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Painkiller Hell and Damnation Xbox 360 Review: First-person demon hunting

Console First-Person Shooter fans could be forgiven for having missed out on the Painkiller series thus far. The series’ last console appearance was Painkiller: Hell Wars for the original Xbox back in 2006. Otherwise the series primarily appears on PC.

Though the delivery method is somewhat unconventional, Xbox fans can finally play the latest Painkiller game. Nordic Games published the Xbox 360 version of Painkiller: Hell and Damnation at retail (opens in new tab) in Europe earlier this summer. In North America, the game recently popped up as a downloadable Games on Demand title for Xbox 360. The digital release does allow for a relatively low price of $29.99, and a downloadable version is certainly better than none at all.

We’ve played through Painkiller: Hell and Damnation and its downloadable expansions in order to bring you this detailed review.

Painkiller reloaded

Hell and Damnation is a pretty good place to jump in to the series. All of the levels are high-definition remakes of levels from past games. Maybe they’re old news to series veterans, but I bet many of us don’t fall into that category. The story itself is new and takes places after past games, making Hell and Damnation both a remake and sequel. You don’t see that every day.

Said story unfolds between the game’s four chapters - and I mean only between the chapters, not individual levels. It's sparse and confusing, and the cinematic character models show a terrible grasp of human anatomy. But you play this game for its old school sensibilities, not a gripping narrative.

Killing the pain

Painkiller’s closest gameplay equivalent would be the Serious Sam games. Like Serious Sam, the focus here is on killing hordes of brain-dead monsters rather than tactical gameplay. These beasties teleport into an area out of the blue, and the player must kill them all before moving on.

The way Hell and Damnation handles checkpoints and level progression is different from other titles I’ve played. Once monsters start appearing in an area, the paths into and out of the area generally gets walled off so that you’re confined to a small portion of the level.

Defeat the bad guys to make a red pentagram appear on the floor. Touching it counts as a checkpoint and opens a new path. I’m not crazy about the artificial nature of the paths opening and closing, but it does give things a very old-school feel.

The health and ammo mechanics also resemble the FPS games of yore. The protagonist’s health doesn’t regenerate by default, so you’ll often need to scour the environment for health packs in order to stay alive.

Enemies don’t drop weapons or ammunition; you’ll have to search those out too. I often ran out of ammo and had to switch to different weapons in order to keep fighting (even on the easiest difficulty). That was probably the developer’s intention, but it still feels stingy.

Guns, guns, and more guns

Painkiller’s selection of guns is far less anemic. You won’t find FPS mainstays like a sniper rifle and scoped aiming – sorry, sniper fans. Instead, the game offers a selection of unique and fairly creative guns. The stake gun nails enemies to walls. Another fires saw blades that take off opponents’ limbs.

As if that wasn’t enough, each weapon has a secondary firing function that works much differently than the primary fire. The shotgun’s secondary fire freezes enemies cold, enabling you to shatter them with a follow-up shot. One gun’s secondary shot sucks the life out of enemies, giving it to the player. Another can force enemies to fight on the player’s side – after sucking up enough souls first.

You can even hotkey any gun’s primary or secondary fire to the Y and B buttons to make mixing and matching shots easier. The only thing I don’t like is each gun’s secondary fire requires its own separate ammo. It would be far more intuitive if either shot used the same type of ammunition.

Soul stealer

Each enemy that dies leaves a glowing green soul behind. Pick up enough of them and your character Daniel goes into demon form for a short time. During this time, the world turns gray and enemies glow bright red. Every shot you fire will kill non-boss enemies instantly.

Demon mode makes the environment harder to navigate and you can’t really work on the weapon-specific Achievements while it’s active. For me, it became more of a nuisance than a blessing. Increased damage without the visual effects and different style of shots would’ve been more welcome.

You do need the souls for a few Achievements and secondary level goals, even if you don’t care about demon mode. But it takes several seconds for an enemy’s soul to show up after killing it. Waiting around for souls to appear slows the pace of the game for no good reason; they really should appear instantly.

Card collecting

Each campaign level has one or two optional objectives that players can view by pressing the Back button during gameplay. Completing these objectives sometimes gets you an Achievement, but it always unlocks a new tarot card.

Tarots cards act as gameplay modifiers. They enable affects like temporary unlimited health, increased damage, or slowing down time. Daniel can equip two active and three passive cards at a time. The active cards cost varying amounts of gold with each use.

Players earn gold primarily by destroying breakable objects, but also from enemies. Defeated monsters sometimes drop a few individual pieces of gold for you to swoop in and collect. Zig-zagging around for little scraps of gold feels inefficient, sort of like waiting for souls to appear. Couldn’t each enemy or object just drop a single stack of gold?

