by Blackened Beans
reviewed on PS3
If you're guilty, you're dead
Great downloadable first-person shooters for the PlayStation Network are few and far between, with some that try to use gimmicks to sell and others that are simply too by-the-numbers to be fun. Fortunately, The Punisher: No Mercy doesn't try to sell itself on gimmicks; it's simply an intense, over-the-top and stupid arena FPS, and that's exactly why it rocks. It strikes the perfect balance between the familiar and the new. It's a classic Unreal Tournament-esque arcade shooter that mixes in new-school things like perks and a custom weapon loadout. There's nothing here that you haven't seen before, but it's all executed so well that, for ten dollars, it simply can't be missed.
The game offers a good variety of features, ranging from some very light character customization to badges and tournaments. There's also a very short, but still sweet campaign mode that plays like a multiplayer game but has a story being told through comic book cutscenes.
Storytelling and gameplay
The cutscenes in The Punisher are stylish, but ultimately do a poor job of telling the story due to the still images and obscure narration. Plus, there are a ton of annoying in-game voices that will likely cause you to turn the voice effects off, and upon doing this you can't hear the cutscenes, which feels like a rather unpolished aspect of the game. Fortunately, you can re-watch the cutscenes from the menu. There's also a co-op mode for the story, but unfortunately you can't play it locally, and the only way to find another player is to invite someone with a private message.
There's a strange disconnect between the gameplay and the story. A cutscene might show The Punisher being beat up by a criminal or searching for a building, and once the actual game portion begins you'll be running around on a map that's completely different from the one shown in the comic strip, killing random enemies for no reason at all other than to progress. It makes the story confusing and hard to follow, and it is over incredibly quick to boot. There are about three or four missions in the story, and all of them simply involve killing a certain amount of enemies or surviving waves of foes. The gameplay is still fast-paced and fun, but it feels less like a story mode and more like a simple practice mode.
There are eight characters in the game that you unlock over the course of the campaign which you can use online, but if that's not enough for you, then there are also a boatload of additional costumes for each character that can be unlocked from achieving certain tasks in multiplayer, like getting a certain number of headshots, or killing a particular character a certain number of times. Character customization isn't especially flexible, but with so many costumes available to you, you should still be able to create a character that fits you.
You can also choose two perks for your character, which allow you to do things such as run faster or add upgrades to your gun. Plus, you can choose a close-range weapon, long-range weapon and special weapon. All the weapons are fun to shoot, and you'll likely want to experiment with them to see which one best suits you. Plus, you can upgrade weapons in matches to add things like scops for increased accuracy or new barrels for increased damage.
The problem with the perks and weapons is that they're not balanced especially well. You can walk around with a vest to protect you from damage and a giant laser gun and mow down pretty much anyone in your way, and perks like weapon upgrade give you a large advantage by giving you special upgrades as soon as you begin. As fun as the weapons and perks are to use, it can be incredibly frustrating to be killed by a guy with a laser rocket using a bullet proof vest when all you've got is a machine gun and sprint perk. This issue is most noticeable in linear locations like narrow hallways, where people run amok, spamming rockets in every direction.
No Pros and Cons at this time