Painkiller: A Comparison On Love Lost

Not only is Painkiller HD a step down, but it was a waste of time.

By Daavpuke, Posted 11 Nov 2012

Recently, I came back to a personal love of mine: Painkiller. No, I’m not addicted to prescription drugs; I mean the classic first person shooter. Whenever anyone accuses me of disliking the genre, because I don’t care for your standard two-weapon load-out with regenerative health, I smear Painkiller’s high octane action in their face. This game is everything your modern FPS isn’t: It’s fast, unrelenting, and unforgiving. Camping? Forget it. Cover? Dream on. Hordes upon hordes of foul demons rush towards your jugular as you hysterically try to cleave your way through with an array of sadistic firearms. When Painkiller Hell & Damnation announced that it would remake what made this series great, but only better, I was ecstatic. Yet, like my previous skepticism of HD remakes anticipated, the end result was a kick in the slacks. Not only is Painkiller HD a step down, but it was a waste of time.

Painkiller - A Comparison on Love Lost - NoobFeed Editorial

There’s a tendency of wanting to defensively react to statements like this, one which I understand, but I didn’t always feel this way about the game. In 2011, I came back to the series for Painkiller: Redemption; a random iteration in the series made by fans and picked up by the now defunct JoWood. If we look at the Metacritic rating for both titles, we see that HD clearly gets more adoration from the press, yet tanks with users, while the reverse happens for Redemption. This makes me believe that my view is correct in giving the latter an 88/100, while the new version only scores 54/100. The HD remake nabs the immediate attention from us critics with its pristine graphics and quick fix gaming in this zeitgeist, while players are more concerned that the series has taken a dive. It has. Yet, it should be true that these 2 titles are separated the way they are. Redemption is “but” fan-made and a quick fix, if anything, while our HD version is a work of art that took sizable time and effort to complete. So, why aren’t the 2 things in balance?

A simple answer to the question would be: Focus. While I was originally going to say “dedication,” that term would seem harsh, as HD developer The Farm 51 has its roots in the series. They may have abandoned it for greener pastures, but certainly these projects stay close to one’s heart. No, rather the two have a different outlook in their creation. Painkiller HD was made to stun. By using the Unreal Engine and reworking the formula into the modern era, we should once more get blown away at the game’s scope of demons, blood, and guts. In Redemption, fans just wanted more of what they enjoy playing. The two are very different. One is based on an aesthetic, and the other drives to the core of the game.

Painkiller - A Comparison on Love Lost - NoobFeed Editorial

This creates a strange separation for both games. In the HD issue, we are presented with a new weapon that is bigger and better than ever, like the rest of the game. However, this overpowered saw blade with unlimited second fire kills the challenge of having to wade through hordes. With this ease, the 14 levels presented feel short, as there is only a sporadic element of teeth-gnashing action. The rest is a walk in the park; a park from hell, but a leisurely stroll nonetheless. In the process to create a sense of grandeur, the developer actually cut down on what was important. It forgot what made the series great or at least how it was made to be captivating. The promo pitch still knows that the game is about no-nonsense action, but it forgot that this was made through gameplay and not just flinging demons one after another.

Redemption offers but 6 levels, so it should feel even more compact, yet it doesn’t. That’s because in this game, challenge is always present. Each level hurls a thousand enemies at the player and leaves ammo scarce, closes up levels and makes every wave a struggle for survival. While only small in scope, every level completely drains the player of their essence, due to the unrelenting assault on their life that forces to strategize and conserve ammunition and health pickups. This game feels substantial, because it requires a lot more effort, without feeling overly difficult. It’s designed to fit the need of the player’s skill, rather than their perception. It may have repetitive textures, dull surroundings and square environments, but this game plays like a rollercoaster through the fiery depths of despair. It could be an 8-bit presentation and it would’ve retained the same clenching spirit.

Painkiller - A Comparison on Love Lost - NoobFeed Editorial

Well, at least one thing's the same.

Both games are around 6 or so hours, yet one feels like a rip off and the other feels like a sizable effort. That’s because the HD shooter put its focus on looking better and Redemption wanted to play better. The two might have wanted to emphasize both looks and gameplay, but there’s a clear priority where everyone drew that line. It’s strange how subtle changes can matter so much, yet here we are today with an HD version of a game I once held dear and all I want to do is return to a few levels made by fans turned makeshift development team. I still love Painkiller, I always will, but this HD thing isn’t the game I once knew; this is a shiny sham. I’m going back to the gritty arenas made for me. I’m metal like hell.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): JoWood Entertainment
Developer(s): DreamCatcher Interactive
Genres: First-Person Shooter
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2011-02-25

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