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REVIEW: Retrospective – The Punisher (PS2)

‘See a few familiar faces, break a few familiar necks’.
For thirty years in the world of Marvel comics, Frank Castle, better known as The Punisher, has slaughtered a huge and highly diverse number of various scumbags in a merciless one-man war against crime, employing perhaps and even more varied methods of murder to achieve his aims. Not surprisingly, The Punisher has always been an extremely violent franchise, littered with high body counts, decapitations, brutal interrogations, and so much other good fun.

Fortunately, The Punisher video game pays homage to the comics brilliantly. Players guide Castle (from a behind the character view) through many locations, amassing kill rates that would make the Battle of the Somme blush in envy, made up of a variety of foes from Mafia soldiers to Russian mercenaries, to Yakuza, and even a an entire maximum security jail population (a vigilante’s dream). Hardware is hardly lacking, with a large selection of firearms and explosives to use, but if you prefer you can also take hostiles prisoner and use them as human shields (very handy for soaking up incoming bullets), brutally interrogate them for information, or dispatch them via a ‘quick kill’ (usually involves something along the lines of gunshot or knife to the head). Castle can also utilise a ‘rage’ mode where he lapses into an even more intense insanity than usual and becomes temporarily endowed with radically greater speed and killing power.

Special mention should go to the fact that there are many opportunities to subject bad guys to special forms of interrogation and/or death, such as threatening to put a scumbags face in boiling hot fat, throwing a Mafia guy in an crematorium oven, feeding a guy to some angry piranhas, and even executing a death row prisoner on the chair. There are well over one hundred such opportunities throughout the game. Ultimately, the gameplay is quite simple and has a very arcade feel to it. There are regular bosses to fight, but most of the time you will be dispatching hordes of enemies with extreme prejudice. This is an awful of a lot of fun, and the special interrogations/kills mentioned above, along with cameos from characters such as Nick Fury, Daredevil, Iron Man and others, help prevent the action becoming too repetitive.

Graphically, the game is perhaps slightly rough and perhaps more functional than impressive, although Castle himself looks excellent. The sound is pretty similar too, although praise should go to the voice acting for Castle provided by Tom Jane (who played Frank in the recent film). His attitude and dark humour are excellent and Jane’s tone is absolutely spot on for the role. Any drawbacks concerning graphics and sound do not really affect the gameplay in any significant way though.

This game will not appeal to the faint-hearted or the excessively politically correct. Gamers that exclusively gravitate towards games with a lot of depth need not apply either, as the game is hardly complex and is not particularly difficult to complete. The Punisher is a simple but brutally vicious and wickedly delightful shooter. Fans of the franchise, as well as anyone who enjoyed the Max Payne games and other 3rd person arcade shooters, will definitely lap this up. The game from start to finish is a non-stop carnival of blood and bullets. Although this may degrade one’s soul, it will ultimately leave one feeling devilishly satisfied.

Price: £10-15 second-hand.
Score: 4 out of 5.

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