Multiplayer

Hell and Damnation offers both cooperative and competitive multiplayer. The entire campaign can be played in co-op either via split-screen or online. The second player controls a female character. While the game lacks any co-op specific mechanics, powering through a level with a friend is certainly more fun than going it alone. Unfortunately, most campaign Achievements can’t be earned in co-op, reducing the incentive to team up.

Online, players can team up for Survival mode (basically Horde mode that lasts for a set amount of time instead of waves) or competitive multiplayer. Either way, online is completely dead so these are practically non-features. You can meet up with a friend or two to play online, but don’t expect to find random opponents via matchmaking.

DLCs

Whereas the PC version of Hell and Damnation offers a whopping seven paid DLC expansions, the Xbox 360 version stops at three. The only essential one “The Clock Strikes Meat Night” includes three campaign stages (playable alone or co-op) and two Achievements worth a total of 100 GamerScore. It sells for $6.99, which is a good value for the gameplay on-hand.

The other two expansions only contain online multiplayer stages and an Achievement or two. They cost $3.99 each. Unless you have a friend to play them with or are an Achievement completionist, I wouldn’t bother with them.

Achievements

Every campaign level has one or two Achievements for completing a side goal, providing a nice incentive to complete them. Several weapons have their own Achievements too, the most time consuming of which will be killing 6667 enemies with the stake gun. There are also Achievements for beating the campaign on the two highest difficulties worth 100 and 200 GamerScore, respectively. Oh, and 5 online Achievements.

Hell and Damnation’s Achievements mostly do a great job at adding replay value to the game. I just hate that most of them require solo play instead of cooperative. Way to keep people from playing together, developer.

Overall Impression

Painkiller: Hell and Damnation provides a moody alternative to the lighter, more frantic Serious Sam games. The aesthetics here are strongly inspired by heavy metal album covers, and the music actually consists of some great heavy metal tunes.

Despite its obvious rough edges, Painkiller stands out by virtue of being so different from mainstream First-Person Shooters. I’m looking forward to going back for the side objectives and Achievements I missed my first time through. If you enjoy old-school FPS games, kill some time with Painkiller.

  • Painkiller: Hell and Damnation – Xbox 360 (Games on Demand) – 2 GB – $29.99 – Xbox.com Store Link (opens in new tab)
  • Painkiller: Hell and Damnation – UK retail version – Amazon.co.uk Product Page (opens in new tab)

