IGN Review of Painkiller Resurrection
The appeal of Painkiller is simple. You walk into an area with menacing weapons and kill tons of demons. Then you move into the next area and do that same thing. Rinse and repeat, and after a bunch of severed limbs fly all over and bathtubs of blood have been spilled, you're done. It was easy fun, and executed well in People Can Fly's 2004 original. Fast forward to today and the latest Painkiller game, called Resurrection, is available for purchase, put together by Homegrown Games. How'd it turn out? Well, if you're looking for a first-person shooter that lets you point at stuff with guns and kill it, then this game allows for that. If you're looking for anything more, then you're completely out of luck, because a host of problems ensure this is one of the worst games of 2009.
One thing you'll surely not care about is the story, which features such clumsy dialogue that it's difficult to tell if phrases like, "Hell knows what's going on in Hell," are as worthless as they seem or actually brilliant. This tale follows a new protagonist, William "Bill" Sherman, and doesn't make a lot of sense. He's a remorseless, hardened killer, but during one murderous mission a bus filled with innocent people drives by and all of a sudden his conscience kicks into gear just before he's killed, at which point he needs to figure out how to avoid going to Hell. The process of doing so involves mowing down legions of demons with weapons any Painkiller fan should be familiar with, which let you blast out giant stakes and rockets and shotgun blasts, amongst other things. That's all fine, since the Painkiller arsenal works well for the types of enemies the game throws at you, but then you get to the two big problem areas of the game: the horribly designed enemy encounters and even more preposterous map layouts.
To be very clear, nobody is expecting any kind of remarkable enemy behavior in a Painkiller game. Enemies spawn into the world as you progress, then charge at you or stand still and throw projectiles, then you run by and kill them. The repetition of this pattern in games like the original Painkiller is both reassuring and comforting, quickening your pulse when a new wave of demons spawns in, and reinforcing your sense of fantastical empowerment as you conquer them. In Resurrection, even that most basic of formulas is smashed to splinters.
Enemies in the game have vague ideas about how to navigate any kind of terrain, so those that live to charge at you and get killed, which is a majority of the game's bestiary, are quite often going to get hung up on a rock…or a banister...or the side of a doorframe…or anything really. If you're not standing out in the open, they're never going to reliably reach you, which significantly diminishes the thrill of the experience. All you need to do to avoid getting attacked is step behind a stick. It gets much worse than that, though.
There's no rhythm to this game at all, no flow. You don't feel like you're traveling through battle arenas that a developer took the care to create and craft to maximize excitement, but rather are the victim of an unending and sloppy onslaught of dopey enemies set up with little to no regard for pacing or entertainment value. As you pass through invisible trip wires enemies will just start spawning in from seemingly random directions, and hardly any effort has been made to mask the spawn-ins. Foes just pop into existence like a cigarette burn on a film you're watching at a theatre, and they can also just pop in right on top of your head if you're moving quickly forward. It makes an already shaky game feel even more messy and unpolished.
Then we arrive at the absolute worst part of the game, and that's the level design. There really shouldn't be any issues at all in a game like this regarding where to go next, yet in Painkiller: Resurrection, you're going to be questioning your next destination at nearly every turn. The game's battle arenas range from wide open spaces choked with debris which are at times infuriatingly frustrating to navigate to smaller, enclosed spaces where the decreased size in no way lessens the confusion. Even with the checkpoints that pop up, the game for some reason refuses to clearly mark pathways critical to progression, instead stuffing them into out of the way balcony windows, seemingly impassable doors, and nondescript stairwells tucked away behind mountain ledges. This, combined with the heinous encounter design, results in an experience that I can't imagine anyone enjoying.
Setting aside the foul gameplay, the visuals aren't anything to be impressed by either, since we saw pretty much the same thing in the original. In Resurrection, you'll be treated to such generic environments as a dark city, a cathedral, a cemetery…and more! You'll also get glitchy animations, ridiculously long load times, and visual aberrations abound. Oh, and hopefully you like crashes, because that's one area where Painkiller: Resurrection excels. It also features a wildly fluctuating framerate while running on a rig that can pull of Crysis quite admirably. As for audio, there's a selection of familiar sound effects spliced with crudely mixed and forgettable music. For some reason William "Bill" Sherman repeats the same handful of phrases every few minutes throughout the game. "This…is…madness," he exclaims. The first time he kills a demon? Sure, that makes sense. The 2500th time? Not so much.
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