Painkiller is a fast-paced first-person-shooter that hearkens back to the early years of shooters. Telling a hellish story about a man fighting his way out of Purgatory and foregoing modern conventions of realism, Painkiller brings back the over-the-top twitch gameplay that is quickly becoming a thing of the past.


Painkiller is a first-person shooter game created by Polish developer People Can Fly. The game shuns most modern first person shooter conventions and instead embraces the more simple and frantic style of the old school shooters. The game consists of 5 worlds with 4 to 5 levels each and a traditional boss fight at the end of each world. Painkiller also features online multiplayer staples such as Deathmatch and Capture the Flag.

The game is being re-released in 'HD' format using the Unreal 3 engine and will be released as Painkiller: Hell and Damnation on October 31st, 2012.


The game follows the tale of Daniel Garner and his quest for atonement. The opening cutscene shows Daniel and his beloved wife Catherine getting into a car crash, a head-on collision with a cube van that kills them both instantly. Catherine's soul is deemed pure, and ascends to Heaven, but Daniel is judged as neither evil enough to suffer in Hell nor noble enough to rise to Heaven with his wife. Therefore, Daniel is sentenced to the neutral realm of Purgatory. The game picks up thirty years after his death and we find that Daniel has been keeping himself busy keeping the monsters of Purgatory in check, turning into a rugged super-badass in the process. His time in Purgatory has done more than give him a cynical action-hero attitude, however. An angel named Sammael approaches Daniel and informs him that certain higher-ups are pleased with the work he has been doing. Daniel is offered a chance to fight for the forces of good in order to get a chance at redeeming himself; descend to Hell and kill Lucifer's top four lieutenants, and he will be redeemed and allowed to rejoin his beloved Catherine at long last.

This is all of the story the player is given before being thrust into the world of Painkiller. One will quickly come to realize that the small bits of story told through the sparse cutscenes have little effect on the actual levels themselves, which are for the most part totally unrelated. It is clear that the story was meant to take a backseat to the retro-styled action and is simply a way to try to explain the whys and wherefores of the setting to the player.


Keeping true to Painkiller's motif of batshit-loco insane, the weapons are some of the most (for lack of a better word) unique weapons one will find in a first-person shooter. While many seem to be standard FPS fare, each weapon packs a completely unrelated alternate fire, many of which can be combined in order to perform even more brutal attacks.

The Painkiller

The Painkiller.
The Painkiller.

The game's titular weapon is a bizarre three-pronged mutilation device. The Painkiller is especially good at its job, requires no ammo for any of its attacks, and is the only weapon in your possession at the beginning of the game.

  • Primary Fire ("Pain" mode): The Painkiller's blades spin up and can be used to mow down enemies similar to how one would use a weedwhacker. This can kill many enemies with a single hit and will gib up corpses. Especially useful against enemies with melee-only attacks.
  • Secondary Fire ("Killer" mode): The tip of the Painkiller shoots out and latches onto any solid object it hits. If it happens to come into contact with an enemy it will retract and give the enemy some damage (this can be used when the player is out of ammunition) but the real fun comes when you are able to land the shot on a wall. When the tip is attached to a wall and you point the handle directly at it, an energy "trip wire" stretches between the tip of the Painkiller and the weapon itself. Any enemies will take constant damage when standing in the electrified line. The head can be recalled to the body of the weapon from anywhere in the level by pressing the secondary fire button again, or by switching weapons.
  • Combo Attack: Spin up the Painkiller's Pain mode with primary fire before activating the Killer mode alternate fire, and the end of the weapon will be launched out into the world with the blades still spinning. This causes significant damage to any enemies the projectile comes into contact with, and it automatically returns to the body of the weapon once it travels a certain distance or hits a wall. Just like the secondary fire projectile, the spinning head can be manually returned before then by hitting the secondary fire button.


The Shotgun.
The Shotgun.

The first weapon you acquire besides the Painkiller is that gaming standard, the ever trusty shotgun. It uses shotgun shells and nitrogen shells as ammunition.

