Painkiller: Redemption Review

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I’ve been working my way through the Painkiller expansions and so far Battle Out of Hell and Overdose are solid entries. Starting with Overdose, the expansions released as stand-alone titles. Next was Painkiller: Resurrection and it’s terrible. It’s broken and and poorly designed. The next expansion didn’t receive quite the same amount negativity as Resurrection but it’s not considered great, either. I was eager to check it out, regardless. My thinking was I would be amazed if it’s any worse than Resurrection. I thought that had to be rock bottom so it can only go up from there. Although, I have been wrong before.

Developed by Eggtooth Team and published by DreamCatcher Interactive, Painkiller: Redemption was released for PC in 2011. I did install the Widescreen HUD Fix to correct the stretched HUD present when playing the game in a widescreen resolution. Redemption is a single-player only installment which is ironic because all the maps are designed for multiplayer or so the internet says. I could just tell you Painkiller: Redemption is more of the same with a new difficulty and boring levels and end this review right now but that would be lazy, a lot like this expansion.

The story follows both Daniel and Belial, the protagonists from the previous entries, as they set out on a quest to defeat Eve who has become the new ruler of Hell. And once again, the plot is clearly just a setup for the gameplay.

Redemption contains eight levels spread across two chapters. The player will get to play as both Daniel and Belial and use their respective weapon sets. However, for some reason the Blade and Egg Bombs are absent from Belial’s arsenal which is very disappointing. The level will determine which character you play as and the gameplay is typical Painkiller. Run, jump, aim, and shoot the mobs of foes coming your way. Collect enough souls to morph into a demon and use Black Tarot Cards to aid you. It’s all here.

One of the few positive things I will say about Redemption is that it’s better than Resurrection if only for the fact it’s more stable. I only encountered one issue. After defeating the boss at the end of the first chapter, the game froze which apparently is a known unresolved problem. After referencing the game’s PCGamingWiki page, I learned that frequent alt-tabbing can resolve it and allow you to progress and I can confirm that’s what worked for me. However, I did find a Steam guide that provides instructions on how to prevent it but I did not actually try it.

I’ve never actually played the multiplayer in the previous installments but according to the internet, the levels here are actually based on multiplayer maps and, unfortunately for this single player experience, they make for very boring levels. The gameplay is what you would expect from a Painkiller game. You progress through levels by killing enemies, working your way towards the exit. You must defeat all the enemies in an area to proceed to the next area. Rinse and repeat throughout each level. It’s a simple formula but it works when the levels are designed to give you plenty of space to maneuver around the mobs of varied enemies that are thrown at you.

The big problem with Redemption is the way its designed. Despite the levels being set in different locations, they all end up feeling the same. You’ll have to decimate waves of enemies in each level and typically in small areas. Small enough that it’s easy to get overrun quickly. Most areas will throw hundreds of enemies at you and you can spend anywhere from one minute to fifteen just fighting wave after wave of foes.

Unlike its predecessors, the levels lack variety in terms of layout and general design. They’re just very simple. Levels consist of numerous areas which are typically just small rooms that sometimes don’t give you enough ammo to fend off the hundreds of foes that spawn, making the Replenish tarot card one of the most useful because it doubles the ammo you collect. The best weapons to use are any that unleash explosives because crowd control is crucial and is why the absence of Egg Bombs in Belial’s arsenal is both odd and disappointing. Luckily, all the enemies you’re up against means you’ll usually have plenty of opportunities to morph into a demon, rendering you capable of killing most enemies with a single shot of demon power, letting you easily clean up the area to give you some breathing room even if it’s just for a brief time.

Instead of interesting levels are simple levels with armies of foes. Each level does have a tarot card that can be unlocked by meeting certain requirements and they can prove to be useful just because of how the gameplay is. Increased ammo, being able to slow down time, and health stealer for example can alleviate some of the more frustrating aspects. Unfortunately, you can only equip one silver card and one gold card this time around and gold isn’t always in abundance in the levels so you may have to choose your cards wisely.

The challenge in Redemption is a lot like it was in the previous installments. It’s all about overcoming the odds. And that seems to be the only takeaway the developers got from the original game. As a result of the simplified design, I found the gameplay to be more frustrating here because of how mundane and boring the levels are. Deaths just annoyed me because I was simply tired of moving around the same small space, blasting away the mobs in the same ways repeatedly. I constantly felt the desire to see something new whether it be a new area or set of enemies. Every level kind of drags on because of the lack of variety which applies to both the level design and encounters. It’s just the same thing repeated over and over, from beginning to end, with nothing exciting or interesting to mix things up. That could technically be said about every installment up to this point but at least the previous ones kept you on the move, with more space to move around and more variety in general.

The best thing about the simple levels is that they accommodate the enemies nicely. As you may or may not know, Painkiller enemies have never been very bright and because of how simple Redemption’s levels are, it’s not hard for them to navigate around them. Enemies typically spawn in waves and often in multiple spots and most of them will just rush you and some do unleash projectiles. There’s nowhere to hide so you always have to keep moving.

When it comes to the audiovisual presentation, Redemption is on par with the previous installments. It looks like Painkiller and sounds like Painkiller, complete with metal tunes blasting as you annihilate evil. As mentioned before, each level is set in a different location and the different textures is the only thing that separates them and makes them feel different in any way. There’s nothing to really see or admire and nothing atmospheric or exciting about any of them. On the technical side, I encountered no major problems and it ran smooth.

I can’t say I dislike Painkiller: Redemption but it’s certainly not a great expansion. It’s lazy. It retains the core gameplay of the series and that’s it. That’s literally all it has going for it. Running, jumping, aiming and shooting is the most exciting thing about it. Minus the new difficulty setting, it doesn’t really feature anything new and no effort was put into adding any kind of variety or making the levels interesting or atmospheric. In fact, Redemption has the opposite problem of Resurrection. Instead of open-ended and interestingly designed levels, Redemption features simple boring levels with a lot of tight spaces. Granted, the open-ended nature of Resurrection did not mesh well with the classic Painkiller formula. It introduced pacing problems and amplified the issues with the enemy pathfinding but at least the levels are somewhat interesting.

The problems with Redemption primarily stem from the level design. The challenge is the same but it’s been transformed into frustration here because deaths can feel cheap and annoying. Many of the spaces you battle in feel too small for the amount of enemies being thrown at you and, despite the two arsenals, certain weapons are rendered almost useless most of the time because the encounters are always the same. It’s just wave after wave of mobs making weapons that create explosions the best choice. You run, jump, and strafe around the room repeatedly until you’ve wiped all the enemies out and can move onto the next area to do it all over again. It’s the same strategy every time. And you can only hope you have enough ammo.

I would only recommend Painkiller: Redemption if you’re a die hard fan of the Painkiller experience. I do think it’s better than Resurrection and it’s cool being able to play as two protagonists with different weapon sets. But those are the only positive things I can say about it.

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