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

83 Comments
  • 2GB only?
  • What are you complaining about❔ I just tripped and hit my head on the edge of my coffee table.. I got blood dripping out of my head, and all you can think about is how they were able to make this game only 2gb❔.. You need to get your priorities strait mister.... Wait, maybe it's me who needs to get his priorities straight because I probably should be dialing 911 instead of replying to comments on WPC... Anyways, have some compassion,,, will ya❔
  • LOL 
  • Turns out I had a pulmonary embolism.. And its all ⬆hat guys fault❗ Don't know if I'm going to make it..
  • You're not dying, you just can't think of anything good to do!
  • You guys got lucky this time..
  • Damn luck.
  • Well, I can put my head through this wall next to me,, if you like.
  • I'd like a new revamped Soul Reever game. Although this one looks/sounds interesting.
  • Oh my god!! Please....
    Best games ever!!!
  • Yes please!  Love those titles.
  • I want a game that goes all the way back to the original Legacy of Kain.... that Diablo-esque sort of dungeon crawler where you can suck blood from across the room.  I never quite enjoyed any of its spin offs or sequels since it became a completely different type of game.   "Help me kind sir!" NO. [presses blood sucking button]
  • 2gig! Possible to port to WP I wonder?
  • Absolutely not. It's not just a matter of size, what counts is the number of polygons on the screen, the rendering techniques used by the game engine and all the effects applied to the final image. This game has a really bad graphic of course (I mean, the X360 is 6 years old, it can't keep a decent framerate when rendering at over 1280*720, it doesn't support DX11, tessellation, deferred rendering, HBAO/SSDO and so on...) but still a smartphone wouldn't be able to render the game as it is on the console.
    As an example, there are benchmarks that only take 3-400MB (Heaven Benchmark 4.0 for example) but can be extremely hard to run even with powerful video cards (you need at least a GTX660 to run it all maxed out at 1920*1080).
    So to answer your question, nope, it's not possible to direct port it to WP despite its size :)
  • There is actually an iOS and Android Painkiller game. It doesn't seem to be super highly regarded, but Windows Phone and Windows 8 could still use a few more FPS titles regardless.
  • Yes, I agree with you, there are actually just a few fps games in the Store, and just a couple of good ones.
    I was just saying that even if the game on the X360 is 2GB, it wouldn't be possible to direct port it to WP8, as the user before me asked :)
  • So, fps bayonetta?
  • What is up with wpcentral lately? Your article is probably really good, but what does this have to do with WP? I could understand if it was a game for the Xbox one since its coming out next week....is wpcentral going to start reviewing every new Xbox 360 game? You guys gotta get your shit together and decide what kind of news you want to cover and be consistent then. Maybe Jay can change the app to include some kind of organized home screen to filter out genres of Microsoft news that users don't care about...like this one.
  • I appreciate wpcentral but this time I need to agree with Acbuono5. If you were featuring a miscellaneous section for off- WP news, fine. But I'd prefer to see genuine WP news in a prominent way and other topics perhaps via opt-in setting. Just my opinion.
    Thanks WP guys for the good work.
  • Dude, lighten up, seriously. What the hell do you want them to report on? I realize you say just WP stuff, but not that much happens in the WP space to justify sticking strictly with that. If something happens in the WP world, they report on it, if not much is going on, they report on other windows/xbox related things. Seriously, what the hell would you want this article to be about? What's going on right now that we don't know about? Please enlighten us. Most people here would prefer more articles instead of less.
  • You don't get it, I'm fine if they want to start reviewing games for Xbox 360, Xbox one or ps4 for that matter or anything else like when the queen of England passes away or steps down from the throne...if they are going to do that, then this site needs to have some news organization.
  • Thing is, you wouldn't be making this fuss if the subject, even outside the phones thing, had some interest to you.
  • SlayerSpecial read the other post I just replied to yours of below...i would have posted about wpcentral need some kind of organization on any article outside of WP or main Microsoft news even if I liked it or not.
  • 16 out of the last 20 posts were about Windows Phone. One of the other 4 wasn't far off, and the rest were about sister products. I don't think your argument has much to back it up.
  • Awhile ago, wpcentral would just post articles about wp or important microsoft news like they still do so they really didnt have the need for organization of their news topic because it was just that for 99.99 percent of time. But lately in the past couple of months they have been going outside of that realm a lot which is fine because it means they are growing which is a great thing but they need some organization to their news! Just like they have their forum all organized into topics and subtopics that what they need to apply to their news (probably dont need subtopics) so that their current readers and future readers can find articles on what they want to catch up on more about WP, windows 8, Xbox one/360, game reviews, etc easily. I'm pretty sure every writer at wpcentral and Daniel probably agrees with me...I just hope they do this sooner than later. And Im done.
  • See, it takes a few edits to get it right, doesn't it? They'll get there, but would probably respond much better to a nicely written and helpful suggestion email rather than complaining on the comments. I understand that your sentiment is for the betterment of the site, but people respond badly to complaints like that, especially when they're hard to understand.
  • What is hard to understand about organizing their news. I said that at the end of my first comment. Maybe it was a little harsh but I don't understand why they haven't implemented this yet.
