by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Dan Garner should have died a hundred times over but he is still alive. A brutal car accident killed his wife Catherine but somehow he escaped the accident unscathed, leaving him with an unbearable sense of guilt. Even Death thinks he is an abomination and, in an attempt get control over the man who has defied him, makes Dan an offer he simply cannot refuse. To see his wife again, he needs to collect 7000 souls. Such a bargain with Death would seem fishy even to a six year old but the tormented Dan reluctantly accepts the task.
The Painkiller franchise is not known for its rich background stories. The games have always had the same simple premise and that is to take out hordes of monstrosities using an imaginative and abundant arsenal of weaponry. Hell & Damnation follows this tradition to the letter and puts you in charge of finding green soul bubbles for the Black Reaper himself.
Besides the various (standard) multiplayer modes, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation ships with a survival mode in which overwhelming numbers of enemies attempt to overrun you, as well as a Co-Op mode in which you can play through the entire single-player campaign with a friend. With a closed beta of the multiplayer mode of Hell & Damnation in full swing, the Gamescom demonstration focused on the single player campaign which proved to be quite the spectacle.
Who switched out the lights!
The demonstration started with a graveyard setting where the enemies consisted of a variety of skeletons and an evil little witch-like figure that kept pulling the wool over our eyes by making everything dark. With undead spawning from graves and crypts all over the place, we set out to do Death’s work.
Slow, long-sword wielding skeletons ascended upon us and we soon learned that they were best avoided and dealt with from a distance as these were the tanks in the level. It worked well until they were joined by lighter, dagger carrying brethren that proceeded to chase us around the map, often straight into the arms of the heavy hitters. The witch appeared around the same time as a flock of baby skeletons that proved particularly vicious when the witch pulled her darkness trick out of her hat and blackened the screen to the point of barely any visibility. The blackout lasted just long enough to throw off even the most experienced Painkillers.
Of course we weren’t exactly defenseless against any of these assaults and the lady died prettily at the hands of a cool stake gun that made short work of most of the other bone-bags coming at us as well. The shotgun’s secondary fire mode froze the ones that were a little harder to dispose of, giving us enough time to dodge waves that were a little too big to handle. A similarly effective, almost bow-like contraption hurled circular saw blades in rapid progression and spewed green-glowing, enemy-disabling goo using its secondary fire mode. Not to be outdone by the witch, Dan had a cool trick up his own sleeve and switched to demon mode by spending some souls. The world turned grey and foes showed up blood-red on the screen, no longer hidden by objects and buildings on the map. Very nice.
Where the graveyard scene felt somewhat cramped and played out during darkness, the next area we were shown was the complete opposite. We found ourselves in a huge field and were startled by a set of moving walls. Wait, walls that move? It turned out that we were looking at the legs of a monster of epic proportions, an end-boss so big that it blocked out much of the sun behind it, even when we stood at a safe distance. It lifted its legs, revealing root-like feet that dug deep into the ground when they came back down.
We were told to expect more of these complete changes as there is little to no re-use of assets between maps so every area will have its own completely unique feel. With the giant turnip still blocking out the sunlight and trying to stomp us into the ground, we had no trouble believing the word of our hosts.