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The Punisher (Xbox) artwork

The Punisher (Xbox) review

"The last time Frank Castle was in the video game limelight was in 1993; he and Nick Fury beat the crap out of countless thugs and finally brought down Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. It was one of Capcomís finest work and an easy arcade classic that captured the gritty world of the Punisher well, without having to resort to over the top violence. "

The last time Frank Castle was in the video game limelight was in 1993; he and Nick Fury beat the crap out of countless thugs and finally brought down Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. It was one of Capcomís finest work and an easy arcade classic that captured the gritty world of the Punisher well, without having to resort to over the top violence.

That was 1993. This is now.

After an eleven-year sleep from the gaming world and a hit movie, Frank Castle returned to our world. With the legendary Garth Ennis (the man who brought The Punisher comics back from the brink) in the writing team for the new Punisher game, it looked promising as hell. Unfortunately, the gameís story spawns from the crap Marvel Knights series and not MAX comics so if you found this game violent, a MAX based game would probably been immediately banned due to the extreme and detailed gore. Due to this, we get an enjoyable game, which boasts its violent nature but fails to completely deliver the goods.

The game follows the stories created by Ennis in the MK series and mixes it up with other Marvel characters as well. Frank Castleís family were wiped out in a mob hit back in 1976, Frank was injured badly during the hit but he survived the massacre and devoted his life to fighting crime. Changing his name to The Punisher, Frank put is military training to good use and became a ruthless vigilante, butchering thousands of criminals in a thirty-year spree that is still going strong today. Only today, we get to see the BLOOD, and boy, does this game try its best to do that but it seems very hesitant to give us that much, despite its 18 certificate.

Here we have a third person shooter, a game similar to the popular Max Payne series. As Frank, you will try to bring down three criminal organisations and fight Jigsaw, the man who killed his family. Youíll destroy a crack house, fight Russian Mercs on a ship and even smash through the empire of the popular Marvel baddie, the Kingpin. Frank was also team up with his old war pal, Nick Fury who starred alongside Frank in the original arcade game.

There are two meters at the bottom of the screen, the thick red one indicates Frankís health and the little blue one is the amount of energy stored for Slaughter Mode. Obviously, when Frank is hit, his health meter will decrease although it usually takes a long time to do this. Frank can take a ton of shots before he dies so you donít need to worry about being instantly shot to death. However, the only way to actually restore your health is to grab an enemy, drag him to a safe place and interrogate them fully. The Slaughter Mode bar increases every time you kill an enemy and when it is charged up, you go absolutely berserk.

Your whole world becomes white and the echoes of your dying family and fellow army service men ring in your ears. You lose any sense of reason that you had to begin with and without even thinking about it, you snatch the nearest bad guy and ram a knife through his head. His partner fires his gun at you but your rage and determination are too strong to react to the pain in your body. You charge towards him, throw his body on the floor, and kick him in the back with so much force that his spine snaps. You throw a countless number of knives at your foes, they dive into their flesh and the enemy drops dead. After about twenty seconds of this uncontrollable rage, you will come to your senses and will notice that the blue bar as decreased totally but your small red bar has increased somewhat slightly.

When you come face to face with an enemy, you have three choices. You can perform a quick kill, which varies from the weapon you are carrying, or you use the person as a human shield. The bad guys will continue to shoot you but the bullets will sink straight into the shield and eventually, his body will crumbles and youíll have to use another nearby scumbag to use as your bullet cushion.

If you have a foe and drag him into a safe place, you can perform interrogations to get information about the dangers that lie ahead. Many enemies have worthless information but if one truly has some valuable Intel, then the Punisher skull will float above their head. There are four types of basic interrogations: forcing a gun in their face, choking them, punching them in the face constantly and smashing their face off the floor. There are also many special ones that can be used with something with something in the environment, like a shark infested pool or a really big laser gun. Whatever kind of interrogation you do, a gauge will appear on the screen. Pressing the D-Pad up will fill the bar up, maxing it to the top will make Frank kill the opponent in a rather gory way. If you want to get information, you have to hold the bar in the centred yellow rectangle for 3 seconds. If you do this, the enemy will blurt out all that he knows. Most of the information is rather bland and useless but you will have to use it a lot to top up your health. Donít expect an ultimate gore fest when you decide to kill the enemy in a special interrogation, the game pulls a Kill Bill and goes black and white, shading over the gore. Not only does this happen but you actually, lose points for killing an opponent after you interrogate them. It is the fucking Punisher, for Christís sake! What is he going to do after he is done with them? Let them go? It really seems to contradict with everything that The Punisher stands for, he kills criminals very violently

The reason why loss of points is such a pain in the ass is that you can use the points to buy new features in Frankís apartment. These include a longer Slaughter mode, more body armour and the ability to hold larger number of grenades. You can even upgrade guns by adding silencers or grenade launchers to enlarge your killing spree, making you even more bloodthirsty and encouraging you to replay old level with an added arsenal. You can also unlock various cheats, which give you stupid modes like Big Head mode and crap like that, nothing really worth your time and you have to replay levels on a harder difficulty to obtain them. It is something for the perfectionists only as most people will probably be satisfied with a simple competition.

What I like about the graphics was the way Frank was portrayed. Thomas Jane, the actor from the film may provide the voice of Frank but The Punisher is completely created from the comic books. Thomas Jane was too young anyway so the older and gruffer Frank fitted in perfectly, straight out of MAX comics. The dark and dank criminal atmosphere is shown well in the various hotspots that Frank ploughs through; the stained walls, the run down rooms capture the criminal underworld vividly, a lot better than most games Iíve seen.

The voices of enemies are rather bland and then to repeat the same sort of stuff, repeatedly. Whether they are Russians or Japanese, they tend to say the same thing in battle: ďTHIS is the Punisher?Ē Man, they get so damn annoying when you here the same phrases being repeated, even in a different voice. The game lacks a lot of background music, sometimes it will play some classic opera or some dark gritty tunes but apart from that, the in-game action has no music in the background. It is not a major problem but a few decent tracks here and there would have spiced things up a bit.

The appeal of The Punisher is not only there for the fans, but for general action players. If you like the Punisher comics, youíll find that the game fits in perfectly, due to the talents of Ennis. The amount of killing and ways to kill is amazingly disturbing and incredibly fun, whether you are shooting punks in the face or shoving their heads in piranha tanks, you are bound to be having a good time. A few problems remain, the loss of points for killing people during special interrogations is an unforgivable mistake and Volition should really read more comics before they make their announced sequel. Thankfully, the MAX comics series is the only one left so this new title will be more violent than this one. For the third person fan, it is something worth renting or buying cheap but it is a definite must have for Punisher fans.

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Community review by goldenvortex (May 26, 2005)

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