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Painkiller: Hell Wars Review

Painkiller: Hell Wars is a first person shooter that takes places in the afterlife. Rather than focusing on an introspective “Paradise Lost” interpretation of Hell, Painkiller goes all out 80’s metal. We’re talking chain-gun wielding zombie bikers, demons with flamethrowers, naked chicks and so much more. Megadeth and Iron Maiden would be proud.

Painkiller has you playing the role of Daniel Garner, who in the opening FMV is taking his girl out on a date only to have a semi truck plow right into their car, killing both upon impact. His girlfriend is sent to heaven, but Daniel doesn’t quite make it due to an impure soul. Lucky for you however Purgatory has been taken over by Lucifer’s demon army and God wants them out. In turn for a pure soul and a chance to see his girlfriend again, Daniel must fight his way through 20 demon thrashing levels to end Lucifer’s reign. The rest of the story is basic and confusing, while the voice acting is just slightly above terrible. Rest assured however that this only detracts slightly, if at all from the overall experience.

Excellent gameplay is where the game shines. There are only three rules to follow: kill everything in sight, steal their souls and never stop moving. Painkiller doesn’t ask you to mess around with puzzles or find keys, and it certainly doesn’t ask you to think. To further expedite the butt kicking, a compass is provided at the top of the screen, which is always pointing towards the next enemy or checkpoint.

A few seconds after a demon dies its soul appears in the form of a green mist. Collecting this will replenish your health and add a point to your Soul Count. Steal 33 souls and you morph into an invincible demon for a short period of time. The souls don’t stick around forever and collecting them is imperative to successful play, so you find yourself dashing back and forth across the terrain, which works beautifully to boost the tempo of the game.

The weakest point of Painkiller is the AI, which is downright moronic. Each and every enemy will run straight toward you and fire. This downfall however is remedied by the following two factors. First, there are usually six or more enemies attacking at any time from every direction possible. Second, each level introduces a new cast of demons (75 in total) who bring with them new weapons and weaknesses that help to keep the game fun and interesting.

Only six weapons are available throughout the game, but each has a primary and alternate fire mode, which makes it seem like there are 12 weapons, sort of. You’ll find that the shotgun, as in most FPS, works just fine in 80% of all situations while the grenade launcher will fit the bill for the last 20%. There is an actual weapon called the Painkiller that is unique in that it requires no ammunition, but it’s not always the best option for combat.

The graphics stand on their own as some of the best on the system. The PAIN Engine, as DreamCatcher Studios has dubbed it looks great. Unfortunately the Xbox360 has been out for eight months now, and it’s easy to pass this game off as looking average. At times of heavy action there can be some slowdown, but it’s infrequent and solves itself quickly.

To increase replay value tarot cards can be unlocked by accomplishing certain tasks, such as finishing a level with only a specific weapon, or defeating the boss within a specified amount of time. Once unlocked the cards can be used to enhance your abilities on any level but also requires a specified amount of gold to play, which can be found in crates and barrels throughout the game. On difficulty levels higher than normal the use of tarot cards is limited or banned altogether, which makes this ultimately seem like an afterthought.

Multiplayer appears to consist of fast paced action much like the rest of the game. I wouldn’t know specifically because I never played it, but I’ll touch on that in a moment. Free for all, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and many other standard modes you’ve come to love are included. Unfortunately however if you plan on playing multiplayer you’re going to need as many TVs, games and systems as there are players because Painkiller does not support simultaneous players on the same system. To make matters worse, when I tried to play over Live there were absolutely no matches going on of any type. It’s sad to think that such a good game would be completely baron on Live, but it’s true.

Final Verdict

This is not an ambitious FPS, but it accomplishes everything it sets out to do. Painkiller: Hell Wars doesn’t ask you to think, which is convenient because you’re moving so fast you rarely have time. Just be aware that multiplayer may not be a reality.


8.0 out of 10

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Painkiller: Hell Wars Review

Related Information

Posted by: Administrator
Date: September 13, 2006
Publisher: Dreamcatcher Interactive
Developer: People Can Fly
Release Date: 07/24/2006
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1-8
ESRB Rating: Mature
System Reviewed: Xbox

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Categories: Xbox Reviews, PC Reviews, PC, Xbox, Reviews

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