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Painkiller PC CD-ROM

Published by Dreamcatcher Games
Developed by People Can Fly
Released - Out Now
Price : £29.99

First Person Shooters have become very different animals over the last few years. Initially at the dawn of the genre the games demanded an all guns blazing approach with caution being thrown to the wind. If you were to take this approach in virtually any modern FPS games you would get slaughtered in no time at all. The phrase tactical shooter has been used in the last couple of years and it's fair to say that most FPS games out there encourage you to use stealth and caution and perhaps this is sometimes to the games detriment. Those looking to get back to the FPS genre's roots though might want to give Painkiller a try. Forget stealth, forget playing the game tactically, this is a case of taking your weapon and firing at anything that comes towards you.

Painkiller puts you in the shoes of Daniel Garner who at start of the game is about to take his girlfriend out for a birthday meal. As they drive towards their destination at high speed, in the pouring rain, Daniel takes his eyes off the road to look at his girlfriend a bit too often and before long they plough into an oncoming vehicle. Daniel, now dead but trapped in purgatory, is told that in order to receive purification, he has to kill four of Lucifer's generals in order to prevent a war between heaven and hell. With little choice available to him Daniel accepts the task.

The game play in Painkiller is classic Quake style play and it has a strong deathmatch feel to it. Each of the games 20+ levels all follow a similar pattern. You'll begin with full ammo and health and you'll encounter a few enemies which won't cause too many problems. After taking the enemies out you'll be able to progress to another area where the enemies are slightly more numerous. Again you'll clear these enemies and go on to another area and so on. In short the amount of enemies become more numerous with each area. This pattern gives each level a dramatic build up from a comfortable pace to the ultimate crescendo of blood and guts. The games levels are grouped together to form chapters and at the end of each chapter you'll have a boss fight that's going to test your FPS skills to the full. Your deathmatch, move and shoot, skills will be tested to the full. Longstanding FPS gamers will love this back to the basics approach to the game play and it's certainly refreshing to have a FPS that's not bogged down by complexities.

You'll also be able to use some in-game modifiers to make things interesting. Your performance in a level may earn you Black Tarot cards, which can give you bonus abilities. These Black Tarot cards can be applied before you begin the next mission, however the use of them will cost you. Throughout the levels you'll come across loose coins or you can fire at treasure chests or barrels in order to obtain coins. These coins can be used to pay for the use of the Tarot cards so if you intend to use these modifiers you'll need to collect all the coins you can. You don't need to use the Tarot cards though and you can play through the game without them. In fact on the easiest of the four available difficulty modes you don't even have the option of using them.

There are 5 multiplayer modes in Painkiller. The modes are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, People Can Fly, Voosh and The Light Bearer. Everyone knows what Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are about so they need no explanations. People Can Fly is a mode where your opponents have to be in mid-air before you can finish them off. The idea is to make them airborne by using the rocket launcher then fire at them, whilst airborne, with the chaingun. Voosh is a mode where every opponent has the same weapon and the weapon will change after a set amount of time. Voosh has it's own custom maps to play on. The Light Bearer is where one player acquires the quad damage modifier and it will last as long as the player survives. However everyone else will be out to kill you so the chance of you staying alive for long is slim unless you are especially skillful. The winner is the player who holds the quad damage modifier at the end of the game. The multiplayer modes are enjoyable but it's a shame there aren't more maps to play on.

Visually speaking Painkiller is impressive. A lot has been made of the great graphics in Far Cry but the graphics on display in Painkiller are in many ways just as impressive. As you would expect, with a game of this nature, the game's levels have a dark look about them that perfectly suits the mood of the game. The quality of the textures is impressive and they add depth the graphics. Each level contains around 350,000 polygons with each enemy made up of around 3,000 -4000 polygons. Given the amount of enemies in a level that is a serious amount of work for your graphics card to carry out. Thankfully though the proprietary 3D Pain Engine remains impressively smooth and performs better than many game engines out there. Enthusiasts will also be aware that the game uses the now famed Havoc 2.0 physics engine and Painkiller certainly makes impressive use of it ranging from destructible items to the rag doll physics of your slain enemies. I was also impressed with the levels in the game as they have been thoughtfully designed for hectic combat and help to keep the game play interesting.

Painkiller is OK for deaf gamers but it's a shame that the cutscenes are not subtitled. Although the game's story is light on detail it's still disappointing that deaf gamers can't fully enjoy what's on offer. Apart from the cutscenes though there isn't much to worry about. You are notified in text when a checkpoint has been reached and there is an indicator that shows you the direction you should head for should you ever get lost.

If you long for the FPS games of yesteryear where you didn't have to concern yourself with stealth, then Painkiller is a game that's going to be a sight for sore eyes. There is no fancy AI here and you won't have to deal with enemies that duck, dodge and hunt for cover as all the enemies you come across will simply go for the throat. It's a shame the game's cutscenes are not subtitled and it could have done with more more multiplayer maps. Despite these few niggles, Painkiller is a great effort from People Can Fly and the game deserves all the attention it can get.

Overall Game Rating: 8.2/10
In many ways Painkiller is a back to basics FPS that manages to capture the frenzied action of the early, genre defining, FPS titles.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The games cutscenes are not subtitled, which is disappointing, but otherwise there are no problems.