Painkiller Archive

by Artas1984
Painkiller - 9/10 (great)

This game is the benchmark and example of what a fast paced shooter game should be like.

QUESTION: What is the definition of a truly great fast paced first person shooter?

ANSWER: a truly great fast paced first person shooter is the kind of game, that delivers an extremely well paced and balanced gameplay, is fast, has advanced movement techniques those require great skill, is challenging, is not aging, has great replay-ability, is technically sound, and most important - is professionally competitive in the arts of professional gaming.

That being said - Painkiller delivers all that with such a mighty blow, that there has not been released a more sound fast paced shooter yet as of 2010!

Of course, Painkiller is not the first game to climb into that elite category.

It all started with the original Quake - the first game ever, that delivered all the requirements for a truly great fast paced shooter. And many more games of that category have been released since 1996 till 2004. The truly last great game of this type was Serious Sam, with the exception that it was not professionally competitive. As of now, many games tried to best Painkiller - and in some aspects they did, but non of them truly bested Painkiller at it’s heart and took the crown from him as the next big thing.

Painkiller does not bring a story worth mentioning, the game is not about that, but the presentation is very nice. There are lots of movies between the chapters, as well as a nice intro and outro. Suffice to say, that later Painkiller games were never that good at initial presentation.

The game has 4 difficulty settings - daydream, insomnia, nightmare, trauma.

The standard setting is nightmare - is it described as a normal difficulty mode, therefore should be recommended for any experienced player, who is versed in these types of games. Players without experience should start on insomnia mode. I have to say that daydream level is ridiculously easy and shameful - it does not need to even exist, as everything in the game does a maximum ONE point of damage...

Trauma difficulty is different in the sense that it actually has a different ending, opposed to the normal version. Some of the levels in the game can not be opened on certain difficulty settings, so one thing for sure - you will have to play Painkiller on every difficulty, except daydream, for full experience...

Painkiller has got one of the most exciting single player gameplay experiences when it comes to pure adrenaline rushed fast and challenging shooting action without the need of the story. I will be comparing him to some other known games..

You will notice that Painkiller is very fast - something that was missed in many single player games since Quake 2. The single player speed certainly is not as fast as in the original Quake, but is still faster than in most games. The REAL speed is in Painkiller’s mutliplayer... Singleplayer allows you to gain max speed to the value of 15 - and you will feel bunny-hoping like a madman, faster than in Doom 3 or Serious Sam, however the speed in Painkiller mutliplayer is extended to the value 28 and if you thought that it was fast with 15, think again! Now it becomes a truly a worthy successor to Quake. We will talk about multilayer later...

Indeed Painkiller brings some new movement techniques. Some of them are worth explaining. The most important and quite most easy is bunnyhoping - it’s not the same as strafing however.. While you keep jumping forward, you gain speed and momentum. Once you reach the max speed, you will have the momentum to overjump difficult obstacles, which look impossible from the first glance. Second important technique is air control - once you have the max momentum, you can perform a jump around the corner in a hyperbolic like pattern. Or you can use air control to land from high altitude down with amazing precision. The third crucial technique is wall climbing - you can climb the walls in this game, which would be impossible to do in almost any other game. Frames per second is a very important thing in this game. If you have 120 FPS rate to climb a wall, you can perform more operations on that wall per same amount of time than you could do having just 60 FPS. This is unlike in most other shooter games, where FPS mostly matter for the eye sight or weapon aiming - in Painkiller high FPS is crucial to successfuly perform essencial jumping and climbing techniques - in other words to execture shortcuts, run from enemies, jump over obstacles.

You will start killing monsters in various ways and will be delighted by the level of gore and destruction Painkiller brings. Havok physics code allows for some great eye candy when tossing up with monster bodies and objects. Between objects and monsters, the detail in monster animation and movement is certainly most appreciated and visually stunning. After death they leave their spirits those you can consume as a health replenisher. Once you consume 66 of these spirits, you will transform into an invulnerable demon, that can destroy any monster with a single shot. Indeed as a transformed demon you see everything in dark and white colors and only the creatures those posses spirits glow in red haze - quite amazing. No weapons needed - you just blast a wave of energy and your screen shivers from it. You return to normal person after some time. That being said we move on to the weapons.

The weapons are a the key factor to game success. Every weapon has a primary attack and an alternative attack, and some have combos. You get 5 weapons, from which 2 are very common - the shotgun that also freezes monsters and a rocket launcher that also has an alternative chaingun option. However 3 other weapons are very unique. The main weapon - painkiller, apart from shredding bodies and retracting them with a beam has a unique feature to do a painkillerjump. This is a technique when using an object or a body you perform a jump against the gravity in the vertical direction upwards. By using this technique you can execute shortcuts or find secret places. It is hard and requires great skill as well as high FPS. Non of the games comes close with this feature. Quake 2 and Heretic 2 had a similar grappling hook, but it was used for retracting your body against the object, not but jumping with it vertically or using it as a weapon. Painkiller has a gun called the stakegun, which launches wooden stakes at a great distance and can either gib the monsters, if fired with great velocity, or pin them to the objects, if fired up close. This pinning to the walls alone is enough to install Painkiller as soon as possible. The stakegun is a sniper weapon, but unlike the famous railgun from Quake 2, fires the stakes in a non-flat, parabolic like trajectory. It requires a certain skill to use it, harder than using a railgun for sure. Stakegun has grenades as an alternative option and has the best combo in the game - while you launch a grenade in the air, while it lands, you must pin the grenade with your stakegun in the air and then such stake will fly having an explosive warhead.. The damage done when hit with this combo is enormous. Last, but not least, is the gun that fires shurikens and lighting... Need i say more? Yes - it has a combo - it fires a big fucking shuriken charged with lightning and everyone that comes near that big pancacke is electrocuted. Somehow Yahtzee did not mention that.. All of the weapons look and feel awesome.

