Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Punisher (2005) PS2

Rating: 3 out of 5 loaded pistols in your waistband

Plot Synopsis:  During his midnight stroll/punk beating Frank gets challenged by a street thug.  Never one to back down from the drug fueled cursing of a junkie The Punisher kills pretty much everyone in a crack house, many in terrible, terrible ways.  This somehow leads to him killing lots and lots of gangsters, many in terrible, terrible ways.  Also he gets arrested at some point.

The Good:

-The presentation is nice, the select screen is Franks apartment and from there you can view extras, look at your guns, upgrade yourself, look at news paper clippings, select a stage.  All the stuff a hub screen needs.

-The gun play is pretty decent.  You can carry 2 small guns and 1 large gun at any given time so you are somewhat limited in that respect but the gun play is decent for a standing 3rd person shooter.

-A lot of great moments from Welcome Back Frank get integrated.  They aren’t scene for scene but you get a shoot out at a zoo with a bunch of fun context kills.  You get the Gnucci’s and a fight with the Russian.  Some good stuff from other runs in the first year or two of Grant Morrisons reboot as well.

-Graphics are good all things considered.

-You get what are called “context kills” or “context interrogations” which involve you dragging some poor criminal to a glowing white or yellow skull and subjecting them to a special execution or interrogation set piece.  The interrogations can get particularly brutal but you have the option to just let the guy go, or pull him out of whatever death trap you were threatening him with and breaking his neck or shooting him in the head.

-Some good guest stars in Black Widow and Iron Man.

-A cavalcade of great villains from Bullseye to the Russian to Bushwacker of all people.  Who would have thought Bushwacker would have ever made it into a game?

-There are lots to do in the form of challenges, medals, survivals, difficulty levels and it’s easy to get into any one of those for any given stage.

-There’s a rage mode in which you pull two knives and while you hear the death cries of your family you murder people.  Yeah.

-The interrogation system is pretty cool too, it has no real place in this game though since the game is as linear as you can get.

The Bad:

-There is no cover system, I hope you like awkwardly ducking awkwardly behind things and looking awkward.  There really isn’t a mechanic in place that allows you to go from cover position to cover position in a fluid way that includes the camera.  Instead you sort of just run into walls and then handle the camera as best you can knowing that it’s going to swing wildly out of position once you start moving.

-The upgrade system blows.  You start out in pretty rough shape as far as how squishy you are and how bad your guns are.  It’s hard to hit exactly where you want which causes you to earn less points which makes getting upgrades take longer.  The survival levels don’t really offer much in the way of points unless you grind them and the levels themselves offer little in the way of points as well.  I found myself grinding the Russian level because it gives you a moderate but predictable set of points and it takes less than 15 minutes to do the level.  All the other levels will run you much longer than that for a far less predictable outcome.  Even then I got bored pretty quickly.  The only other short level in the game gives far less points per play through.

-The interrogation system, while fun, has no place in a really linear game like this.  Important guys are marked with a white skull icon and interrogating them actually gets you something other than a health boost and chance to unlock artwork (certain thugs will say something that will cause you to flashback which unlocks artwork in the gallery).  These rarely ever turn out to be really important, frequently they offer to turn on their own men (which never works out), give you a key to a weapon cache (that you didn’t need), or just some dialog that’s important to the story.  The system would benefit an open world setting where you need information and could use information but here it’s just a tossed in mechanic to add some flavor to the game.

-Melee is pretty nonexistent, melee weapons mostly survive one hit before disintegrating.  It would have been nice to see Frank doing some badass CQC but you’re sort of limited.  You do have a melee button that results in a one hit kill but you have to get so close and the animations take so long that it’s really hard to justify.

-There is a huge reliance on human shields.  If you want to survive you need a human shield and you need to get a new one as soon as your old one is gone.  That’s pretty much your cover system, I would rather have an ACTUAL cover system but I guess that’s close enough.  Also the enemies take so many bullets compared to you that you have to have that human shield or awkwardly “use” cover.

The Ugly:

-You lose points for killing people in interrogations.  They have to die, if you just let them go they alert enemies and look for a gun to shoot you with.  They can’t just be released into the wild.  So, if you want to keep your points, you have to pull them out of the cool cinematic kill that the programmers worked so hard on and then give them a poorly animated neck twist or a two frame, sudden, premature ejaculation of a headshot.  If you decide to finish them you lose half the points you would have gained.  You may think to yourself “So what?  I’ll spend the points to see the gruesome.”  well Binky there are two things wrong with that: 1) see below and B) you need the points.  If you stockpile points, or simply don’t upgrade your stats fast enough, the game leaves you behind in the dust.  The levels get exponentially harder and less forgiving if your accuracy stays crap, if you don’t expand your ammo, if you don’t improve your health or any of the other upgrades.  Which leaves you with grinding early levels until you get where you need to be.

-The interrogations cinema kill is edited.  Granted you’re talking about PS2 era graphics so you aren’t going to get a whole lot and the dark, blurry animation probably hides a lot of the flaws that would make them go from brutal to stupid looking but come on!  Also it’s PS2 era graphics, it’s not that gruesome.  At least give us the option.

-I hate grinding, and you will grind.  I haven’t beaten this game yet because of that.  I’m stuck at Grand Nixon Island.  Not because I can’t beat it.  I can beat the shit out of it.  But the levels after that are too hard for my current upgrades but the next upgrades are too expensive.  So I have to grind all the early levels.  Which puts me in a weird place because I’m way too overpowered for the early levels which removes all the challenge but not powered up enough to survive a fight with Kingpins goons and the Yakuza.  So I’m stuck at about the halfway point, if I remember correctly.  I know for sure that I could do Grand Nixon Island but not Fisk Industries.  I also used the profile name cheat so I jumped around a bit and got my ass kicked a lot before playing it through linear and hitting a definite stopping point.

Final Thoughts:  The game is fun, to a point.  It has Tom Jane as the voice of the Punisher (who played the character in the 2004 film).  I always like Tom Jane as the Punisher so it’s fun for me to see him expand the character.  You get your Bullseye’s and your Russian’s and your Gnucci’s and your Bushwackers’s and it’s cool to see all them in the game.  It’s a nice little slice of Punisher that’s fun to play to a certain extent, then it get’s repetitive and boring and you hate it.  It was probably rushed to cash in on the movie and it feels rushed.  It feels like they really could have made something if they had taken their time.  But they didn’t, so this is what you get.

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