It's been a while since the demonic first-person shooter Painkiller and its expansion pack landed on the PC, and though its endless waves of Hell's minions, enormous boss monsters and reactive physics might've been the bee's knees then, the intervening years have taken some of the fire out of the Xbox edition, Painkiller: Hell Wars.
Our hero, unburdened with the trappings of personality, slaughters Lucifer's troops with weapons that sound more interesting than they are. Sure, pinning a goon to the side of a burning building with your stake gun or freezing an incoming assassin in his tracks is fun the first few times, but because not one of the seventy-odd enemy types does anything but charge mindlessly toward you, these strategic differences are moot. That's a good thing, in a way, as switching weapons is a pain in the neck. You're forced to pause the game and choose two, which can be toggled. That's not too different from Halo, but it's less elegantly done, and why the restriction in the first place?
Arenas vary wildly, with no regard for theme. You'll explore opera houses and asylums, prisons and townships. What scraping strait-jacketed mental patients from ceilings or blowing gatling-toting guards to chunks has to do with tracking down Satan's generals is anyone's guess, but at least there's a decent variety of good-looking architecture. (Unfortunately, the action chugs often, and taking damage subjects you to a migraine-inducing pixelating effect.) There are precisely zero puzzles to solve; you need only mop up every last witless goon and head for the door.
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