Tag Archives: Death

Darksiders II: The Deathinitive Edition review

Even after Vigil Games were disbanded and parent company THQ closed their doors, it’s terrific to see the Darksider series resurface with an enhanced re-release of the second game in the series, Darksiders II, now aptly subtitled the Deathinitive edition. But how well has the title aged over the last three years?

Fortuantely things are looking good for the second horseman of the apocolapyse. Death rides into battle, slicing and dicing foes whilst exploring puzzle-filled dungeons with the same spectacular combat and extensive world to explore, now with all DLC content neatly woven into the main story, a little extra crispness, as well as some new textures and visual effects.

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Following on from the original game, Darksiders II puts you in the role of War’s brother and fellow Horsemen, Death, on a quest to absolve War of his crime of unleashing Armageddon on Earth. As the plot thickens you visit multiple realms and meet supernatural forces and individuals you must destroy, barter with or aid in order to further your quest.

It certainly has a familiar flow to proceedings but it’s well paced and makes great use of the narrative and its inherent intrigue. Borrowing biblical references aplenty, Darksiders II adds additional depth to the unique picture of the apocalypse that its predecessor painted. It’s a significantly bigger and more detailed universe this time around and the enhancements make it all the more vivid thanks to new, fancy lighting and reworked textures that bring elements such as wood, steal and water to life with a little more clarity. Additionally the bulky, stylized art style ages well and adds a unique and attractive aesthetic.

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The main quest alone takes a good 20-30 hours to see through, and the multiple side quests – although many rely heavily on fetching a certain quantity of a particular item – offer options to deviate from the critical path and experience more spectacular locations and boss encounters.

Much like with the original Darksiders, the Zelda-esque aesthetic is a prominent theme, with each realm you visit acting as an open-world hub to access several dungeons. The dungeons themselves are sprawling caverns, castles and ruins filled with puzzles, enemies, loot and traversal challenges, all sporting a smart and visually stunning design that makes excellent use of Death’s abilities in each discipline.

Finding keys to locked doors and pulling, pushing, placing and rotating a whole host of realm specific objects gradually opens the way forward and gives you a slight mental workout in the process. Meanwhile, ledges, ceiling hooks and walls covered in vines will have you wall running and using abilities such as Death Grip to pull distant objects to you or you to them, or even creating portals on certain surfaces or splitting yourself in two to activate multiple pressure pads. It’s Soul Reaver meets Prince of Persia and it’s a mostly brilliant experience that’s just as much puzzler as it is platformer, although the occasional camera and direction miscommunication can frustrate and cause an unfair death or two. In fact the camera does like to fight with you a little and even induced some nausea on occasion.

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Combat, however, is the meat of the experience and it’s a remarkable system. What starts off as button mashing soon reveals itself as a much more nuanced mechanic. The two button system allows you to mix two different weapon types, styles and speeds into a precision foray tailored to your foe. Additionally the World of Warcraft loot categorisation of weapons – ranging from standard to rare with stat and elemental traits to match – further feeds into the effectiveness of your attacks. Then there’s the option to upgrade possessed weapons by feeding them other items, increasing their stats and adding traits. As your enemies become savvier and more aggressive your attacks must become more effective to match and your dodge more precise, and this marvellous system grants you the flexibility and means to fight back with grace and purpose. Additionally a levelling system allows you to spend skill points on mage or warrior abilities, granting you some powerful new attack options. The combat is so much deeper than it initially seems.

The adventuring through dungeons, puzzle solving and combat does get repetitive though. The environments shift at a steady pace with enough new elements added to keep you engaged and challenged, all driven by the narrative, but you’ll likely to get bored with the ‘find these three things’ quests as well as several puzzle sequences repeating but to different scales. The boss fights, however, are a worthy reward for your perseverance.

Boss fights are varied, challenging and a fascinating spectacle. One moment you’ll be fighting an Angel or Demon, the next a huge tree-like creature or stone golem. Each encounter challenges you to use your combat and traversal abilities to their pinnacle and it’s hugely satisfying to win.

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The spectacle, however, isn’t restricted to boss encounters, everything looks terrific. Characters, weapons, armour and architecture all sport a Warhammer/World of Warcraft aesthetic with chunky, defined edges and a bright and varied palette. A smooth and large spectrum of animations for enemies and Death in combat fill the screen and is a delight to witness. Enemy variety is perhaps the least impressive trait, though, with more than a few similar looking creatures luring in each location, and the level of detail certainly can’t match the more contemporary titles on the market.

Indeed, Darksiders II is an exceptional action adventure title, with level and combat design that sets the standard for the genre. The repetitiveness from a lack of objective and enemy variety is a shame, an unfortunate side effect from the length, and with such a gap between this release and its predecessor it’s a shame to not have a better recap for War’s adventure, but otherwise Darksiders II is excellent and the Deathinitive edition is absolutely worth your investment.

Thanks to Xbox and Nordic Games for their support 

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Painkiller: Hell & Damnation Review

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Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is an HD remake of cult hit Painkiller and its Battle out of Hell expansion created by Bulletstorm devs, People Can Fly in 2004. The internet was abuzz when the game was announced back at E3 in 2012, and this guy (that’s me) couldn’t wait to get his hands on it. This new iteration is produced and developed by Nordic Games and The Farm 51 respectively. But that’s enough dawdling, let’s kick things off with a bit of backstory.

