Painkiller (video game)

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If video games got drunk and had one-night stands that resulted in pregnancy, Painkiller would be the product of the frenzied, S&M-laden coupling of Doom and Serious Sam.
—Steerpike of Four Fat Chicks.
Painkiller is in the same bucket as Serious Sam and the original DOOMs in that it serves as an antidote to fancy-pants complex modern FPSes. There are no stealth elements, no key hunting, no escort quests, no dorky support characters dribbling in your ear, no mission objectives besides kill everyone. It's just you, some guns, and the entire population of Murdertown between you and where you need to be.
—Yahtzee, severely Caustic Critic of Zero Punctuation.

Painkiller is a FPS made by Polish developers People Can Fly (now absorbed by Epic Games). The game concerns Daniel Garner, a man with an idyllic life, a beautiful spouse, and whose life is tragically snipped short when a truck plows straight into his car. Daniel gets to watch as his wife goes to Heaven, but he has to stay in Purgatory where he is commissioned by God to stop Lucifer's invasion. If Lucifer takes Purgatory, he can take Earth and Heaven as well. Oh, and Eve is your companion through the game. Yeah, that Eve.

The story is utterly auxiliary, though it lends itself to interesting interpretations. Either way, you can skip all the cutscenes and hop right into the game with no ill consequence. The game strings together massive battle after massive battle, tossing a bunch of novel guns into your inventory and setting you free in the Demon Preservation Hunting Grounds in the middle of Demon Hunting season.

The boss battles are massive, the challenges the game sets are worth it (in the form of powerups you can earn), the enemies are varied and awesome (Nazi zombies whose war cry is "SCHEISSE!"), it's got hours of replay value, and it costs something like $10. In short, it's a fantastic example of old-school FPS game design with new-school sensibilities.

Owns the unique distinction of being 'THE MOST METAL GAME EVER this side of Brütal Legend (which was, after all, explicitly about metal).

Apart from the original game, People Can Fly also developed an expansion pack, Battle out of Hell, made up mostly of content that was Dummied Out or otherwise scrapped for the original game. It shows, as most players consider the expansion to be a bit of a mixed bag that doesn't quite reach the level of the original game. Since then, the game's publishers have released other standalone expansions developed by fan modders, starting with Painkiller: Overdose in 2007 (developed by Mindware Studios from the Czech Republic), and following up with Painkiller: Resurrection in 2009 (by Homegrown Games) and Painkiller: Redemption in 2011 (by Team EggTooth). Par for the course, none of them are particularly good.

Not in any way related to a series of media featuring virtually immortal, ass-kicking Action Girls. Or Judas Priest. Though being related to Judas Priest would be the one and only way to make the game any more metal than it already is.

A Spiritual Successor to this game, named Bulletstorm, is now available.

Tropes used in Painkiller (video game) include:


