Ever since we first saw the first trailer of the game almost a year ago now, this has been one of the most anticipated of 2005 and naturally it has made our most anticipated 2005 list. The Punisher, based on the comic book by Marvel is going to shock you but it's a game which does not rely on its shock factor to gain sales because behind the violent parts, you will actually find a fairly decent third person shooter very much in the style of Max Payne. Recently THQ showed us another updated build of the game and explained some changes. The game may have changed but it's still on track to be a fairly decent and violent title.
For those of you who haven't been following the game, it is based on the comic book series and not the movie which from most peoples opinions was extremely bad. You play as Frank Castle who is seeking to settle the score with those who killed his wife and family. Again it sounds like Max Payne and again you'd be on the right track. However as we have said previously, this game takes Max Payne, pumps in some steroids and jacks up the action ten fold.
In our presentation we also saw how the game's storyline is going to play out in the final code. The game will be played retrospectively with two detectives grilling Castle about the past days and what he has been doing (read: murdering criminals). Frank of course keeps his mouth shut as to not incriminate himself any further but you play retrospectively what he has been charged for. From what we saw in a short glimpse, there is no doubt he would be getting the death penalty so it will be interesting to see just how the game finishes. The storyline has been written by Jimmy Palmiotti who is currently in charge of the comic storyline so THQ have gone for the ultimate in authenticity.
The game is played in a third person perspective and features a few unique activities for players to try out. As expected Castle is one tough nut and really isn't willing to put up with people in his way. You as the player have a number of choices in the game and it is here that the major changes which have occurred first show themselves. This breaks up the gameplay and keeps it from being a run and gun title with very average gameplay. While for most of the game you can run through, shoot enemies and move on, there are points where this is broken up where the player will have to make a decision and this can greatly affect the game and how it plays out further down the track.
The hot spots remain which are still used for interrogations. The game alerts you to a character which requires interrogating by a graphic above their head. You can choose to kill them but you may miss out on key information on where to go next and what to do. The interrogations haven't changed, you still have our character Castle dangling criminals over the side of buildings (complete with change falling out of their pockets) and pushing them closer and closer to water full of flesh eating fish. What has changed is the decisions that the player has to undertake. In the first build we saw, you could get the information and kill the characters without the game batting an eyelid. In the new version you lose points, and considering these points are used to buy new weapons, it can greatly affect the game.
Another change we noticed is how the animations play out during the action sequences. Rather than focusing on what is happening, the camera will cut out to a more cinematic view and focus on Castle rather than the action. However it has not changed how impressive the game is one bit. The game has been toned down, and this is a worldwide decision, not just Australian, but it still looks as good as it did when we first saw it via trailer format.
The version shown to us was the Xbox version and thus offered some great graphics and stable framerate. The Punisher model is highly detailed and seems to really capture the gritty nature of the character Frank Castle. The enemies are detailed as well and the action sequences are highly detailed. An interesting new addition is the 'break' bar. This bar determines how far you have to push, or how much you have to let go before the character will break. It appears that every single character will eventually break which could lead to repetition but as we said earlier the focus is not on this side of the game and more the storyline and action now quelling the problem that it could have become a game that relied on this aspect. The voice acting from what we saw is very well done with the detectives very much in character and Castle remaining hard nosed as ever.
The Punisher is a game that is for adults and will play like an adult game. But those old enough to play it will find a third person shooter that takes no prisoners and captures the style of the comic book so well. The Punisher is due for release next month and will be released on PC, Xbox and PS2.