Malcolm Owen On March 17, 2005 at 9:13 am

Does anyone remember a show called "Father Dowling Mysteries", where Tom Bosley played a priest with a penchant for solving various crimes and an assistant in the form of a street-wise nun whom would do any underhanded and sneaky stuff that a vicar could never be seen doing? The main problem with the show was that the whole "Father" thing was just an angle. The studios probably started scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas, and "cop show with nuns" popped out. People expecting a more religious look at crime were instead subjected to occasions that were abnormal to our beliefs of normality, such as seeing a nun dress up badly as a hooker. They didn’t need the religious angle at all, since the show was vaguely interesting enough, but they needed a hook to bring people in, instead of labelling it "Generic Cop Show 293"

Painkiller has a similar thing happening. The story is that you’re Daniel Garner, stuck in Purgatory after a car accident in which your girlfriend died. On a small promise of a reward where you go to Heaven, you are sent off to go to and kill the 4 generals of the Hellish army that’s about to attack Heaven. A simple task, which is only made difficult by the vast numbers of minions that are sent to slow your progress and ultimately kill you. Again. You would therefore expect from this that there would be a hugely in-depth storyline about the war of spirituality, a thought-provoking exposé on organised religious beliefs. Painkiller is definitely not what you want if you are looking for anything like that. Instead, it’s an excuse for the people behind the game to do tons of religious and gothic imagery. Story? Pah!

It’s a fairly simple affair to play through. All you have to do is get to the end of every single level alive. Progression gives you more stuff, and more things to kill with said stuff. Indeed, you do have to collect weapons and ammo a great deal, else you will be stuck using the first weapon in the game, the melee weapon known, strangely enough, as the Painkiller. A spinning flurry of blades also fires outwards and causes a painful tripwire effect that enemies hate when they touch it.
Up until now, there’s not been much of a change from the norm of the generic FPS genre. All the staples are there, by the numbers. Indeed, many would say that it’s just like Serious Sam in many respects, with the vast numbers of enemies to destroy in sections before moving onto the next collection of miscreants. But Painkiller goes a bit further than just plain old normal.
The remaining weapons available range from a shotgun that can freeze to a chaingun with a built-in rocket launcher. In fact, there’s only 5 actual weapons in the game, but the primary and alternative fire of each of them make the collection nearer 10 than 5. The fact that you have combined weapons with different purposefulness in each of their component parts makes each gun more useful than having them separately. The combinations seem to be in such pairs that you don’t really "have" to change weapons mid-fight because circumstances have changed. Instead, just use the alternate fire.

Just like in many other games, once you kill an enemy, you can pick something up. In this case you can pick up Souls, and by collecting 66 souls you go into some sort of bezerk mode, where you can kill almost anything that moves by setting them on fire. All this happens whilst in a strange blurry black and white view, in which you can’t be harmed by most of the feeble things the underlings try to do to you. When it wears off, you return to plain old ordinary semi-mortal Daniel, whom can heal for a measly 1 point each time he collects another soul to go into the mode again.
Then there’s the Black Tarot. Once you collect one of the cards, you then have the opportunity to use it in a future level to make the game easier for you to play. They cost gold to use them in the game and most of them only work for a certain amount of time before wearing off. Think of it as a less drastic and more honest version of "God Mode", where you can feel good about using them because they aren’t really cheats, they’re more "earned fringe benefits".

Of course, there’s a multiplayer mode featuring the staples that are Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, and variations of game types done elsewhere, such as a version of King of the Hill where the "hill" is a power-up, the winner being the holder of the bonus item at the end of the match. There’s also a mode called "People Can Fly", which requires you to harm people when they’re in the air, which is a nice change from the almost Quake style gameplay you will find at times on some servers.

At the end of it all, it’s safe to say that Painkiller has many things going for it. So much so that it’s being used in professional gaming tournaments, which Painkiller holds in it’s favour. But heading back to the original point, Painkiller is similar to the Father Dowling Mysteries in many ways, but there is one main difference separating the two… Painkiller is good.


Serious Sam fans will love this.


Moody and detailed, like a theme park for the angry.


The fighting playlist is a good choice.


Buy it, if only to watch skeletons fly thanks to your shotgun.

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