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May 27, 2010

The Comics Console: The Punisher

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Written by: andrewhurst
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Thankfully, The Punisher has no direct ties to any Punisher films, but that doesn’t stop it from being an utter disappointment. Frank Castle is a guy all but tailor made for video games, yet somehow we still haven’t seen that great Punisher game. The typical excuses, like budgeting or a short development window, just aren’t good enough for this particular game. The formula for a great Punisher game is simple: Lots of guns, lots of bullets, lots of deserving victims, and lots of punishment. Is that really so hard?

The Punisher

Publisher: THQ
Developer: Volition Inc.
Platforms: Playstation 2, Xbox, PC
Release Date: Jan. 17, 2005
ESRB: Mature

At its core, The Punisher is a third-person-shooter. As Frank Castle, you storm city streets and criminal hideouts delivering your very direct brand of justice. This, being the game’s main fundamental angle, is where the developers failed the hardest. A shooting game is nothing if the shooting part of the game isn’t satisfying. In the center of your screen is a small circle which acts as a cross hair for your weapon. Using the thumbsticks on your controller, you’ll move around first-person-shooter style with a vertical and horizontal axis. The issue with this is not only is it overly sensitive (even adjusting the sensitivity helps very little), the cross hair seems to actually jump around at times, making it even more difficult to aim properly. A click of your thumbstick will focus in on targets for more precises shots, but it helps very little.

The developers added a special change up to their repetitive shooting campaign in the form of a type of berserker mode. As you’re on your killing spree, you fill a meter that allows you to go extra crazy and start throwing knives at your human targets. Sadly, neither this nor the standard shooting feels satisfying. The game has a large selection of artillery, but all the guns shoot exactly the same. The power behind a small pistol is the same as the power behind the biggest shot gun. Later in the game I actually stopped paying attention to what gun I was using because there was no difference.

One of the game’s gimmicks is its interrogation mini-games, where you drag a bad guy to a marked area and threaten him with a painful death to squeeze out information. All the mini-games are exactly the same, just tapping a button with specific pressure, enough to make your man talk, but not enough to kill him before he squeals. But none of these interrogation games are really necessary, since none of the goons you’ll threaten have anything to say that impacts the game at all. Actually, nothing anyone has to say matters. The only upside to doing these is that if done successfully, your health meter completely fills.

And if it isn’t bad enough that the gameplay is slow and boring, just the overall presentation of the game is poor. Graphics are decent given the period it was released in, but level designs are bland and unimpressive. A very annoying issue is the game’s camera. It doesn’t handle the small areas you’ll be running through very well, and you’ll be constantly wrestling with it to see straight. This hectic camera along with the difficult aiming just makes the game more frustrating than fun.

The game’s story is forgettable. Just the same “shoot up all the mob bosses” cliche that Punisher is usually stuck in, although there are a few nice Daredevil and Tony Stark references, and Detective Soap co-stars in the game. Voice acting isn’t bad, but nothing special. The sound design just sucks. Again, guns all sound as similar as they shoot, and explosions are weak.

Even though the trademark Punisher skull logo on the cover of the box resembles the one from the 2004 film, the game has no ties to any film, even coming out ten months after the Thomas Jane picture. This granted the game a huge opportunity to be great, and it still fell short.

The Punisher is a game that just doesn’t live up to its main character’s reputation. 1/5

Some may think I’m being too hard on this game, but given who the Punisher is and who the fans know he is, this game was a lame softcore attempt at bringing Frank Castle to life. The developers focused more on cheap gimmicks and tricks instead of sharpening the game’s meat and potatoes. We don’t need to throw knives, or torture thugs for no reason, but we do need a shooting mechanic that is fun. The hugest Punisher fans will most likely be able to appreciate this game somehow, but anyone looking to pump some punishment into crime’s skull will be sorely disappointed.

Checkout The Comics Console next week, when we begin our countdown to the release of Transformers: War for Cyberton, and all through the month of June we’re playing Transformers games!

Andrew Hurst



  1. I think that was the problem with this game they developers figured that they would just add some guns, bullets,Frank Castle, and a high body count and that would be enough. It wasn’t and since the story was lacking along with the repetiveness of the game play killed this title that actually started off pretty well.

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  3. This game was…ok.

    I enjoy it when I play it, but it does get repetitive. Some of the kills can be pretty brutal though!

  4. Aron

    Awww, man! I LOVE this game! Probably at a tie with Arkham Asylum for my favorite comic game ever!

    How can you go wrong with popping out of a dead mobster’s casket at a wake and killin’ all kinds of people? That was awesome!

    The final boss was freakin’ hard as hell, though!

  5. Billy

    Sounds like this game would get boring quickly.

  6. Sounds like the majority of your complaints didn’t apply to the PC version; that’s the way a lot of these 3rd-person shooters go on consoles.

  7. Aaron Nicewonger

    I gotta disagree.
    I really enjoyed this game. It wasn’t perfect. But damn it was close.
    This game and the old Arcade game (also ported to Sega) were good stuff.

  8. Mike V

    The game does have a small connection to the 2004 film in that it uses the same skull, Thomas Jane voices Frank Castle, and keeps the Saint family as the ones that killed the Castles, with Jigsaw being John Saint.

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