Preview of Painkiller: Hell Wars

Painkiller: Hell Wars Box art

Painkiller: Hell Wars

by Stephen Cameron

November 15, 2005
It has been said that it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and with the inevitable stresses and worries in life, you might sometimes feel like you’ve got a chew-toy ass! Don’t despair, there’s relief on the way in the form of a painkiller. Painkiller-Hell Wars is coming your way January 2006 from developer People Can Fly and it looks like this might be the cure for what ails ya?
The Painkiller series debuted on PC about April 2004 amidst a good deal of speculation from industry commentators that it would simply be another mediocre offering in a lack luster string of previous projects. Luckily for gamers, the speculation was dead wrong.

The PC version managed to establish enough plot to intrigue, a goodly portion of heart-pounding action and dazzling graphics to score a resounding cheer from even the most demanding FPS fans. The resulting accolades left Xbox gamers crying out for a console version up until now. In the three level beta I had the chance to play, it became readily apparent to me what PC gamers have known for more than a year now, Painkiller HW is ALL THAT. I have now doubt that given this small glimpse into the vision of People Can Fly’s hottest coming attraction, Painkiller-Hell Wars will be on most every gamers seasons wish list!

As I have not had the pleasure of having played the PC version, I should briefly share some of the Net’s collective wisdom on the plot here. The main character has landed himself between Heaven and Hell, in Purgatory (if you like?), and has been charged to lead the campaign against all manner of foul hellspawn. Not exactly knowing why he’s been given this task, our persona uses every weapon he can lay hands on to stake, dice, incinerate and eviscerate the seemingly endless hordes of undead and demonic denizens of the game play world. Although the beta I played had no Xbox Live capabilities, the full version will boast both Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes.

The flat-out incredible graphics come courtesy of People’s proprietary 3-D PAIN engine producing some of the most impressive looking bosses in a platform anywhere, and rich textured environments. Couple PAIN with the HAVOK 2.0 physics engine and those impossibly realistic bosses and minions move (and blow apart) the way they should! For instance, in the Town beta level, one area has several hanging undead creatures lobbing pieces of their own bodies at you (with a rather high degree of accuracy, I might add). When these creatures are shot with the Stake Gun, they will recoil and sway with the initial and subsequent stake impacts, leaving them as pin cushions! The sheer size and intricacy of the levels is made all the more interesting with the ability to manipulate or destroy most of the objects in one’s proximity. Carts may be pushed by the shockwave from a nearby grenade explosion, or be blown apart; undead enemies may also be blown to bits or sent hurtling through the air, depending on several variables. There appears to be five different weapons one can acquire through the course of the game, each with a secondary firepower. The Chaingun, for example, has a Grenade Launcher as the secondary attack (kinda like Flashbangs, but with more Bang!).

The game has wicked music and creepy atmospheric effects that do well at maintaining an adrenaline-based edge. The beta featured a Ozzy-esque title track set to some of the most realistic FMV I have ever seen-bar none. All of these elements combine to deliver what I believe will be one of the best received shooters in a very long time. People Can Fly appear to have woven an extremely intricate tapestry here, and it’s easy to lose yourself in hours of stress-relieving “demonic rehab”…so let the games begin.

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