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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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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