The Punisher
Game Info
Xbox, PS2
Third Person Shooter
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language
The Good

• Solid Punisher story
• Lots of enemies to kill
• Scoring system and unlockables are nice
• Thomas Jane is wonderful as The Punisher

The Bad

• Could look better
• Not overly genre defining in its gameplay


You know, it's amazing that the Punisher hasn't had more videogames based on his comics, especially with so many other hard boiled vigilante games taking a bite out of his style. Written by Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti and featuring the voice of Thomas Jane (who played the Punisher in the movie), The Punisher game gives players a heavy duty third person action game strongly based in the Marvel universe while hanging out on the fringes that the Punisher so readily habits.

As many of these stories do, things start out small for the Punisher - he goes down to the nearby drug house and kills enough people to find out he needs to deal with the Gnucci crime family. Then, he turns his focus to killing the Gnuccis, but of course, finds that he has other factions he needs to deal with. Before long, he's not only dealing with the Gnucci's, but also the Russians, the Kingpin and the Yakuza. Along the way, he works with the Black Widow and Nick Fury (and S.H.I.E.L.D.), and runs into Matt Murdock, Iron Man and Bullseye.

At it's core, The Punisher is a third person shooter that sets the player to rack up a major kill count. Of course, you can't kill innocents and there will be opportunities to rescue them, but most of your time, you'll be killing one group of enemies or another. The Punisher can carry two types of weapons at any time, be they small arms (pistols, uzis) or large firearms (shotguns, 5.56mm assault rifle) and swap them with the D-Pad or trade them out with weapons found on enemies with the Black Button. You'll also gain access to grenades, which can be thrown with the Left Trigger.

As you progress, you're going to want to use some tactics. Yes, you can shoot your way through a lot of the game, but some times, it's best to find cover, or even better - make cover of your enemies. Yes, the can grab live enemies and turn them into body shields. Or when you feel like it, use the interrogation mode to get info and health back (yes, the Punisher actually gets health by being successful in interrogations). The four default interrogations allow you to punch, choke, head smash or use your gun to threaten the enemy. You have to make them stressed enough that you can keep a gauge stuck in a highlighted portion for a period of time to break them. If you do, they can either help you, give you info or set off a flashback. There are many locations in each level where the Punisher can perform unique interrogations, like pushing a guy's face into a propeller blade or place his head under a drill press. And, don't be too sloppy or you'll kill your criminal, which will cost you points.

The Punisher offers up a scoring system for each level, giving you bonuses for freeing hostages, combo killing enemies and successfully breaking interrogations. Each level has point goals, which can be used to unlock other difficulties and challenges. Also, the points you rack up can be used to unlock upgrades, like higher grenade capacity or more body armor. On your initial playthrough, you'll be hard pressed to get Bronze medals for all the stages, but the scoring system will surely make you want to go back and try for more.

And, what's any hyper-violent action game without and even MORE over-the-top killing mode? As you waste enemies, you fill the Punisher's Slaughter Mode gauge. Using this turns him into a killing machine. Using the quick kill attack, you can massacre your enemies, of just throw knives at opponents too far to reach quickly. While this mode runs down fast, you can rip through a wave of enemies in no time.

Visually, The Punisher isn't overly outstanding. The levels are pretty large and feature a lot of places to have firefights. There's also a lot going on with multiple enemy and ally units running about. But, most of these fall into one of a handful of models, none of which are overly detailed. This is especially noticeable when you get up close or when you interrogate them. The Punisher model is decent but the animations don't feel all that fluid. Explosions look okay and gunplay is pretty well done. It's rather obvious that more time has been spent on laying out levels for interrogation opportunities as those sections tend to look better than other areas.

Audiowise, the game is actually pretty good. Not great, but it certainly won't make you turn the audio down. The sound effects for the weapons have a nice variety and each feel as if they are attached to their real-world counterparts. Music is decent. At times it really sets a nice mood. The voicework is nicely done and Thomas Jane's performances really make the Punisher's war on crime feel dark and based on his tormented past. The vocal parts that roll in the background when you go into slaughter mode really set a mood.

The Punisher isn't anything genre defining, but since you can find it cheap, it's a good time if you enjoy putting bullets into waves of enemies. The heavy violence and strong ties to the Marvel universe really work for fans of The Punisher and the story and presentation does do a nice job at putting the player into the deranged mind of this vigilante.

- - Kinderfeld

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