  • Abnormal Ammo - Roughly every single weapon has you firing something that could arch a few eyebrows. Demon fetuses, stakes, the screams of a severed demon head...
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier - The "Air Combat" level from Overdose takes place on one such vessel in what appears to be an alternate version of World War I.
  • Anticlimax Boss - Once you realize what you're supposed to do to kill him, Lucifer turns out to be a pathetically easy Puzzle Boss who can be killed in just a few seconds.
    • Glass Cannon: Despite being killable in just a few seconds with just 2 shots, Lucifer's attacks do massive damage and he can kill you in just a couple hits if you don't know what you're supposed to do to harm him.
  • Arrows on Fire - Ammo from the Stakegun will catch fire if it flies far enough. It can also be lit on fire if the stake hits a Stakegun grenade in mid-air, turning it into a rocket.
  • At the Opera Tonight - Mr. Garner's idea of a fine opera performance includes samurai, ninja, and beetle-things lunging off the stage and trying to kill him. To which he replies by promptly blowing their heads off.
  • Awesome but Impractical- Yes, you can shoot a stake through a grenade to make a long-range grenade. Yes, it's awesome when you get it working. No, it doesn't have any real combat application.
  • Bag of Spilling: Health, armor, and ammo are all reset at the beginning of each new level. This seems to be done to avert Too Awesome to Use, giving you absolutely no reason to hold back during the firefights.
  • The Battle Didn't Count - Lucifer's general Alastor appears at the end of the game to mock you after you kill Lucifer himself in the "bad" ending. It seems killing Alastor in Purgatory just sends him back to hell. Whoops.
  • Beat Them At Their Own Game - See A Taste of Power
  • Bullet Time - The Haste, Double Haste and Triple Haste cards, which can make any encounter a breeze when combined with certain other cards.
  • Circus of Fear - One of the levels in Battle Out of Hell.
  • City of Canals - City on the Water.
  • Clown Car Grave - Explicitly stated to be portals used by demons, so Justified.
  • Collection Sidequest - To get 100% on all levels (and some of the cards), you need to find well hidden gold and treasures.
  • Copy and Paste Environments - The aforementioned Circus of Fear in Battle Out of Hell was pretty much copied shamelessly in Overdose, aside from a few different enemies and a different final section.
    • Not to mention the guns, most of which were copied directly from Painkiller and Battle Out Of Hell, usually with a reskin and a Nerf to boot.
    • And on that note, Redemption is made up entirely of multi-player levels from Painkiller, populated with monsters.
  • Crate Expectations - There are crates found here-there. Might be justified in a factory level of the first game which has pallets.
  • Creepy Cathedral - Several levels.
  • Crowning Level of Awesome - The game has tons of great levels, ranging from the atmospheric Asylum level to the gorgeous City on Water, but the stage for the final Boss Battle is generally agreed upon to be one of the greatest levels in the game, if not one of the greatest levels ever made for any FPS. See Hell Is War below. Too bad the fight itself is stupidly easy and short).
  • Darker and Edgier - Painkiller could be considered the darker counterpart of Serious Sam, which also imitated the old-skool War Sequence-spamming FPS style and came earlier.
  • Dead to Begin With - Well, Dead Because Of Opening Cutscene.
  • Deliberately Monochrome - The demon morph makes Daniel see in black and white, with enemies tinted black and red.
  • Degraded Boss - The miniboss from the first level of Painkiller. See below.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Just in case you missed the intro, Belial will be sure to remind you. Every 15 seconds or so.
  • Did Not Do the Research - In Resurrection: "Before you, only two others had stood against the legions in purgatory. One was Daniel, who was looking for his love...and found her. The other was Belial, who was looking for revenge...but instead found mercy." The line about Daniel is likely referring to the first Painkiller's secret ending, which is non-canon, although Belial's ending was the exact OPPOSITE of mercy.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? - The final boss is Lucifer himself.
  • Die, Chair, Die!
  • Discontinuity - Overdose started off as a fan-made mod to Painkiller. It shows. A lot.
  • Easy Mode Mockery - The lower your difficulty choice, the fewer levels you can access. Curiously, if you play on the highest difficulty rating then the entire final chapter is locked out.
  • Emergency Weapon - The titular Painkiller actually remains a useful weapon for the rest of the game.
  • Everything Fades - Including dropped souls and gold, if you aren't fast enough.
  • Excuse Plot - You're dead, and God has decided to make you His errand boy by holding your wife over your head. Go kill everything.
  • Fan Disservice: The 'nurse' enemies are a parody of the sexy nurse concept, complete with bad breast augmentation and waxy faces.
  • Final Exam Finale - A very clever variation. In the second to last level in Overdose, the Movie Studios, you go through the "stages" and "actors" of each level previous. Along with cardboard cut-out monsters!
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell - Averted. Instead Hell consists of a collection of man-made disasters and wars frozen in motion.
  • Freeze Ray - Secondary fire of the Shotgun (Or "Bonegun", in Overdose).
  • Gag Dub - by Yahtzee, of the game's intro sequence, which can be seen as a post-credits add-on in his review of The Witcher
