Whether you're a fan of the comics, the hammed-up Dolph Lundgren 1989 film or the latest incarnation with John Travolta, The Punisher and its violence has come to a videogame console near you. THQ, normally famed for cutesy Disney titles like Finding Nemo has entered into the dark world of adult gaming with this gritty recreation of the above three.
The premise is simple but bloody. For those not aware of the storyline you play a disillusioned cop who gets fed up of the bureaucracy surrounding the job and decides to take crime fighting in his own vigilante hands once his own family become victims.
The gameplay is a cross between Kingpin and Max Payne, with the ability to weld plenty of weapons as the game progresses. There are restrictions to the amount of weaponary you can carry, but this won't stop you being able to fire two shotguns at a time if you wish (you will have to drop one when it comes to reloading though).
Failing guns, the game also allows you to pick up baseball bats and piping lying around if you're caught in a tight spot without any ammo. If even they don't work for you, there is even a rage mode, which depending on how well you are doing (ie how many times you've been hit that level) allows you to go mad for a couple of seconds so you can kill everyone in the room and then resume back to normal as if nothing had happened.
The most interesting element of the gameplay and which makes The Punisher stand out from the crowd is its Interrogation Mode. Here, you can grab bad guys and get information out of them depending on how subtle you are. There are four choices available to you; Choking, Punching, Face Slam, and Gun Tension. Do it too much and you won't get any information, don't do it enough and they'll think you're weak. To spruce up the monotony of this mode, there are special interrogation spots throughout the game that allow you to interact with the surrounds like a window frame, ledge or disc sander.
With peppered phrases like “Stay here until the shooting stops,” this harks back a lot to the Marvel comics and its heritage. To us this is a good thing. Gameplay is good, but simple and because of which it's good for killing a couple of hours after coming back from the pub rather than really challenging the grey matter upstairs. For best results we would recommend the hardest level for ultimate kill totals. It's violent and unforgiving but not too the extent of losing touch of a good gaming core this is not one for the children.
The PC version was also released at of Easter, so we advise that you try a demo just to ensure that you're not playing an inferior game all over again, even if Max Payne's comic-book-panel storytelling style shows slight influences from Marvel's original comic.