Metascore
81

Generally favorable reviews - based on 62 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 53 out of 62
  2. Negative: 1 out of 62
  1. This game is the sort of which I'd like to see more: breathtaking attention to detail, deeply satisfying gameplay, and a focus on pure, simple fun that doesn't in any way defeat or diminish a richly powerful thematic narrative.
  2. With speed and smarts to match its outrageous visuals, Painkiller boasts fiendishly clever monsters that attack in groups and learn from your defenses. No corpses shambling around like they have a load in their pants, these are monsters of the 28 Days Later variety: quick and scary.
  3. It gamely delivers the pure joy of superbly crafted chaos, something it does better than any game released (so far) this year. [July 2004, p.56]
  4. I love it. I became addicted to this game very quickly. My wife is starting to get jealous now.
  5. There’s an eerie absence of a whole lot of noise sans the atmospheric sounds in each level; another sinister part of the game to keep your interest in what is going on.
  6. Painkiller puts the action back into action gaming and will pull you in, pump you up, and unleash the righteous demon-slayer buried within.
  7. 90
    Perhaps what's most amazing is that it plays like the work of a seasoned developer with a rare grasp on atmosphere and tone, a rock-solid set of technologies, and sophisticated ideas about game design.
  8. An excellent mix of intense first person shooting combined with a sophisticated risk-reward system that actually integrates into the gameplay. The Tarot cards are pure genius and add a whole new level to the genre.
  9. 90
    Painkiller sports some of the best graphics to come down the PC pipe all year. The bosses (the hammer-wielding Saphathoraél in particular) all look incredible.
  10. It offers a quick adrenaline rush and beautifully detailed levels running on the spectacular Havok2.0 physics engine and, I must say, this game is one of a kind.
  11. To call the game simple fun is to ignore Painkiller’s proof that straightforward play in elaborate environments with creative, demonic enemies and a sophisticated sense of style is tremendously entertaining. This is a first-person shooter that can be enjoyed in brief sessions or a protracted weekend of play.
  12. But obviously, the gameplay is incredibly repetitive. There’s no denying that you don’t do much beyond running around shooting monsters and blowing up stuff.
  13. Painkiller delivers satisfying gameplay, excellent visuals, and a visceral feel that veteran FPS players will feel right at home with.
  14. Its addictive and amazingly detailed single player game, coupled with a fun and varied old school multi-player game, set Painkiller apart from the rest while at the same time harkening us back to shooter days of old.
  15. A visceral, intense shooter with well designed and realized levels, and certainly a “must have” title for FPS aficionados.
  16. A great game that will truly be appreciated by FPS purists like myself who remember the good old days where all you needed was a bunch of ammo, some nasty monsters, periodic powerups, and an itchy trigger finger to get you from the beginning of the stage to the end.
  17. The shooter has outstanding graphics, addictive gameplay and solid multiplayer components, but it’s held back from becoming a true classic through its disappointing narrative and mediocre soundtrack.
  18. Breathtaking attention to detail served with great graphics that'll run on anyone's system all make it highly commendable. The game provides a lot of intensely focused carnage, but absolutely nothing else, and that wasn't quite enough to keep us entertained for it's whole duration.
  19. It offers up lots of spectacularly visceral, bloody, in-your-face action through its numerous, action-packed single-player levels. And it looks beautiful, it sounds great, and it's got a pretty good old-school multiplayer deathmatch mode, for good measure.
  20. The outstanding graphics, unparalleled physics, huge levels, tons of unlockable cards, enormous bosses, and gameplay variety make this a must-have for anyone who pines for the glory days of "Doom." [June 2004, p.134]
  21. In long stretches, Painkiller can become repetitive. (By long stretches, I mean two or more hours.)
  22. 85
    Painkiller focuses little on AI, puzzles, or plot, and instead sets its sights squarely on appeasing the raw twitch shooter in most of us. At this, the game excels marvelously.
  23. The story is interesting, without getting too laden with metaphysical theory, the action is blistering, the sound is creepy, the graphics sharp and clear (with a few minor slowdowns when multiple multiple enemies attack), and the multiplayer fun and varied.