  • Game Breaking Bug: The game has an annoying habit of corrupting save files.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation - What happens in the intro and in between cutscenes, has little to do in the game. At least in first installment.
  • Gas Mask Mooks - Skeleton soldiers.
  • Gatling Good - With an attached rocket launcher.
  • George Lucas Throwback - The game is unapologetically hailing to older FPSes, with the only tactical decision being "well done or extra crispy".
  • Godiva Hair - Eve wears only this and a cloth wrap around her hips. In some shots her nipples are actually clearly visible underneath.
  • Gotta Catch Em All - Most, if not all of the card conditions basically boil down to this: Find all the monsters and kill them, find all the secrets, catch a certain number of souls and demon morph a certain number of times, etc. Some of them can be really dickish to get too.
  • Grappling Hook Pistol - The titular weapon, sort of. Secondary fire latches onto the environment with a hook... but then just projects a laser beam back to the base if you face it, slowly vaporizing anything caught in it. Enemies can find themselves taking first-class flight on a direct hit with the hook.
  • Gratuitous Japanese - Par for the course with demonic ninjas, but the things they yell out ("watashi wa karasu!!!"/"I am a crow!!!") kinda border on nonsense.
    • Unless you happen to know that tengu in Japanese mythology were essentially demonic crow ninjas, then it makes slightly more sense.
  • Guide Dang It - How many of those secrets will an "average" gamer find without a walkthrough?
    • A couple of gamers were this stumped on the Vampire miniboss in the catacombs level. Shoot the ceiling and shine light on him.
  • Guns Are Worthless - Not for you (thankfully), but for the enemies. If you have armor on, you barely even take Scratch Damage on most difficulties (it adds up fast, though). Then we have the bikers in the first Painkiller: they wield Tommy Guns in level 5-1 and nail guns in 5-2, and the nails do MUCH more damage.
  • Harder Than Hard - two hidden difficulty levels (Nightmare and Trauma)
  • Hell - The last level of the original; The earlier ones are actually Purgatory.
  • Hell Is War - Literally. The final area of the game takes place in Hell, which to the hero's human eyes looks like a time-frozen collection of historic war scenarios with the humans cut out, complete with an unmanned battering ram breaking through crumbling castle walls, grenades exploding in trenches, a crashing airplane and, looming in the distance, a giant mushroom cloud forming over an exploding atomic bomb.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja - If they're not using projectile attacks, then they're about four inches from your nose trying to kill you. And they repeatedly yell in Japanese.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard - How Daniel defeats Lucifer.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels - Daydream is easy, Insomnia is normal, Nightmare is hard, and Trauma is Nintendo Hard.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon - Just about every single one of them.
  • Improbable Weapon User - One of the weapons in Overdose you get to use is a severed demon head. Another are demon fetuses.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests
  • Leap of Faith - Frakking secret areas.
  • Limited Special Collectors' Ultimate Edition - Both subverted and played straight.
  • Literally Shattered Lives - You can freeze and shatter enemies. This is the best way of dealing with some Goddamned Bats.
  • Literary Allusion Title - He is the painkiller, and this is the painkiller.
  • Luck-Based Mission - At least one card condition in Overdose relies on pure, dumb luck: the level Animal Farm requires the player to collect 160 souls to collect the card. However, there are only 162 161 enemies (the last one is glitched out) in the entire level, so the player can only miss a single soul at most - which is already incredibly challenging, but becomes luck-based because some souls can spawn out of reach, and the card condition becomes Unwinnable if this happens even twice.
  • Ludicrous Gibs - The Painkiller shreds enemies into a fine paste, and that's just the beginning.
  • Malaproper - Daniel somehow pronounces Alastor's name as Allister.
  • Monster Clown - In the Circus of Fear, natch.
  • Mood Whiplash - The Asylum and Orphanage levels are genuinely horrifying. Especially the Asylum pre-patch, when there is no battle music at all to pump you up. Both of them come RIGHT at the time you're considering yourself utterly Badass.
  • Ms. Fanservice - The game's portrayal of Eve makes one contemplate all manner of original sin.
  • Multiple Endings - There's three in the original game.
    • A bad ending: You are trapped in Hell, fighting off an infinite wave of enemies with just your Manly Boots and shotgun.
    • The second bad ending: You've completed the game at 100%. The ending is the bosses running towards the camera in washed-out, bright white light. That's it.
    • Completing the game at 100%, then the first hidden difficulty at 100%, and then the second hidden difficulty gives you the good ending, which shows Daniel and his wife slowly walking together and holding hands. And the ending isn't canon anyway.
  • Nigh Invulnerability - Part of the Demon Morph powers.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot - Numerous nouns become descriptive adjectives transfixed before "demon", such as "pirate demon", "prisoner demon", or "biker demon". The amount of variety in Hell is absolutely staggering.
  • No Animals Were Harmed - "Several demons were actually harmed during the production of Painkiller."
