Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is the graphical remake of the original Painkiller, revitalized by The Farm 51 and published by Nordic Games. You may know The Farm 51 from such titles as NecroVisioN or the DS shooter Time Ace.
Painkiller, at its core, is a game about shooting loads of enemies with over-the-top weaponry, and Hell and Damnation delivers on that. A sandbox of destruction, how you go about ripping apart your foes is entirely up to you. You can utilize tarot cards to change the situation to your favor with the push of a button, such as slowing time or faster reload speeds, and with ammo plentiful so that you never run out, it’s a non-stop killfest, with saw-shooting guns, explosions, and electrocutions.
You play as Daniel Garner, a man who died and became stuck in the place between heaven and hell, near earth, but outside purgatory. Daniel makes a deal with Death for a thousand souls to get his wife out of Purgatory. Death hands Daniel the Painkiller, the saw-blade projecting mainstay of the series, and the shooting begins. The story is paper-thin, and even though the cringe-worthy dialogue from the original game has returned, it still doesn’t do anything to help you feel involved or interested. But that’s not why you’re here, anyway. You’re here to kill the undead hordes in any way you can.
The graphics in Painkiller: Hell and Damnation were definitely made in Unreal Engine 3, with things like high-definition textures on everything from giant monsters that blot out the sky to the splinters of exploding treasure chests. The light is like natural lighting, and it all looks very modern.
The only problem is that the original Painkiller was a very dark game, most of it being covered in shadows. What made it a semi-horror title was the fact that you never really knew where the baddies were going to be coming from. With Hell and Damnation, it’s like watching a horror movie with the lights on; the only time the game gets darker than noon-lighting is the Haunted Mansion, which starts out dark and dingy, but gets lighter as you progress. It certainly takes away from the experience, which is odd considering that the reason this game exists is purely for the graphics.
The levels are varied, but are less in number than the original Painkiller, with some fan-favorites left out for no real reason. You start off in a graveyard, fight the undead on a roller coaster in a horror-styled theme park, and venture across city streets. The environments looks nice, but don’t do much to help the gameplay along.
Run-and-gun games thrive on large environments with plentiful enemies, and when that is accomplished, the gameplay really shines. However, a lot of the levels put you in tight corridors, which in the original game served as a convention of horror, but now does nothing but slow the gameplay down.
Even player movement is catered towards large environments: bunny-hopping is vastly superior to just running around, with repeated hops resulting in increased speed and even an achievement in the Steam version of the game. However, this mechanic wilts in the tight corridors of most of the levels.
Despite all this, if there are enemies in a line and a cool weapon in hand, that’s Painkiller, as all weapons kill with the same ferocity as each other, so you rarely have to switch. However, it’s because of this fact you have to make yourself change weapons for your own fun, because the game doesn’t help itself in that regard – it is very easy to just click with the same weapon over and over again, being neither punished nor rewarded for doing so. You have to be an active participant in the fun, which gradually becomes boring across the game’s campaign.
Painkiller is known for larger-than-life boss fights, and this game certainly recreates them in all their glory, but also their flaws. The Big Guys aren’t too much of a threat – mostly set-pieces, and the novelty wears off rather quickly, leaving what at first seemed like an epic boss encounter to feel more like the chore that is bringing down a Christmas tree.
The length of the game is painfully short. I beat the main missions on normal in around four hours, but the game does include a co-op feature, allowing you to play through the campaign with a friend, along with multiplayer. Co-op increases the number of enemies to fight as well as their health pool, while multiplayer is frankly non-existent.
The game came out only recently and the multiplayer is dead. Over the course of playing the game and writing this review, we kept checking back into the vast array of multiplayer servers on the Steam Playlist, and only once did we ever find people. However, upon joining, the server crashed. It seems like such a waste, but then there are other games out there that allow for a better multiplayer experience.
Run-and-gun games are from a time long past, where the simple idea of shooting lots of things was enough of a draw for gamers. Now, as the industry continues to grow and evolve, games like Painkiller: Hell and Damnation serve as a healthy reminder that we’re on the right track, industry-wise, and that graphics alone are not enough to make a game great.
There’s no real reason to recommend Hell and Damnation to anyone, what with its strange path-finding issues, terribly short campaign, and dead multiplayer. Even its predecessors, such as Painkiller: Black, are vastly superior. Better luck next time, The Farm 51.
This review is based on a review copy of the Steam PC version of Painkiller: Hell and Damnation developed by The Farm 51. Roughly four hours to complete the campaign.
- Large Environments
- Plenty of Enemies
- Terribly Short Campaign
- Dead Multiplayer
- Weaker than Expected Enemies