Once you start a level you can see an empty statistics deck that needs to be filled while you progress; once you will finish the first level - a display of level statistics will appear on the screen. Again, great competitive games like Quake and Serious Sam offer these statistics and the end of the levels. You will notice how much challenge does Painkiller offer to you - first you can finish each level with the 5 stars rating - meaning you have to make something known as a perfect score, known in Quake games. Since every slain monster drops a spirit, you can make a spirit run, or you can make a gold rush run, and try to acquire as much gold as possible. Gold is needed to buy tarot cards. Of course an ordinary level speedrun or boss level time attack is the most logic challenge. You can make a tarot card unlocking challenge - one of the most obvious and popular challenges - just do what is told at the beginning of the level statistics and have that done in the end of the level. For example finish one level using a stakegun only or finish another level without grabbing an armor - you will be rewarded with a tarot card afterwards.

Painkiller is a game, that comes with some truly impressive graphics. The level of detail on the architecture is the best in any game released before 2004 hands down, and while it lacks some realistic monster looks as well as some particular modern grahical effects (HDR, bloom, coronas, warp effects, voluemtric lightning, sufrace scatering and so on) it still holds its own against Half-Life 2, Doom 3 and Far Cry. Exceptionally well detailed are the bosses in the game, as they have a much biger texture detail level than ordinary zombies.

So once you will appreciate the almsot macabre and floetic visuals in a crude and primite way, as well as the performance, weapons, challenges, havok physics and how fast the game is, the next thing you will notice while exploring the game is the detail and accuracy in the level geometry and 3D design - especially gorgeous looking levels are the Cathedral, Atrium Complex, Opera House, Babel, Castle, Palace, Train Station, City On Water, Old Monastery. It is something that other FPS games released before 2004 can be only jealous off. Perhaps with the exception of Serious Sam, where some of it’s levels, like Babylon, were truly spectacularly pleasant. Having that compared, not all of the Painkiller’s levels look so amazing, some of them have a very linear and less attractive design - like the Military Base, Abandoned Factory or Docks - but on the other hand these less stylish levels offer greater gameplay value for the decreased looks (fightings in these levels are on a bigger scale and harder when compared to the beautiful levels). So Painkiller levels are very well balanced between each other, and there is not a case where a level is out of the picture. The most amazing thing about the levels, which most of you do not even realize, is that many of them represent real world entities! There is the same looking Asylum somewhere in the United States, same style Cemetery also in the US, same looking Train Station located in Austria, same looking Opera House somewhere in Spain - it can go on and on... Anyone who says that Painkiller has a bad level design is basically an idiot who does not have a clue of what he is talking about... Not all of the levels are real copies of the known places in the world, but all of the Painkiller levels, except Hell, have their counterparts, similar locations and installations in our earth, what can not be said about other fantasy FPS games, although games like Hexen 2 or Serious Sam did a great effort trying to realistically represent known historical designs and captured the beauty of excellent 3D geometry too.

The greatness of the levels does not just end with their geometry stuff. All the levels are filled with monsters, and each level has it’s unique distinctive monster list. For example you will only find Lepper Monks and Walking Undead in levels like Town and Castle. So there is a certain sense of style that each level has. Speaking of monsters i can not forget to mention the bosses of this game. Without a doubt Painkiller has got the biggest bosses seen in any shooter game ever released prior to 2004. Only Serious Sam rivals Painkiller in boss magnitude. You first get the taste of what bosses are about in the level Cathedral, where you face off against a giant vampire that is some 15 meters high. But he is nothing compared to the Necrogiant, which is, probably, the largest ever boss in any game i have ever seen. The bosses would not be all that impressive with their big sizes and that nice graphic detail on them - they actually bring up a challenge and fighting them is never a straightforward thing. Boss levels bring out the best in the whole game.

Painkiller multiplayer is something that many Quake fans have been waiting for. The game developers were Quakeworld champions in their countries and made a game so spirituly similar to the original Quake, yet so newly unique and fresh, that it is game changer in the way multiplayer games are meant to be talked about. Instead of being a jackass, i will simply quote some of the lines, the professional gamers had to say about Painkiller:

Johnathan fatal1ty Wendel: - for me Painkiller is the second greatest 1 versus 1 game after Quake 3 Arena.

Sander Vo0 Kaasjager: - my personal favorite shooter of all times, the fastest game that i have played.

No mater how much i like the game, it is not perfect. Actually Painkiller is one of the more error full games, and that just speaks about the fact that is has not been developed with first class materials. Bugs and crashes occur more often than wanted. Alone the lua application programing language is very irritating if you want to change some game scripts. Worst of all is that random lua based script errors occur just like that, without any explanation... Adding to the bad development is the fact that lots of stuff is written in polish language. Especially in the Pain Editor, which is used as a tool to modify maps.

Another fault is that Painkiller does not have a cooperative, and although one can not blame the developers for that, the fact that almost every Raven Software game had it, as well as Serious Sam had, makes you angry.

Final words: this game is almost a masterpiece, quite under rated in terms of being in the league of the greatest shooters of all times, but i certainly prefer quality over quantity, and do not care for incompetent opinions. Not everyone will appreciate Painkiller, but those who do, will know why...

About this site

Painkiller is a first-person shooter video game released on April 12, 2004. It was developed by Polish game studio People Can Fly and published by DreamCatcher Interactive.

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