Harking back to a simpler era of first-person shooters, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is far more concerned with body counts and blood spray than depth in the gameplay department. The return to the genre's primal roots is a welcome one, even if it feels like indulging in the gaming equivalent of a junk food binge. Unflinchingly old-school, this remake of the gory original is fast-paced, campy as hell, and full of action. It gives you a toolbox of twisted weapons and throws massive swarms of unholy minions at you at every turn. The absurd bloodbath of flying appendages that ensues jams a ton of craziness into a short-lived but pleasantly gruesome romp.
Daniel Garner is once again back to his demon-slaying shenanigans. Though Hell & Damnation tells a tweaked story that's only loosely based on both the original game and the Battle Out of Hell expansion, it's a familiar theme to anyone who has delved into the Painkiller series. Trapped in a hellish purgatory after dying in a car accident, Garner is desperate to escape his nightmarish prison. This time around, Death himself recruits the troubled protagonist with promises of reuniting him with his wife, Catherine. Of course, he must collect 7,000 souls first. Your mission is the same as it has always been: blast and eviscerate your way through a freaky batch of fantasy environments annihilating everything that moves while scarfing down souls like they're Halloween candy.
Compared to its modern-day brethren, Hell & Damnation is a dramatically streamlined run-and-gun affair that nods heavily toward early FPS classics like
Anyone who played the earlier Painkiller games will appreciate how much nicer everything looks with the Unreal Engine 3. The stages aren't completely redesigned, but the fresh layers and crisp details really pop onscreen. It's great to see these old familiar locales, like the Cathedral, Loony Park, and the Orphanage, fancied up with a fresh coat of paint. Massive boss battles also provide some epic set-piece encounters capping each chapter.
With the emphasis placed squarely on killing everything in sight, arsenal diversity is a crucial ingredient. A well-rounded mix of goodies at your disposal opens up a lot of flexibility in battle, and each weapon's creative alternate-fire modes make it feel like several completely different gadgets in one. In fact, experimenting with how each weapon rips enemies apart is a big draw--morbid though it may be. Classics like the wooden stake gun that skewers opponents to walls, the titular handheld Painkiller blender that purees victims at point-blank range, and the shuriken-launching electro shocker return in dramatic fashion.