  • You tell that cleft lip fool what's up, Nik.. And, tell him no we won't give just 5¢ a day to his charity❕
  • They already decided what type of site this is.. The last idiot, I mean guy, that made a comment similar to yours was personally replied to by Daniel Rubino who said that WPC covers anything WP, Nokia, Microsoft, and PC related.. That means that yes their will be reviews on Keyboards, mouses, and monitors.. End of story, case closed.. Now, go to bed and don't make me come in there❕
  • Its not just about WP anymore its the ecosystem the stronger it is then the better so I don't mind it keep on doing it
  • You guys can keep bashing Acbuono all you want, but he/she has a valid point. Most of the other non-WP articles here have been related to the Microsoft ecosystem in a pretty broad sense. This review, while well written, was oddly specific -- I don't recall the last time WPCentral reviewed an Xbox 360 game with no phone tie-in from a somewhat obscure publisher. I have no problem with that, but if this is going to become a regular thing (and not just due to a slow news weekend), I 100% agree that some kind of filtering/categorization would be appropriate.
  • We review any Xbox 360 game a publisher sends us. The last time we reviewed one without a Windows Phone tie-in would be Diablo III.
  • Tell em Paul❕❕❕
  • hey Paul, i like your site and your reviews, but i kinda agree with the other guys, i think under the games tab you could simply have some catagories so those who want only 360 games will see those articles. like for me, i have no interest in reading articles about non xbox enabled games, so i would love a catagory that filtered that out.   just my 2 cents.
  • Yeah, I wouldn't mind more sorting features. That stuff is out of my control. But if you only wanted to read about Xbox-enabled games, you'd barely see any updates most of the time since Xbox WP is winding down. Think of how boring that would be.
  • I love Paul's reviews.  Well written, informative, and I like the fact the site is doing all things MS and not 'just' wp.  imore, android central also caters to all things android and apple and not just phones. I don't think anyone will be missing stories wp related, and the addition of other MS news/reviews are an added benefit to the site.  Several months ago the site mentioned with MS's move to 'three screens' they will cover more topics that include WP, PC/W8, and Xbox 360/One.  Not every review, article, news, etc will relate or resonate with everyone.  For those that have a wp, surface/pc, and an xbox most of the content will be of interest.  Personally, I love WPcentral and look forward to reviews, articles, and anything MS related since I own and enjoy several MS products. Perhaps your suggestion is to have sections on the site?
  • Quit complaining. The same can be said about users, what is up with the bitterness.
  • Lately to me, it seems like wpcentral has just been posting articles on Microsoft of just about anything without any real organization or direction. Sadly, I don't like the way wpcentral is heading without being organized...sure sites like the verge cover a ton of news genres but they are really organized and consistent on the topics/genres of the news they cover...if something doesn't change soon I'm gonna stop bothering coming here...and I'm pretty sure I won't be the only one, time will tell.
  • Ahhhhh,,, Please be quiet... This is Rodney's day,, not yours.
  • Lol
  • Funny, while browsing Live's catalog today I was wondering about this game, and how little knew about it. Great review Paul.
    (and really ?! why some people have to be so grumpy and comment on an article they supposedly don't care about ?,I don't care about 3d printing, I don't care about iOS apps or macs, just to name a few from the latest news, but I'm sure some people care. Entitlement is so petty.,Ooooh lets just talk about Lumias.... so interesting)
  • Im not grumpy, I'm just giving my two cents because I really like this site and all of the people who work for wpcentral full and part-time and I just happen to be concerned of this direction of posting random articles without any organization to it.
  • So,,if you were the editor you would only publish articles about phones and maybe some other subject if you had a personal interest in, because it was something from MS ecosystem which you not appreciate it would make you upset ?
  • No, I'm talking about installing some kind of organization to their news on their homepage of their site and app. You know how their forum is really organized with topics of different Microsoft stuff, that's what they need to do for their news but make it simple for users to click a link on any Microsoft topic and then be directed to all news for that btopic. Do you understand now?
  • Actually, no, I don't understand why it bothers you so much if an article about something within MS ecosystem is posted which you don't care about, it happens to me in a daily basis, and it doesn't bother me at all, I'm sure there are people who find them useful and interesting, it's my altruistic self, opposite of, idk... being something else.
  • I'm sorry man I've tried to explain, but you are an idiot lol and I'm saying that in a calm, joking voice. You on obviously don't care about organization but anyone who runs anything including websites cares about organization...engadget, the verge, CNN, msn, just about every news site except wpcentral has their news organized into some topic at least... I'm trying to help wpcentral stay on top so that their current readers and future readers can find articles on what they want to catch up on more about WP, windows 8, Xbox one/360, game reviews, etc easily.
  • This review was excellent but it doesn't strike with this site. Its not MS's games or for the WP. This means then they'll review every 360 games now? I guess that what Acbuono5 wants. We actually don't come here to read Xbox 360 game review unless they organized and added it. But if its just one game review, it hampers the sites content.
  • Our primary focus remains Windows Phone of course. But we do cover other parts of the Microsoft ecosystem, including console news and games. As for which console games we occasionally review, we review the games that publishers send us.
  • Don't click on the article. Simple as that.
