Second Opinion: What's the punishment for plagarism?
I think everyone knows by now that THQ's The Punisher is your basic third person action shooter with Marvel's favorite member of the NRA leading the charge against the scum. Taking place after the events of the horrid big screen adaptation from 2004, The Punisher game puts Frank Castle back where he belongs, in New York City. While horrid might be a strong word, the game is anything but. OK, we'll say the movie was laughably bad and the game is decently above average.
After playing through The Punisher it's easy to see that my colleagues have already covered it well. The Punisher's high points and flaws are plain as day and I could easily just cherry pick my thoughts straight from their reviews. Hmm...
The excellent voice acting - led by Thomas Jane, star of The Punisher movie, who does a better job as Frank here than he did on the big screen
. Right away you'll see and hear the absolutely stellar presentation developer Volition and comic scribes Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti created for The Punisher. He feels at home in this world of dirt and crime and Thomas Jane is much more convincing in the game since we can't see that he's only 150 pounds soaking wet. This is good, because this Punisher is big, very big.
Frank is a big guy - in fact, he's so big he gets caught against walls and door frames even though it looks as if he's several inches away
. This is the first, and most notable of The Punisher's quirks. Frank gets caught on everything that's slightly larger than a cat and it can get frustrating in many of the levels that litter the ground with objects to hide behind. At one point, Frank is chasing some bad guys through the attic of a funeral home. They can dive for cover through cracks in the wall frame, Frank cannot follow even though it looks like he can fit.
Of course, these things are just stuff you notice in the first few minutes. The meat of the game is punishment and Frank can dish it out in many ways. Naturally he has an arsenal of knives, firearms, flamethrowers and any implements he finds on the ground that could beat a man to death, but sometimes Frank needs information. For that he can grab any punk and interrogate him using one of four fun techniques: Choke, Face Smash, Punch and Gun Tension. Interrogation involves playing a mini-game where you use the thumbsticks to adjust the tension of your punishment, as displayed via a pressure meter. Keep the pressure within a narrow sweet spot for three seconds and you successfully break your opponent, who will then spill the beans for you; however, if you get overzealous, you'll kill him.
Interrogating someone for information is a great addition to the game and so very Punisher-like. Now if only Eurocom remembers that for their upcoming Batman game.
Frank has two more tricks up his sleeve when he wants to interrogate someone and they're Special Interrogations or Special Kills. Floating white skulls point out a Special Interrogation spot where Frank can use the environment to inflict a special kind of torture on his quarry whether it's by threatening to feed him to electric eels, drop him off a building, or any number of other torture tricks. Special Kills are the opposite of this because then Frank can purposely feed a hoodlum to electric eels, drop him off a building, or any number of other torture tricks.
Here's where I split with my fellow reviewers. You see, if Frank pushes too hard in a Special Interrogation the screen will go black and white and the camera will close in on Frank's face as the stool pigeon is killed in a brutally creative way. Those before me cried censorship! I say, it's a slick way to show that The Punisher is an absolutely sadistic bastard without stooping to the humorous gallons of splattering blood-type deaths usually seen in Mortal Kombat. The Punisher is a more serious affair after all.
This leads to a point my goombas missed. After interrogating a witness you can take him as a human shield, that is, if you don't kill him. Playing the game with a human shield is a perfect way to jump into the middle of a firefight and proceed to (in the words of Mr. Sammy Jackson) "kill every mother****er in the room". This makes the game feel like it moves at a glacial pace, but it is the best way to play it. You don't have to play with a human shield, but having to constantly grab one to save your bacon is a little annoying. Oh, and for both The Punisher and Sammy, those stars would not be there in mother****er. If it weren't for all of the gratuitous violence, the naughty dialogue would have surely earned The Punisher it's Mature rating.
Still more punishment is doled out via the Quick Kill and Slaughter Mode options. Quick Kill is just that: a snapped neck, a slit throat, a shotgun blast to the head, etc. Running Frank up to a criminal and pushing the Quick Kill button kills the punk with swift justice. The only downside is the kill is not that ?quick?. When you hit the button, you enter into a brief pre-rendered kill animation but in the meantime, everyone else can still shoot you, so the Quick Kill should only be used when there is no one else within firing range.
Well said Troy. On the other hand, Slaughter Mode is your basic bullet time mode except Frank only uses his knives to dispense judgment on the scum of New York.
Mixing up Quick Kills, Slaughter Mode kills, kill kills, Special Kills and dodging gunfire all increase your score. Yes, The Punisher features an honest-to-god score to keep track of the killing. At the end of every level these points can be used to purchase better body armor, larger clips for your weaponry, more Slaughter Mode time... that sort of thing. You'll need these things as the fighting gets hairier. The thugs use cover and dive out of the way of bullets in a very lifelike manner. Then they do the most lifelike thing: start donning body armor when they know a guy with a really big gun is going to be around.
Since I find discussing graphics tedious, John N hits on what I think very well: As far as graphics are concerned, The Punisher is hit and miss. Hitting on all cylinders is Frank Castle's character model. On the not-quite-inside-the-fish-barrel side of things, a lot of this game's textures are bland and of low resolution. The insanely gratifying quick kills and animations make up for a little bit of this, but I still wish that some of the levels didn't appear so drab.
Get out of my head! Although I have to remark that it bugged me that there was only a handful of enemy archetypes and only one or two "civilian" archetypes. You were always interrogating or saving the same guy! Come on!