Review – Painkiller Redemption
The Scoop: For the first time since People Can Flyhelmed the original Painkiller in 2004 the franchise is taking a step in the right direction. The original was a brilliant salute to early FPSs and their worship of the three G’s: Graphics, Gore and Gameplay. When PCF were picked up by Epic Games to make extra content for Gears of War and then eventually Bulletstorm, Painkiller was left to rely on a mixed bag of fan based content to keep it alive.
Although its title may suggest it, Painkiller Redemption is not the title that will return this franchise back to its former glory. It too began as a fan made mod of 2009’s sloppily done Painkiller Resurrection before getting the nod from publisher Dreamcatcher Games to become an official release. What has changed for the better is Redemption is not another attempt at a triple-A title for a triple-A price. Following the trendy path of other retro-themed games, it is available as a digital download on the Steam Network for only $5. The result is a shorter, more digestible version of Painkiller that does make it easier to overlook the game’s shortcomings.
The Setup: Painkiller Redemption is not a finished product. Like Minecraft, all of the game’s content has yet to be released. The parts of the game that are now available are done and provide a full self-contained experience; but the developers, Eggtooth,are promising more. Those who have already purchased the game will get new co-op missions and multiplayer maps at no additional cost. Hard to say how much material will be added on in the future or if the game will be better for it. After all, the co-op missions added onto Resurrection ended up being a complicated mess to setup. This should be improved with some Steam Network support, but let’s leave the predictions to Dionne Warwick and look at what we have so far.
Redemption feels like an add-on to Painkiller Resurrection. All of its environments are recycled multiplayer maps from Resurrection, but you are fighting through waves of enemy bots instead of other players. It can most closely be described as a single player Gears of War-style of “Hoard Mode”. You do move through the environments and there is a hint of a story; but progression cannot be made until every last monster is slain. This setup works out well since the Painkiller games have been more about gameplay than story and none of Resurrection’s game crashing glitches are present.
What’s Hot: There is something mystically fun about Painkiller’s focus on mindless fast-paced killing action and Redemption delivers this to the power of 10. As a result of using Resurrection’smultiplayer maps, the environments are the size of a broom closet as they are meant for about 6 to 8 human players instead of hundreds of enemy bots. That may sound like a complaint but Painkiller’s weak enemy AI works well in small rooms. It does make for some of the toughest Painkiller moments to get through, but the solid checkpoint system and easy-to-learn small maps keep the experience an intense, but rarely frustrating, one.
Redemption also mixes up the types of enemies you’re fighting at any time. Traditionally in Painkiller you’ll fight waves of one or two types then move onto the next, but Redemption will throw enemies with ranged and melee attacks at you simultaneously. There will be some enemies with shielding, some with flying abilities and they will all move at different speeds. You are constantly on the move, picking out who needs to go out first, then pick off the slow pokes later. Using one of my tried and true strategies of letting the flood of enemies come to me while I cut them off with the Painkiller’s secondary laser attack will work for a much shorter time then the previous games. The AI, while still quite dumb, has become better at flanking you. This forces you, the player, to constantly switch strategies.
Daniel Garner makes his first appearance since the original Painkiller and you get play as him for half of the game. He is pretty much the only one of Painkiller’s protagonist that I have ever had any attachment to, so it’s nice to see him rockin’ it again. The other half of the game you’re Overdose’sBelial, who is now palatable since he is a silent protagonist instead of one with four repeated one liners.
What’s Not: Overall Redemptionfeels flat. Its gameplay is straight forward but it is to a fault as it never makes any attempt to add any kind of variety. The few bosses towards the end of the game, for instance, are only larger versions of enemies you have already fought. I get that Painkiller has always been about being retro and staying true to its roots, but even Mario eventually got Yoshi to mix it up a bit. The weapons are the same, enemies have the same look and the soundtrack is metal. These are great things to revisit but it would be nice to have some new elements added in to enhance the gameplay.
A few times after I had cleared an area of enemies, the checkpoint to progress to the next area failed to appear. It was a little annoying but, again, the checkpoint system is well balanced so only a few minutes of gameplay was lost when loading up the previous one. Unfortunately, the ridiculously long load screens that have plagued this series since the original are back, so going back to those checkpoints can take a while. An Intel Core i7 processor should not take more than a few seconds to load a game as basic as this.
Final Verdict: I did have fun with Redemption when I was able to get over its short comings. Although the $5 price tag does help justify it, depending on your skill level, it is quite possible to zip though this game in about six hours. Adding a functioning co-op into the levels would definitely add some replay value and make up for its overall lack of depth; but until that day comes we still do have a solid Painkiller game. It’s tough-as-nails style may not make it an ideal starting place for newbies, but veterans will gladly accept the challenge. I’ll add up all the positive baby steps Redemption makes towards the good and give it a recommendation; but I want to see large leaps towards greatness for the next one.Review - Painkiller Redemption,