Painkiller: Redemption started off life as a fanmade mod for 2004’s original Painkiller but, having proven its quality, Redemption has now been turned into an official PK expansion and has been absorbed into the canon. It does little to alter the standard Painkiller mechanics, for better and for worse. Everything you loved about the original titles is still here but, some seven years on from the original’s release, it’s starting to get a little old.
The game carries on from the previous game, seeing Daniel now teaming up with Belial to combat Eve, who has now powered up to become the queen of hell. The plot is told through a fairly unimpressive series of text boxes but, whilst I normally come down hard on games with lacklustre narratives, we can forgive Painkiller just this once as story is clearly not its focus.
Indeed, for those of you unfamiliar with the PK series, you’ll become quickly aware whilst playing it that it is more a throwback to the shooting days of old rather than the Call of Duty clones we are used to. There are waves of enemies to contend with, that you must dispatch using a vast array of weaponry. Clear them all and you advance. That’s really all you need to know. The core shooting mechanics are solid enough to justify such a straight-forward approach, and there are many out there who will find the simplicity of PK:R refreshing.
Things are kept interesting through a variety of weapons. Good weapons at that. Heads that shoot beams of death? Check. Tesla coil shuriken launchers? Definitely. They all bring a grin to the face and, with their varied secondary functions as well, there is a surprising amount going on at any one time in Painkiller: Redemption. The ammo is also limited, making things tense on occasion. Thankfully your default no-ammo weapon is a beautiful little cube of death, as opposed to the usually disappointing fists or knife. I mention it due to its amazing secondary fire where the cube is launched and fires a beam back to the player, effectively making a trip wire of death. It’s a small mercy, but you’re going to need it during your time with Painkiller.
Indeed you’ll find yourself low on ammo consistently during your PK adventure. Whether its because of the limited supply of bullets or the unrelenting waves of foes, you’ll be challenged by Painkiller: Redemption. The enemies themselves are pleasing with a vivid design that ranges from hood wearing maniacs to nazi zombies. Nothing too original, but the designs are satisfying and entertaining all the same. They can prove quite a challenge though and, as you’re trapped in from all sides by a seemingly infinite wave, you’ll really start to feel the heat. The challenge is definitely a strong element of the gameplay in PK:R, keeping you trying and trying again as the difficulty curve is kept high at all times. Painkiller: Redemption toes a fine line though, and may alienate a large number of players.
Though I generally enjoyed my time with PK:R, the game is unlikely to appeal to a particularly vast audience due to its various eccentricities. Its old-school FPS gameplay will appeal to those looking to relive the days of their gaming youth but, if you weren’t around back in the halcyon days of the genre, you’ll likely find the gameplay to shallow for your liking. The difficulty is in the same vein, adding a challenge to us older masochists who endured Contra in our glory days, but merely frustrating everyone else. The presentation is also an issue of contention. The graphics are solid all around, stepping up from the previous PK expansions, but the music is a bit more esoteric. The soundtrack is invigorating and well suited to Redemption’s style, but it is more hardcore metal in style than ever before. It does work very well with the action on screen, but may put some people off.
One thing that does swing PK:R into favour is its pricing. Sitting around the comfortable price range of about $8 on steam there aren’t many reasons why you shouldn’t try it out. That said, the amount of content in the game is concerning. PK:R serves as a stand alone expansion to the original Painkiller, and as such doesn’t include any new multiplayer components. The six single player levels will last you a reasonably long amount of time on account of the game’s difficult nature, but the fact that many of the environments and enemies are recycled from older PK games renders the ten hour campaign somewhat unimpressive. There is a level editor and creator that has the potential to add to the enjoyment of the package, but it is pretty damn complicated, and it is unlikely that the average Joe will be able to make heads or tails of it.
Painkiller: Redemption is a lot like its prequels; an absolute tonne of fun. It just defines all of the elements that we loved in the first generation of first person shooter titles and is able to condense them all into quick-fire waves of pure carnage. With its reasonable price tag, creative arsenal and awesome presentation, PK:R should be considered a must-have for all FPS gamers. That said, it is not a game for everyone. It is like many games that we are seeing out these days that rely on nostalgia to fuel a vast majority of their thrills. There isn’t anything wrong with this at all but, unless you were around to experience the type of games that PK:R is harking back to, you may not be able to enjoy Redemption to its full.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Great presentation, Easy to get to grips with, Varied enemy designs, Creative weapons, Well priced, Provides a challenge, Offers a sense of FPS nostalgia
Sometimes too tough for its own good, Levels can get repetitive, Quite shallow, Level editor is extremely complicated, No multiplayer
The only game I would ever describe as entirely “crap-free,” Redemption continues the Painkiller tradition of a no-frills over the top gore-fest that is enjoyable in its simplicity. Its cheap price is notable, but its shallow nature may put off a lot of players