Painkiller: Overdose Review

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Painkiller is a great game. It’s one of my favorite shooters because it’s just so easy to pick up, play, and enjoy. With plenty of enemies to shoot, plenty of metal riffs to head bang to, and plenty of levels to explore, Painkiller is a blast of fast-paced action that can be enjoyed in short bursts or long sessions. But from what I understand, from what the internet tells me, things start to go off the rails in the standalone expansions, the first of which is Painkiller: Overdose. Developed by Mindware Studios and published by DreamCatcher Interactive, Painkiller: Overdose was released for PC in October, 2007. I did install the Widescreen HUD Fix to fix the incorrectly scaled HUD present when playing the game in a widescreen resolution. From what I understand, Overdose was originally intended to be a fan-made mod but DreamCatcher Interactive granted the project full support. I think it’s interesting that I rarely hear about the expansions, at least not as much as the original game or Hell & Damnation which is apparently a remake and sequel. I’ve played through the Black Edition which contains the original game and Battle Out of Hell Expansion numerous times but I have not played any of the standalone expansions so I was curious and eager to check them out.

Honestly, I’m really curious how they could possibly fuck this formula up. Painkiller is a pretty simple game to jump into. Run, jump, aim and shoot the hordes of baddies coming your way. That’s the gist of it. So I’m going into them expecting one of two things; either the expansions are fine and people just got tired of the same old shit or something does go terribly wrong along the way. If they’re not as bad as people say, then at the very least, I’m expecting these to be basically level packs with some new skins. If one or more of these do turn out to be awful, I’m expecting it’s because they’re either a buggy mess and/or have problems with level design and balancing.

The plot of Overdose follows Belial, a half-angel, half-demon who is released from his prison after Daniel kills Lucifer and he sets out on a quest to slay those that imprisoned him. Much like the original game, it’s a pretty simple plot that takes a backseat to the gameplay. Belial is a vocal protagonist, often shouting lines as he annihilates his foes but he repeats the same lines frequently which can become annoying.

Overdose feels very much like an expansion and doesn’t mess with the formula all that much. The gameplay is relatively unchanged and it retains the same style of campiness and humor. I do think the tonal shifts are much bigger here and the game often conveys a less gritty style than the original Painkiller. Overdose features new weapons even though some are clearly reskins, new levels, and a large cast of new foes.

To put it bluntly, if you liked the original Painkiller and Battle Out of Hell, Overdose is more of the same. Run, jump, aim and shoot. There are three chapters, each consisting of about a handful of levels with their own Black Tarot Cards to unlock. Every level, minus some boss levels, has you wiping out hordes of foes. You move from area to area, eliminating enemies, working your way towards the exit. When enemies are defeated, they release souls and if you collect enough, Belial will morph into a demon rendering him able to instantly kill most foes with one shot of demon power and since the mechanic has not been altered, you still have no control over when the transformation happens.

One of the real highlights of Overdose is the weapons. They’re all new but some are obvious reskins of weapons from the original Painkiller like the Bonegun for example. It’s basically identical to the Shotgun but instead of firing freezing charges, its alternate fire turns foes to stone. The Razor Cube is analogous to the Painkiller, the Cannon/Machine Gun is the Rocket Launcher Chaingun and the Crossbow is similar to the Boltgun.

There are four new weapons that actually feel new. Belial will carry around a head that can fire a laser and a blast of energy. He’ll also get his hands on what looks like a broken sword that can unleash skulls and a large sword that you can control manually to slice through enemies. There’s also the Nuclear Gun that fires radioactive goo and a gas that can slow enemies down. And finally, my favorite, the eggs which are like remote explosives. You can throw a bunch and detonate them all at once resulting in an entire mob exploding which is always awesome.

The Tarot Card system returns and is unchanged. The cards offer different bonuses and in between levels, you can equip up to two silver cards and three gold cards. Silver cards offer passive bonuses and gold cards can only be activated once per level. There’s not as many cards as there was in the original game and some of the same ones are carried over. It should also be noted that the card screen appears to be ripped from Battle Out of Hell so you’ll see a lot of empty card slots.

As expected, you must meet a specific requirement in a level to unlock the Tarot Card. Each level has a different requirement and some are more challenging to unlock than others. Unlocking some of the cards in the original Painkiller was a pain because you sometimes have to find secret areas, either because the requirement is to find them all or because you have to find or break items, some of which are housed in secret areas, and some of the secrets felt like they required pure luck to find.

