends to very fun times. With the help of another, you can blast your way through all of the single-player missions, but with the lack of in-game chat, or the ability to immediately locate your friend in the map, it makes the prospect of playing this game with a stranger a frustrating one. Another problem is that co-op is strictly an online affair, meaning it’s necessary that your friends buy a copy of the game, unless you manage to make due with someone who already has it and can coordinate some effective form of communication.
The multiplayer part of the game is pretty standard stuff, and comes with Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, CTF and Duels, but also introduces Survival, which pits up to 8 players against endless hoards of enemies. With infinite spawns, however, the mode turns more into a competition to see who can kill the most enemies before the clock ends, so there isn’t really any challenge.
All in all, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is hours of fun. What better way is there to kill the time than having good times with your friends and killing tons of demonic baddies? While the game isn’t really innovative, and plays like your generic FPS, it still makes for a solid – if somewhat standard – fragfest.