A few weeks ago we published a preview of The Punisher for the PS2 and Xbox consoles based on a presentation we saw of the game earlier in the year. As we mentioned in that preview the game is based around the comic book and not the recently released movie which is allowing them to put a great deal of effort into the game and get an authentic feel of the comic book into the video game realm. We've now had the chance to go hands on with the Xbox version and this has only reinforced that this game is looking to be one of the most promising of early '05.
The story behind the Punisher itself is that a man's wife and children were murdered and he wants revenge for their killings. To do this he becomes a vigilante hunting down criminals and giving them a good dose of their own medicine in a variety of ways. It sounds very much like Max Payne and as we suspected, the hands on time has only reinforced this notion even more. As we mentioned in our previous preview the storyline is being handled by Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti who actually write the storylines for the comic books which will offer even more authenticity to the game once it ships. During our hands on time we only played through a section of one mission so did not get any idea of the storyline behind the game at this stage.
The game is played in a third person perspective and during our hands on time we discovered a few things that surprised us about the game. The first being that the ammunition the Punisher carries around is quite limited which will give a focus on dealing with characters in other ways rather than just gunning them down. This was in contrast to the video we saw earlier in the year where the Punisher shot up a bar without breaking a sweat. We are guessing that perhaps this build limited the ammunition to show the other side of the game and the more unique features which the Punisher will pack once shipped.
The game contains numerous hotspots and we were able to see two of the special hotspots in action. If you take one of the enemies hostage without using a special hot spot, you can perform a variety of interrogation methods such as pointing a gun at their head, or punching them numerous times in the chest. This is where the interaction comes in. Using the right thumb stick in a back and forth motion determines how far away the gun is from the head or how many times you punch an enemy character.
However using the environment you can perform special hot spot moves and these are displayed via the Punishers logo. When you walk up to these and have a hostage in tow, the game gives you the opportunity to use the environment to your ability. One such move we saw involved the punisher pushing an enemy character into a leaf munching machine. To perform the move successfully you have to rigorously push the right stick back and forth as the enemy character will try to stop the move from being completed. Other special moves seen in the previously seen video included pushing an enemies head closer and closer to a sink of boiling water and a ladder being smashed down into an enemies rib cage area.
One surprise was that the game at this stage and perhaps for the final game does not feature an auto aim system. Instead you can slow the game down which allows you to take down multiple enemies quickly and this does provide an aiming system to use.
The visuals in the build we played we quite well detailed as was the character model of the punisher and the enemies. The environment also displayed some destructibility with objects flying everywhere during a shoot out in one of the bar sections. The sound effects already sound great but considering the very early stage of the code it's hard to comment on aspects such as voice acting.
Although our time with the game was only brief it only served to reinforce two facts - the fact that fans of Max Payne will probably lap this up, and the fact the game is already playing quite well and although the build was very early, it shows signs that THQ and the developer know what they are doing and what fans of the comics want in the video game iteration. Look for The Punisher on shelves early 2005.