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Painkiller: Hell Wars

Painkiller: Hell Wars bothers me. It bothers me because it’s not a good game. It isn’t. A lot of people will tell you that it’s great, but it isn’t. Painkiller: Hell Wars casts you as Daniel Garner, a man sent to purgatory after a car accident. He then becomes an exterminator of hell’s worst demons and that’s the last of the story. This is a straight-forward, run into an area, blast all the cannon-fodder enemies that pop up in front of you, and then run through the next door and do the same thing over again FPS. After six or seven rounds of this, you’ll be locked into a larger arena with a massive, sky-scrapper tall demon that you’ll have to pump dozens and dozens of shots into. Then a portal to the next unrelated level will open up before you and you’ll do the same thing again. This is how Painkiller: Hell Wars progresses until the game is finally over. You might be fighting in a graveyard, a cathedral, or an alley-way, but the action is all same and you’ll never be told why or how you got there.

I can’t stand the repetition, but what annoys me most about this game is the lack of any artificial intelligence. Painkiller: Hell Wars does have you fighting demons from hell, and maybe demons aren’t that smart, but it would be nice to see them do something – anything – other than run straight at me. Sure, it can get tense at times when you’re completely surrounded by foes, but why not have some patient demons that hide and wait for us, to sneak up on us from behind like we saw (occasionally) in Doom 3? Even better, Painkiller: Hell Wars could employ some enemies that try to avoid my shots, instead of running single-file in groups of three or four. Instead of AI, the developers decided that it was more entertaining to have to blast through thirty or forty enemies an area, instead of a few smart ones that really challenge the player.

And, considering this is a game that’s all about throwing dozens of enemies at you all at once, it’s shameful that the developers couldn’t keep the framerate going at a constant rate. You’ll see some nice sharp drops at least once in almost all of the levels. The draw-distance isn’t up to snuff with the PC version and in-level loading that wasn’t present in the PC version really disrupts the action. Add in some control issues (you have to manually assign new weapons to a spot on the D-Pad before you can use them) and you not only have a boring, repetitive game, but a boring, repetitive game that is marred by technical issues. An energetic rock soundtrack does liven up the action a little bit, but it’s not enough to save the game from mediocrity, nor is the arsenal of cool weapons like the saw-blade Painkiller or the ever-cool stake gun.

If there is one positive thing about Painkiller: Hell Wars, is that it can be played multiplayer both on and off Xbox Live. As far as pure deathwatch goes, Painkiller: Hell Wars delivers, and when competent players that use some strategy are in the place of the brainless enemies of the single-player campaign, the game is more enjoyable, even fun. But I like my FPS shooters to deliver a single-player experience too, and Painkiller: Hell Wars flatly fails in that regard. If you’re looking for online deathmatch, Painkiller: Hell Wars is a reasonable purchase, but don’t expect anything from the single-player experience, particularly, enjoyment.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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