Like every Marvel property, Frank Castle’s life is one filled with pain and suffering. After stumbling upon a mob hit, Frank's wife and child were murdered in cold blood. He should have perished with them, but he somehow survived and vowed to take out his rage on every single piece of scum on the face of the Earth. Unlike the other Marvel properties though, Frank Castle is a normal man devoid of super powers. He can’t sling webs, he’s hardly acrobatic and he doesn’t have superhuman strength. What he does
have though is an insatiable taste for revenge and a short temper. This is great news for fans of the comic and even better news for fans of video gaming.
In his first foray into next generation gaming, the Punisher begins anew. Instead of focusing on a later storyline and alienating newcomers to the franchise, the developers wisely decided to start from the beginning and tell the story of Frank Castle and his transition into the Punisher. This includes the murder of his family, his past service in the military and his present-day job as super vigilante supreme. This was a welcome surprise since I’m not all that familiar with the comics. Even though the information isn’t as in-depth as it could have been (they’re small flashbacks that pop-up throughout the action) they get the job done.
At the onset of the game you’ll learn about the Punisher’s vigilante tactics. You’ll deal with low-level scum like drug dealers as you try to rid the streets of crime and filth once and for all. Of course everything isn’t what it seems and you’ll soon find yourself tackling the head honchos that pull the strings behind the scenes. Along the way you’ll stop a nuke from launching, destroy an entire family of drug runners, crash a funeral and eventually take down the game’s head honcho, Jigsaw. Throughout the adventure there are plenty of memorable experiences that will really stick with you long after you’ve put the game down. I still tell my friends about the funeral scene in which you get to burst out of a casket and unleash hell upon an unsuspecting body of people with your massive chain gun.
Frank Castle is a very versatile man with a plethora of options in his arsenal. He can shoot dive (Max Payne-style
, without the slowdown), strafe, crouch, dual-wield weapons and kick open doors. Pressing the R3 button allows you to bring the weapon’s sights up to your eyes, leading to better aim for those long-distance shootouts. Frank can still move while in this state but his mobility is severely limited. The only feature that he really lacks is the ability to blind fire like in kill.zone
or 007: Everything or Nothing
. It’s a shame too because all of the foes do it in the game, it would have been nice to be able to give them a taste of their own medicine. The last core gameplay feature is the Slaughter Mode which is essentially the rage mode which makes the Punisher nearly invincible. When activated the Punisher goes berserk and can move faster than his foes and take more damage than normal. He can’t operate any firearms so he’ll have to rely on his knives to take his foes out. We felt that this mode was a bit lacking due to the underwhelming nature of the knives. Eventually you’ll just run up to all of your enemies and hit the triangle button to score the quick one-hit kill.
An element that really sets this game apart from the others is a special interrogation system that allows Frank to get information from his enemies. In the midst of combat Frank can grab his enemies at any time and use them as human shields. As they’re blocking bullets he can choose to interrogate them. After selecting the interrogation option players can choose one of four methods: Gun Tension, Choke, Punch and Face Slam. Doing so brings up a special interrogation meter; the key is the try to keep the tension level in a special highlighted area for three seconds. Doing so will reveal key information and as an added bonus, will refill some of the Punisher’s health. In certain sequences there will be special characters that need to be interrogated in order to proceed. Generally there will be context specific interrogations that can be performed in these sequences. These range from threatening to throw someone into a meat grinder to running someone over with a forklift. Variety makes these fun and they’re always interesting to watch.
Another interesting aspect comes in the character dynamic. When engaging in tons of mindless killing it’s easy to become numb to the fact that our character is human. The developers took plenty of care to showcase the Punisher’s regard for human life, even as he mows down dozens of foes. There are plenty of instances where he shows his humanity by sparing the lives of innocents while taking other courses of action that don’t lead directly to violence. In a later level the Punisher is trying to blow up a ship, he’s planted the C4 and could easily leave, but then he finds out that the enemies are smuggling in women to use as prostitutes. Instead of leaving he takes it upon himself to ensure the safety of the women before destroying the ship. It’s little flashes like these that showcase the Punisher’s humane side, and I applaud the developers for incorporating it into the game. Part of what makes The Punisher so relatable is his vulnerability. We all know how it feels to have something we loved taken from us and we all know how it feels to be sympathetic.
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