Game Over Online ~ Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell

GameOver Game Reviews - Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell (c) DreamCatcher Games, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell (c) DreamCatcher Games
System Requirements Windows, 1.5 GHz Processor, 384MB RAM, 64MB 3D Video Card, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 86%
Date Published Monday, April 25th, 2005 at 10:57 AM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

It eats my PC alive, but I can't help but like Painkiller.

Over the last decade, the FPS has been turned into countless things it was never meant to be: adventure games, nonviolent puzzle games, platformers, RPGs, dating sims, what-have-you. Every genre you care to name has been shoehorned into an FPS, in some attempt to cash in on the craze.

Painkiller pretends that none of that ever happened, and gets back to what made the FPS great: emptying high-caliber weapons into hordes of oncoming demons.

I liked Painkiller. Painkiller: Battle out of Hell is more Painkiller.

Therefore, I like Battle out of Hell.

It's an expansion pack, of course, and not a true sequel, but it still offers a lot of quality for your money.

After the admittedly disappointing ending of Painkiller, Daniel Garner and Eve barely manage to escape Hell. They realize they've got one more job to do: kill Alastor, the new leader of Hell's armies, before he reunites their forces and takes another shot at overrunning Purgatory.

In the time-honored Painkiller style, this means Daniel will have to journey across ten more hellscapes, each one completely unrelated to the ones around it, and slaughter its minions. Somehow, this will eventually get him close enough to Alastor that he can force a final showdown.

I think that's the plot, anyway. I'm not entirely sure. I lost track of what was supposed to be happening when the game sent three dozen flaming orphans after me.

No, I'm not kidding. Orphans. On fire.

I love this game.

I'd love it more, though, if it wasn't occasionally stupid. Painkiller's designers were so busy coming up with new demons that they missed five years' worth of memos. Among them was the oft-repeated desire, by (at last count) everyone who's ever played an FPS, that designers stop including platforming sequences in first-person shooters.

Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell does not merely feature a bit of platforming, but it features really difficult platforming, complete with boost pads, pits of spikes, really narrow walkways, and leaps of faith.

The original game at least had the courtesy to make all the really difficult jumps completely optional, such as what you had to do to grab the holy items at the beginning of the Castle level. (It involved a series of blind leaps, and sticking your tongue out in the laws of physics' general direction.) In Battle Out of Hell, they're of critical importance. It is frustrating. I do not wish to discuss it further.

Instead, let's discuss how we're going to make demons die. All of the weapons and subweapons in Painkiller make a return in Battle Out of Hell, with new new arrivals. One is a submachinegun with attached flamethrower; I'm not sure how the original game got out the door without a flamethrower, but it's here now, and it's awesome.

The other gun's kind of a mixed bag. Its primary fire tosses five sharpened bolts at a distant target, which is aesthetically pleasing but lacks both offensive power and necessary precision. It can also fire a salvo of bouncing grenades, but that particular feature seems to get me killed a lot, so I stopped using it. Both functions have valid applications, but they're also both functionally redundant. If someone modded the stakegun to have a scope (PS: could someone do that, please?), there'd be no reason to use the boltgun at all.

You'll be wielding these weapons in, as noted above, ten new stages, which're as good or better than those found in the original, and which boast an equivalent selection of memorable, horrifying monsters. Some are decidedly creepy, like the exploding/resurrecting zombies that populate the Dead City or the sheet-wearing dead children who pursue you in the Orphanage. Others are just bastards, like the undead remnants of the German Army who continue to fight in the streets of Purgatory's Leningrad.

As per the original, Battle Out of Hell's stages have the continuity of a fever dream, but they contain some of the most intense action in modern shooters. The game's at its strongest when it's at its most frenetic, with enemies attacking from every side and bullets flying everywhere.

It stumbles a bit when it tries to get claustrophobic; since most of your weapons tend to lay waste to large areas, Battle Out of Hell compensates by sticking really tough enemies into the smaller spaces. I can respect that design decision, but when I blast a little kid with a shotgun, that stupid little kid had best go flying. It's frustrating when he doesn't. I mean, what's gluing the little bastard to the floor?

Battle Out of Hell's multiplayer is... well, honestly, it's kind of enh. Battle Out of Hell has two new modes, Last Man Standing and Capture the Flag, both of which are exactly what they sound like and what you've played before.

I've never liked Painkiller's multiplayer modes, although they're good for a laugh now and again. They always seemed like afterthoughts to me, like they were there because they had to be, and they don't really bring anything specifically interesting to the table. If I want online PC deathmatches, I'll play Unreal Tournament 2004; for me, Painkiller is something you put in when you want a singleplayer adrenaline jolt.

If People Can Fly really wanted to put together a multiplayer classic, a cooperative mode would do the trick. It wouldn't really work on all the stages, but it'd be awesome in the Dead City or Leningrad. Crank up the speakers, put a group together, and lay waste to hordes of zombies. Who doesn't like that?

With those qualifications, I'd recommend Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell to anyone who liked the first game. It's got the same flaws as Painkiller, as well as all its considerable merits.


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