Ah, Painkiller. The poster-child of mindless shooting, sequels gone bad and the common gamer’s weird love of the phantasmagoric. Lots of folks seem to either love or hate it, but nobody can say no to a free game, right? Which is exactly what Painkiller: Supernatural amounts to.

The game is actually a fan-made mod that has been released as a stand-alone executable. It’s an eclectic mix of levels drawn from two of the original game’s expansions, Painkiller: Overdose and Painkiller: Resurrection. The locales aren’t just repackaged goods, though: each level has been tweaked, getting rid of cheap deaths, lame enemy placement and generally cutting back on some of the colour to instill a creepier atmosphere. Overdose, despite featuring some interesting ideas and some very novel monsters, wasn’t particularly well-received and had a multitude of issues which this mod irons out quite nicely.

For those who thought that the weapons from Overdose sucked (like I did), you’ll be pleased to know that the original Painkiller‘s weapons are present and accounted for, including the two additional available from the expansion.  Lots of old enemies make a reappearance, but many have been re-skinned and re-textured. The soundtrack is mostly the ambient stuff we’ve come to expect, which turns into guitar-smashing metal whenever enemies flood the arena. Oddly enough, one or two of the battle songs are fast-paced techno, which will no doubt draw the ire of long-time fans, but nonetheless it works well. The graphics are decent enough for a game engine that’s almost a decade old, and various minor enhancements are present. Fans will also be delighted to know that the old “taking-forever-to-load” bug, which has been plaguing the last few games in the Painkiller series, has largely been fixed.

The old Black Tarot system is back and, in my opinion, a bit saner. Although Overdose‘s levels appear in altered form, their Tarot card requirements are different. As before, earning them entails playing the levels under a specific restriction, such as only using a certain weapon or finding all secrets. Some cards are required in order to obtain other cards and the whole affair gives the game a bit more replayability. The menus show off multiplayer options, but either it doesn’t function correctly or I’m just a hopeless noob (I suspect the former, though the latter is also entirely possible).

Painkiller: Supernatural is a hectic, endless fragfest that isn’t as good as the first game from 2004 but is nonetheless still a fun little brain-dead romp, if you’re a fan of the series or Serious Sam-style shooters. Although it’s not in the same league as the recently released HD remake, it’s still a good trip down memory lane that is considerably better than the last few standalone expansions. Blast your way yonder to get in on the action (for Windows only).

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