  • Nuns Are Spooky - Demon nuns show up in the Orphanage level.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity - Daniel's easy-going Imp friend that follows him around for most of the game turns out to be Lucifer himself in disguise, busy digging holes to open portals between Purgatory and Hell.
  • Obvious Beta - Resurrection, through and through.
  • One-Hit Kill - Part of the demon morph's powers, except against bosses.
    • One of the cards, when activated, gives every single enemy 1 HP.
  • One-Man Army
  • Pacifist Run - Sort of; the Tarot Card challenge of Battle Out Of Hell's second level, Looney Park, is "Kill no more than 88 enemies". The first 67 kills are mandatory, so the Pacifism part only comes into play during the rail shooter section in the second half.
    • Doubles as a Luck-Based Mission: the roller-coaster automatically running over 18 enemies and the other enemies accidentally killing each other can very easily push your kill count over 88.
  • Power-Up Letdown - Many tarot cards.
  • Puzzle Boss - It's easier to name those who are NOT: Necrogiant, Alastor, and Cerberus.
  • Quad Damage - Via the Black Tarot. There's also a skull item which alters weapons so that some of their weaknesses are removed.
  • Rewarding Vandalism - Most of the objects, when destroyed, release coins for some strange reason.
  • Rule of Cool - The game's reason for existing.
  • Secondary Fire, of course! Some even have Tertiary Fire.
  • Shock and Awe - Hi, Electrodriver.
  • Simulated Urban Combat Area - The architecture is amazingly realistic in more than several of the urban levels.
  • Skeletons In The Gun Closet: The Bonegun and the Spinegun from Overdose are made entirely out of bones.
  • Spiritual Successor - To older FPS games, specifically Doom, Quake and Heretic. The game has also spawned its own set of spiritual successors: Necro Vision, developed by The Farm 51 whose team includes former People Can Fly designers, and Dreamkiller, an original shooter from the developers of Overdose. People Can Fly themselves are currently in the employ of Epic Games, and are working hard on Bulletstorm.
  • Standard FPS Guns - Averted. There are five guns, each with an alternate fire. The Painkiller, a weedwhacker/grappler/beamgun. The shotgun that also shoots freezing ice bolts. The Stakegun, that fires yard-long bolts of wood and grenades. And the Electrodriver, which shoots shurikens and lightning. The only gun that can be considered "standard" is the rocket launcher/minigun. The expansion adds a machine gun/flamethrower and a sniper rifle/flechette mini-bomb launcher.
    • Not only does Electrodriver shoot shurikens and lightning, but it can also shoot shurikens which shoot lightning themselves.
    • Also The Painkiller can shoot its blade out at an enemy, go through multiple enemies, and return to the user. It does a decent amount of damage if you are willing to wait for it to return to you.
    • Overdose features several weapons that lifted directly from the original game, reskinned, and usually nerfed. However, its original weapons are... interesting. Most notably, a radioactive waste spewing wheel-lock pistol/flamethrower
  • Standard Sci Fi Setting - In Overdose, the Asteroids level pretty much happily channels typical sci-fi.
  • Standard Status Effects - Some enemies can make the character slower, poison him or make unable to fire weapons.
  • The Starscream - Turns out Alastor's not really that upset you killed Lucifer. In fact, he was on his way to kill the old man himself for being such a boneheaded leader. Also Eve, who only wanted you to kill Alastor to take his powers and become the Ruler of Hell.
  • Stock Scream - In Asylum and Hell stages, many of them can be heard in the background. Wilhelm and Howie screams are not included.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Submerging in some of the levels is instantly fatal.
  • Super Mode - Aforementioned demon morph.
  • Swiss Army Weapon - See above. The expansion Overdose also adds some newer, even stranger weapons.
  • Take That: A print ad for Hell Wars read "Hang up your Halo. Get ready for Hell."
    • There's also a subtle jab at Doom 3 in the opening cinematic of Battle Out of Hell. Eve tells Daniel that "nobody wants to teleport into Hell."
  • A Taste of Power - Sort of. If you collect enough enemy souls, you'll become a demon until you run out. A very, very powerful demon, at that. A demon who kills enemies just by looking at them, lighting them on fire and Mind Crushing them.
  • Underground Monkey - Surprisingly averted. For the first 2/3rds of the game, each new level features a new set of enemy types, with their own unique models and behavior. The last several levels do tend to use repeating enemy types, but even then there's some degree of variety.
  • Urban Fantasy - There's just as many modern-day levels as there are ancient levels.
  • The War Sequence - The original Painkiller might already have counted, but nearly every single encounter in Redemption plays out like this: Every single level has close to a thousand monsters, with as many as a hundred for individual encounters.
  • Wreaking Havok - Painkiller was one of the first high-profile games to use Havok physics, but unlike some of its more popular contemporaries, Painkiller focused more on enemy corpses flying through the air propelled by shotgun blasts and giant bosses whose footsteps make archways collapse brick-by-brick.
  • Wutai - Japanese Massacre, The second level of Overdose.
  • Zombie Apocalypse - The Village level is a medieval one.
    • The Dead City level in Battle Out of Hell is a literal one, and almost more intense than Left 4 Dead, particularly if you're trying to beat the level under 20 minutes to get the Tarot card.