Wot I Think: Painkiller – Hell And Damnation

The story is devastating. In the fifth paragraph below I write of my appreciation for the bold allusions to King Lear.

The latest incarnation of Painkiller attempts to avoid the possibility of being weaker than the original game by being the original game, plus its first expansion, all spruced up and ready to party like it’s 2004. A sprucier 2004. But is it a competent copy or something else? I’ve gathered a saucerful of souls and a headful of thoughts. Here they are.

I don’t remember every level in Painkiller but I do remember making my way across a snowy bridge, with ninja-demons shuriken-sniping from on high. Visibility was poor and I kept falling off. The ninja-demons might have been soldier-demons or angry guns with teeth and guts, but the bridge was definitely there and it’s the first part of the original game that I noticed had been excised from Hell and Damnation. Maybe something earlier was missing. Hopefully I can be forgiven for not recalling the order of the levels, or even the exact content of them, because there’s little logic to the progression or appearance of anything in these hell-realms.

Even the content of individual chapters rarely forms any sort of coherent world, but that’s not the problem – that’s already understood – what is problematic is that Hell and Damnation doesn’t have as much content as Painkiller: Black Edition and costs a great deal more. There’s two player co-op and a survival mode but the selection of maps is like a greatest hits collection rather than a complete anthology. Actually, given that Hell’s deranged history of war and other highlights are missing, it’s more like a compilation of B sides.

The feet hanging around his neck are his own. He walks on bandage-wrapped stumps. I don't know why that would be happening.

Unless you really want a shinier, co-op enabled sampling of Painkiller, I can’t think of a good reason to buy this instead of the Black Edition. With that said, here’s how it compared to my mangled memories.

Painkiller – Hell and Damnation’s best and most important qualities are as follows:

1) The rocket launcher appears to have a minigun attached to it. Closer inspection reveals this is not the case – the rocket launcher just happens to also be a minigun.

2) Encouragingly, the shotgun works exactly as I like shotguns to work in an FPS. It’s essentially a melee weapon, for blowing demons into bits at point blank range. You could replace the graphic with a parcel containing a boxing glove on a spring and it wouldn’t be a bit out of place. Run up to enemies, BOP, SMASH, reet in the grid.

That’s encouraging stuff. There’s a plot as well and it’s about as interesting as a cardboard box collectors’ convention in Dudley. The goal is to kill some demons and collect their souls. There’s also something about a car crash and a princess in another purgatory, but the direction provided at the beginning of the game is essentially to ‘kill all these things’. Even though you already have a weapon when the first level starts, the first thing you do is pick up another one, which is defiantly spinning around about a foot off the ground.

The ‘things’ that you kill vary from level to level, although whether they look like clowns, possessed schoolchildren or angry butchers they’ll act in one of two ways – running at you and hitting you, or running at you and shooting you. Sometimes the shooty ones can’t run at you because they’ve accidentally domiciled themselves on top of a pillar, so they just shoot you from there instead. Working out how to deal with these distant foes is the most complicated mental process that you will undergo when playing Painkiller.

Don't worry - I only zoomed in twice during the whole game and I wasn't happy about it either time.

There are lots of weapons to kill things with as well. The game doesn’t explain what they do, you find out by pointing them at something and killing it. How did it die? Electrocution? A stake through the face that pinned it to a wall? By exploding perhaps? There are alternate fire modes as well, some of which can be combined with the primary mode. Did that furious skeleton explode while electrocuting every other enemy in the vicinity? Interesting. Make a note of that. Although it might, for some, spoil the purity of the storyline (shoot things) I wish the new developers on board for this rejig had taken something from People Can Fly’s later Bulletstorm, rewarding use of combos and variation.

Whether you’re in an opera house, a monastery cellar or a train station there will be ammo for all of your guns piled up all over the place. Need a weaponised battery as big as a man? It’ll be just behind the vending machine on your left. This is because the plot is about killing things, the main characters are guns and ammunition is their motivation.

There’s a compass at the top of the screen that (occasionally) points toward the next checkpoint, which can be handy since the only reason to go in one room instead of another is because it’s where the next group of monsters will spawn. Remember, even if you’re walking through a place that very much resembles a fairground, it isn’t a fairground at all – it’s a series of small arenas and someone has painted a fairground on the walls.

I assume it's a play on 'Lunar Park' but one of the rides inside seems to dunk people in acid and is called 'Acid Bath' and that just seems to be a description.

When enemies have ceased to appear in an area, a red, glowy symbol appears somewhere in the level. Step on it and another arena will open and more enemies will spawn. This is good, because the only way to progress through the plot is to kill those enemies. Weirdly, the longest breaks in killing-based plot advancement occurred when an X-COM scenario occasionally unfolded – one or two enemies spawned out of sight and I’d have to hunt every nook and cranny to find them before I could advance. Silly monsters.

