Itís one thing when you find yourself trapped in hell, but itís got to be another thing when youíre the only shot to protect heaven from its denizens. Two years ago, PC gamers were introduced to the supernatural shooter known as Painkiller, a fast-paced throwback that emphasized swarms of enemies and large weapons. It was also an environmentally rich title, with plenty of gothically inspired environments to shoot, stake and grenade your way through. Now console gamers will be able to get a taste of the brutal action when Painkiller: Hell Wars blasts its way onto consoles.
The three level demo that we received didnít go into the storyline of the title at all, so determining whether or not itís a direct port over, a sequel of the PC title or an expansion of the story is still unclear. The demo did, however, give a good indication of the action that youíll face against the minions of hell. The first level was a town of the damned, which featured a large number of shambling zombies. Many of these creatures used their own guts as a weapon, and either flung themselves at the screen or used high perches to ďsnipeĒ away with toxic materials. These were backed up with horned magicians and witches flying on flaming broomsticks.
The second level (a stark contrast to the town) was a prison inspired level, with guards that would appear seemingly out of nowhere armed with shock sticks and large burly figures wielding chainguns. Much more dangerous were the turrets that were placed at different intervals that furiously fired off rounds in your general direction. Finally, the ruins cleared the level of all monsters in place of a huge beast wielding a giant hammer that could shatter pillars, which was somewhat of an indication as to how a boss battle would take place.
Fortunately, youíll have a number of fantastic weapons to dispatch the minions of Hell. While you arenít necessarily packing as many arms as other first person shooters, all of the weapons have alternative fire modes that act provide you with additional firepower. For instance, the prison level provided a rocket launcher that doubled as a chaingun, as well as a stake gun that fired both wooden spikes and grenades. You also kept the eponymously named painkiller, a rapidly spinning blade weapon that also lobbed a metallic orb via an energy beam. Contact with this beam easily results in a gibbed mess for your opponents. However, youíre not simply eliminating these creatures for fun; every slaughtered monster releases their soul in the form of a spinning green orb. Collect enough souls and youíll turn invincible for a number of seconds while illuminating onscreen enemies in a red halo (which allows you to target and kill them much easier). Youíll also have the opportunity to collect gold pieces, which should be redeemable for additional bonuses and power ups (although those werenít implemented in the demo either).
Evoking the gothic mood from the PC title, Hell Wars looks extremely striking, particularly in an environmental sense. Each level looks extremely large and well detailed, and each level is capable of supporting multiple enemies onscreen at the same time. While it was plagued by some slowdown here or there Ė particularly when a grenade or rocket gibbed a couple of enemies or set off secondary explosions, the game did an excellent job of rag doll physics thanks to the Havok 2.0 engine. This is also bolstered with a charging rock soundtrack that makes you feel like youíre taking out the creatures from a metal album with the recordís songs playing in the background. First person shooter enthusiasts should keep their eyes open for this title when it slices its way into stores next month. Check back soon for a full review!
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