Dec 5, 2007
This is a game that opens with concept art of a 68-year-old transvestite in purple makeup and horns, uses the word ‘hate’ nine times in the interminable intro movie, and begins with some of the worst FPS combat we’ve seen in our career. But eventually, bunnyhopping around the game’s ugly morons, firing its copycat weapons and enduring your character’s cringingly unfunny and excruciatingly repetitious one-liners gets surprisingly compelling. Even after load times that the developers themselves have called “terrible.”
Painkiller was made by a bunch of modders who really liked Quake, and this standalone semi-official expansion is made by a bunch of modders who really liked Painkiller. Really, really liked Painkiller.
Now, these people don’t really have any new ideas, but seem to like making extra work for themselves. They’ve designed a completely unique roster of enemies for every one of the game’s 17 levels. Yet almost none add anything to the way the game plays: they either run at you screaming or shamble around lobbing fireballs.
This bloody-minded obsession with cosmetic diversity does add something. Each time a level starts, you know you’ll be in a new place, often with a new weapon hovering before you, fighting new demons. Not very good demons, but new demons.
And some of the six new weapons are almost fresh. The rest, not so much: Painkiller may have had a Stake Gun that either impaled people or fired a barrage of bouncing explosives, but Overdose adds a crossbow which either impales people or fires a barrage of bouncing explosives. Painkiller’s titular weapon minced enemies with spinning blades at close range, or latched onto a piece of scenery to create a death-beam between you and it. By contrast, Overdose’s Cube minces enemies with spinning blades at close range, or latches onto a piece of scenery to create a death-beam between you and it.
It successfully recaptures Painkiller’s central appeal: there are plenty of gratifyingly weak enemies, there’s a distinct knack to each weapon and it’s super-fast to switch between them. The grapeshot approach to enemy design eventually undermines this - the few foes that are different are so gallingly, risibly, absurdly bad that it’s simply not possible to enjoy the levels they inhabit. If you’re really bored, try the demo.