As a child, I was a big fan of "The Punisher" comic book series, when a motion picture title with Thomas Jane as The Punisher was announced, I wasn't too sure what to expect, and now with a game based on the same name, I was feeling a mixed bag of reactions. Thankfully, I wasn't extremely hyped about the game which made it that much easier to be disappointed by it when I played it.
The game opens up with a brief and very gory pre-rendered cutscene, which is one of the only pre-rendered scenes might I add. From there, Frank is captured by police and the game unfolds as Mr. Castle explains his story to the authorities in an interrogation room. After a little bit of jibber jabber, you're dropped off into action right away and this is where the "fun" begins. The first thing I noticed during the cutscene leading up to the first level is that this title tries to be like Max Payne. With deep and poetic narrating as Frank Castle walks the streets of New York, you just can't help but compare these two games together, but sadly, The Punisher fails in a lot of categories where Max Payne succeeded. Once all the talking has been done and the shooting starts, you'll instinctively notice the straightforwardness of the controls. The controller's left joystick aids you in maneuvering through the levels and your right joystick helps you aim. The left and right triggers fire your weapons, one button is for reloading, one for entering "Slaughter Model" which I'll cover later on, the "X" button unleashes a brutal "Quick Kill" on your enemies and the "B" button makes you dodge. A little annoyance I picked up on immediately was how useless the dodge feature was. The enemy AI is so dull you can easily predict where it's going and what it's going to do. It's so dumb, most of the time I found myself running around the thugs in circles and just randomly picking them off with Quick Kills. In the event that you do get injured, the game has a redeeming quality; you can grab one of your foes and use them as a human shield or "Interrogate" them which involves a series of painful looking procedures for extracting information out of your enemies and health also. From time to time you'll come across special enemies, with a big white skull hovering over their heads. These scumbags hold important information which you can and should extract from them. The game only holds four different types of ways of interrogating your enemies, which always remain fun and gruesome to watch, but thankfully the game offers special "hotspots" where you can do special and even more brutal questioning. If you can successfully grill the information out of the bad guy, you're rewarded with health, often useful information and style points. These are rewarded for a variety of actions i.e; shooting up bad guys without getting hit, or completing a level within a certain amount of time or many other miscellaneous vigilante activities. At the end of a stage, these points are added and tallied up and are redeemable for upgrades like extra body armor, longer slaughter mode time, adding a scope or grenade launcher to certain weapons and many others which I don't remember off the top of my head. Slaughter Mode is a form of frenzy in which the world around the Punisher becomes dark and hazy and you become temporarily invulnerable, your health slowly regenerates and you can fling knives at your enemies. The main problem of this game is how repetitive it is. The game consists essentially of running around, giving criminals lead enemas, doing some violent interrogations, saving some hoes and shooting people up again. Mercifully, the game is quite short; you'll run around killing people for about 6 to 10 hours, depending on the difficulty level you choose. The playtime can increase exponentially if you’re trying to unlock the uncountable amount of extras this game incorporates. Ranging from comic book covers, concept art to cheats. The game will have you replaying levels over and over again, trying to beat the game's challenges. With repetitive and lack of Gameplay variety aside, The Punisher also suffers from very weak implementation of the Havok physics engine. The only hint of a physics engine I discovered through out the game was enemies falling down like string beans or guns flying around when they got hit by an opening door. On top of that, only a select few objects are implemented into the physics engine, like enemy corpses and weapons. After awhile of these annoying repetitions, the game begins to seem unending. Luckily enough it is ended quickly if all you do is run through each level gunning people down. Most of the game can be accomplished by running around and performing the gruesome quick kills on your enemies, which unleashes a small animation of either The Punisher stabbing your adversary in the face or stomach, shooting them stylishly or snapping their necks. The game is rated "M" for mature and deserves its rating, but frustratingly enough, the game quickly zooms out and adds a black/white filter when The Punisher executes an enemy during a special interrogation, yet the game has no problem letting you see the result of your actions by leaving the dismembered corpse on the ground. Being based loosely around the real comic series of The Punisher, the game features some cameos from classic heroes like Nick Fury and The Black Cat, appreciatively enough, these old timers who follow you around for a level or so, are actually quite helpful! They actively participate in blowing away criminals, which is very useful considering later levels become stacked with enemies ready to empty lead into your face, even though they usually miss...
Straight off the bat, you notice how mediocre the game's graphics are. The Punisher suffers from low quality textures. Exploring the game I've often noticed it has some suspiciously blurry and bland looking textures. The game makes up for it though; you'll visit a variety of different environments and locations through out your time playing the game. Ranging from lush jungle vegetation to the luxurious apartments of The Kingpin's skyscraper, the locations vary a lot which brings a fresh change from time to time and honestly, if you don't run up and examine the environments closely, things don't look that horrible. A positive aspect of the game is the quality of the character models, which are often of high quality and are an ease on the eyes. Frank Castle's model is very engaging and looks tough as nails, like he should be and the way most remember him. The rest of the models vary from average to high quality detail also. Most thugs and mercenaries encountered through the game look fine but the detail put into the bosses and secondary characters in the game steal the show. Another downside to this game is the sometimes cumbersome feel of the camera. In some levels, the environment around you is so tight; peering around corners and just generally trying to grasp what's going on around you becomes a chore. Interaction with your surroundings is also very limited and comprised of mainly being able to shoot bottles, yet every other piece of junk hanging around is pretty much unmovable which is disappointing considering the game has a well known physics engine backing it up. A perfect example of this lack of interaction would be a television set playing in the background, when shooting it, not only does it not move, it doesn't even turn off making everything around you seem bland and useless.
Everyone knows the key to a good action game is good sound effects. Again, The Punisher fails here also. The game's gunshots sound ok, but that's about all they are. Enemies firing at you often sound inaudible or very faint. Most of the time you'll clearly see your foe and see him firing at you but won't be able to here the gunshots until you're a few feet away from the rifle. Certain cutscenes also lack proper sound; a great example would be when Frank is being interrogated and one of the interrogators throws a folder full of sheets on the desk, there's just flat out no sound whatsoever which is highly disappointing. The game's voice acting isn't anything special either. The lip synching isn't as accurate as it could be and the voices of the characters aside from the Punisher's character seem very tacky considering the large amount of voice work that's incorporated into the game.
I started off playing with this game with low hopes and I was met with a mediocre game. It is suffering from many annoying problems like repetitiveness, bland graphics, and horrible sound effects. The Punisher tries to be something it can't and suffers the consequences. One of the only plus sides to the game is the fact that many old favorites from the Marvel comic world are found in the game and is refreshing to see them again. Another positive aspect is the sheer amount of unlockable and extras this game sports, which might help add to its short playtime. I would only recommend this game to heavy fans of The Punisher series and those who like their games rated "M" as the game boasts many violent interrogations and quick kills which shouldn't be witnessed by a young audience. This game will be a let down for many, so if you're in the mood for 3rd person action, I'd recommend looking elsewhere as there is an abundance of better titles.