  24. The atmosphere, over-the-top-physics, vast seas of enemies and bosses that reign as some of the most impressive in any video game to date all equate to title that is worth your time. It is unfortunate that with a little more focused effort on fleshing out the multiplayer game, Painkiller could have gone from a very good game to an instant classic.
  25. Painkiller gives us both something ancient and something fresh and off the cuff. It’s bold in its approach and defiantly steps away from trends.
  26. 85
    I did enjoy the game itself, but I got tired of going back to find that one monster that would trigger the next area. The cutscenes are great, though I did find the storyline a bit weak. Then again, this isnt an rpg. It's a fps!!
  27. 85
    Gruesome, bloody and at times compelling - even if you might admonish yourself for thinking it.
  28. If you're not precious about tactical elements it's a real hoot. With more level consistency, it could've become the shooter king. [GamesMaster]
  29. Visually, Painkiller is sumptuous. I won't disclose the awe-inspiring setting of the last level except to say that it's one of the most dazzling displays I've ever seen in a game. [July 2004, p.76]
  30. This title is pure unadulterated action, a great adrenaline run. Its staying power will rest on how fleshed out the multiplayer can be and whether there are any new maps, levels, modifications or expansion packs in store.
  31. What makes Painkiller different from other similar games are the awesome visuals. The architecture is particularly great.
  32. Painkiller abounds with sublime touches, such as the boxes full of postcards that flutter down around you when shot and the fireworks that send multi-coloured sparks whizzing in all directions. I've said it once, and I'll say it again - there's nothing wrong at all with violent videogames. Disagree, and I'll send you to hell with a wooden stake through your eye socket.
  33. The environments created, enemies that spawn, and weapon you use sets this apart from most FPS’s on the market.
  34. The striking image quality of this absolutely gorgeous pastiche of tainted purgatory is a big factor in Painkiller's appeal. [June 2004, p.66]
  35. The stake gun and painkiller are simply useless in multiplayer, and they’re your starting weapons. This is as poorly thought out as id giving the blaster as the weapon in "Quake II."
  36. The game's physics interact brilliantly with your actions to create game sequences much more memorable than any cut-scene could ever be. [July 2004, p.86]
  37. Painkiller is like a cold drink on a hot day; refreshing.
  38. An incredibly addictive and surprisingly fun FPS that concentrates more on mindless button bashing than in tactics, exploration or anything else than many modern shooters now live by.
  39. The multiplayer is adequate but uninspiring and the cutscenes are best skipped, but the single-player game brings home the bacon.
  40. You'll need a fairly souped up machine and graphics card to get the most out of Painkiller but if you have yearned for the return of games like "Serious Sam," "Doom" and the original "Quake" your next stop is Purgatory. Tell 'em I sent you.
  41. This game is so scary that even the end-of-level warps give you the creeps...Extremely playable and well-designed.
  42. Graphics are smooth and clean and detail in the game is never compromised with interactive surroundings, excellent weapon effects and great animation of the action taking place.
  43. Blasting an exploding barrel just as a group of foes are shambling past it and watching their aerial acrobatics just never gets old.
  44. 80
    One of the most lovingly crafted games in years, Painkiller looks awesome, sounds intimidating, and controls simply and smoothly.
  45. It has times where it bogs down in the monotony of endless waves of enemies that do nothing but cluster on your position, but it balances itself out with a great deal of depth in what they do.
  46. Meaty weapons, fast action, and overwhelming odds bring a Doom-like vibe to its high body count. And thanks in no small part to the excellent physics engine, Painkiller is an intense and visceral game.
  47. 80
    Painkiller is pure adrenaline. If you don't feel the rush while playing this game, you're probably dead.
  48. The truest and most gratifying shooter since "Doom." [July 2004, p.69]
  49. The action is fast paced, with great weaponry and enemies that will surprise the hell out of you. Multiplayer is even faster than the single-player game, and is amazingly reminiscent of "Quake."
  50. In delivering a fantastic single player experience for a street price of $40, Painkiller is one of the best FPS money can buy today and isn't anything short of highly recommended.