Twice I saw skeletons soaring through the sky courtesy of jump pads, and then thought about Rise of the Triad and laughed heartily the next time I blew a demon into blood clots. Ah, memories.

For the first half hour, I basked in the unholy glow of Hell and Damnation’s infernal boom-splattery, but much as I’d like to say it’s a skill-based antidote to the corridors of modern warfare, that’s not really the case. While I’ve mostly enjoyed the sheer daftness of it, the ten or so hours of playtime are too one-note. Yes, it’s called Painkiller: Hell and Damnation and I wasn’t expecting more than two or three notes, but the ludicrous weaponry, hordes of enemies and almost constant action did become a case of going through the motions (clicking the left mouse button again and again and again) without engagement.

I really have no idea what was happening here and thankfully it never happened again

There are plenty of enemy types but they don’t force a change in approach. They don’t even gently suggest one. Walk forward, BANG BANG BANG, turn around, BANG BANG BANG. That’s it, really. There’s not even a lot of variation in how fast monsters move and they mostly look like the sort of creations you’d find if you scrupulously followed Todd McFarlane around and gathered up all the beermats he scribbled on after a heavy night on the sauce.

Apart from the fairground, which has a tedious and predictably placed on-rails section, the levels don’t offer much variety either. An opera house is the same as a coliseum, and one set of stairs is much like another, whether it’s in an industrial hellhole or a ruined cathedral. There’s nothing as inventive as the level design in Blood or Doom, and nothing on the scale of Serious Sam’s best moments.

Speaking of scale – the bosses are a bit rubbish. They’re enormous but, like their smaller counterparts, they don’t do very much. Rather than just aiming and shooting as they run at you, the best way to deal with them is to stay as close as possible, preferably between their legs, shooting at their exposed nether regions. Hell is staring up a Necrogiant’s loincloth and I have seen far more monster-crotch than I expected to over the last couple of days.

I vowed never to use crotch-shots in a WIT

There are secrets, most often not very far off the beaten track, and there are collectibles, including tarot cards which provide extra powers and buffs. These are unlocked by achieving certain goals during each level, such as smashing every object or killing every enemy. Enemies also drop their souls – butterfingers! – when they die. The glowing green goop takes a while to appear but once it does it can be collected for a small health boost. Gather 66 on a single level and you’ll transform into a monster as well, which makes the screen look like it’s had a future-soldier’s goggles attached to it. Click on an enemy and they burst into bits straight away. It’s possible to use the transformation tactically, avoiding that last soul until surrounded, but the guns are very good at killing anyway so there’s no real need for such dallying.

I don’t think Hell and Damnation is as good as Painkiller, but all these gripes might suggest I don’t think Painkiller is very good anyway. Not true! I like shooting lots of things with silly guns. Playing the whole game through in two five hour sittings does highlight just how repetitive it is though and my tastes have changed in the years since first playing the game. More than anything, I wish there was an occasional change of pace rather than an entire experience that almost perfectly fits the rapidly looping, guitar-punching battle music.

This is how demons see the world. They are not allowed driving licenses.

The graphical updates are fine, although some textures are incredibly blocky, particularly those giant boss-crotches I became so well acquainted with. Physics are absolutely ridiculous, with body parts flying off as if they’ve got rockets attached to them and pieces of meat getting stuck in walls and wobbling about frantically until they vanish. It’s a mess but that really is part of the charm. It is annoying though that FOV settings and some other options can only be changed in.ini files.

Given the price, which I mainly mention because Painkiller: Black Edition is almost exactly the same game but bigger, it’s very hard to see why anyone would buy this knowing that it’s a slimline version. There’s the co-op, which I haven’t tried. It’d make things slightly more interesting, I imagine, but I don’t know anyone who’d be willing to sit through the entire campaign. I kind of want to see how the monsters react to a second player, seeing as they just run straight at whatever they want to kill. Maybe they split in half?

There’s even a problem with the screenshots here. Too much variety. These are more representative of the game:





Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is available now for £17.99.


  1. SirKicksalot says:

    That bridge level is one of my favourites.
    The final level of the original game is a masterpiece, I hope the remake doesn’t fuck with it.

    • kalirion says:

      If you read the article you’ll note that the final level is not fucked with by virtue of being completely MIA.

  2. GallonOfAlan says:

    So, Smash TV with nipples then. And I’m all for that.

  3. RobF says:

    Why would you do a remake then miss out half the best bits?

    • qrter says:

      Ugh, remaking is too hard!

    • jikavak says:

      Waait,IIRC the snow level and some other levels were only accessible if you played on Nightmare difficulty.Adam may have played on the second setting,which would explain why they were missing.

