A straightforward shooter, available without a prescription
Painkiller is a series of FPS games known for its unrelenting shoot-‘em-up action and eclectic mix of environments. The first game was developed by Polish studio People Can Fly (they recently collaborated with Epic Games on Bulletstorm) and was praised for its visually stunning environments and epic boss battles. It received an expansion, Battle Out of Hell, and most recently, a spin-off successor called Painkiller: Resurrection. Inspired by FPS classics like Doom and Quake, the player must fend off seemingly endless hordes of enemies throughout each level, and pick up the souls they leave behind. Doing so replenishes the hero’s health and collecting enough of them allows him to transform into a demon and slaughter enemies by the dozen with a sort of magical force blast.
Enter Painkiller: Redemption, the latest entry in the franchise that started out as a community mod before gaining support from publisher DreamCatcher. They funded and provided technical help to the Eggtooth Team, allowing them to release this as a standalone downloadable game. It features six levels and over 6,000 enemies to blast your way through, as well as slightly improved graphics and a new heavy metal soundtrack. There seems to be some kind of background story continuation involving familiar characters from past Painkiller titles, but who cares about that? All that really matters is the action, and you’re thrown into the thick of it right away. There’s no tutorial or warm-up period, not even any time to explore; as soon as you load it up, get ready to fight.
You play the six levels alternating between the human and half-demon characters, using their unique arsenals of five weapons that are actually mostly the same except for their appearance: the namesake artifact that shreds enemies in melee and serves as a back-up ranged weapon, a shotgun that can also freeze (or petrify) enemies, a rocket launcher with attached machinegun, a stake launcher (or crossbow) that can pin enemies to the wall and also lobs grenades, as well as a shuriken-shooter that also projects tiny lightning bolts (or a demon head with a fricken laser beam). Ammunition is scattered about each area, but in somewhat limited quantities, so don’t be wasteful. This fact also ensures you use every one of the weapons available, and you’ll quickly learn how to do so in the most efficient way.
Enemies spawn in waves throughout each stage and attack from all sides, so surviving is a simple matter of not allowing yourself to be surrounded and overwhelmed. This is where one of the franchise’s trademarks comes in: the bunny hop. Unlike other classic FPS games that require at least some degree of skill or technique to pull it off, Painkiller will let you bounce around and move much faster than you can run just by tapping the spacebar. It is possible to air strafe, as well, which allows you to move faster still and is a requirement for reaching some of the hidden areas or tactically valuable positions, i.e. places where the monsters can’t get to you. Some might call that cheating, but there are a lot of times when you’ll want the extra breathing room but aren’t close enough to being able to activate Demon Mode.
If you’re looking for any further depth to the experience, you won’t find any. Where Redemption really falls short, though, is in the level design; that is, they didn’t do any. All of the maps in this game were borrowed from previous Painkiller titles’ multiplayer modes. As a result, every battle takes place in one cordoned-off area after another, and not many of them share the same spacious design I remember being used by People Can Fly. It becomes even more cramped in the tiny hallways connecting these arenas, and the game has a terrible habit of trapping you inside them to fight in very close-quarters. All enemies were ripped from other games, too, and though they vary somewhat in size or color, it still gets dull blasting hundreds of each type.
Ultimately, you’re paying for a Painkiller modification that has remixed previously-released assets into somewhat of a new experience. It does offer a few hours of shoot-‘em-up action, which is a far cry from the advertised 7-10 hours, but still pretty decent for $5. The best part is the last level, where you’re given enough health and ammo (666 of everything) to just go nuts and blast everything in sight. However, it really does come off like an amateur effort overall, and I’m sure there are plenty of mods out there that are of a similar quality, yet don’t charge you to play them -- you’d be better off spending the money on a proper Painkiller game and perhaps downloading some of those. Redemption is enjoyable if you’re a fan of the series or just have a hankering for mindless shooting, but everyone else should probably steer clear.
Elemental: Fallen Enchantress Preview Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a standalone expansion pack and follow-up to developer Stardock's previous game in the series, subtitled War of Magic. That 4X strategy game was highly-anticipated and slated to compete with games such as Sid Meier's Civilization V for your turn-based strategy play-time, but was released in an incredibly broken and unfinished state that it never fully recovered from. Lead designer Brad Wardell apologized profusely to fans and set out with his team to go back to the drawing board and try again.
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