Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell

You remember Painkiller, right? The goofy, gory first-person shooter that came out of nowhere? Okay, it came out of the Czech Republic, which is certainly not “nowhere,†but this preposterous rollercoaster ride through Purgatory surprised nearly everybody when it became, perhaps, Dreamcatcher Games’ biggest coup. In a nutshell, it was Big Dumb Fun. And the skewering of decapitated, splattering, vivisected corpses to the wall brought joy into the hearts of shooter fans everywhere.

0The first level of Battle Out of Hell, the expansion for Painkiller, is creepier and moodier than anything in DOOM 3. Set in a haunted orphanage and full of little kids behaving badly (like lighting themselves on fire or attacking you with large knives). It’s wrong on so many levels that it’s exactly the sort of edgy “hell†experience that you can’t get with burning candles and pentagrams. And the second level, set in a Clive Barker-esque theme park as if it was scored by Danny Elfman, is better than any of the original levels found in Painkiller.

It would be nearly impossible for any game to sustain that level of quality throughout, and sure enough, the rest of Battle Out of Hell is pretty dull in comparison. Parts are almost boring, even. Most of the other levels feel like “deleted scenes,†ones that really weren’t good enough for the full game. They continue the original game’s absence of logic, moving from WWII to a Roman coliseum with no attempts at answering the question of, “Why?â€. And who wouldn’t want someone to try to write a narrative linking all of this weirdness together?

There’s even a Tomb Raider-styled “perpetually swinging things that repeatedly knock you off a platform†area that follows a thoroughly annoying sequence of jump puzzles that are definitely out of character compared to the rest of the game.

11For enemies, it has little kids with bags over their heads, stripper nurses, electrified clowns, and gigantic pirates. It could only be made better with ninjas, or ninja pirates. Or better yet, zombie ninja pirates. There are some new weapons, like a flamethrower and the always popular automatic stakegun (it’s a sniper rifle, too; it may also slice and dice), but it’s mostly 10 levels of the same spectacularly violent action of the original. Bodies fly apart and all over the screen, blood squirts everywhere, the framerates plummet when all of the graphic effects go off.

The load times are longer, particularly on the “City of the Dead†level. The multiplayer remains irrelevant, despite the addition of two additional modes—all it needs is co-op.There’s a lengthy opening cutscene that tries to explain what’s going on, and a final scene that only promises another even more incomprehensible sequel. But overall, it’s a good excuse to roam through some of the better levels in Hell and bury some demonic orphans along the way.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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