Malcolm Owen On December 13, 2007 at 12:38 am

You know, the games industry is an interesting thing to look at. The way it develops, the way it markets, the way ideas are created, the ways people move throughout the various processes during their gaming career. That last point interests me more than the rest of it, as there are now a good amount of high-profile development teams out there that are pulling in new staff from the community, and with a good degree of success. For example, Valve welcomed into it’s doors the guys behind Counter-Strike and the school team behind Narbacular Drop (Portal to you and me), and made tons of money off the intellectual property. This is good business sense, and other developers are doing the same…
Painkiller: Overdose (I see what they did there, nice) was originally a community project that DreamCatcher and JoWooD saw had potential, and they decided to give Mindware Studios a ton of cash to make it a full Painkiller game. Makes perfect business sense if the quality of the game is high enough for it to work. And in this case, it actually is. It fits perfectly as part of the game series, so the goal has actually been achieved, based on the previous benchmarks Painkiller and Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell had set. That’s nothing that you can take away from the development teams.

The game starts you off as “Belial”, someone locked away for multiple millennia due to his powers being useful to some other-worldly being. And from the introductory video, you get the feeling that this guy is angry at being stuck in a cage and left to rot. Extremely serious sounding, determined to battle against anything and everything to make things right for him. And then you start playing…
Your first level places you in a demon-infested land, with the usual Painkiller staples. You walk into an area, the door closes behind you, enemies appear, you kill them all, the doors open, and you can move on towards the next area. Wash, rinse, repeat. The usual berserker mode returns, whereby when you get 66 souls gathered from your fallen enemies, you turn into a demon (complete with the usual “Berserker-Vision” consisting of black and white images, colours where enemies are, weird sounds and pounding noises) and become invulnerable for a short space of time. The Tarot cards appear again, so when you do specific tasks in a level and gain a card, you can then use the special abilities that card has on other levels to make life easier. All fairly standard Painkiller fare.

It suffers from the same problems that the previous games had too, namely the fighting seems a bit repetitive, the saving system takes ages to load upon starting a level or death, the AI sometimes makes stupid pathfinding choices, and the constant feeling that the CD case for Serious Sam is going to injure you the next time you open it.
Sadly, there’s more problems than what’s happened before. When I say “Problems”, they’re more personal gripes, but I am a picky person.
For a start, I’m not really that impressed when, after the serious tone of the intro video and you’ve started killing things killing you, your character speaks in a completely different way. For some unknown reason, this “angrier than Linkin Park” hero starts humming and singing the main line from “Another One Bites The Dust” by rock legends Queen. Changed weapon, killed some more, and there’s a reference to Johnny Appleseed that I still don’t quite understand despite attacking Google for all it’s worth. I gather one of the fallen souls from a demon I’ve killed, and he says “Mmm… Tastes like Chicken”. Getting these phrases a few times would be nice, perhaps funny. But when you hear the same phrases over and over, they become annoying.
Then there’s the lack of, well, continuity. You leave one level themed with the expected “Hell/Purgatory” paint job, but then you get transported to places like stereotypical Egypt or stereotypical Japan at the start. No explanation at all for this is offered, which is odd given the attempt at a serious storyline just before you start playing.
The weaponry doesn’t really help things either. Painkiller veterans will know that the weapons are a mixed bag with an alternative fire that does something completely different to primary fire. This time, there’s all-new weapons to play around with. Sure, they’re different to what the previous instalments gave us, but thanks to the weird secondary firing choices, they feel somewhat similar to the previous version’s weapon confusion.

The main problem with Painkiller: Overdose, at least to me, is that it feels almost as if it’s the same game all over again. I know, new levels, new weapons, new central character, but it just feels too similar to the originals, whereas I was expecting something more. As a game it accomplishes what it set out to do: More Painkiller. If it progressed the series more then I would be much happier.

To fans of the game series, I’d highly recommend Painkiller: Overdose. To those that hadn’t played the first two instalments, try this to see if you’d want to play them. If you played the first or second, were not impressed but are less picky than I am, then have a look, but expect nothing special.


The usual Painkiller experience


Good looking, although starting to age


Normal Painkiller, but repetitive. “Tastes like Chicken” my foot…


Fans would love it. Worth a try, but don’t expect miracles

Comments are closed.