When it comes to movies, fans of The Punisher comics have gotten the short end of the stickÖtwice. Fortunately, when it comes to videogames fans were blessed with one of the finest arcade beat ëem ups back in 1993. Publisher THQ is hoping to add another crown jewel to The Punisherís videogame career with a new game being released on the Xbox, PS2 and PC.
The thing thatís sure to please Punisher junkies like myself is the original storyline written by comic book veterans Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti. The game is supposed to cover 30 years of Punisher history, so weíre hopefully going to see the death of Frank Castleís family, his rise to insane vigilante, and with some of the memorable characters in between.
The Punisher goes commando
Max Payne ìborrowedî elements of The Punisherís storyline, so itís only fitting that the Punisher ìborrowsî parts of Max Payneís game. The game is a third-person shooter, and like Max, Castle is armed to the teeth with around a dozen weapons. Many of them can be dual-wielded; much like Frank Castle would do in the comics. Suspiciously enough, thereís even a form of bullet time. Just like in Max Payne, the more enemies that are killed, the more time is added to the bullet time. When a button is pressed time slows down, and Castle starts throwing knives at his foes. What makes this feature more than a mere knockoff is that the game changes color to give it a savage, gritty feel, and voices from Frankís haunted past can be heard in the background.
Where The Punisher is actually unique is in the ability to interrogate criminals. If you manage to get close enough to grab an enemy, you can either execute the scumbag or try to extract some information from him. There are many different methods of torture, from simple strangling or punching, to methods related to the environment. In the demo, you can slowly move a bad guyís face into a pool of piranhas, and thatís actually one of the less gruesome ones.
The interrogation is actually a minigame of sorts. Two bars appear during the interrogation; one that shows the health of the target, and another that shows the stress. By hitting the up and down buttons, you have to achieve the right level of stress for a few seconds without killing him.
After youíre done with the ìintel gatheringî (or before if youíd like) you can use the foe as a human shield. Bad guys are reluctant to fire when you hold one of their buddies hostage, but as soon as you unload a shotgun shell to their face then they have no problem sacrificing one guy to take you down.
The Iron Chef gone wild
Unlike most games, The Punisher rewards you by get in close to the bad guys instead of staying far away and sniping them off. When youíre next to someone youíre able to ìquick killî them. This means with the touch of a button you can instantly kill them with a very entertaining animation to go long. Sometimes Frank blinds the guy, straps a grenade to him, and then watches him run towards his friends. Other times he quickly beats them with his gun, or simply executes them in an efficient matter. THQ proudly advertises 101 unique deaths (those sick bastards), so thereís plenty more hilarious deaths just waiting to be seen.
The Punisher is voiced by Tom Jane, who was arguably one of the only redeeming qualities of the new film. He provides the gritty, psychotic edge that the voice of Frank Castle needs and what makes things even better are the well-written lines that he says. The music also boasts the same high production values, with a memorable score that occasionally sounds like Danny Elfmanís Spider-Man score, with a bit of Italian music thrown in(possibly there because of Frankís ethnic background).
The interrogation mode in action
The only real problem with the version I played was that Frank Castle moves way too slow. Perhaps this was done to make it more of a challenge to quick kill foes, but instead it turns out to be a distracting nuisance. Hopefully Frank Castle gets in shape before the release date and manages to pick up the pace a little.
So Punisher fans are most likely going to pick this one up regardless of how it turns out because of the storyline and brutal kills, but fans of Max Payne may find something to like here with the familiar controls. Things will hopefully be fine-tuned by the rapidly approaching release date, because I know I canít handle another disappointment involving my favorite comic books.