Like a meat cleaver to the face!
At E3 this last year I saw quite a few different games, many of which I was aware of, and some I'd only heard some vague reference to. One of the games that took me completely by surprise was The Punisher. After the movie that was released last year, it's no real surprise that a game was under development, but with the disappointment which was that movie, it wouldn't be wise to expect too much, but it was easy to see from the brief demo at E3 that this game was going to be highly entertaining.
First off, let's get this out of the way, this game is violent. Very violent. Very very violent. This is not a game to be getting your nephew for his 7th birthday, or even his 16th, if you pay attention to ratings. In addition to the violence, there's also a lot of bad language, and other undesirable things that place this game just a few frames from getting an Adults Only rating. Parents, don't get this game for your kids. Well, unless your kids are 30 and still living in your basement. And, even then, don't get this for them, because they already have enough mental problems and you don't need to give them some sort of reason to flip out.
Alright, so, first off, the gameplay itself is nothing terribly innovative, to be quite honest. We've all played 3rd person shooters on all of the consoles out there, so we know exactly how they're supposed to work, and this game is no different. You're not going to be seeing a game that redefines the 3rd person shooting experience, but since we all know how the standard 3rd person games work, there's no real reason to break the trend with that. You have the standard two analog stick control interface for consoles, and the mouse/keyboard interface for PCs.
One of the few interesting things in regards to the shooting part of the game is that you have the ability to pick up two weapons of the same type, be they shotguns, assault rifles, heavy machine guns, pistols, etc., which you can use by pulling each of the different triggers or buttons. Watching The Punisher reload a shotgun by tossing it into the air, grabbing it by the barrel and reloading it by sheer power of momentum is something to behold the first few times he does it. But dual-wielding does have it's drawbacks, such as not being able to use grenades, or perform quick-kills on enemies.
And performing quick-kills on baddies is something you're going to want to do. Quick-Kills are basically one button kills you can perform on any baddie you can get to within grabbing range of. These are all quite gruesome, and often involve your knife being inserted somewhere quite painful, such as someone's face, and then getting twisted. This provides you with a quick and easy way to take out single enemies without breaking your stride, or wasting ammo. Unfortunately there aren't quite that many animations for the quick kills, so you'll see the same 10 or so animations over and over again, but they're always there to take out any thug you may come across. The game also includes a wide selection of weapons. Anything from your standard handgun, to shotguns, sniper rifles, assault rifles, heavy machine guns, grenade/rocket launchers, and even a flamethrower. The developers have done a very good job at making each type of weapon separate from each other, so, while there are several different kinds of handguns, you actually have a choice when you decide which one you want to use.
The game also includes grenades, flashbangs, and melee weapons, such as baseball bats, meat cleavers, etc. All in all, the killability of everything you find is very high, exactly as it should be. And for those of you who prefer to get up-close and personal, there's also a “Punisher” mode, which is basically a super-killing mode, where the screen goes into black and white mode, and you run around trying to kill as many people as possible either stabbing them with knives, or throwing knives at them from a distance.
The game operates on a score-based system, with the points you earn in a mission being used to power up the Punisher in between missions. You can use the points to upgrade accuracy, his body armor, attach sniper scopes to weapons, hold more ammo, etc. The score basically comes from killing bad guys, the more you kill without getting hit, the higher the score is. Also between missions you can view the press clippings of your exploits, some of which are wildly inaccurate, to say the least.
The game also includes very interesting tortures. In any situation you have access to at least 3 tortures, a 4th if you have a gun (and there are only rare occasions when you don't). But often in the game, there are special torture locations, such as a drill press, a car door, a window, a chaingun, etc. In these locations you can drag an enemy over to one of them and get special information from them, or if they're not a special enemy, you can often get pictures taken directly from the Punisher comic books. While many of these torture locations can kill someone, and will if you're not paying attention, you're always docked points when you do that, which upsets the sadist in me. Also any time you do elect to off someone in one of these new and interesting ways, the screen switches to a black and white mode, apparently something they were required to do in order to get around an Adults Only rating on this game.
The game does take place in the Marvel Universe, however don't expect to see Spider-Man or any of the X-Men running around with you, although a few of the Punisher's “friends” and “enemies” do make appearances. The Punisher is also voiced by Thomas Jane, the actor from the movie which was released last year. All in all, the voice acting is average, nothing spectacular, but definitely nothing that will grate on the ears of anyone playing the game. Same goes for the sound effects and music, nothing spectacular, but nothing horrific either.
This game has been created for some fairly specific people. Those people are people who are already big fans of The Punisher, or people who enjoy ultra-violent games. If the thought of running around as The Punisher doesn't appeal to you, and the thought of putting a meat cleaver through some guy's face, or feeding someone feet-first through a woodchipper doesn't sound like your idea of a fun Friday night, then this game will have very little for you. If, however, you just let out a little squeal of delight thinking about that, then you'll get a big kick out of this game.
Rating: 4 Grenades out of 5