As the comic books tell us, Frank Castle was more than just a little upset by the death of his family due to a mob hit they strayed too close to, so grief stricken was he in fact by the tragic event that he decided to don a new persona – that of the psycho vigilante, The Punisher
Becoming the Punisher also came with a new hobby for Frank, that hobby being the violent, painful, explosive destruction of all the criminal scum he happens across, yes ladies and gentlemen The Punisher is a violent game, a very violent game indeed.
A room with a view
Franks New York apartment serves as the main weapons/missions selection screen in The Punisher, in the apartment you may choose which ‘War Zone’ you would like to attempt next, choose which toys you want to take along for the ride and spend your accumulated points on upgrades to various areas of your punishing antics including accuracy, ammo capacity and various other useful bolt-ons. You may also view Franks firearms cupboard in the apartment and a very well stocked cupboard it is too with a range of machine-guns, rifles and a shotgun present and a whole other section for your pistols and SMGs, the weapons present are pretty much the expected for an action game but whichever way you look at it, Mr Castle ends up being a very well armed individual indeed.
Once the big guns are unlocked, Franks gun cupboard wouldn’t look out of place in a military facility.
Upon selecting a war zone you enter the main game stages of The Punisher, each zone has definite objectives for you and beating these will unlock more collected weapons, zones and challenges for you to attempt on already beaten levels greatly increasing the re-playability and longevity of the game.
Scenes of utter destruction
In the warzones you get right down to the business of issuing punishment to the criminals, and there are plenty people lined up for punishment and a myriad of ways to give it to them, as you make your way around the levels you can hide behind the scenery for some shootout action with the enemies who will try to do the same, or just run around all guns blazing – wasting guy after guy until a room once filled with armed assailants is nothing more than a picture of complete havoc, littered with corpses.
Getting up close and personal with your foes opens up new avenues of brutality for you to venture down, you can grab hold of a nearby adversary and use him for a bullet shield or perform a quick kill on him, a quick kill is a no nonsense way of relieving your foes of their lives whereby Frank will sometimes batter them dead with the weapon in his hands or perhaps shoot them at point blank range or maybe go for something a little more elaborate like throwing his gun into their hands and then shooting them with another one.
As you progress you will find special kills to perform, glowing colored skulls highlight these areas and dragging a criminal over these will see you shoving him through a window or face-first into a fire or something equally gruesome and satisfying.
Many action games these days seem to feature special modes that you can switch to for brief periods of time during which you become uber-hard, in Punisher this gameplay device arrives in the form of the appropriately named ‘slaughter mode’, while in slaughter mode you stomp around chucking homing knives – yes homing knives – straight into the faces of anyone unfortunate enough to be nearby at the time, gaining health for yourself with each kill
The controls are not too difficult to get to grips with and in a brilliant gameplay addition you can use the L1 and R1 buttons to independently use the weapons in Franks left and right hands, if you are holding hostage an enemy as a shield then R1 will fire your equipped weapon over the shields right shoulder while L1 will throw him forwards, your human shields can also be thrown through doors in front of you so they get blasted up by their mates on the other side instead of you.
Bad cop, bad cop
The doomed opposition can also be pumped for information via interrogation, almost every enemy can be interrogated and you can usually choose the method, choking, face smashing and gun-threatening make up some of Franks persuasive methods of questioning during which you use the left analogue stick to pile on and ease up the pressure until you hopefully achieve the correct balance for long enough to get the guy to spill his guts, you may then spill his guts in a more literal way if you so desire by simply piling on the pressure too much. Some enemies, identified by a white skull above their head have special information for you which can be extracted via ‘special’ interrogation spots which usually involve using the environment around you to get the guy to talk, this can range from bringing a rack of knives down on his head to shoving him in a tree shredder and many many things in-between. The thing that does suck about the special interrogations is that the game goes into black and white for the kill if you decide to finish off the questioned criminal, maybe the developers thought this would look good, or maybe they thought some kills were too extreme to be shown full color but in my opinion if a game has a mature rating you should be able to be as violent and graphic as you like.
Not everyone has useful info however and sometimes a guy will simply plead for his life with statements like “Please, I’m gonna be a Dad!” which results in a split second flash of Franks own family appearing onscreen before you waste the guy and Frank simply replies “No, you’re not”
After finishing a level you can still choose it from the warzones menu to replay it for a higher score, attempt the aforementioned challenges or try to get all the special kills and interrogations that you may have missed first time around
Sights and sounds
Graphically, The Punisher seems to vary in parts, there are some areas which seem really angular and boring looking compared to the rest of the game, conversely there are some sections which really stand out and seem much more detailed than the rest of the levels. On the whole though the graphics remain of a decent quality for the majority of the experience with nicely modelled and textured characters populating the often atmospheric and convincing environments.
The Punisher is nicely backed by its sounds too, although the guns all feature the now standard for the genre range of individual noises per weapon, the voice acting quite solid, your enemies will come out with their bravado cries as they rush you, cries which later turn to things like “It’s the Punisher, were all dead!” as you progress. Franks own lines are cool too, especially the lines used during interrogations and the wise-cracks he comes out with during the near perpetual violence.
I find that The Punisher is amazing to play, the action comes thick and fast and the variety of kills provide much amusement, the special kills and interrogations add to the game even more and you may well find yourself going through some levels multiple times unlocking things just because they are so much fun to play, anyone who likes violent games will feel right at home with The Punisher, fans of the 3rd-person-action genre - to which The Punisher is a very worth addition – will find hours and hours of quality gameplay for them here.
While many have been quite harsh on The Punisher, it has definitely struck a chord with this reviewer, and on that note The Punisher earns my first higher-than-nine score.