Painkiller: Hell & Damnation (PainkillerHD) is a remake of 2004’s Painkiller and its expansion Battle Out of Hell. While the original was developed by People Can Fly the remake has been handled by The Farm 51 and published by Nordic Games. We reviewed the PC release in October last year and have been spending some time with the 360 version.
In PainkillerHD you play as protagonist Daniel Garner who is trapped in Purgatory after a fatal car crash that killed him and his wife Catherine. At the start of the game Death offers Daniel a deal that involves collecting 7000 souls in exchange for seeing his wife again.
The original game had 24 levels and there was another 10 added in the expansion. This remake features just 14 levels which are remastered versions of most of the best levels from the original. These are spread across four chapters and for the first time the game can be played in co-op with another player either locally or online. Adding a second player really ramps up the difficulty of the game by throwing more enemies at you or increasing the health of them.
If you remember the original it will likely be because of how difficult the game was. Painkiller is an old school hardcore shooter and doesn’t come with all the niceties of today’s games. So don’t expect the game to hold your hand, provide you cover, manage your health or give you crazy overpowered weapons. Instead expect to die over and over again as you succumb to the overwhelming and endless hordes of enemies.
Along with many classic enemies there are plenty of new ones out for your blood. The developers have also tried to mix things up by adding variety to the enemies. This means you’ll see enemies carrying different types of weapons with which to murder you with. The AI isn’t particularly clever and you’ll find that monsters tend to spawn and simply come straight at you. Each area you step into soon becomes like a crazy game of tag with hundreds of enemies all trying to kill you. Killing them gives you a soul and a tiny health boost.
The game plays just about as well on a game pad as it does with a mouse and keyboard setup. Surviving requires near constant movement and lightning fast reflexes as you manoeuvre around the enemies. Two key skills are required – the ability to hammer the jump button as jumping makes you move faster and circle-strafing. If you were brought up on games such as Doom and Quake then you’ll know how to circle-strafe and it turns out it’s like riding a bike – you never forget. For some reason newer games seem to rely more on cover than careful movement.
Being aware of what weapons you are carrying, how much ammo each has, which slot they occupy and their capabilities is essential for staying alive. You need to be able to switch quickly and keep an eye out for ammo. The classic weapons return such as the Painkiller, stake gun and of course the shotgun along with a new weapon called the Soulcatcher. The Soulcatcher fires circular saw blades which go through a line of enemies like a hot knife through butter. It has a secondary fire which can literally suck the soul out of enemies and even make them fight for you briefly.
Something else that you might remember Painkiller for is the huge boss fights. These return in PainkillerHD and look absolutely fantastic with the extra grunt of Unreal Engine 3. Sadly though the actual boss battles are still rather frustrating affairs. Another frustrating aspect of the game is that you need to kill everything in order to progress and in the bigger areas you often end up hunting for a final monster or two which spoils the frantic pace of the game.
Graphically the game looks nice and a big improvement over the originals but it still feels old. The console version is near identical to the PC version. The game absolutely zooms along though and the action is nice and smooth. Another area that’s had big upgrades is the physics with proper ragdolls which really enhance the endless death you deal out. Sadly the music leaves a lot to be desired with endless looping rock music.
In addition to the singleplayer PainkillerHD packs in all the standard multiplayer modes such as deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and survival. The survival mode puts up to eight players up against endless waves of monsters to see who survives the longest. The multiplayer is incredibly fast and perfectly designed for competitive matches.
At time of writing we haven’t had much opportunity to play the multiplayer due to lack of players online. On the PC version we struggled to find matches to play but the console quick match and matchmaking options should help with this a lot. The multiplayer has definite potential but really needs support from the community. Just like the PC edition it’s sadly not worth buying for multiplayer alone.
PainkillerHD is a good game aimed at fans of the original and those who enjoy difficult old school shooters are in for a fun time. The upgraded campaign is fun while it lasts but short and you’re unlikely to revisit it often alone. There’s a DLC option on the main menu so we expect to see all the additional content that was released for the PC edition. If you prefer to play your shooters on console then definitely consider this over the PC version.