Daniel and Catherine Garner's day hasn't ended so well. A car accident has taken their lives, and now Daniel's discovered he hasn't been as pure in life as his wife has. While she's headed to Heaven, Daniel finds himself somewhere in between, drawn into a titanic struggle between Heaven and Hell with very few choices. No choices, really. If he wants to be reunited with his wife, he'll need to carve his way through an army of hellspawn, and into the bowels of Hell itself.
Painkiller, the pilot effort from game designer People Can Fly and veteran distributor DreamCatcher Studios, certainly delivers a gripping, intense FPS, with enough interesting gameplay to take on some other titles you may be hearing a lot of hype about.
First, the goods: This is one beautifully detailed game. The game engine itself is excellent, and the designers have gone the extra mile with intensely realistic skin and landscape texture, range of motion, and fluid enemy movement. Levels are disturbingly morbid, with an ethereal feel, and are extremely thematic. While enemy AI isn't fantastic, the games designers seem to have taken the Serious Sam approach: Swarm after swarm of enemies from all fronts. An especially nice touch was the Painkiller weapon itself: with its combination ranged and melee attacks, it was an excellent combination, and extremely useful to boot. And cutscenes? Breathtaking, easily the most fluid and realistic characters I've seen in a game to date.
So with all of the goods, you're probably wondering 'why the Fans Only rating'? Here, the intangibles come into play. First, the game bundles with the GameSpy network, which I have become more and more averse to recently. Decent multiplay support outside of GameSpy would not be remiss. This game is also a system hog, and the machine I purchased last year as 'top of the line'? could barely keep up until I spent about another $100 to get my specs just over minimum (this game requires at least a P4 1.2GHz and 384MB RAM). Technical support was limited at best, and there are still quite a few glaring bugs such as lighting, texture, and clipping issues.
Still, all in all Painkiller is a visceral, intense shooter with well designed and realized levels, and certainly a 'must have'? title for FPS aficionados. A shade below Recommended Buy.