Friday, August 8, 2008


The first thing I have to say about this game is: where have you been all my life?

Or, more precisely: why hasn't anyone told me to buy this game yet?

One thing I've been meaning to blog about here is what you might call the "FPS Pistol Syndrome." This is the annoying tendency of games to start you off with crappy, boring weapons, supposedly to make you appreciate and enjoy the big, fun weapons more. Even when you do get the big weapons, ammo for them is scarce, so you're stuck using the crappy weapons most of the time anyway.

Of course, the game I'm referring to is the grandaddy of the genre, DOOM, which forced you to start the game with the nearly-worthless pistol that takes several shots to kill even the most basic enemy. It takes ages to get the famous BFG 9000 which, though fun to use, eats through the rare plasma ammo like a fat kid with a jar of caviar. And what happens when you run out of plasma ammo? It's back to the good ol' shotgun and minigun.

The question I have is: why? The point of playing a video game is to have fun. Wouldn't the game designers want to maximize the amount of fun their players are having? If you ask me, forcing a player to run around with the pistol is like forcing Sonic to spend half the game walking, or making you go through boot camp before deploying to Normandy.

In Painkiller, your starting weapon is awesome. I can only describe it affectionately as the "spinny killy blade," as this is exactly what it is. Essentially, you dice your enemies to pieces with a madly spinning weapon. Its alternate fire shoots the blades from the gun, allowing you to either do impact damage when it hits enemies or, if you hit a structure, you can create a lazer beam between the blade and yourself to hurt enemies that cross it.

And that's just the starting weapon! The second weapon you get is a fairly standard shotgun (though it's still very satisfying to blow apart monsters at close range, and it can freeze enemies). The third weapon is the famous stake gun. If you've heard of Painkiller, you've heard of this weapon. I played the demo first, and the experience of nailing a crawling enemy to the floor through the head was what sold me on the game.

So far, most of the enemies can be killed with one shot from the stake gun, a close-range blast or two mid-range blasts from the shotgun, or a split-second meeting with Mr. Choppy.

I haven't gotten very far into the game, so I've only seen the first few levels. I imagine it probably gets somewhat tedious after a while. Nevertheless, I must tip my hat to the game designers who really went out of their way to make the game fun to play.

I should also mention that the weapons in this game are delightfully Steampunk. It's fun to watch the moving parts of the weapons... when you're not employing those weapons on the twisted minions of darkness, that is.

(Side note: Steam told me that I'd be buying Painkiller: Gold Edition, but when I installed it, said Painkiller: Black Edition. From what I understand, the Black Edition comes with extra DRM. I understand this can be a deal breaker for some people, so you have been warned.)

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