Hell and damnation. These two words alone bring to mind images of eternal pain. Fiery torture thrust into the very soul of a persons inner being. Crows picking at the eyes of a living man pinned to the floor by stakes jammed through his extremities, his screams falling upon the deaf ears of the rocky outcrops surrounding this display of torture. Demonic beasts torn from the nightmares of children to take upon a murderous rampage through their loved ones as they lay awake crying for mercy.
Sadly, this is what playing P:HaD is like.
The game is a reboot of sorts of the classic run-and-gun-while-killing-hordes-of-mindless-enemies-in-the-face-with-guns game Painkiller developed by People Can Fly who you may know from their time with the incredibly fun Bulletstorm or the incredibly “Okay” Gears of War: Judgement. This fabled classic was the main rival to Serious Sam back in its day and showed the world what could be done with this style of gameplay in a more modern era. Speaking from experience this writer put countless hours into the original Painkiller and then again into the Black edition. Even through its few but glaring bugs the game kept that charm and had a fun factor all of its own.
So upon seeing a version such as this most lovers of the old Painkiller would think “Hey awesome! I can play it on my PS3/XB360”. Well hold up there gamer. Reel your desire for a reskinned Painkiller back in a little and take a look at what makes this game so god awfully bad.
First of the issues bursting out of the gates are the graphics. Now no-one expects a HD edition of an old game to completely blow your mind and make you need to change your underwear upon viewing it, but upon loading up P:HaD you do have to change your underwear. Primarily because your bowels empty when you realise anything more than ten paces in front of you (and yes, I did check that fact myself) is either covered with a strange foggy hue or doesn’t exist until you walk towards it. This kind of mechanic is often used in any game to be honest in order to make the game require less in the way of hardware or so that higher resolution textures can be loaded when closer and lower resolution textures when far away. The concern here though, is that the fog is so thick you can barely comprehend walking into it incase the fog itself decides to have your giblets for brunch. Its definately more threatening than your weapons.
Each weapon in P:HaD looks the part and the classic old favourite stake gun is there in all is physics loving glory but they don’t exactly feel punchy. The effect on your enemies is obvious as they are sent flying into the air and tearing across the ground but the sound and animation on the weapon is like a peashooter going off in a vat of lukewarm custard. Okay that could just be me having a niggle but when you’re playing an FPS where the entire gameplay experience is walking around shooting waves upon waves of the same looking types of enemies a grander gun visual helps. The speed at which you acquire new weapons is in itself not slow paced by any stretch of the imagination, something which the game lacks, but even before meeting the first boss the boredom drills in at the lack of variety given to you.
Gameplay. Yes that’s right. Bringing up gameplay of a monster hell shooter. Don’t look at me like that.
You can’t blame the developers here for not moving away from Painkillers’ original mechanics for a HD remake. But it’s not exactly HD so this point is coming up. Due to the poor visual range you are given to allow you to see whats coming the gameplay stops being about the control of massive waves of enemies and instead just becomes a trigger bash whenever some poor lumbering enemy wanders into your crosshairs. During the earlier missions one springs to mind that took the game from being mediocre to irriating with an issue not experienced when playing the PC version. An incredibly long cathedral sprawls out in front of you and enemies throw themselves at you. So, normal yes? Oh no. There are also enemies that spawn on the top of quite high ledges which need to be accurately popped off because they only show their weak points just before firing. However the game at this points has left you with only a shotgun and 4 rounds in your stakethrower. To make sure nothing was missed another run was made to the same outcome. So lack of ammo drops also becomes an issue. In an FPS where shooting is the only mechanic. This just makes it feel even more like a broken version of the game.
There are some good points. You can remove the game from your disc tray and replace it with something more impressive. It won’t be hard to find something better. There is nothing after 15 hours of playing through over and over that can be pulled out from Painkiller: Hell and Damnation which isn’t painted with the vanish of mediocrity. What however does feel strange is that Painkiller now seems broken.
Just to check I loaded up the Black edition bought from Steam for £8.99. Costing a third of what you might expect to pay in a retail store at least it provides three times more fun because, put simply, it’s Painkiller. With nothing breaking the game and a few minor adjustments. Getting to points that you reach in the Hell and Damnation console version you find fun instead of frustration. And this can run on a PC which would cost less than the amount of money you’ll have to spend on alcohol you’d have to purchase to make up for the loss of your will to live because you bought the console edition. If you’re reading this on a computer it’s more than likely able to run the original edition or the Black Edition. Nine years and no progress.
You might buy the console version because you prefer to use a control pad but don’t expect anything from them. They are sluggish and unresponsive to the point where even if you’ve never even used a mouse and keyboard to play an FPS before you’d do better. The aiming floats aimlessly past where you want it to go. Your weapon seems to fire every so often when you press the trigger as well.
Oh there is a possible plus point. Multiplayer. Oh wait no…no no-one plays it and when they do its a joke of a multiplayer mode. If you want to play Painkiller. Play the Black Edition on PC. Please!