Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Painkiller Hell & Damnation

Review: Painkiller Hell & Damnation

10:00 AM on 10.29.2012 // Allistair Pinsof

Where exploding barrels go to die

Eight years after its release, Painkiller has received numerous expansions, mods-turned-retail-releases, and ports. Almost all of which have been terrible and too stubborn to update the game. Nearing its ten-year anniversary, here we are again with more Painkiller.

Make no mistake: This isn’t a celebration or reinvention. It’s a publisher milking a great game for all it’s worth, even if the cow is skinny as a toothpick and its udders crusty and dry. Yet, the milk is still smooth and sweet.

OK, this metaphor is kind of gross and not going anywhere. Let's jump into the pr0f3ssional analysis, then!

Painkiller Hell & Damnation (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: The Farm 51
Publisher: Nordic Games
Release: October 31, 2012 [PC], January 22, 2013 [Xbox 360, PS3]
MSRP: $19.99

Rig: Intel i5-2500k @3.30 GHz, 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 580 GPU

Before first-person shooters became rollercoaster rides, they were a gladiatorial sport.

Circle-strafing is a lost art. Back when we still called them Doom-clones, first-person shooters brought twitch-based arcade action to the third-dimension. Managing six or more weapon slots, controlling crowds of enemies, and finding hidden areas were as important as accuracy. In today’s shooters, where win conditions are far more dependent on taking cover and relying on auto-aim, these skills are superfluous.

For a brief time in the early ‘00s, two games managed to put an end to the belly-aching coming from old fans of the genre: Serious Sam and Painkiller. The former parodied Doom and took place mostly in large exteriors that even Quake 2 couldn’t render. Painkiller was much more faithful to Doom. It had demons, gore, and a variety of haunted indoor locales. It was a welcome shot in the arm for first-person shooters, but the series hasn’t been the same since.

After a botched attempt at recreating the Painkiller magic in NecroVisioN, developer Farm 51 is adopting a much more literal approach. But, who is better qualified to make a “HD remake” of Painkiller than a studio run by two guys that worked on the original? People Can Fly, sure, but they are too busy making original games. Those clowns!

Now that I’m done shitting on Painkiller being repeatedly dragged through the mud only to be dosed with dollar store makeup, I’ll deliver the good news: Painkiller is still an amazing game and Painkiller Hell & Damnation (= HD = throw up in my mouth) is a mostly faithful recreation of People Can Fly’s classic shooter. For better or worse, the flaws of the original complement some welcome additions.

If you never played Painkiller but have played Quake: Imagine that game but with a neat Tarot card system that lets you temporarily enable damage & defense perks, one time per level. If you never played Painkiller but have played Call of Duty: Imagine if those soldiers were demons and neither of you had any place to hide. Also, imagine there is one of you and a hundred of them. Like, always. Sounds fun, right?

Painkiller was is a very well made game. The level design, enemy variety, and arsenal are among the best to ever grace a first-person shooter. The game expects you to master bunny-hopping -- it's hilarious when you see a co-op partner perform this maneuver -- and quickly switch weapons. With a keyboard, you’ll need to remap some buttons and practice stretching your fingers. With a controller … well, you’re a lost cause. While the game can be played with a 360 controller, it’s an awkward experience. Not only does the game not let you customize controls, the ones you are stuck with are just horrible. You have three different buttons for jumping, yet the D-pad only allows you to go one weapon forward or backward -- leaving down and up unused. Clearly, Farm 51 hasn’t played Doom on XBLA.

Though I felt cheated, seeing that some of my favorite levels are missing from this collection, Farm 51 has done a bang-up job of cutting off the fat. Bad levels are missing but not missed, mouse-scroll now works properly, and there are buttons for immediate use of the Painkiller staff's alt-fire and stakethrower's grenades (read: melee + grenades buttons). These are small details that really change the game. Frantically applying the melee move makes ammo management much easier and crowd control more fun. By the time I worked my way through the game’s 14 levels, I was ready to start again on the hardest difficulty. And, yes, you did read that right: The game has 14 levels (one of which is a bonus level that currently has a game-breaking bug in it).  Compared to the original’s 24 levels -- not to mention the extra 10 from the Battle out of Hell expansion which Painkiller HD borrows from -- makes Farm 51’s meager offering questionable.

Farm 51 brings some new enemies to the series, including one annoying shield wielding devil spawn that slows down the game and makes combat awkward at times. The best addition is the Soulcatcher, a gun that shoots saw blades that can cut through a line of weak enemies. It’s alternate fire is also useful, as it’s an ammo-free close ranged attack that slowly sucks away an enemy's health. Otherwise, this is Painkiller as you remember it. You go from arena to arena, wiping enemies out. It might sound boring, but the formula on display here makes it work. Exploding barrels and columns are always placed just right. I never grew tired or frustrating of Painkiller with this release, except when I met a boss.

Perhaps Painkiller wouldn’t be the same without the bosses, but I think that would be a good thing. Going into Painkiller HD, I completely forgot there were boss fights. This likely has more to do with repressing painful memories than being forgetful. The bosses in Painkiller are a real pain in the ass with their unavoidable attacks, obscure weaknesses, and way too much health. If I weren’t playing the game for review, these bosses would likely make me considering stop playing. Farm 51 hasn’t done anything to addresses these speed bumps throughout Painkiller's asylums, cathedrals, and damned amusement park.

