Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell Review

That's Battle not Bat, there's no Meatloaf here!

Review by Rob Edmondson
Published 21st January 2005

Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell

  • Developer: People Can Fly
  • Publisher: Dreamcatcher
  • Release Date: 3rd December 2004

As technology has improved over the last 10 years so the first person shooter has evolved. Every year we are offered better graphics, improved enemy AI and more variation in gameplay. Shooters like the original Doom, Duke Nukem and Quake, it seems, are a thing of the past. Who would want to play a game where enemies simply spawn in vast numbers and charge straight towards you, only for you then to eliminate them with a ridiculous arsenal of unrealistic weapons? The answer is; plenty still do, which is the reason why no-brainer shooters like Serious Sam and more recently Painkiller have enjoyed success on the market despite their lack of innovation. So, with the original Painkiller hardly evolving from the shooters of yesteryear, what could one expect from the expansion? Clearly we anticipate more of the same, and that’s exactly what we get.

I could probably satisfy owners of the original by simply stating what the two extra guns are like, how the ten new levels compare and whether the additional enemies are noticeably different to their late predecessors. However to benefit the unenlightened I will highlight what made Painkiller such a good game in the first place, as nothing much has changed dramatically in the gameplay area.

Painkiller is probably best described as an old-school shooter with modern graphics and a fantastic atmosphere. With genuinely disturbing levels such as an asylum in the original and an orphanage in Battle out of Hell, you can be left feeling quite shaken after playing. This is largely down to the inspired level design and the well thought out enemies. For instance on entering the orphanage you are greeted by a dark musky entrance hall. Children’s screams can be heard up the ancient stairs in front of you and the walls have devilish words scribbled in blood upon them. On approaching the stairway you see a dark shape coming towards you and just about manage to avoid a stray ball bouncing slowly down. With a growing sense of dread you ascend to find a corridor with more bloody writing on the wall and in the distance… OK I won’t spoil it for you but I can assure you, you will soon be fighting for your life against swarms of the demon infested undead.

The general rule for a firefight usually involves you being locked in a confined area and several spawn points activating releasing a set amount of enemies for you to slaughter. The massacre is usually achieved using a combination of shooting, bunny-hopping, quick saving and much swearing which I’m sure many of you will be familiar with. The tactics of the enemies are childishly simple with close range foes simply charging you and the longer range ones generally standing on one spot firing upon you. There is little variation and as the game progresses the difficulty is usually upped by increasing the health and number of the baddies. While this may seem off-putting at first the gradual increase in intensity ensures you’re always striving to finish that next area.

The weapons in the original were already varied and the two new ones slot in fairly well. They are both accessible from near the beginning, which in a way is kind, as a lot of people will struggle to reach the later levels. The first new weapon is a machine gun, which surprisingly encompasses a flamethrower for its alternative fire mode. These are both very powerful and you will find yourself using them often throughout the game. The other one is a weaker addition; a sniper rifle. The emphasis in Painkiller was always on close, frantic fire fights and, unsurprisingly, the sniper rifle is mostly used on the weaker long-range areas. That being said though, it is still pretty handy as a close range weapon with the alternate fire being a useful grenade launcher.

The Tarot card system has been expanded with ten additions. These, as previous players will know, can be used to assist you by giving you useful power-ups at key moments. Again though, they can only be accessed by achieving a specific objective on each level. All the cards from the original are available from the start, regardless of whether you unlocked them, to give everyone an even starting ground.

The bosses in Painkiller were some of the largest and visually impressive ever seen in a first person shooter. They also took a lot of damage and were often a puzzle in themselves, requiring thought before any damage could even be done. These bosses broke the mould of the rest of the game and upset some purists who felt that the standard action was the better part of the game. For them the situation has been improved with the developers deciding to include just one main boss this time.

A lot of players will be disappointed with some of the levels, which crop up in Battle Out of Hell. With the original boasting such a strong like up of diverse stages and the add-on containing some which even improved on these, it is disappointing to find that the developers have included some very drab and poorly designed ones as well. Several levels appear samey and occasionally the visuals – although not terrible – are very drab. There are also some time-wasting jumps included which just don’t fit in with the rest of the game. The worst of these requires the player to land safely on a round pipe. This took me at least 3 minutes of frustration to achieve and reeks of sloppiness.

The sound effects remain very good, setting the atmosphere nicely. Strangely though, on writing this review I couldn’t recall any of the music from the game and had to play some of the levels again forcing myself to listen. On doing this I noted that there was indeed a music score and it was very respectable. I now can’t decide whether it fits in so well, that I just took it for granted or that my failure to recollect it was a sign of the game’s ultra intense gameplay leaving me little time to ponder anything else. Either way is quite acceptable.

To conclude, Battle out of Hell will appeal to all those who enjoyed the original but will win the game no new fans. It almost seems that the developers came up with a few more good ideas, and instead of expanding on these just placed fillers in between them to get enough content. The good levels are very good though and if you can stomach the others this one is well worth a flutter.

Review Score: 7.6/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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