Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is an update of an “old school” FPS (first person shooter) that combines Painkiller and Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell into a single game. However, despite the visual upgrades, integrated Steamworks, and a few other odds and ends, Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is an old school, brainless but entertaining FPS.
Fifteen to twenty years ago, Painkiller: Hell and Damnation would have been considered cutting edge—a time when simply having more of everything and better graphics was enough to carry a sequel. It also would have commanded a price tag twice as high as its current $20 one. Now however, Painkiller—much like its spiritual throwback of a sibling Serious Sam—is relegated to second tier status as a budget-priced sub-genre of what the modern FPS has become.
All you really need to know is that Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is all about throwing hordes of brainless enemies at you while providing you an arsenal of ridiculous weaponry to blow them into fiery, bloody pieces with. Your job is simple: stay alive, kill everything, and reach the next checkpoint.
There is a bare thread of a plot in which you need to collect 7000 souls for Death, who will then let you see your dead girlfriend. Sneeze and you’ll miss it, but it’s unimportant.This serves as a reason for you to go from one unrelated, horror-themed environment to the next, some of which include a Carnival, a Haunted House, and various spooky dungeons. But you’re not here to admire the scenery.
There are more than 30 types of enemies in the game, including killer clowns, undead knights, creepy children with knives, and much more. But despite the game’s lengthy roster of hellish, fiendish enemies, most of them can be divided into those that charge you, those that shoot you, and various sub-bosses that do both.
They’re all dumber than a sack of chainguns anyway.The code for the artificial intelligence in the game is about as complex as whack-a-mole and probably shorter than the ingredient list on a cereal box.
But that’s ok. Games like Painkiller, Serious Sam, and even Hard Reset are all about fighting huge swarms of enemies, not smart ones. Your job is just to bask in the glow of the fiery explosions and flying, bloody body parts wrought with your massive arsenal.
There are some interesting mechanics in the game. Kills leave behind souls, which you want to collect. Collect 66 of them and you turn into a demon, which throws the game into a sort of thermal vision mode and lets you run around and pretty much one-shot anything in your path. Collecting souls isn’t as easy as it sounds, however, because they don’t appear immediately after a kill and you can’t typically wait the 2-3 seconds it takes for them to appear—standing still is death in Painkiller.
The14 different weapons in Painkiller cover the gambit of “classic” FPS weapons—chaingun, rocket launcher, shotgun, etc. plus a number of unique weapons—and all of them feature alternate firing modes.
The shotgun can also freeze enemies. There’s a machine gun that is also a flamethrower. And then there’s the soul catcher, which shoots saw blades, drains the life out of enemies, collects nearby souls—and it can even turn an enemy into an ally. There’s also a cool spinning blade weapon for melee that also shoots out a grappling hook and then electrifies it, turning it into a deadly tripwire of sorts.
All of the weapons look like something out of Modern Mercenary magazine, but with a death metal/goth art style.
There are 14 levels and 4 giant boss monsters to fight, and there’s a pretty clever roller coaster sequence in the Carnival level. And as a whole, Painkiller: Hell and Damnation does its job well. It can get a bit a mind-numbing after an extended period, though you can probably finish its single-player campaign in an afternoon. I doubt the multiplayer (Co-op, PvP or PvE) will hold a lot of replay value for most gamers when there are so many better multiplayer games out there—some of them even for free.
Overall: 4/5 stars
OK, admittedly Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is arguably the FPS equivalent of Bejeweled, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. Painkiller doesn’t need to apologize for what it is: an FPS that shows that old school can still be a fun school. It delivers the rapid fire FPS thrill ride you expect from it, and though it may not occupy you long it’s not an easy game either. Play it on Nightmare mode if you want it to last.
You can pick up Painkiller: Hell and Damnation on Steam.