  • Primary Fire: The shotgun fires out a standard shotgun blast. Spread is greatly increased with distance, making it mostly useful for close encounters. Most of the game's weaker enemies can be taken out with a single point-blank shot.
  • Secondary Fire: An ice beam is shot from the end of the shotgun. This shot will pass through enemies and any enemy hit by it will be frozen solid. When frozen, an enemy can be destroyed with a single shot of any weapon, but if they are given time they will thaw out. This may seem like an odd alternate to a shotgun, but then, what better way to shatter a frozen monster than with a round of buckshot to the face?

Stake Gun

The Stake Gun.
The Stake Gun.

Painkiller's iconic stake gun is a sharp-shooting weapon that fires wooden stakes with such force that it's able to nail monsters to walls. It also fires grenades for some reason, but that's handy, so let's not question it. Predictably, it uses stakes and grenades as ammunition.

  • Primary Fire: A stake is shot out, impaling an enemy on impact. This stake can gib smaller enemies, nail medium-sized enemies to walls or other objects in the game world or simply bounce off larger enemies. The stake is super accurate at close-to-medium range (to the point where it's possible to miss entirely if your shot travels between an enemy's legs or under its arm or something), but the heavy stakes lose height after that, so planning for an arc is essential at long range.
  • Secondary Fire: The Stake Gun's secondary fire is a grenade launcher, and other than the fact that it's attached to such an odd weapon, the grenade launcher is fairly standard. The grenade will explode a few seconds after hitting the ground, or if it comes into contact with an enemy without hitting the ground.

Rocket-Launching Chaingun

The Rocket-Launching Chaingun.
The Rocket-Launching Chaingun.

Is it a minigun that also launches rockets, or a rocket launcher that also shoots bullets? Either way, this useful tool combines two high-powered favourites into a single weapon. Rockets are primary fire by default, though players commonly switch the two to make themselves more comfortable with the weapon. Chaingun ammo is unusually scarce, though, so save it for crowds and powerful enemies. As you'd expect, it uses bullets and rockets as ammunition.

  • Primary Fire: A high-powered rocket launches from the front of the weapon, and travels in a straight line until it hits something, at which point it explodes rather violently. Somewhat more standard than the rest of Painkiller's weapons, but useful nonetheless.
  • Secondary Fire: A high-speed chaingun which expels bullets like they're going out of style, shredding your enemies into pulp. Also fairly ordinary, and also incredibly deadly.


The Electro-Driver.
The Electro-Driver.

The Electro-Driver is a weapon that brings ninja stars and electricity together at last, to the joy of gamers the world over.

  • Primary Fire: Launches a rapid stream of shuriken from the Electro-Driver's rotary supply. These shuriken explode upon hitting walls, causing minor splash damage to enemies standing right next to them.
  • Secondary Fire: A continuous stream of electricity is fired from the Electro-Driver and locks on to the nearest enemy. This causes massive damage over a short period of time, and is absolutely excellent at frying lone enemies. It's also quite good at keeping crowds of goons away from you. It doesn't allow you to rain electric doom across an entire level, though, the stream's reach is unfortunately short.
  • Combo Attack: Fire off a shuriken while the lightning stream is active, and the already deadly metal projectile will be charged with electricity; this causes it to do more damage upon impact, and even more usefully, causes damage over time to anything unfortunate enough to be hit by the thing.

Reception and Legacy

Painkiller received favorable reviews at the time of its release in April 2004, with an average score of 81 at The game was praised for its adherence to the simplicity of old-school shooter, mixed in with modern graphics. The game has seen several re-releases over the years with the most significant being Painkiller: Black Edition on Steam in January 2007 and on GOG (Good Old Games) with compatibility & support for Windows XP, Vista, and 7 for both 32 and 64-bit. Along with a retrospective "review" by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, it generated a renewed interest in the game.


People Can Fly made one expansion for the original game, Battle Out of Hell, as well as a port to the Xbox console that combined levels from both the original Painkiller and Battle out of Hell, released under the title Painkiller: Hell Wars. After their Epic takeover, they passed on development of the franchise to Mindware, who created two sequels, Painkiller: Overdose, and Painkiller: Resurrection.

PC System Requirements

Minimum Requirements:

  • Win 98/2000/Me/XP
  • 1GHz Processor
  • 256MB RAM
  • DirextX 9.0 64MB
  • Video Card
  • 3.4GB HDD Space

Recommended Requirements:

  • 3GHz Processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 128MB Video Card