I’m happy to say that many of the secrets in Overdose don’t feel impossible to find and most levels do not require you to find them to unlock their respective cards. That’s not to say no secret seemed ridiculous but the requirements to unlock the cards rarely meant I had to find them. I only had trouble unlocking one card. The requirement was to destroy all objects and one object was placed so high up and out of view that I don’t know how I would have found it without a guide.

Overdose comes with a lot of new levels and enemies. In typical Painkiller fashion, you progress through the levels in a linear fashion and are free to explore each area at your own pace. There are often rooms and areas off the beaten paths to explore but getting lost should never be a problem. Overdose does take you to an excellent variety of locations like a desert, asteroids, film studios, farm, and snowy village among many others. You’ll even revisit Loony Park but with some changes.

Overdose definitely feels a little more I’ll say “out there” than the original game. Painkiller definitely has its supernatural elements and I think Overdose leans a little more in that direction and it actually makes for a lot of variety. One minute your shooting alien creatures in space and the next thing you know, you’re blasting away stage monsters and electricians at film studios and walking trees in a Haunted Valley. In general, I enjoyed most of the levels and their designs but some of the enemies and encounters got on my nerves after a while.

I do think there’s a few too many enemies that have attacks that will slowly drain your health for a short time. These include Corns, Sprayers, Tentacle Monsters, Insane Cultists, and Insane Villagers. Whether they throw a projectile that unleashes a toxic gas of some sort or hit you with a poisonous attack, it can be annoying when you’re frequently up against numerous types like this. I think it’s also worth noting that the enemy AI does not seem to be improved in any way. In fact, I found the enemy pathfinding to be even worse than that of the original game and frequently saw enemies get stuck behind objects in the environments.

The game does come with online multiplayer and it is compatible with the original game’s maps and modes. The multiplayer did utilize GameSpy services which have been shut down for a while now so I didn’t get to jump into any online matches. However, I do believe there are workarounds that will get you online with others.

Visually, Overdose is basically on par with the original game and Battle Out of Hell and I do like the aesthetics of some of the new weapons. The environmental variety is what really stands out to me when it comes to the presentation. Each level looks and feels unique. Most weapons have good audiovisual feedback and that coupled with the satisfying gore effects make for some satisfying and rewarding gunplay. The soundtrack is a mixed bag. Most of the awesome metal tunes from the original Painkiller are absent in favor of songs that fit each level’s theme. I don’t hate the soundtrack. I actually enjoy many of the tunes but I do prefer the metal riffs. One complaint I have with the audio lies with the Air Combat level. It often sounds like the background noises are too loud and peaking or are not mixed properly and frequently cut out for a second or two.

On the technical side, I did run into some issues. The game crashed on me numerous times and I encountered several of them in the Loony Park level. One day I attempted to load up a previous save and two of them crashed my game. One was a quicksave and the other was an auto-save, both from the same level. Other than that, I got stuck in the environment a couple of times forcing me to load a previous save and the frame rate would stutter here and there. The game’s PCGamingWiki page indicates the load time speed is tied to your frame rate and enabling vsync will result in long load times. I actually tested this by forcing vsync through the Nvidia Control Panel and this did indeed result in painfully long load times.

In the end, I enjoyed my time with Overdose. I won’t say it’s amazing but it does deliver the goods. It’s what you would expect from Painkiller. I love the level and enemy varieties and the more wacky elements. You’ll get attacked by giant scorpions in one level and by Hen Houses unleashing exploding Hens in another. I really like the tonal shifts in this expansion as if the developers had all these different ideas and instead of scrapping some to keep a consistent tone or atmosphere, they said “fuck it, let’s just throw it all in”. As a result, I found a quite a bit of humor in this experience. But on a gameplay level, there’s not much to say because it’s just more of the same. I like most of the new weapons and love the new variety of foes, even though I think some of them are just annoying.

Ultimately, I would recommend Painkiller: Overdose to fans of the original game. I think the original game and Black Edition are better but I would say this expansion is definitely worth a shot. That said, if you don’t like this style of shooter or the original, you won’t like this. It’s that simple. It’s a lot of running and gunning. It could use more polish in some areas but, overall, Overdose is a solid experience. Definitely check it out.

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