Painkiller is one of those franchises that people either love or they hate. It’s full of blood, gore and exploding body parts, but outside of that basic primal entertainment of eviscerating your enemies, there isn’t much else to be had in the experience. For better or for worse, Painkiller Hell & Damnation is essentially a greatest hits adventure through the original and its Bat Out of Hell expansion with a loosely strung together story providing enough incentive to leave the largest trail of bodies behind you as physically possible.
Painkiller begins by showing your character, Daniel Garner, getting in a car accident with your wife, Catherine, as you are both killed. Instead of staying dead, Daniel is trapped in Purgatory between Heaven and Hell. Death himself approaches you and gives you the task of collecting 7,000 souls before he will reunite you with your wife. Besides this initial motivation, the story only further evolves in the way of more diverse means to exterminate your enemies.
The game is broken up into 13 (lol) chapters with one bonus chapter and I even noticed the first level could be played in an alternate Halloween themed mode – a nice touch. Gameplay consists of circling around the battlefield at sprint speed regardless of direction you are moving and completely demolishing all of your enemies. Enemy variety is quite nice, with fast melee opponents, range-based enemies and some of the largest and most engrossing bosses of any game this side of Shadow of the Colossus.
Farm 51 really did a great job updating Painkiller for current gamers, as the overall textures in the environment are nice to look at and the lighting effects, especially once you get to the larger outdoor areas, are simply wonderful to look at. The skyscraper-esque bosses in Painkiller provide a nice amount of intensity to the otherwise basic boss fights, but its nice to reminded of a simpler time in games. Instead of ducking in and out of cover or maximizing your skill points to expertly take down your opponents, its you and your guns versus the world.
Hell & Damnation also includes both cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes. Cooperative mode allows you to play with a friend and simply go through the missions in the game. No surprises here, but it works great and makes it even more hectic on the harder difficulties. Competitive multiplayer isn’t the draw of the game, but a nice feature to have. Game modes consist of regular deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and a wave-based survival mode. These are all nice additions that add to the replayability of the game.
Both the soundtrack and effects from your weapons are used expertly within the environment. Each enemy emits certain growls and sounds specific to its type, so in later levels you will be sprinting around the area with heavy metal music blaring out of your speakers while demon guts explode all over your screen. Weapons range from a basic shotgun, buzzsaw, wooden stake shooter/crossbow and so much more. Many of the weapons have an alternate fire mode as well, allowing you to mix up your strategies and kill enemies in creative ways.
Painkiller Hell & Damnation is a wonderful update of a beloved game. It doesn’t really offer anything new at all, but distills down the best parts of past shooters. If you’re looking for a fast-paced and intense game to relive a bit of stress after a long day, you could do a lot worse than Painkiller. It may not push the industry forward in any way, but its a wonderfully gory reminder of its roots.
Painkiller Hell & Damnation is out now for PC. Let us know what you thought of this review and the game in the comments below!
This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PC provided by Nordic Games.