The Punisher: No Mercy Review

By Darryl Kaye on July 16, 2009

It's only been a few years since his last outing on home consoles, but some more villains need Punishing and who better to dish out the retribution than The Punisher himself? This time however, the game is being developed by Zen Studios and it has been released exclusively on the PlayStation Network as a downloadable title.

As expected in a downloadable title, the story is rather short. However, it's crafted together in graphic novel-style storyboards which is a nice touch and it really brings in the Marvel feel. It's just a shame that the story itself is rather forgettable as it attempts to bring in as many characters as possible in what appears to be a story with no real coherence or point. What makes it even worse is that it's episodic, so after the four levels have been completed, the player is greeted by a "To be continued" message. It feels like a kick in the teeth and it's a shame that either the story present isn't more deep, or there was simply more story.

The single-player campaign is essentially just multiplayer maps with bots. Each level has a different objective, ranging from killing a certain amount of enemies, to literally winning a deathmatch. It seems a bit lazy, but it does the job. Players expecting some kind of linear level will be disappointed though as there just isn't one at all. It can be played co-operatively over the internet, but there's no local play unfortunately. It does make things a bit more fun though.

There is a good level of variety with the weapons and they look exceedingly detailed considering this is a downloadable title. There are three categories of weapons, which are set out in such a way as a player can only hold three weapons at a time. They range from the stereotypical pistol, to hulking great rocket launchers and the characters behave as such, really slowing their speed down if they're holding the heavier weapons. