Platforms: PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC / Mac
Reviewed On: PS3

God help me, I tried to like this game. I was even in the right frame of mind to welcome such a mindless and simplistic title. I'd just finished a mountain of freelance work, and all I really wanted to do was switch on my PS3 and kill hordes of enemies, one after the other, using a range of different weapons plucked from the mind of a sadist. And Painkiller: Hell & Damnation delivers that. However, the game's flaws make this far from an enjoyable title.

The beauty of Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is that you don't have to think. Death, the main antagonist, gives you, Daniel Garner a Soul Catcher gun, tells you to collect 7000 souls so you can be reunited with your wife. There are other elements of plot, but they're not particularly important, nor do they have that much of an impact on the game. Along the way you'll encounter lots of different enemies - some throw things at you, some sashay towards you making them slightly annoying to take down, some have shields - and you'll pick up an impressive arsenal of weapons. All you need to do is kill everything that's trying to kill you, and collect their soul at the end. That's pretty much it. The scenery changes from level to level, but that's the whole of it. It's a bit like Quake or Doom. Unfortunately, unlike the aforementioned games, Painkiller has been released in 2013, to an audience of gamers who need a little more bang for their buck.

 photo spinny-death_zps98c12e3e.jpgFirst off, this game is ugly. The graphics would have struggled to turn heads if the game was released as a PS3 launch title, so to release this on a console that's in its final year one has to ask "Why did they bother?". Yes, the game's a port of a PC game, but some spit and polish is desperately needed on all aspects of the game's animation. The cut scenes are grainy, with textures popping in and out all over the place, and the gameplay graphics aren't much better, cursed with a refresh rate that had me dashing for the Nurofen Plus after 30 mins playtime.

As for gameplay, as long as you can point your character in the right direction and shoot, you're not going to find much of a challenge here. It's extremely hard to get overwhelmed, even when you're absolutely swarming with enemies. The ammo is plentiful, and as long as you don't get stuck on any scenery you will zip through every level like a knife through butter. If you collect 66 souls from downed enemies, you enter demon mode, which sounds a lot more impressive than it is. You basically become invincible and get to explode your enemies in a flurry of demonic power. Of course, everything's in black and white at this stage and all your enemies are highlighted in red, so it doesn't look very impressive.

The game's sound is also terribly unbalanced, and at times I feared for my surround speakers, especially during cutscene dialogue. Keep the remote handy, because you're going to need it.

 photo painkiller-main-01_zps0cf23468.jpgThere are a number of boss monsters dotted throughout the game, but don't worry about having to think tactically: running around in a circle and firing wildly at them will do the trick every time, even during the hellishly anticlimactic final boss encounter.

But hey; it can't all be bad. What about multiplayer? If only someone was playing. There's a co-op mode that allows you to complete the game with a partner, death match, team death match and capture the flag. How do they play? Well, the two games I managed to get were co-op and death match, the former being much more entertaining than the latter, but suffering the same problems as the single player game. Death match, however, didn't really give me enough information to form a decent opinion. There were only two other players in the match the only time I managed to get a game and it didn't really seem all that much different than any other death match game, except the scenery looked abysmal.

The game's one saving grace is the weapon selection, but even then the novelty wears off quickly. I'm quite fond of the Painkiller, a spinning blade of death that can be used as a retrievable projectile to juggle enemies in the air, and the sniper rifle that fires multiple projectiles and bouncing mines. But after about 30 minutes or so, it all got a bit "so what?"

The fundamental problem with this game is that it's harking back to an era that was held back by technological limitations. Doom and Quake were groundbreaking because they were the first of their kind. Now, the market is swamped with first person shooters that balance AI that'd impress Turing, graphics and enemy design so slick that they seem plucked from a Hollywood blockbuster and plot and character development that's starting to get noticed by organisations like BAFTA. Gamers just won't accept a hastily thrown together shooter and, I'm very sad to say, thats kind of what Painkiller: Hell & Damnation looks and plays like.