"Violence at its most... violent" is how PSM2 magazine described the PC, PS2 and Xbox incarnation of comic book anti-hero The Punisher. They're not wrong.
With the game's sadistically varied range of kills - which are aided by anything from piranhas to crucifixes to woodchippers - The Punisher takes console violence to its logical, and extreme, conclusion.
But how exactly did developers Volition come up with such a creative arsenal of carnage - and, more to the point, are they proud of themselves? We caught up with the game's producer James Tsai for this quick interrogation...
Was Garth Ennis (Marvel writer who's penned stories for The Punisher, Preacher, Judge Dredd and Spider-Man - comics ed) the obvious choice for writing the game or was anyone else considered?
Bringing Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti (co-creator of comics such as Ash, Painkiller Jane, 21 Down and Spygirls) was a priority of ours from the beginning of development. A lot of the team members at Volition were big fans of their work on the Punisher comic series and we knew having them aboard would make the game better and also show everyone that we were committed to creating the most authentic experience possible.
Why did you decide to make the game quite so violent and how did you come up with the creative array of kills?
We wanted to be true to the character and the licence; those familiar with the comic series will know that the Punisher is a ruthless vigilante who kills dangerous criminals by any means necessary. The inspiration for the kills came from old comic issues, action movies and our own twisted imaginations.
Do you feel the level of violence comes at the expense of the quality of the gameplay?
Absolutely not - we always strive to create fun action that quickens the player's pulse, whether the on-screen body count is high or not. In many ways, the level of violence actually enabled some of our more unique gameplay elements, such as the quick kills and brand new interrogation system.
Were there any scenes that had to be removed from the final game for being too graphic - and can you give us some examples?
To be honest, almost all of our interrogations were dubbed "too graphic". In order to keep from getting banned outright by certain ratings boards in the different markets, we had to change the camera angle on scenes like the woodchipper and the boat propeller, which were originally far more gruesome. We also had to institute the black and white effect, which was originally unplanned. Across the board, we had to lower the level of gore as well, which meant fewer dismemberments and gibs and less heads getting blown off. Even some things like the pistol-to-the-head interrogation had to be modified so the view of the player was not quite as direct.
Do you think it's unfair making games that are deliberately going to garner an '18' rating when a large proportion of the people who want to play them are under that age?
As developers, we created a gaming experience that is intended for adults and have been up front from the beginning that we were seeking that rating. While we're aware that younger players may hear about the game and want to get their hands on it, we do not target them as our core audience and make sure that our marketing and PR efforts reflect that philosophy. To have watered down the game even further so that we could have gotten a rating that would allow children to play would have been a disservice to the licence and to the adult gamers who want the most intense and visceral experience we could deliver.
The Punisher will be released for PC, PS2, and Xbox on 24 March