Painkiller: Hell & Damnation kicks off in the manner of its predecessor. At the start of the game, a wide-eyed blue collar gent named Daniel Garner and his wife Catherine are tragically killed in a traffic accident. As Catherine absconded to eternal peace in heaven, poor Daniel Garner is left rotting in purgatory, and he wants nothing more than to be reunited with his beloved wife. This is when he is approached by a demonic entity. I’d like to say it was the grim reaper, but that’s never made clear (although he does have a sickle). This bringer of darkness advises Daniel that he may yet reunite with his wife, IF he can return 7000 souls to the reaper. Now I know this is almost as cheesy as Little Nicky, but nobody comes for the story.

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It’s easy to see that this new version was supposed to be a lot more story orientated rather than just having a beginning and an end. However, throwing in extra cutscenes that weren’t in the original really did nothing for the game as they only really serve as a hindrance and a break in the action. Not to flip-flop on everything here but the cut-scenes do actually look tremendously beautiful. Almost next-gen worthy. But when people play Painkiller, all they want to do is spend their time eradicating the unholy spawn that roam the evil domain.

Speaking of eradication, you will still get to do that in spades despite the intrusive story. Seasoned veterans will definitely love this game. But for newcomers, you need to be told just what this game is. It is a series of battle arenas that have nothing but non-stop enemies coming at you. You walk into an area, get locked in, and kill everything until you move on to the next area and do it again. This repetitive way of development would be damned for most games, but we’re to assume that everyone that picks this game up knows exactly what they’re getting.

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The weapons, and this is where the game really gives you some ingenuity, the weapons are vast and plentiful; and you will constantly have the chance to use several different weapons that all have alternative firing modes. I found that the most useful weapon is definitely the shotgun. Aside from the rocket launcher, but as you may have guessed, there is a finite supply of rocket launchers that have just been left lying around. But the main weapon in your arsenal will be the SoulCatcher, which you acquire right from the get-go. It looks kind of like a bone saw with a tiny windmill for the blade. It also looks like it’s made out of bones. It fires off little blades at your enemies which create a huge bloody mess. Its secondary fire option is what I like to call the ‘Shang Tsung’. A green laser that sucks the soul out of your enemies. Suck enough souls and you can fire at one of the enemies and have them fight for you. Take that, hell! The SoulSucker is Painkiller: Hell & Damnation’s one and only new weapon, which is something of a shame.

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Honestly there isn’t much to be said about the combat. It doesn’t handle as well as today’s shooters. But it does handle exactly how you would think, rigid with a lack of iron sights. This will excite purists, but it does leave me with something of a sour taste. What I will say though is that it is a hell of a lot of fun and you can definitely see the influence that this game has passed on to shooters everywhere. For example, the Stake Gun which fires…well, stakes. These pin the enemies to walls and such, which we’ve definitely seen in more than a few games since then.

The main campaign will only take you around 4-5 hours to complete. But the replay value will come with you trying to make use of all the weapons in the game, as well as finding all the secret areas if you’re that way inclined. Although some of the level design is absolutely beautiful, in the most horrific sense possible since they’re all evil domains, this just doesn’t detract from the fact that you end up doing the exact same thing over and over again. While this will be a lot of people’s cups of tea, I just feel that as gamers, we have evolved past the aspect of linear gameplay (I know, that’s pretty much all we get anyway).

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One very cheeky side-note, I had to look into this as I was sure that there was quite a bit missing. The back of the box on this game certainly states that “this is a modern remake of two classic shooters, Painkiller and Painkiller: Battle out of Hell”, but it certainly isn’t; and it won’t be until the rest of it is released as DLC. I don’t condone this in the slightest, but then again it was released at a heavily discounted price. So you need to decide for yourself whether you only want to re-live a small part of the game you love, and buy the rest later, or not.

The game does have multiplayer. But it’s the bog-standard modes of Team Deathmatch, Capture The Flag, and Deathmath. The one mode that looked quite interesting but turned out not to be was Survival. It’s basically like doing a mission from the campaign, yet the player with the most kills wins. Nothing special going on here. Actually, a couple modes from the original were actually removed for this iteration too. Whether or not they will come out as DLC also, remains to be seen.

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To sum up, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is a game that was made only for its fans, and they’re the people that it’s bound to piss off the most at the same time. It’s very well-made, plays just like it should, looks beautiful, has the most kick-ass metal soundtrack I’ve ever heard in a game, and it’s just as cheesy as ever. Throw in some co-op campaign and a spot of multiplayer, and you might just feel like you have a game worth owning.

Painkiller: Hell & Damnation has left me with something of a moral quandary here. I feel that the game is repetitive, and can’t stand with the shooters today by any means. The issue with removing almost half the game and making it approximately around 4 hours long doesn’t sit well with me at all, as I’m sure it won’t with its fans. But looking at it objectively, I’m reviewing Painkiller: Hell & Damnation, not comparing it to something that was made 9 years ago. So I can’t let that hurt the game’s score. With that said, it all boils down to one question. Did I have fun?

Well, I guess I did. But not enough.

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