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The Punisher: No Mercy

If you know the Punisher, than you certainly know Frank Castle is no hero. He’s out for punishment and has no interest in the noble outlooks of his fellow Marvel peers. His family was brutally murdered and he’s out for justice, the kind that only the Punisher can serve. Given Frank’s perpetually sunny disposition and high body counts, he seems the perfect character to star in his own arena based FPS.

On paper The Punisher: No Mercy looks great, you get a story campaign that can be played with a friend online, a handful of multiplayer game types, eight maps, tournaments, the promise of future DLC, tons of unlockables and original comic art specifically produced for the game. Frankly speaking, there is a lot of game in this downloadable shooter, and yet it routinely underwhelms.

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First on the list is the ‘story’ mode, which solely consists of four levels populated with bots interspersed with fully voiced comic cut-scenes. Each level introduces you to one of the different multiplayer game types, but they all boil down to killing a ton of bots so they might as well have all been the same. Fighting bots is never an especially fun way to play a multiplayer FPS but No Mercy succeeds in making it even worse with some incredibly dull AI. Enemies know only how to shoot and run straight at you, and after dropping a hundred thugs in a round you’ll be ready for the story to end too.

While you plod your way through the mind numbing story mode you might actually discover one of the few bright spots found in The Punisher: No Mercy. To separate itself from the glut of Quake III and Unreal Tournament knock-offs out there, No Mercy sports an interesting weapon leveling system and Mods to customize your character. While you accumulate points with a weapon via kills or power ups it levels up, thus improving its effective range, damage, kickback and accuracy. It’s an extremely simple mechanic but it spices up the game by rewarding players for scoring kills and staying alive, because once you’re dead your weapons are reset. The Mods also add a bit of variety, allowing players to select a passive Mod and one that can be activated for short periods of time. There’s a good number of effects to choose from and it’s certainly the best feature in No Mercy for the player that wants to customize their experience.

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Although No Mercy does have a few interesting gameplay tweaks, the odds are you’ll tire of the game well before unlocking them. All of the Mods and weapons in the entire game are locked when you first start out. You’ll be able to get a basic arsenal from completing the story mode but it’s still only a small fraction of all the weapons and abilities found in the game. Obviously the point of all this locked content is to compel the player to keep plugging away no matter how they feel about No Mercy. This might be fine if weapons, Mods and costumes were unlocked in a straight forward manner, but they aren’t. Some weapons require X number of kills with a different weapon, X kills of a specific character, X deaths as a specific character and so on. It’s preposterous and makes you use every character, every weapon and pray that the multiplayer match you are entering has at least someone playing the character you need to frag.

The bigger problem with the game content being locked away is that the core shooting isn’t all that great, making it that much more fun to rack up those precious kills. This is the Punisher and killing needs to be fun, weapons need to have a bit more punch. This isn’t to say that the weapons all feel the same but none of them feel quite right or satisfying. The other issue is there’s very little hit recognition on your opponents and you’ll often find yourself wondering if you’re even registering hits, which makes the weapons feel even less adequate.

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Much like the weapons themselves, the overall product feels unpolished and poorly thought out. Textures throughout the game will take a while to catch up with the geometry. There’s no way to host an online game of your own that is open to anyone not on your friends list. Online games are relegated to playlists rather than having a more specific game filter. The tournament option is completely unexplained and never has available games. Even the story mode ends in a cliffhanger.

It certainly isn’t impossible to have some fun with No Mercy. Digested in short bursts there is some stupid amusement to be gleaned, but with the myriad of shortcomings found in the title there are certainly much better ways to get your senseless violence on. If Zen Studios had trimmed the glut of features and concentrated on firming up the core gameplay, The Punisher: No Mercy might have been a solid arena FPS, instead of a gritty mess.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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