+ Fast-paced action
+ Impressive enemies and weapons
+ Level design
- Limited graphics upgrade
- Somewhat repetitive
Final score: 8 / 10
Controller support: No
Windows XP SP3 or Windows Vista or Windows 7
Intel Core 2 Duo at 2Ghz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 or better
2 GB of RAM
NVIDIA GeForce 8600 or ATI Radeon HD 2600XT with 256 MB memory
5 GB of hard drive space
Windows Vista or Windows 7
2.4 GHz quad core processor
3 GB of RAM
NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX or ATI Radeon HD 4850 with at least 512 MB memory
5 GB of hard drive space
Painkiller Hell & Damnation is a shooter that might seem incredibly alien to those who have only played the likes of Call of Duty or Battlefield during the last few years, and that means the reactions to its launch will be clearly divided: some players will love its focus on high-speed shooting while others will criticize it for its barebones nature.
The game is a throwback at a time when a first-person shooter had no interest in narrative, lacked almost all characterization and the developers’ main aim was not to recreate real-world areas but to design complex arenas that would make killing things as exciting as it could be.
The original Painkiller was launched in 2004 and was developed by People Can Fly, the team that recently launched Bulletstorm, and the current remake is developed by The Farm 51, which has some of the original developers on staff, and published by Nordic Games.
Daniel Garner is the main character of Painkiller Hell & Damnation, a man who was happily married to the beautiful Catherine and was headed to the kind of fairytale existence most of us only learn about from cheesy movies.
An unfortunate accident kills the pair, sending Catherine to Heaven and Daniel himself to Purgatory and the entire series catalogs his attempts to strike deals with the various supernatural forces that might have the power to reunite him with the love of his life and death.
In Painkiller Hell & Damnation, the story is of limited importance and only serves as a reason for the player to deliver a lot of projectiles in the general direction of monsters in anger.
Purgatory is filled with monsters and every one of them is a legitimate target for main character Garner and his arsenal of weaponry.
The game is very fast and it actually takes a little time to adapt to coming from other titles in the same space and the quickness is everywhere: enemies close you down incredibly fast, weapons reload almost instantly with one exception, you die in about five seconds if you can’t move freely, souls disappear quicker than you can chase them down.
For Painkiller Hell & Damnation, movement is life and solid weapon management is the key to success.
A player needs to know the area he is in and how he can move around it without getting stuck and it’s imperative to discern between the various enemy types and the weaponry that’s best suited to take them out.
Ammo can quickly become a problem if one focuses on just one tool of destruction and the boss fights are some of the hardest and most satisfying I have encountered in the last few years of gaming.
Painkiller Hell & Damnation is a very pure game and every aspect of the gameplay is dedicated to making it a device for adrenaline delivery.
The arenas are open enough to encourage attacks from behind and to allow for quick evasion on the part of the main character but small enough to make the enemy numbers seem overwhelming at times.
The development team has changed little from the original release and it’s surprising to see that the quality of the levels and the distribution of enemies and weapons continues to impress after 8 years.
Even the boss battles, which modern games have abandoned or treated badly, are interesting challenges in Painkiller and, despite their difficulty level, they are engaging and interesting pieces of the game that might frustrate a little more than others but never fail to impress.
Just remember to stay out of their reach and don’t lose precious health to minions while focusing on the big guy.
Finally, those who want replayability have a number of difficulty levels to engage with, including the legendary Trauma, and Tarots can be employed in order to change the nature of the challenge.
Graphics and audio
Painkiller Hell & Damnation uses the Unreal Engine 3 in order to remake the classic look and atmosphere of the series and there’s a clear improvement when it comes to quality, although the high speed nature of the game experience might make it hard to notice for a lot of players.
The details on the various enemy characters are much better than in the original and even the battle arenas benefit from attention, but the effects of the graphics lift operation is best seen on the weapons, which naturally are the elements of Painkiller Hell & Damnation that most players will see during every frame of the match.
Despite the improvements and the smooth nature of Painkiller Hell & Damnation, there are times when it’s hard to understand why the developers didn’t go any further, because the game has no way of competing with the quality offered by modern series like Call of Duty or Medal of Honor.
The soundtrack is also remade and I enjoyed its metal inflexions while blasting away at enemies, but it might prove tiring to a number of players who might have different tastes in music.
Painkiller Hell & Damnation also does a great job of pairing its impressive array of weapons with sound effects suggesting their powerful nature and the effects they have on the enemy hordes.
Painkiller Hell & Damnation is a game that is fully enmeshed in the current industry trend towards a cooperative and multiplayer focus when it comes to all first-person shooter releases.
Those players who have a friend nearby will be able to ask him to join the game in order to get through the entire world working together, with everything from enemy numbers to difficulty level adjusted for two death-wielding Daniel Gardner characters.
Those who want even more players involved at the same time can opt for a cooperative survival mode, with includes no less than eight players joining forces in smaller sections of the maps in order to survive endless numbers of enemies.
To most fans, the appeal of Painkiller Hell & Damnation lies in battling the hordes of monsters, but there are also options, from simple deathmatch to a Capture the Flag, for those who want to fight another human being.
Painkiller Hell & Damnation seems weird in the context of the modern video game industry, a game that comes from the past in order to remind us what a shooter is supposed to be and the kind of emotions that we were currently expecting the genre to generate.
After a particularly tough boss fight in the remade Painkiller, I actually had my hands twitching from the adrenaline and I was unable to process the world around me for a few seconds, still caught up in the wild shooting and movements combo I performed in order to bring the beat down with just an ounce of my life left.
It was a feeling that shooters, from BioShock to Call of Duty, have failed to deliver in the last few years and I found myself wanting more of it.
Painkiller Hell & Damnation is a good way to reconnect with the essence of the shooter genre and I hope that developer The Farm 51 and publisher Nordic Games use this just as a start to a revival of the franchise that will deliver many more games in the coming years.