Halfway through Painkiller, in the throws of dealing with a frustratingly maddening crash, I was contemplating whether to bother with a review or to even add this game to my list of recommendations. However, I also realized what a terrible shame it would be if this were to happen because Painlkiller is truly worth a peek even if only to experience the sheer scale of its environments. They are truly awesome. Although I've played some other games with large environments, there is something quite different about Painkiller that's hard to put your finger on. Perhaps it's the camera angles that allow for gazing off into vast vistas and the panoramic scenes from dizzying heights. At times these stretch into the mists of the horizon with structures so large, you can't see where they end. Whatever it is, it's very compelling.
If you enjoy a good roller coaster ride then step into this game. Although many games start somewhat slowly or with training periods, Painkiller is not one of them. Once you step through the first door be prepared to fight for your life against an onslaught of demons. In many ways Painkiller plays like a tournament where you move from one area to the next only after you kill all the enemies first. There is no stealth involved and there are no hiding places. A door slams shut behind you and you will not be able to leave this area until the task is complete and all enemies are down. Fortunately, for all the sheer number of demon hordes, with lots of space to run around in, this is very doable. Don't turn your back on them though as they can run faster and can also spawn in your face. Once the area is cleared, you can leisurely explore it for goodies.
Painkiller is saved from being a mind numbingly boring slaughter of ghouls by its quiet periods between the action. The vastness of some of the environments is amazing and the story engaging enough. The additional task of finding the secret areas pads the game content, although finding and getting to the secrets may drive you quite mad. These are hard, hard, hard and usually involve almost impossible jumps and climbing onto objects that will practically fall over if you so much as breathe on them. Many also involve mastering the painkiller hop - building up speed to jump further or frantically hopping to climb higher. However, finding their location in the first place in these vast, intricate spaces is a challenge in itself. Quicksave is often your only resource. Painkiller will also have you climbing to impossible heights, so I hope you don't get dizzy easily.
You play the character Daniel Garner. Many years earlier, he and his wife died in a car accident, but for some reason although his wife is in heaven, he is stuck in purgatory. This is the place that Lucifer can use as a type of portal for his demon army to enter into the world. Before Daniel's soul can be released to join his wife, he must perform the task of stopping them.
Daniel is very skilled and very quick. There are also bonuses for each level in the form of obtaining tarot cards which can give a boost to his performance. Each level requires finishing it by certain rules. For instance, kill every monster or find all the holy items, or kill the bosses within a certain time. Missing these will not impede your progress, but you won't obtain the card. Enemies might be harder to kill without these and certain levels will be locked. It's probably advisable in this case to skim over a walkthrough so you know before you start what mode you should play in and how the whole card scenario affects the play. Different modes have different conditions applied to them. You can also go back to a level once you obtain better cards that may give you an advantage in getting any you missed. There is never any bonus help in finding the secret areas though, so good luck! I'll leave you to decide whether you want to read the spoilers to obtain the locations.
There are serious technical issues with Painkiller. I had a few minor crashes, a major one at the end of the train station level and one other further along. I was beginning to think this one was going to end the game for me, as it just wouldn't load. However, after doing a couple of things, it eventually did and let me pass to the next level. It's so frustrating that many developers will not fix these bugs and leave it all up to the users to try and fix them - especially when it's otherwise a really good game. For this reason, people need to take the time to research before buying any game as this sloppy workmanship is rampant regardless if the game is older or brand new on the market. You will then have to decide if the aggravation is going to be worth it and how much you are willing to spend knowing you will likely have problems.
You can probably pick up Painkiller at a fairly reasonable price and it's worth the play if you can get it running smoothly through the known issues. In my opinion, Painkiller, in single-player mode, is a superior game to many that are more popular. It's fast-paced, thrilling, and stunningly graphical and doesn't get nearly enough attention. I've seen users come up with code to fix other games. I wish someone would fix this one....sob!Note: Gog supposedly works out all kinks in games. If so, it would be worth investigating it there. The Black Edition includes the expansion Battle Out Of Hell. There is some confusion between Painkiller Gold and Painkiller Black. The only difference is in the media it was released on. Eg: CD or DVD.