Painkiller was once positioned to be the Quake 3 killer in eSports. That never happened but Farm 51 has tried to make good on the game’s multiplayer legacy. In addition to deathmatch (solo, duel, and team), HD adds Capture the Flag and Survival, a lame attempt at four-player horde mode. The biggest draw here is likely to be the co-op. You can now play the entire game with a friend, who will fill the role of a demon chick wearing a towel (don’t ask). The implementation of co-op is very sloppy. Not only do you not have any indicator of where your partner is in the map, progress with a friend doesn’t save at all. You can only go and play old levels again with a friend. I mean, what’s the point?

Painkiller HD’s HD-ness comes from adopting the Unreal 3 engine. After eight years of using the same engine, it’s a welcome update. UE3 compliments Painkiller’s dark, gothic world, adding more detail to enemy models and depth to the environments. However, it comes with a toll to frame rate that goes against the very nature of a twitch-based FPS. This didn’t negatively affect my experience but there was a noticeable difference. On the positive side, HD’s ragdoll physics are outstanding! It's hard to go back to the original once you see a line of zombies' limbs go flying all over the room.

Painkiller HD is an afternoon paintjob rather than a bold reconstruction of an iconic game. With far less levels and a lower frame rate, it’s difficult to recommend Painkiller HD over Painkiller: Black Edition (currently $10 on Steam). The addition of melee/grenade buttons, the Soulcatcher, and improved physics makes me want to stick with this HD upgrade, even if the cutscenes and bosses are still terrible. But, if I crave more Painkiller I'll load up the original for its map selection and faster action.

If nothing else, Farm 51 has returned Painkiller to a title that people may no longer grimace at when they hear its name. After receiving much abuse from its original publisher, Farm 51 has put Painkiller back on its pedestal. Or, close enough. 



Painkiller Hell & Damnation - Reviewed by Allistair Pinsof
Charming - Not perfect, but it's easy to ignore the rough spots when faced with so many engaging design decisions and entertaining moments. A memorable game that's hard not to like and recommend to others.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Allistair Pinsof,
 Follow Blog + disclosure DtoidAllistair

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Painkiller Hell & Damnation

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!

Where the Hell is Breath of Fire?

Comments of the Week - バーガーベスト, ですよね?

My Month in Games - November 2015

Cblogs of 11/28/15 - Lonely Thanksgiving, Gatchaman Crowds, and more

Recap: Metal Gear Solid 1

Thankful it's Over: Bioshock Infinite

Is Toei using Kamen Rider Ghost to address suicide in Japan?

Let's talk about Xenoblade Chronicles

Cblogs of 11/27/15 - Life is Strange, and Sad

Top 5 Reasons Star Wars Battlefront KICKS ASS!

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

KingSigy avatarKingSigy
I think Microsoft takes the cake for worst console updates. The XBone UI is worse and the fucking controller had an update. What the hell has gaming become?
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
Well, that's a wrap for the Bloodborne DLC. I liked it. More thoughts and maybe spoilers in the comment section.
Confuseddalek avatarConfuseddalek
a rainy afternoon, and too sleepy for games. Time to go to the animal shelter and try not to fall asleep, surrounded by kittens.
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: Following from yesterday's Community Question, how would you feel if reviewers began assigning two scores to a game? One specifically for the technical aspects/performance of the game, and the other for their own personal enjoyment?
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I went back to Persona 4 Golden this weekend, asked Chie to be my girlfriend but then accidentally maxed out my social link with Yumi, changed my relationship status to "It's Complicated" on Personabook. [img][/img]
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
Why am I hyped? Just cause :D
JohnSmith123 avatarJohnSmith123
You know what Fallout 4 mod I want to see? One to fix the interior lightning. It's like the silliest thing to get fixated over, but I can't seem to ignore how white and bright some of those inside lights are.
RexterNathan avatarRexterNathan
Just wrote my first C-blog. It's me talking about the games I have played this month; I'm quite excited
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
I wish the Squid Girl outfit was still a dress for boys. I want to live through my Inkling boy and be a cute girly-man, dammit. [img][/img]
Zer0t0nin avatarZer0t0nin
Goshdarnit...just stood in front of the camera to record an intro for the advent calender thingy and actually got stage fright >.>
KnickKnackMyWack avatarKnickKnackMyWack
Well, it seemed like for two seconds people were finally going to give Star Fox a fair shake, but nope! GameXplain's YouTube audience seem pretty insistent that it's just a Star Fox 64 clone down to the graphics. Sometimes I just don't understand peopl
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
I don't think it will happen, but if the NX is turns out to be a VR device, I will be the saddest boy in the milky way.
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
There's something so fucking delicious about a toasted Hawaiian roll, smoked ham, Swiss, some spinach and a dollop of mustard. #FatKidPosts
Still in work clothes.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Welp, wrote up a blog for that there bloggers wanted. Its me bitching about Bioshock Infinite! Again! Yay!!!!!!
Sr Churros avatarSr Churros
Just finished watching The Phantom Menace. Yeah, Jar Jar is as bad as people say. Baby Vader is so cute and also kicks some serious ass. One of the best lightsaber battles of the series, if not the best one. It was pretty neat!
Roxas1359 avatarRoxas1359
Can't decide where I should upload my latest project. Either on my YouTube Channel or on Game Anyone. On the one hand YouTube gets more exposure, but Game Anyone is where some of my more popular walkthroughs are. The game is 3D Land if anyone is wondering
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
Thanksgiving dinner for days!
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Anyone know if the Bethesda games on sale on Amazon for a certain amount of time, or through Monday?
TysonOfTime avatarTysonOfTime
In light of the fact that Xenoblade Chronicles X is fast approaching, I suggest we start planning out a Destructoid Squad! NNID is TysonOfTime. From what I've heard, it doesn't appear Squads are region locked (except for Japan), so everyone's welcome!
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -