Genre: First-person Shooter
Developer: People Can Fly
Release Date: December 1, 2004
Buy 'PAINKILLER: Battle Out of Hell': PC
Painkiller: Battle out of Hell has to be the most hardcore FPS this reviewer has ever played, let’s just get that out of the way right at the start. Sure the underlying game mechanics are the exact same as they were in the original game, the enemies just as numerous, and the weapons just as mind-bogglingly awesome, but the biggest change that BooH brings to the original game is that not only does it fulfill the standard expansion pack requirements of new levels, enemies, and weapons, but it also is Painkiller at its absolute finest. Games like Serious Sam were crazy, the original Painkiller was intense, but BooH is just downright insane.
Just as in the first title, you play as Daniel Garner who, after dying in a car crash along with his beloved wife, found himself in Purgatory as a soldier fighting against the relentless armies of Satan. BooH picks up with a cutscene of Daniel and Eve barely escaping a demon army via a one-way teleport, and with Daniel’s realization that although he put a big gouge in the armies of hell, things are far from over. Although he just barely escaped hell, it’s now up to him to fight his way right back into it to stop the demons once and for all.
There are 10 new levels in BooH which showcase a decent variety in locations, just as the original title did. The game starts off in an orphanage in purgatory, and throughout the expansion pack, you’ll find yourself in such places as war-torn battlefields, a zombie-filled city, and an industrial lab complex. Each level maintains its own feel so that they all have their own unique vibe; the orphanage is a bit creepy, the zombie cities are full of despair and dread, and the lab is just filled with a more aggressive feel and pacing. Another throwback to the original title is that every level has its own enemies in them. The enemies in the orphanage level consist mostly of what look to be English schoolchildren: little boys who can get nearly blown in half and still fight on, little girls who can spontaneously combust, and a child wrapped and tied in a bloody white bed sheet who cries and wails until exploding into bloody bits like a bomb. Meanwhile, the industrial lab level features what look like spacemen with glass orbs for heads containing skulls floating in blood and busty nurses with their high heels and hypodermic needles. In the carnival level, which features a rollercoaster ride filled with gunplay, you’ll be fighting marionettes who breathe fire and sadistic clowns who throw fireworks at you. Of course there are also new boss characters, such as a gigantic spider … machine … thing …, and other enemies that aren’t quite bosses but take quite of lot of lead to take down.
The original Painkiller only had five weapons to choose from, though each one of them had two firing modes that were, for the most part, equally useful. Recapping them is the painkiller itself, which can either be a long range weapon by shooting a metal glowing orb from its tip or a melee weapon that looks like a buzzsaw gone wrong. The shotgun is the same bread-and-butter weapon as one would expect it to be, but its secondary fire shoots a freezing ball of energy that turns enemies into solid blocks of easily-breakable ice. The stakegun not only has the wickedly fun aspect of launching stakes of wood to pin enemies to walls but also features a grenade launcher for crowd control. The most original weapon of the initial bunch has to be the star-thrower, which can be used to either fling throwing stars like a machine gun or to fry enemies with a short-range electric beam. Rounding off the bunch is the combination of a chaingun and rocket launcher, aka the most powerful combination a guy could ever hope for. BooH adds two new weapons to the mix, resembling, by loose definitions, an SMG and a sniper rifle. The SMG weapon’s primary fire lets you spray bullets at your foes, but its secondary fire makes the weapon function as a flamethrower that absolutely decimates groups of enemies. The sniper rifle has a zoom capability, which is the only similarity the weapon has to any sniper rifle ever. Rather than fire bullets, the weapon fires what looks to be five bars of rebar in a triangle formation, pinning enemies to walls just as the stakegun did, but with no arc and longer range. The weapon's secondary fire sprays out a bunch of what look to be explosive marbles, another great choice for killing a large group of enemies in one fell swoop.
One thing that really can’t be expressed in writing is just how deliciously twisted BooH is. I mean, from the very get-go you are shooting screaming, crying children, then later on watching businessmen commit suicide by leaping from skyscrapers and screaming as they splatter on the pavement; only to recombine after a few moments as zombies. In the carnival level, you’ll see a merry-go-round with buzzsaws mounted at head level and other stuff that really makes you wonder. Throughout the game, enemies are getting blown into bloody bits, attacking you by shooting gasses at you from their exposed intestines, and flinging parts of themselves at you. Of course, BooH is also just as fun as the original title and is one of the few FPS titles that can call fighting eight enemies at once a small-scale battle. Indeed, there are few things more satisfying in the genre than blowing through a horde of demons and undead by using ridiculously powerful weaponry.
BooH improves on the original Painkiller engine in a variety of ways. Water effects have been enharced and are used to phenomenal effect in a few places, though you don’t see it very often. The flamethrower effect looks fairly remarkable in the way it not only fluidly ignites enemies in its path but also the way it lights up a room and gets reflected when traveling above water. The two new guns look just as good as the old ones, and while they don’t have eye-catching effects (short of the aforementioned flamethrower), they do look unique and solid in their own right. The enemies are slightly higher quality and now have their own interesting effects, such as both the "spacemen’s" heads bubbling around inside of their glass orbs and the nurses chests doing largely the same thing. The original Painkiller engine is still proving to be a powerful one, delivering large-scale battles and beautiful detail and textures with a playable and largely consistent framerate.
The underlying premise of an expansion pack is to merely add booster content to a title that is getting long in the tooth. While Painkiller’s "long in the tooth" status is debatable, BooH does much more than function as a booster pack and is probably Painkiller at its absolute finest. While not nearly as long as the original title in gameplay length, BooH is more than worthy of its $20 price tag, considering that the 10 levels are solid in and of themselves, and the new content is pretty good. If you already own Painkiller, there is absolutely no reason that BooH shouldn’t already be on your "Games to Buy" list, as it will undoubtedly be highly regarded by fans of the original title. It may not showcase a cutting-edge game engine or add brand new features to the FPS genre, but Painkiller: Battle out of Hell is, without a doubt, one of the most intense and straightforward FPS rides the genre has seen yet.