Preview: The Punisher (XB, PS2) Hands-on

Publisher: THQ / Developer: Volition Inc. / Genre: Action / Release Date: 01-17-2005
The Punisher has no mercy. It’s really hard not get into a game where you get wreak havoc across the city. If you’re familiar with Frank Castle and his Punisher persona, you’ll probably enjoy playing this game. While much of the plot itself is still a mystery, the demo gives you a snippet of charging through a Rainforest Exhibit while rescuing the damsel in distress. Of course it’s a trap set up by the evil masterminds but does the Punisher care? I think not.

Starting right off I felt as though the game were reminiscent of Max Payne. (If you haven’t played that game, you should and that’s about all I’ll visit on that subject.) The gameplay is similar to any shooter you’ve played but you get all sorts of bonuses. Dual wielding double-barreled shotguns was definitely a perk. You can also decide to use your enemies as human shields or try to interrogate them. (If you don’t get impatient and kill them first.) In a part of the rainforest exhibit a recorded voice tells you about the dangers of piranhas. You can actually grab one of your enemies and throw him to the fishes. Lovely brutality if I do say so myself. The gameplay was great and the control easy enough that I really wished the demo itself was longer.

The graphics aren’t revolutionary, but they’re standard for today. (Then again, I’m hoping it’s just a little rough around the edges because it isn’t the finished game version.) If you love blood and guts, you’ve got it in The Punisher. In fact, one good shot and you’ll get to see someone’s head explode. Of course, while Frank Castle may have revenge and violence on his brain because some idiot murdered his family, it’s up to you to make sure that he doesn’t kill everyone that he comes across.

If you kill an innocent it can affect gameplay quite a bit. In some cases you are even required to interrogate your enemies to retrieve vital information to continue to play through the game. Too much force and the bird won’t sing; you’ve got a dead doll on your hands. It’s a pretty good mix of force and finesse. But who are we kidding? The Punisher is a mad, mad man and in the end he’s going to kick your balls, burn your face, shoot your ass, and finally feed you to the fish. After grabbing an enemy to interrogate them there are about 100 different ways to execute them. There’s nothing mild about the violence in this game and it rings true to the comic book because of that.

Not only is the violence a dead ringer for the Marvel comics but rumor has it that you won’t be quoting lines from the movie. The developers are trying to stick to the purest Punisher they can dish out by following the comic book story line more closely. (I still can’t get over that shot-gun action.) In any case, if things turn out as promised, I’ll be happy to play the full version of this game. The Punisher is due out later this month both for the Xbox and PS2. Keep it here for our review.