The return of Daniel Garner not only benefits from updated visuals, but an updated selection of formats. Having seen release on PC last year the console release has been a long time coming, but despite that there has been very little in the interim to challenge Painkiller: Hell & Damnation for its old school shooting action. This is both a blessing and a curse, as Painkiller: Hell & Damnation will only appeal to a very distinct audience, but those gamers who are familiar who its precision chaos style of gameplay will surely fall in love with the madness before the first level is out.
The closest comparison to Painkiller: Hell & Damnation on modern consoles is the Serious Sam series, with the recently releases Xbox 360 version of Serious Sam 3: BFE looking significantly better and offering much wider environments, but still playing the exact same style lf first-person shooter (FPS). It’s a videogame that is more concerned with dexterity than pacing or story development, though both of those assets exist to some degree.
Garner has been tasked with collecting seven thousand souls in order to secure his safety and that of his family. The whys and wherefores are not important, what is however are the hordes of skeletons, undead knights, witches and demons lined-up in front of you vying for your blood. It’s a videogame of attrition, taking down increasing numbers of increasingly difficult enemies, coming in increasing numbers of waves as you progress through the levels. Thankfully Painkiller: Hell & Damnation gives you a plentiful supply of weapon types, from basic shotguns to eccentric spinning blades and explosive arrow launcher.
Every weapon has multiple functions with some able to combine primary and secondary for a tertiary attack. This gives you plenty of tactical options, but in reality there’s only one way to survive: run backwards and shoot at anything that moves. In addition to collecting new weapons and armour the player can also earn Tarot Cards which offer a number of additional affects, such as slowing down the enemies or increasing the damage dealt by your firearms, but these only become available once unlocked through progress.
The single-player mode is a rapid charge through a preset campaign featuring fourteen lengthy levels, unlocking new weapons and new Tarot Cards as you face off against literally thousands of enemies. Painkiller: Hell & Damnation also features a co-operative gameplay mode however, playable by two players in split-screen mode. This changes the experience significantly and, sadly, not for the better.
An immediate action-orientated experience like Painkiller: Hell & Damnation should find itself welcoming an additional player better than most, but sadly the experience is watered down to such an extent that it loses most of it’s enjoyable assets. Players can no longer unlock new Tarot Cards, none of the coins or other collected items retain their worth after a level has been completed and even your progress through the videogame counts for nil. It’s a strange design decision, and one that has undoubtedly neutered the finest aspects of the run-and-gun gameplay. Even more so when you learn that the checkpoint system has been removed entirely.
In addition to the campaign comes Painkiller: Hell & Damnation’s multiplayer gameplay modes. Also reminiscent of a bygone era, the likes of deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag can provide a few hours of light enjoyment, but limited to online-only play one has to wonder just how long Painkiller: Hell & Damnation can sustain an active community on consoles. Without the regular content updates of its PC sister release, it’s unlikely that Painkiller: Hell & Damnation’s multiplayer gameplay mode will manage to become anything more than an idle time investment.
Painkiller: Hell & Damnation impresses visually but stops short of being top tier in its presentation. While the environments look fantastic and the gun detail is phenomenal on many of the weapons, much like DOOM 3: BFG Edition the character models haven’t received the same kind of makeover. Stuck in a decade long since surpassed, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation will never be championed for its aesthetic design but nor is it the weakest that Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have played host to.
Reminiscent of past FPS experiences thanks entirely to the fact that, in actuality, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is a past FPS experience in itself, Nordic Games are delivering a fine videogame experience to those looking for a high-octane experience that demands very little in the way of cerebral activity. It’s a ‘shoot first and don’t bother with the questions’ videogame in the way that Duke Nukem very is often thought to be, though the logical and platform puzzles of that machismo hero are nowhere to be seen in Painkiller: Hell & Damnation. This is running and gunning at it’s most pure, and for that you simply can’t fault it.