The thing you’ll quickly realise if you ever have the misfortune of playing Painkiller: Resurrection is that the title is unintentionally ironic. This game does not cure pain in any way - in fact, it causes pain in great doses. The only way it could actually end your agony is if the immense awfulness of the experience caused your brain to swell with rage until your head exploded in a shower of bone and blood, thus killing you.
So, after that ambiguous introduction you’re probably wondering whether Painkiller: Resurrection is worth your time and money, especially if you’re a fan of the original. The first game by People Can Fly was a no-frills orgy of violence which threw thousands of enemies at you at once and let you gun them down in a variety of satisfying ways. Fun in short bursts, but hardly revolutionary. Five years on and developer Homegrown Games has adopted the franchise and released this sequel of sorts, which introduces new protagonist William Sherman in a comic-style cutscene that pays homage to/rips off the Max Payne games. Bill is an assassin, and not a very good one at that - after all, who in these modern times would use a bomb activated by a timer to perform a hit? You might as well go all out and write ‘BOMB’ on the side in huge lettering.
Unsurprisingly the hit goes wrong and Bill finds himself carted off to purgatory for his sins, where he has to battle his way through hordes of ugly beasties for no good reason. It’s not just the enemies that are ugly either. Homegrown Games’ interpretation of purgatory appears to be an endless chain of dull, dark and depressing environments. The original Painkiller had some memorable levels, such as the enormous snow-ensconced bridge and the huge opera house, but none of the locations in this sequel stand out as interesting or original. Worse still, there’s only six levels in all. They may take a while to complete, but that’s partly because it’s so easy to hit a brick wall that halts all progress. Sometimes you’ll have missed a single enemy, which you then have to hunt down before you can continue. Other times - like in the second room of the first level - you’ll have missed a hidden gap that you can only just squeeze through. Any possible entertainment quickly gives way to frustration, and at times I bet that Painkiller: Resurrection could provoke a four-lettered barrage from Mother Teresa herself. That is, if she was still alive and was forced at gunpoint to play this dross.
Next up for abuse is the rather rubbish collection of enemies, most of which have been recycled from the first game. The vast majority of them seem to just ‘pop’ into existence when you walk over a checkpoint, an effect which is about as impressive as a kick in the charlies. They then proceed to rush straight at you, and will happily charge into your chainsaw-style melee weapon and kill themselves. That is, if they don’t get stuck on a bit of scenery first. Imagine if Katie Price had a lobotomy, then wandered out into the road and got smushed by a truck. The resultant slop would still contain more intelligence than all of Painkiller: Resurrection’s enemies combined. Battling endless waves of these moronic creatures was strangely enjoyable in the first game, but here it feels more like a burden and a serious step back in time to Wolfenstein 3D days. Even the bosses aren’t as grand as before, and are simple to beat as long as you can strafe.
Even if the levels and the enemies are pants, at least Painkiller: Resurrection manages to get one thing right - the weapons. These are also ripped straight out of the original, so you get the same stake gun, the rocket launcher/minigun combo, and the fantastically cool lightning gun that shoots shurikens. Sadly, the weapons are nowhere near enough to compensate for the rest of the buggy gameplay, and the stake gun just highlights yet another bug. The rag doll physics are so broken that shooting an enemy with a stake often leaves them spinning and jerking in mid-air, as if they’re tripping on ecstasy and listening to the latest Bonkers album. I could spend hours listing the various bugs and issues, but frankly I’d rather just stop talking about this pile of excrement and do something much more fun, like prod myself in both eyeballs with a fork.
If for some incomprehensible reason you’ve read this review and still want to check Painkiller: Resurrection out, then you’ll need a dual core processor with an absolute minimum of a gig of RAM (preferably two) to get a playable experience. Not an enjoyable experience in any way, shape or form, but playable at least. Painkiller isn’t a completely broken game, but playing it feels like you’ve travelled back in time at least a decade, or stumbled upon a half-finished project from some drunken software development student. If you’re after a violent action game, I’d recommend Borderlands a million times over this - that game had sucky AI too, but at least the gameplay is addictive and fun, and you don’t feel like gunning down a bus stop of innocent civilians when you finish playing.