  4. Necroscope says:

    I agree with almost everything in this review. I myself finished this mini-version of Painkiller in 4 hours which disappointed me. Not had a chance at coop yet. I was expecting more. + The graphical updates and animations are impressive, weapons, movement etc feels awesome, and mostly the enemies thrash about, explode etc satisfactorily, setting enemies on each other is fun to watch – It’s far shorter than Painkiller, and the jumps between levels can be a wtf moment, very easy on normal mode, fov is fine, but would’ve liked an option. Enemies rush towards you in a manner that occasionally leaves somewhat uninspiring empty spaces to traverse to the next sections
    It’s a stretch to recommend it unless you’re a die-hard Painkiller fan. Doom 3 BFG was was another borderline worth the investment if you have the originals :(

    • Eclipse says:

      so it’s Painkiller + Battle out of Hell but with *LESS* levels than the original game? Fuck, just when I thought we could have a good new Painkiller….

      oh BTW, it’s true that they nerfed the weapon that impale monsters to the wall? I mean, it’s still present but you cannot impale anybody with it?

      • Necroscope says:

        If the designers had remade all of the original Painkiller maps in HD I would’ve given them high praise. It’s longer than a demo, yet shorter than the many of todays shooters (the short ones). 4 hours it took me to beat. Probably not a lot longer on nightmare difficulty. It’s like they’ve sampled a few of the Painkiller levels and strung them together. For example, there is no snowy bridge level with the ninjas. Can you imagine my wtf??? That is a classic in Painkiller terms.
        I think you mean the stake gun. The one that impales monsters to walls and sends them cartwheeling, sometimes exploding. To some extent, but not fully. I guess I could say they’ve toned down the wackiness. I checked, and you still stake them to walls, make them explode, and send them flying but less theatrically. The physics are different, somehow more comparable to modern shooters. Less ridiculous…perhaps less fun. But more convincingly human-like. More sophistication, less theatrics, which I find a shame because that’s something I loved about Painkiller, especially the stake gun

      • TariqOne says:

        *Fewer* levels.

  5. Lemming says:

    “Unless you really want a shinier, co-op enabled sampling of Painkiller, I can’t think of a good reason to buy this instead of the Black Edition.”

    Ive got one! My copy of the Black Edition from Steam was a giant waste of money because it won’t even run on my Win7 64bit PC. No error message, no explanation, just CTD on loop.

    • Vorphalack says:

      Try setting affinity to one cpu core. It does sometimes go berserk with multi core cpus.

    • Lanfranc says:

      Are you running Steam as administrator? That has mostly fixed the CTDs I have experienced.

  6. bob. says:

    Actually, given that Hell’s deranged history of war and other highlights are missing, it’s more like a compilation of B sides.
    Nooooooooooooooooooo! Why, why would you do this!

    Well, there goes my interest in the game. I would have bought it just to see the last level of Painkiller remade but they just didn’t include it?!? Seriously?

  7. pierow says:

    Yet another review that doesn’t mention the multiplayer and its new additions. You guys even wrote about how the multiplayer was the focus in the article about the announcment.

    • BruceFnLee says:

      You can’t find a decent game in NA online PKHD. It appears there’s some euro serves but NA gets nothing? I bought to play PK multiplayer hoping there would be some servers and players. Official EU servers but no official NA server is beat.

  8. Casimir Effect says:

    One of those games where I don’t want to break my nostalgia. I had a lot of fun with Painkiller back in the day, and that’s where the game belongs for me.

  9. bhlaab says:

    I’m amazed that this is the first article I’ve read that even came close to mentioning that OVER HALF OF THE GAME is not present in this remake. The original+expansion had 34 levels. This has 14. Of the levels that are in there, many have been chopped down and environments have been made smaller. Some new enemies have been added here and there.

    I found this out from the COMMENTS SECTION of another website. Every single article or video I could find about this remake has failed to mention that it’s HALF of a remake. More or less all of the articles I’ve seen have started and ended at “Hey, it’s a Painkiller game!” I know. The name’s on the box.

    I am concerned whether the game’s physics survived the engine transition. The original Painkiller was heavily indebted to the sorts of Quake 1-style bunnyhopping physics. Again, no information to be found there. I assume they’re the same as ever.

    Either way, just buy Painkiller Black off of GoG. The graphics aren’t that much worse and you actually get the full game. It’s amazing how mishandled this property has been since PCF abandoned it. Thankfully some anonymous fan in a comments section stopped me from possibly throwing my money away.

    • RobF says:

      ” It’s amazing how mishandled this property has been since PCF abandoned it.”

      It’s the Hellraiser of videogames.

    • Gnoupi says:

      “I am concerned whether the game’s physics survived the engine transition. The original Painkiller was heavily indebted to the sorts of Quake 1-style bunnyhopping physics. Again, no information to be found there. I assume they’re the same as ever.”

