Like so many games buried deep within my Steam library, I am unsure when I bought Painkiller: Black Edition or my exact reasons for doing so. I expect it was cheap in some kind of daily sale. Perhaps I was hungover, and hoped a small treat would ease my aching head. I vaguely recall booting it up once, perhaps a decade ago, and getting no further than its main menu. Painkiller was destined to rot in a digital purgatory of my own design forever, an unassuming icon that I would scroll past on my way to reinstall Destiny 2 for the 12th time without giving it a single thought. That is, until Valve finally sent me my Steam Deck.
Why did I decide Painkiller would be the first game I played on my handheld PC? For the same reason I bought it in the first place, I suppose: I have no fucking clue mate. My guess is that it appeared to be a throwaway shooter from the mid-00s that had yet to be tested on the Deck by Valve themselves, something I found tantalising as a fresh-faced Deck owner. Will this game that I know nothing about work on my fancy new piece of tech? It was a question I asked almost constantly, and was excited to discover the answer.
Well, imagine my suprise when not only did Painkiller run like a dream on the deck, but this 18 year old PC game also felt purpose built for handheld play. Painkiller is an arena shooter that literally plonks you into a big open space before hoying a bunch of horrible enemies at you. There is no rhyme or reason to the locations you visit; one second you’re shooting dudes among the waterways of Venice, the next you’re blasting witches in the burning streets of a medieval village. Your goal is simply to kill things, before moving onto a new part of a level to kill some more things. Eventually the level ends, the game throws a dart at a moving wheel with a sign above it that says “LOCATION IDEAS”, and before you know it you’re shooting undead soldiers beneath a UFO.
If you were to play this on PC I reckon it would feel disjointed and messy. But on the Deck? Blasting through a level while waiting for the kettle to boil or in the breaks of an episode of Taskmaster is absolutely superb. Saber Interactive are currently cooking up a sequel, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store.