  • Damn dude❕ Shut that shiznit up❕ I already told you once, you don't want me to tell you again because it ain't gonna be pretty, boy.
  • From what I'm gathering is that Acbuono5 isn't really complaining so much about the content. But that maybe WPC should reorganize its site to reflect branching out in reporting other facets of Microsoft. Maybe call itself "Microsoft Central" and have sub areas for different services and devices.
  • At first I thought the change the name to exactly that too, but that's highly unlikely. What they should so though is do the latter and just organize their news into topics and subtopics. Ex: WP (topic) - news, apps, reviews, misc (each are subtopics), windows 8/8.1 (topic) - news, apps, reviews, misc (subtopics), gaming - WP, win8, Xbox 360/one, reviews, services (office,Skype,etc) - news, reviews, misc etc.
  • Can't download the chuff onto my phone!
  • Chuff❔ Is some new synthetic marijuana you youngsters are shooting up nowadays❔
  • Xbox is integrated into WP so its still WP news
  • True Dat❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕❕ And, since so many WP users are XBox fans its proper news to report..
  • I guess we who buy the 3 month pass don't get shit. Sorry im freaking poor and can't afford $80. I actually pay more buying the 3 month every time. I guess my money ain't good enough.
  • Huh? It's $45 with all 3 add-ons.
  • Lol, wrong article. One below this one. My bad.
  • LOL❕
  • Sophie lens HD updated.
  • Surfy Web browser updated with new features.
  • Great review Paul. Hope to see many more like this. I don't think this game is for me. I missed so many of the generation defining games on 360. I need to get to those first before this for sure. Especially with only a few days to Xbox one.
  • I recently played MW2 and love that game. After playing Ghosts I feel MW2 is so much more fun.
  • Great review. I always look forward to these game reviews. This game doesn't look like its for me either but as an avid gamer I always appreciate someone taking the time to explain the facets of a game. It saves me a lot of time.
  • Alright... Another Polish developer.  Most excellent.  Certainly gonna give it a good hard look. 
  • Boring day...
  • Let's talk about Surface..
  • Mr. Kojima, please release all MGS versions on Xbox !! PS exclusives at this point is a bad move.
  • Really? A game review on Xbox? Really??? Wpc, get your act together. Wmpoweruser is slowly getting my preferred site. They cover a lot more lately, and at least focus on WP! I mean if I wanted a game review I would visit ign or gamespot!
  • Nobody told you to click on it. And we've been covering Xbox 360 games in light capacity for two years now.
  • I'm sorry, but you must be wrong. I'm visiting this site for about 10 months now, which is a respectable time imo. Never have I seen so much non WP news as of lately. That don't-click on-it-argument is the stupidest. I'm getting tired of that argument. Hey why not make porn articles, and tell anyone who clicks on them and complains "Nobody told you to click on it.". Great reasoning! Fact is, when I see new articles on my live tile I get excited, I open the WPC app and am disappointed by stupid xbox game articles. I’m sure more people find this annoying. Instead, of covering random stuff, try to go in depth on things about WP. Focus on that. Only by doing that you become the source of news for WP fans. Not by filling up gaps with random news. The first rule for success of a business, is knowing what your business is about. If you really want to cover more stories, that's your good right, but then you need new branding.
  • The reasoning that we cover all Microsoft platforms and especially parts of the Xbox ecosystem was decided on long ago. We don't need to explain or justify it every time we cover something that falls within those limits. You may not like some of the subjects we cover, but you're under no obligation to read those articles.
  • So, you're telling the most successful WP news site how to do business❔... Wow, maybe you should take Steve's job....
  • Personally, I try and read every review written by Paul.  His reviews skills are top shelf and most of the time his opinion fits mine.  I like to identify with reviewers that fit my tastes since reviews are subjective and often ign/gamespot don't align with my personal tastes. There are few sites that focus on WP, and fewer that inlcude WP and other things MS.  I am happy to see a mix of MS related content, and the site doesn't offer that much non-WP related articles.  Count them. It is the internet, so there are other things worth complaining about on boards/comment sections.
  • I don't mind reading a couple of news about Xbox or Windows related topics. As long as the majority stays WP related. But seeing Xbox, Windows and WP grow together more and more, it definitely makes sense to cover them all.
  • Love the review wish we could sew more Xbox stuff especially with Xbone coming out
  • Come on people, stop complaining!!
    The MS for a long time uses the philosophy of "One Microsoft, for all the screens". And, increasingly, Xbox, Windows and Windows Phone are closer to each other. It's completely natural to sites specializing in one of these pillars finish covering the others. Much of the time the news influence, directly or indirectly, the other two.
    If you want to complain that claim with Microsoft!! And, you don't expect a site with a popularity equal to the WP Central change his name just for that right? This is/would be ridiculous! WP will continue to be a  site with the "center" in Windows Phone, but which also covers issues that permeate the universe to which the Windows Phone is inserted. Stop complaining and go live your lives!!    
  • You're right this time, mate❕
  • Nice review Paul.  I was curious about painkiller's transition from PC.  I look forward to your XBOX one reviews, and I hope to see Peggle 2 make it to WP after it hits Xbox One.  I would love that!
  • Thanks for the kind words! Peggle 2 definitely needs to come to Windows Phone since we never got the first game.
  • Nice review. I hope you start reviewing more Xbox games. I especially like the achievement section.
  • Good Review Paul, I liked the demo of this game so I'll probably pick it up when I see it at a decent price.