      Having played the beta, I’ll say that this is my main concern: to me, physics and weapons feel “off”. The shotgun doesn’t send enemies floating like it was, bunny hoping is still here, but feels more “artificial”: it’s not supposed to be in UE3, and it feels that way. And several other things this way. I thought I was just remembering badly, but I launched the black edition after, to compare, and no, it really feels more satisfying in the original than in this hd remake, in my opinion.

      • bhlaab says:

        The original Painkiller breaks if you turn on vsync. That’s how authentic its attempt at aping Quake 1’s borked physics is!

        • Gnoupi says:

          Any FPS should bark at you for turning on vsync anyway :P

          • Harlander says:

            You’re right, in fact, anyone trying to turn on vsync should be rewarded with even more screen tearing, deliberately added.

            Because screen tearing is the best graphical feature.

  10. Bhazor says:

    Heres hoping we get a proper sequel/spiritual successor soon.
    Or at least a Darkwatch remake.

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  12. mckertis says:

    “X-COM scenario occasionally unfolded – one or two enemies spawned out of sight”

    That’s XCOM, not X-COM. Dont you wish now Firaxis called their silly boardgame adaptation with a proper different name ?

    • thepaleking says:

      Enemies were known for lurking out of sight and forcing a tedious bug hunt that could last very long even in the original…I once spent about half an hour hunting down the last remaining alien in a Terror from the Deep mission. It is most certainly not a problem with just the remake.

  13. bill says:

    The bridge level was one of the ones that required slightly different strategies as it didn’t allow so much running around.

    But painkiller’s problem was always the pacing. the weapons were great. The level environments looked great. But the pacing and level design was off. (not to mention being horribly broken).
    Serious sam on the other hand had dull environments and weapons, but it had much better pacing.

    Do they still have the awesome looking (and dull to play) final level?

    I seem to remember the first on also had a rocket launcher minigun.

  14. Melliflue says:

    Why pick on Dudley? I’m not going to claim that it isn’t dull, but I didn’t think it was famous enough for jokes to be made about it. How does a Mancunian know about Dudley? The only thing I can think of that may have brought Dudley some attention was the earthquake back in 2002 (I slept through it).

  15. Text_Fish says:

    Looking at the comments you’d think the original wasn’t already a hum-drum series of identical cluster-fucks mixed up with the occasional right-angle or locked door. This remake should be lauded for halving the repetition.

    What really gets my goat is when people claim it captured the essence of the Doom or Quake games. It’s insulting.

    • alsoran says:

      I dont see the point in the remake. The Black edition is all you’ll need to know as far as Painkiller is concerned. It was never bettered.
      I like Painkiller BE for the mega slaughter fest it provides, lock and load, its that simple. Doom and Quake comparison, not really, except the AI is just as dumb, but thats how they were then. It was different because there were new weapons to try, there were achievements to get extra powers, loads of baddies and it had a horror gothic element.

      Whats not to like about the spinny blades at the end of your arm? My favourite stress relief next to Hard Reset.

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  17. defragen1 says:

    Why does the article start by comparing the game to the old one and then acts surprised that the minigun is what it was before… a minigun .. and not a rocket launcher

  18. Citrus says:

    “I wish the new developers on board for this rejig had taken something from People Can Fly’s later Bulletstorm, rewarding use of combos and variation.”

    “Combos and variation” was pretty much the reason why five people bought Bulletstorm and never touched it ever again. I would have enjoyed the game if not for being forced to play a stupid game of “combotard”. As a simple shooter it failed because they spent their time designing combo system everyone else didn’t care for (well, except for the three people who bought the game).

    If you are going to make a mindless shooter, make it pure shooter like Quake/Duke3D else go make a side-scroller if you want to add combo-shit in there. The one person that bought Bulletstorm was the reason why the developer was moved to making levels for Gears of War instead of wasting time on another failed project.

    Anyways, Painkiller has always been about awesome level design and atmosphere. At least better than Serious Sam series. Maybe developers of both games should try making interesting single player for a change.

    • Allenomura says:

      That Bulletstorm was grim. They mandated the combo by design. The pacing was horrid in that game. They had these huge areas, wherein could be found miniscule instances, pockets of gameplay. In between: the task of hoofing it about between these places. :(

      Anyway. I was amazed when I heard how much of the original is present, and not. I didn’t imagine there would be no Town! That’s the usual demo level, and has a really interesting atmosphere. There’s Witches screaming past overhead, and the hangman’s noose set in the square. It seemed more open visually than it was, but it made a difference to all the covered areas that were more common. I really wanted to see that, in 2012. Today’s shadows and lighting could have brought us Town 2.0 :(

  19. mr.ioes says:

    The jumping is not as good as in Painkiller. It’s very similar, but it’s not the same. I’m not even surprised, there are game features that will never be copied properly again because the developers were geniuses.

    FoV adjustment and disabling Blur are a must, unless you enjoy headache.

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