Painkiller is a little like a FPS stripped down to its bare essentials - zombies, guns and lots of gore. When released last year it was hailed as the new “Doom”. Since then an expansion pack has been released with extra levels, and now the two have been fused together into the Black Edition.
Despite the emergence of bestsellers such as Halo, Painkiller is by no means a complex game. It has no fancy gimmicks or mini-games, but is instead reminiscent of older shoot-em-ups. It sticks to a strict formula: corridor after corridor is filled with various monsters. At the end of the corridors is a boss. The aim of the game is to get to the end of all those corridors - using your trusty gun. Painkiller does have a storyline as told in overly long cut scenes, but it is largely window dressing. Most of the action happens in abandoned monasteries, churches and catacombs, but there are also some urban maps.
Gameplay is fast-paced to say the least - if you stop moving, you die. This is not due to clever AI - it is simply a result of the sheer number of brain dead zombies and creatures that come running at you. Luckily, you are equipped with the standard range of weaponry, such as a chain gun, shot gun, and of course, a rocket launcher. Levels are all too similar and so there is little variety in the game play. Bosses occasionally add a welcome change and are highly impressive, towering high and destroying all around.
The thought of killing everything that moves at point blank range with a shotgun sounds monotonous and boring, but there is simply no time to lose interest between the tirades of mace-wielding creatures. The game therefore remains entertaining throughout.
Despite the air guitar-style background music, at the end of each level you are left with a kind of odd serenity. As an incentive, the time of each mission is recorded, as is the number of souls picked up (when an enemy is killed, his soul appears for a few seconds as a green gas. If picked up it acts as a small health boost). And once the first game has been completed, the included expansion pack adds a whole new chapter of levels. Other extras in the Black edition include a “Making of…” video, a music video by rock band Mech and a trailer for the forthcoming Xbox version.
For those who already have Painkiller, Black Edition offers little new. But for those looking for a simplistic yet thrilling FPS, with no gimmicks or extras, Black Edition is a must-buy if you're hanging around waiting for the third Serious Sam title. Graphics are fantastic, the controls are simple, and the overall game play experience is not to be missed.