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Volume 70, Issue 77, Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Life & Arts

'The Punisher' adds action to gory comic

By Derek Lanphier
The Daily Cougar

"Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language" are exact words from the packaging of the gruesome game The Punisher. Let's get one thing straight -- this game is not for little kids. It is Marvel, but this is no Spider-Man. The Punisher is a brutal, unforgiving, psychopathic killer; but that very reason is why this game is so freakishly addicting.

In The Punisher players assume the role of Frank Castle, aka The Punisher. After the mob took out his family, Castle felt the need to seek justice by slaughtering everyone and anyone involved with crime. In the comics world, entire mafia families have met their demise in the wake of The Punisher. The game takes place well into The Punisher's career, so don't expect the recent movie in game form. This game is completely independent of the film and is just another adventure in The Punisher's life, and the story is good, too. Writers Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti who penned many of the best Punisher comics have returned to make another intriguing story for the game. Using many well-known characters from the Marvel universe, and some original ones for the game, Ennis and Palmiotti weave a story that not just fans of The Punisher will appreciate. In fact the cameos of other superheroes and villains are one of the best parts of the game. 

The gruesome and creative ways Frank Castle can punish his enemies is by far the best part of The Punisher.

Image courtesy of THQ Games

As far as gameplay goes, The Punisher is a third-person shooter. But in a genre of games that is so jam-packed with crap, The Punisher stands above the rest. As any fan of the comics would tell you, The Punisher isn't about the killing and gore, but rather the creative ways Castle tortures and disposes of his foes. Developer THQ takes this element and runs with it. Hands down, most exciting parts of the game are when you get to interrogate mafia henchmen for information that helps you later. Sure you can take out the bad guys by shooting them, but sometimes it is so sadistically fun to throw someone into a wood chipper.

Amazingly, THQ has come up with more than one hundred different ways to take out opponents that are level specific. Meaning a nail gun at a construction site becomes a tool for death in the hands of Castle and that pool of piranhas at the zoo is just asking for a live person to be thrown into it. And when players run out of environment death traps to use, Frank has a whole slew of up-close kills that are just as entertaining as the different animations that are randomly cycled every time you hit a button. Castle isn't successful because he is ruthless, but because he is smart. Sometimes it is good too keep a wiseguy alive when he can lead you to secret weapons or call off an ambush, even though shoving his face into the automatic grindstone is tempting.

The shooting itself is very clean, and appropriate things break or blow up when shot, so you won't see the "invincible vase" problem. Plus the artificial intelligence is wonderful, not in that it outsmarts you, but in how the mobsters react as if a homicidal maniac was hunting them down. It's interesting to see how they act bravely in numbers, but as you start to cut them down, their morale can break until they just get up and run.

Sound is good, and the music captures the comic book feel of the game with flair. Graphics are a little cartoony, but that happens to be a throwback to the comics. All in all, the game is very well polished with only a minor glitch here and there. The only real complaint with the game --which unfortunately is a big one -- is when players decide to finish off a baddie, the screen turns black and white, and the camera usually moves to where the action is just of screen, which makes it to where the players can't see the wonderful mess they just made. This censoring the game applies to itself is rather pointless when the game is so openly graphic in any other area.

Despite this, The Punisher is a fun game with good replay value to unlock all the goodies and see more interrogations players might have missed the first time. This one is worth every penny; just don't show it to your mom.

The Punisher

Rated: M for mature

Marvel/THQ Games

Verdict: This game is anything but punishment to play.

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