  51. The level design is not always top-notch and occasionally, the game might lose some of its pacing, but in the grand scheme of things, it all balances out nicely with the unique and fun bosses and some frantic over-the-top shooting, slashing, breaking and stabbing action.
  52. This is the antithesis of thought and strategy. It is a carnival ride, an action movie and an all-you-can-eat-burger bar. This is the quintessential twitch game.
  53. If you’re a fan of mindless destruction, you’d be hard pressed to find a game as immediately gratifying as Painkiller. Just don’t expect it to be a cure-all.
  54. As a celebration of the FPS genre's base instincts, Painkiller crosses the finishing line in first place; anything more than that and it doesn't even make it out of the blocks. [June 2004, p.100]
  55. It's about being scared out of your wits one minute and then bellowing with laughter at something gruesomely humorous the next.
  56. 70
    Rather than presenting us with individually challenging enemies, Painkiller opts to throw dozens of enemies at you at a time. On the other hand, since Painkiller focuses just on twitch play, it's free of the distraction of puzzles, plot and, for the most part, personality.
  57. We were massively disappointed by the comical AI, which definitely has a substantial impact on the game – Serious Sam has shown that run-and-gun games can be fun, but this seriously detracts from the overall experience.
  58. A good choice for folks who want to wind down at the end of the day with a fast-paced diversion that requires absolutely no brainpower to master and enjoy.
  59. The Painkiller soundtrack doesn’t exist. It is a heavily repetitious heavy metal lick that repeats itself way too much.
  60. Even with it's absolutely gorgeous maps and great physics this game lacks any type of real challenge in the story. It is a straight out FPS with only mindless monsters to kill over and over again.
  61. If you're looking for a sparklingly attractive shooter with a side order of slinky physics, this delivers the goods. But it's about as average as FPS gaming gets. [June 2004, p.105]
  62. Hugely repetitive action game. Hugely repetitive action game. Hugely repetitive (you get the idea).
User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 218 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 58 out of 77
  2. Negative: 11 out of 77
  1. Aug 13, 2010
    10
    Bloody massacre coupled with unusual weapons. One of the first big titles with Havok physics.
    This is most unexpected game which rightfully
    earned AAA status in gamers' minds shortly after release. Full Review »
  2. Aug 12, 2011
    7
    A rather unusual mix of horror and fast action gameplay, Painkiller is gory and atmospheric, but really all it is is just action. The Purgatory setting and in fact the idea of fighting demons is very great. However the idea itself simply is not enough. It requires the correct execution and a plot, and that was where Painkiller fell down. Still though, as an FPS game, it is forgiveable if it has a weak story, which is why I still found the game fun. Painkiller features a big variety of areas, but I felt that only about half of them were breathtaking, whilst the other half were boring. Areas such as Asylum and Town were fantastic due to being incredibly atmospheric and actually scary in a very twisted way. Likewise there were areas which simply had beautiful locations and were a pleasure to travel through, areas such as Train Station, Military Base, The Palace and City on Water. However most of the other maps were rather repetitive and boring. The game allows the player to use 5 weapons, but each one of these weapons has 2 very different modes of fire, so in a way the game has 10 different weapons. The weapons are very original and enjoyable to use. This was perhaps the strongest aspect of the game. The enemies, well they were nothing special. Although most were demons in various disguises, it was uninteresting how at times they just looked like people, for example in the level Docks, which was perhaps one of the worst stages in the game. The boss fights were terrible. It was impossible to know what the hell you were supposed to do to defeat most of them. For one of them you had to attack the boss' hammer rather than him. How would you know to do that? You wouldn't. The final boss fight was a huge disappointment too and really ruined the game for me. Just terrible. Lastly the cinematics and cut scenes in between some of the missions were pretty good, although I wish some of those characters were developed in greater depth. Painkiller has some really great features and it has some very strong weaknesses. If only Painkiller didn't have some of these weaknesses, it could've been a fantastic game. But for now I think a score of 7 is appropriate. I can't give it any more than that. Full Review »
  3. BitBurn
    Apr 15, 2004
    8
    It's aiight... Reminds me of Quake 1 but with much better graphics! I dig it...