The Punisher: No Mercey (PSN)ESRB:
Category: First Person Shooter
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
2 player co-op
The Punisher, aka Frank Castle, is the original and arguably one of the greatest anti-heroes of all time. He has been featured in a number of movies as well as a number of video games. None of Frank’s previous forays outside of the pages of Marvel comics has been met with much acclaim. Well the time has come for another attempt, this time with the PlayStation Network title The Punisher: No Mercy. So does this latest game via digital download stand up? Read on to find out.
Graphically, The Punisher: No Mercy has quality textures, effects and attention to detail, but unfortunately the superb visuals are marred by an insane amount of texture pop-in, a fair bit of lag, and some framerate issues. Every time a game starts your character and surrounding environment take a few seconds to load all their textures, and every time you make it to a new area you have to wait for the details to pop in as well. Additionally, every time you die you go into a third-person view in which your character's textures have to pop in all over again. However, when they do finally pop up, they look pretty darn good. Lag wise, characters sometimes jump around and you often get stuck on objects when you try to jump onto them. It is not particularly common but it is a nuisance when it happens. The game also slows down a lot during the single-player mode, but strangely not during the actual multiplayer mode(s). These problems aside, The Punisher: No Mercy is still a great looking game and a little more time in the shop may have been what the doctor ordered here to get rid of the rough edges.
The voice acting kind of varies. The Punisher's grizzly voice occasionally feels overdone, but at other times it sounds just fine and really gets across the characters feel. As for supporting characters, they either sound unconvincing or like the actors were in a hurry. One character has an Irish accent that sounds incredibly fake. The dialog ranges from cheesy, in a good way, to downright bad. There are some cool lines such as “The world won't miss you” and some really unnecessary lines like “Maria...” and “My time has come”. In fact, most of the game's worst dialog comes when dying. I found that characters talk way too much in-game, and I heard pretty much every line the characters had to offer within my first 30 minutes of playing. I think that most players there may be better off turning down speech volume and coming back to the cut scenes later.
The music itself isn't actually bad, with a hard rock soundtrack that fits well with the game's intense and fast-paced action, but they occasionally become repetitive due to the small amount of tracks available. Sound effects are pretty much spot on and sound convincing, but other than the sounds of gunshots and reloading, there is not actually too much here.
The Punisher: No Mercy offers player a number of standard arena style modes. Included is the standard single player story, co-op and multiplayer modes, the latter comes with a number of multiplayer death match and team game types within. The story mode is told through a series of comic page vignettes with voice-overs and sound effects that accompany the comic panels. The levels in the story mode are all based on the multiplayer style game types like death match, team death match, and a hoard or zombie kill type mode. This is where the enemy attacks waves, with each succeeding wave getting more and more difficult. Most of this is also time based and you have to complete some modes before your timer hits zero.
As I began playing through the single player campaign I felt as if the story mode for The Punisher was nothing deeper than a means of introducing you to the game mechanics and allowing you to unlock a few extra weapons to take into the multiplayer modes. The story mode should take the average FPS player about an hour or so to complete which is pretty short, but remembering that this title is a downloadable PSN game it makes sense. The real fun should lay in the online multiplayer modes. While the games online modes are fun, there really isn’t too much here that we haven’t already seen before. The game feels as if it fell flat on its face after a certain point in development cycle. I found the game a bit rudimentary and bland with little or no replay value for myself. I think most FPS players will love the extras in customizing and character progression while online, but other than that the content is somewhat slim.
There is a cool option of customizing your character in a number of ways including your avatar. You can choose from the most popular characters, be it the Punisher himself or other major players in the Punisher franchise. One of my favourites is Jigsaw. Certain characters have bonuses associated with them, like Bushwacker’s bionic arm. Weapon customization is also an important part of play. Up to three weapons slots are available: close-quarters, tactical and special. Each weapon has three upgrade levels as well and can be rapidly levelled up by making kills (the funnest), grabbing upgrade pickups, or using the weapon upgrade mod. It is too bad upgrades vanish when you die, as it can be somewhat of a chore to regain your former power level.
The last and possibly most important part of character customization in The Punisher: No Mercy is the selection of active and passive mods. The passive mods are always on. They give such advantages as active healing, extra armour, or additional hit damage. Active mods can be activated by the player and typically have a cool-down or a re-charge period before they can be used again. These mods can make you faster, instantly upgrade your weapon, make you temporarily invulnerable, or even better invisible.
The game play is not without a few blemishes, like having to press up on the d-pad every time to activate your mic or if you melee attack while reloading you won’t auto-reload afterwards. I found no major problems with the games control scheme, although it took me awhile to warm up to the PS3’s controller.
If the game has one negative it would be trying to get a multiplayer co-op going with your friends. Getting online was a breeze, although the games I did play had noticeable lag quite frequently. The tough part is getting a co-op game going. You can only play it by friend invite and I don't know anyone on my PSN friends list who has this game yet. A good idea would have been to include an option for auto-matchmaking and I am sure that a friendly patch can fix this small gripe.
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