Welcome Boils and Ghouls, more Halloween themed coverage here on HalfBeard’s Haunt as we talk about Painkiller: Hell & Damnation; because what could ever be scarier than a remake! Is it just an up-rezzed version of the game you already own? Is it a horribly neutered copy that loses much of what made the original great? Is it just a Wii U rerelease with new features of dubious quality? Well it’s certainly not that last one as this is a PC release, but wouldn’t that be spooky. Anyways it’s pretty good, read on and I’ll let you know why; also I’m cutting this crypt keeper shtick, I’m starting to feel like a hack.
So just to be clear, this is a remake of the first Painkiller that was done by People Can Fly back in 2004 along with some content from its expansion “Battle out of Hell”. The title is somewhat misleading but Hell & Damnation just stands for HD, something that made me feel like a total idiot when it finally dawned on me. That said it isn’t a straight remake, it is somewhat re-imagined both in story and in the order of the levels. In total you have 14 levels to fool around in (13 campaign levels and 1 bonus level) and aside from that bonus one they are a mixture of levels from the original game and the expansion, just in a slightly different order with some levels cut from both. It’s a pity to see that content missing but the campaign still feels meaty enough at 4-5 hours to justify it, especially if you plan on checking out the harder difficulties. It’s the sort of thing where you’re only really going to notice it’s missing if you’ve played the original; if you haven’t you’ll never know the difference and you’ll still feel like you’ve had a full experience albeit a slightly shorter one than preferred They also added a co-op mode so the campaign can be played with a buddy which could make for some fun, though as far as I know it’s the same levels as the standard single player campaign.
As for the multiplayer, it remains largely the same I think (I never really got into the multi in the original game). A mode I’m pretty sure is new is the co-operative “Survival” mode, basically horde mode but instead of waves there are guys kind of just always there and always coming. Of course the other big addition is the Steamworks support, you’ve got your leaderboards and cloud saves and all that jazz; all nice additions to the game and that support makes the multiplayer feel a bit more manageable at least compared to the original Xbox version of Painkiller I played a few years back.
One of the biggest changes is to the story which has been kind of rejiggered to better fit the story line of the more recent Painkiller games which were made by the publisher of this remake, Nordic Games. The idea is rather than Lucifer offering Daniel dubious salvation, it’s Death and he wants seven legions of souls in exchange for Daniel getting to see his wife Catherine again. They also spell out a lot more back story here regarding Daniel’s time before the events of the game, in the original it seems Daniel dies and then is immediately given his grim yet incredibly fucking metal mission whereas here he has been in purgatory for a while fighting both heaven and hell and apparently kicking way more ass than anyone expected. While it does seem odd he’s allowed to wander as free as he does in the cut scenes, it does kind of flesh out why Death would offer him such an opportunity in the first place. In general the story just feels better explained, the original for as awesome as it was just kind of dropped you into it and said go, this game at least gives you a little motivation.
Obviously the most apparent part of this remake is the updated visuals and it feels like they did a pretty good job here, this is more than just a simple up-rezzing. First off it’s been ported up to Unreal 3, so it’s working with a bit more power. They’ve also gone and rebuilt a lot of the assets from scratch (or at least the textures) so everything looks sharp and detailed. The guns have a great deal of little animations and movement to them and the enemies all look pretty decent up close (something you’ll see a lot as enemies like rush you in this game). Even just the various gibs and viscera from all your violence look a little fresher and gorier than their last gen counterparts. Honestly my only quibble with the presentation is the fact that the voice actor for Daniel seems to be doing his best Duke Nukem impression the whole game; it’s not bad and cut scenes are few and far between so you’re not hearing it all the time as he’s silent in-game but it does stick out when you hear it.
For $20 Painkiller: Hell & Damnation seems like a totally sufficient FPS experience. It’s a little on the short side if you’re not going to check out the multiplayer and the idea that a lot of levels didn’t make the transition is a bit disconcerting but what you want from the Painkiller brand is here; it’s violent, over the top, and ridiculous amounts of fun. This experience is hard to find these days; you’re not taking cover or trying to find “actual” or whatever it is the CoD and Battlefield games are about, hell you’re not even reloading, you’re just blowing shit up as an unstoppable avatar of destruction while jamming out to some heavy metal and having a damn good time doing it. So for a well made if not 100% true to the original remake, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation gets a 3 out of 5 stars. Worth the money if you have a serious case of the military shooter doldrums but those missing levels just niggle at me too much for me to give it a full recommendation.
If you do plan on picking this game up, do so during Steam’s Halloween Sale to grab the awesome free Halloween Cemetery DLC level which you can see during our Heads Up.