Painkiller is a first person shooter game that tries to rekindle the magic of arcade shooters. There are many monsters, violent weapons and linear singular objectives. Like Serious Sam, the developers behind Painkiller are interested in creating drama through set pieces. Monsters will fly at your face in the front, back and sides. Lights will automatically go out and you'll find a monster dropping down on your location. That's the type of thrill Painkiller is aiming to give.
For starters, much of the Painkiller game is dark, literally so. The few levels that can be tried out now require a flashlight to shine your way through. This is attached to the gun and the concept adds a lot of drama to the game. I heard a metal clank or a growl from a distance. Then I found myself backing up and spinning around trying to make sure I wasn’t going to be ambushed by nasty undead minions.
Besides the overall moodiness of the title, you'll also notice the action is very fast. Most first person shooters these days are erring towards the side of realism. Look at something like Halo where you can only carry two weapons at once. Running speeds have slowed down. Jumps are shallow, sometimes even non-existent. In Painkiller, the running and jumping remind me of games like Quake and Daikatana. A more recent example would be Serious Sam.
Many of the weapons are also very muscular; metal contraptions that look as heavy as they are bulky. They wouldn't ever be mistaken for being ergonomic weapons but they all come with equally strong sound effects to back them up. Dual firing modes also enable weapons to do double duty adding an extra layer of strategy.
The graphics engine powering Painkiller does more than simply paint scary environments. It is also quite interactive. Ricochets into the sides of buildings will cause pieces of concrete or rock to fly out and fall down. Jumping off a ledge and landing hard will cause your vision to be momentarily blurred from the shock. As well, the developers have a good sense of visual style too. Once you collect enough spirit powers, you attain this Predator-like sense that turns everything into black and white. Your abilities are amplified, sounds are muffled but the enemies are all highlighted in red making them easier to see.
There is a backstory to Painkiller. You are Daniel Garner, a recent victim of a car accident. You're trapped in a world that is between heaven and hell, unable to claim entry into heaven. Left in some sort of Catholic purgatory nightmare, you're armed to the teeth forced to stop the makings of a divine good versus evil war.
For now, the game doesn't appear to have a significant amount of dialogue to carry through for the story, but do keep in mind that previous titles like Serious Sam had a simple backdrop to lend credence to the game. Painkiller may be seeking to the same. It has similar mechanics, particularly on the single player side where 'boss' characters populate the end of levels and numerically superior enemies are frequently thrown at you.
Following in the footsteps of first person shooter titles, a multiplayer mode exists. The announced sets of multiplayer types all revolve around deathmatch, which will leverage on the arcade pacing and weapons modeling from the single player game. There is the obligatory team deathmatch and one named after the developers themselves, People Can Fly. Scores are only given if you destroy your opponent midair. Voosh is a mode where the game controls the weapon you and the others hold. A timer will switch the weapons for everyone. Finally, a hot potato like competitive mode called The Light Bearer has everyone competing to hold on to a single quad damage powerup until the end of the game. At this time, seven multiplayer maps have been announced.
That's compared to the two-dozen single player levels that will come as part of the game. Mixed with a horror theme and creepy environments, Painkiller will most likely rekindle the classic first person shooter experience from the last century. It's a daring retro gamble but one that will offer a refreshing change of pace (no pun intended) in today's realistic first person shooter market.
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