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Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell PC CD-ROM

Published by DreamCatcher Games
Developed by People Can Fly
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £19.99

What a year for FPS games it's been. Far Cry, Doom III and Half-Life 2 have all been released this year but perhaps the purest shooter available has been Painkiller. Painkiller does away with all the simplistic puzzles, stealth tactics and all those other little additions that have been bolted on to the FPS experience over the years and goes back to pure and simple adrenaline pumping action. You'll encounter waves and waves of terrifying enemies as you move and shoot for your life whilst being perched on the very edge of your seat. Painkiller was thrilling stuff and just in time for Christmas we have the first expansion for the game, Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell.

Battle Out of Hell picks up where Painkiller left off with you controlling Daniel Garner. Lucifer has been defeated but now there's a new threat, Alastor, and there's also those dozen's of Hell's minions to deal with too. There's 10 levels for you to battle through and once again you'll find yourself overwhelmed by enemies who only want to put an end to you. On the multiplayer side of things Last Man Standing and Capture the Flag have been added but these are tried and trusted modes that, whilst they are nice to have, don't really offer any kind of innovation that fans of Painkiller might have been expecting.

The expansion starts off really well with the excellent orphanage level which has great level design and plenty of scope for some classic deathmatch style action. Some of the later levels aren't so well thought out though and can be a little irritating. The main source of this irritation are the moments where you have to make jumps and when you fail these jumps it's instant death meaning you have to go through reload after reload until you get it right and it's very annoying. The difficulty appears to go up and down with the levels too. It's not a natural progression with the difficulty level like you might expect and it gives the game a slightly unbalanced feel. Despite these niggles though most who enjoyed Painkiller will enjoy Battle Out of Hell even if there were expecting a little more.

Painkiller was impressive for it's ability to keep swarms of enemies coming towards you without experiencing slowdown and Battle Out of Hell is equally impressive in this respect. Even more impressive is that in a year where Far Cry, Doom III and Half-Life 2 have been released Battle Out of Hell still looks great and it's a game engine that is more friendly on mid-range and lower end PC's. You'll also notice some additional swirling and blurring effects in this expansion which add to the tension and atmosphere of the game (if you haven't got a sensitive stomach that is). What you'll notice with Battle Out of Hell though is that levels that have been included, visually at least, seem unrelated from each other. Yes the enemies you'll face are indeed Hellish but the environments themselves for the most part aren't. It's only a small criticism though and at the end of the day it matters little as you'll be playing the game for the action and not the continuity of it's levels.

Unfortunately Painkiller wasn't as deaf gamer friendly as it could have been and Battle Out of Hell is no different. The cutscenes are not subtitled and this effectively makes the story pointless for deaf gamers which is unfortunate but it's not as bad as it might be if the game had actually had much of a story. With the focus being on action, the story is paper thin so it's not like you're missing out on an elaborate plot. What deaf gamers will be disadvantaged with however is the audible notifications that gives the gamer some idea that enemies are quickly approaching. Hearing gamers will be forewarned of danger whereas deaf gamers will have no notification of the sort. Once again though the damage is cushioned by the knowledge that in Battle Out of Hell enemies come thick and fast. You'll always need to check all the angles and circular strafing's the order of the day from start to finish. Take your eyes off the action for a second and it's more than likely game over. Even hearing gamers don't have a chance unless they're on their toes 100% of the time.

Battle Out of Hell is simply more of what Painkiller had to offer. The bosses are more difficult, for the most part, and the action is just as intense as it was the first time around. There are some niggles though such as the difficulty level which seems to fluctuate from level to level rather than gradually increasing the difficulty with each level. It's also unfortunate to have to perform do-or-die jumps in certain places. On the whole it's a good expansion for Painkiller though. It might not be all that different from the original game and it's a shame all of the levels are not up to the standard of Orphanage level but those who enjoyed Painkiller will be satisfied with Battle Out of Hell.

Overall Game Rating: 7.2/10
Battle Out of Hell is a solid expansion for Painkiller but the level design is a mixed bag and essentially it's more of the same rather than offering something different.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Subtitles and captions would have been nice but given the nature of the game their absence is not too troublesome.