The Punisher – PS2 – Review

We all know
that movie and comic book-driven games have been hit-and-miss, and unfortunately
it’s mostly been miss, but as of late the quality of these titles has been
increasing. Two great examples are last year’s Chronicles of Riddick and
Spider-man 2. These games in particular showed us that games based on a movie or
comic book can actually provide a unique and entertaining experience.

this trend is Volition and THQ’s The Punisher for the Playstation2, which – at
face value – may seem like another cookie-cutter third-person shooter, when it
is actually an adventure game oozing with twisted creativity and comic book

In case you
haven’t read a Punisher comic, or you saw the movie’s different take on the
Punisher, the story begins after Frank Castle returns to his family from the
conflict in Vietnam. He had witnessed his fair share of combat, and became
incredibly efficient at killing. By the time he left, he had actually enjoyed
his time in war. After being home for awhile, that side of Frank melted away and
did not resurface until a tragic family picnic in Central Park. While running
around and having a good time, Frank’s family accidentally stumbled upon an
execution taking place. The mob members involved gunned down Frank, his wife,
and his two kids. Surviving the massacre, Frank became The Punisher, vowing to
wipe scum from the face of the Earth.

The main
menu of the game is based in The Punisher’s apartment. Here you can look at the
weapons you’ve collected on the battlefield, upgrade The Punisher’s equipment,
view your unlocked extras, look at various headlines you’ve made on your
outings, or go out and kill.

At first
glance The Punisher looks like a straight-forward action shooter, but once you
start playing you’ll notice things that make The Punisher different. Perhaps one
of the first differences you’ll notice is the ability to interact with any enemy
in many brutal ways. If you’re a fan of the comic, you’ll immediately feel at

approaching an enemy, you can shoot him with what you have equipped, perform an
instant kill, or grab him. Instant kills are a quick, merciless way to dispatch
a foe. For example, Frank may toss his M16 at the thug, who is taken by surprise
and reflexively catches it. As he looks up, The Punisher already has a knife
heading for his face. The sound effects and animation that follow are like
adding a cherry to the top of an already satisfying sundae.

If you
decide to grab the baddie instead, you now have a few more options. The most
useful of these options is to use him as a meat shield, absorbing bullets until
his health is depleted. Another option is to do an instant kill from behind
which provides a whole new range of animations. You can also interrogate him
using threats like your fists or guns, or if you see a floating skull nearby try
out one of the many special interrogations, which can range anywhere from table
saws to jet engines. All you have to do is scare the enemy to a certain point,
then keep him that scared for a few seconds to get him to spill the beans.
Interrogations are extremely useful and can provide anything from hidden areas
to an enemy cease-fire. Interrogations also refill your health if performed

The Punisher
also has a large arsenal, and as you find new weapons throughout each level they
are unlocked in your armory. This means that now you can equip these weapons
before each mission. If you run out of ammo, it’s not a big deal. Weapons are
scattered all over from deceased enemies, and if there’s any ammo remaining in
them Frank will grab it. So after awhile, you’ll have a good amount of ammo for
whatever weapon you decide to use. You can also dual wield any weapon you choose
– R1 fires whatever is in Frank’s right hand and L1 uses whatever is in his
left. This means grenades, secondary weapons, or even a human shield.

As you do
battle, you are awarded points depending on your performance. These points
relate to how efficient you are and how much variety you use when killing. If
you can make it without getting shot, a multiplier will be applied to each kill.
Kill six guys in a row without being shot and you get six times whatever you
earned in that period. Points are used to both upgrade equipment and rank your
mission completion. Scoring higher will unlock bonus material and new modes for
that level.

The Punisher
also features extra goodies for fans of the comic. Many characters The Punisher
has run into in the comics show up in the game, including Daredevil, Iron Man,
Bullseye, Jigsaw, Kingpin and more. There are also missions and events that
parallel the more recent story arcs of the comic.

Frank also
suffers from flashbacks, which are triggered by the pleas of his victims. If you
happen to interrogate someone that doesn’t have any important information, they
may say something that forces Frank to remember events straight out of the pages
of the comic. At this point an image of the event flashes on the screen, and
back at The Punisher’s apartment players can look at the flashbacks they’ve
experienced. This was definitely a great addition to the game, showing the
audience that The Punisher is always tormented by his past.

Even though
The Punisher isn’t incredibly long or difficult, the unlockables and extra modes
make up for that by adding more replay value and challenge. With good graphics,
a great soundtrack, and Punisher-style dialogue (thanks to Punisher writer Garth
Ennis) Punisher fans are guaranteed to enjoy this title. But don’t worry if
you’re not, The Punisher sports enough adrenaline-pumping action and creativity
to hold your interest through the whole game. Hopefully now that we have some
good cross-media games we’ll see more high-quality conversions in the near

Scoring Details

for The Punisher

Gameplay: 8.6
The Punisher
offers a new spin on the typical third-person shooters, and encourages players
to get up close and personal. Not only is being brutal fun, but you’ll get
excited every time you see a floating skull icon.

Graphics: 8.0 
The graphics are
crisp and clean, showing a lot of detail. Lots of objects can be affected in the
environment too; boxes can be knocked over, TVs and monitors can be shot, and
limbs can be blown off.

Sound: 8.8
The soundtrack,
sound effects, and voice acting are all excellent. Each gun has a distinct sound
that packs a punch and the soundtrack does an excellent job of framing the

Difficulty: Easy/Hard
The reason I use
a slash is because just making your way to the end of the game is fairly easy.
The difficulty lies in obtaining the medals and completing the challenge modes,
which can sometimes be extremely hard.

Concept: 9.0 
First of all, a
new Punisher game was long overdue. Second of all, not many games combine long
and short-range combat very well. The Punisher did an excellent job of capturing
the character of Frank and the way he fights, as well as his creative brutality.

Overall: 8.5
If you’re a
Punisher fan I guarantee you’ll love this game. The Punisher is fully fleshed
out through both his dialogue and his bloody brutality. If all you saw of The
Punisher was the movie, this game will give you a much better portrayal of his
character. And if you’re just plain a fan of action games, this one is
definitely worth a play through.