Games I Own: Painkiller

Written by Joe Martin

October 11, 2011 | 07:30

Tags: #fps #games-i-own #painkiller

Companies: #people-can-fly

Painkiller is a game about frenzy, about being 'in the zone' and about bunny-hopping at 100 miles an hour around gothic castles packed with skeletons and cackling witches. It's a game about violence and speed; the satisfying buzz of a well-executed headshot performed from the hip.

Or, to put it another way, it's a game about 'THUNK!' That's the noise it makes when you fire half a pool-cue across the map and it lands, pinning your enemy's collapsed body to the floor.

Painkiller is not a game about religion or story. The few cut-scenes and bits of exposition it contains appear to have been crudely cobbled together in Poser, using curiously static sets and bland, turgid character models. 'Wooden', that's the word for it.

So, while there's hypothetically a plot about Daniel, who dies and finds himself in purgatory with a quest to kill Satan's armies, it's mostly a load of guff. It's just about the violence; the THUNK! of it.

Games I Own: Painkiller
Once you realise that, it makes overlooking the confusingly myriad selection of level settings less of a big deal. Painkiller jumps you from derelict mental asylums to palatial opera houses, from cable cars over snowy chasms to medieval villages. Your enemies are World War II soldiers, witches on broomsticks and demonic samurai. Attempting to link these ideas together rationally defies sense; just give in to the THUNK! of it.

Or ZAP! of it, for that matter. That's the sound it makes when you electrically charge a throwing star and punch it into the ground at the feet of your enemies. Depending on how many foes are standing around at the time it's either a single ZAP! or a ripple of them. Either way, it ends in the hiss of smoke as it steams from enemy corpses.

THUNK! ZAP-zap-ZAP! Hissssss. These are the simple joys of Painkiller - and this is a game that's constructed only from simple joys. Whereas most games have room for some level of deeper analysis - what was the level designer trying to communicate with the placement of this texture? - Painkiller resists this trend. It has no deeper message to communicate, merely the solid THUNK! and ratatat zap-ZAP! of the core action - because that's all it needs to shine.

Number of Times Completed: Once. Currently replaying.

Random Trivia: Like Half-Life 2 and Crysis 2, Painkiller fell foul of code leaks ahead of release. A full multiplayer alpha was leaked on the Internet four months ahead of launch - the source was never found.
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