Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is the fifth round of Daniel Garner's soul reaping adventures. He's a man with such a murderous background even Death himself sees him as an abomination.
Stolen from Earth, Daniel just wants to go and meet his wife in heaven but has no choice but to pay his way out of purgatory with souls. This never seems to go to plan for him though. If it did there wouldn't be five games!
At the start of this one, Death approaches you and offers a bargain. He wants you to collect seven legions of souls (that's seven thousand, a bloody lot!), and in exchange he will free you and take you to your wife. So here you are, setting out again on a killing and collecting spree. (Although, I do wonder about this, because it's possible to get through levels without even picking up any souls at all.)
It's a remake of the original Painkiller
and the follow-up, Battle out of Hell
, but Unreal Engine 3 has been put to use so expect more than just a re-skin.
Being in purgatory I thought the game would be set in a more abstract environment, but the old gothic style does not disappoint. Most of the levels are big open spaces with linear checkpoints, eventually leading you from one end of the map to the other. But some levels just lead you back and forth in the same sections, closing doors or putting up walls to create slightly different arenas in the same place. Thankfully this doesn't happen too often, though.
The gameplay is very fast-paced. You have to keep bunny-hopping everywhere for extra speed to avoid getting surrounded. If you stay in one place for too long it's easy to get pinned down and you'll be dead in seconds.
One of the first annoying things I noticed was that since there are so many enemies and they always run straight at you, it's easy to get quickly overwhelmed and attacked from all directions. This is just something I got used to and I assume everyone just has to get used to it, too. The meat of the gameplay is action brought on by the urgency of not dying, and I love it this way.
Conversely, when you kill a creature its soul takes ages to appear for you to collect, then doesn't last long before it disappears. So as well as hopping around trying to fend off an angry mob, you're also trying to chase souls and pick them up before they disappear. Every time you collect 66 souls you instantly turn into a demon for a few seconds. This slows time down for you, gives you enemy-seeking vision and a crazily powerful attack that shreds and launches away just about anything in its path.
The weapons are awesome, and they are the biggest reason to play this game. They generally have a satisfying visual impact, tearing up minions or pinning them to walls. Each gun has a primary and secondary trigger, doubling the effectiveness.
Take the Soul Reaper, for example. Its primary trigger shoots horizontal circular razors that are great for decapitation and its secondary function is a Ghostbuster-style green beam that sucks the soul straight from its victim. This silver masterpiece looks like it could be a motorbike engine that was crafted in the depths of hell, with its decorative skulls and razor blades.
While both of the triggers can't be used regularly at the same time on any given gun, there is sometimes a way to combine the two. The 'Painkiller' melee spinning razor is my favourite for this. It's not really a gun, more like a portable windmill of death. But it can fire the whole spining razor part and it will drill straight through most enemies. I found myself using this a lot, even when all my other weapons had full ammo, because it's just so much fun!
Instead of hopping around trying to dodge the crowd of enemies while trying to shoot them at the same time, I like to get this spinning and mow them down, and if I line them up just right I can fire the blade through a crowd to rip it up. Another benefit of this tactic is that all of their souls will spawn in the same area, so I can swing by and grab the lot in one swoop like a speeding kangaroo.
After every few levels is a boss, and the first one is enormous! It reminded me of Shadow Of The Colossus
, but instead of climbing it you just have to keep shooting it and watch it's health slowly drain. Thankfully, the next ones get more complicated, and you have to watch the pattern and work out when to strike. Without this, the bosses would just get too bland, since you could just spray bullets at the large creature while dodging its attacks until it falls over. Co-op play makes bosses even more fun and is helpful if you get stuck overthinking the simplest of patterns, as I often do.
The multiplayer is one of my favourite online modes from any game. It's just simple, easy fun. I played a lot of deathmatches with a couple of my friends and it's so much fun that we were laughing through most of it. It's easy to set up a game and jump straight into the action. The maps are taken from the best parts of the campaign levels. Some have jump pads and portals that lead to better weapons and allow you to reach rooftops, escape or ambush other players.
Painkiller: Hell & Damnation
is much like Unreal Tournament in that it's just a shooter. The game is based on having an amazing variety of guns and wanting to use them all. It's a simple idea, but you will not want to put it down.
+ Lots of fun weapons
+ Great multiplayer fun
+ Simple story that doesn't get in the way of the action
- Easy to get cornered and stuck
- Souls take too long to appear from dead enemies
SPOnG Score 7/10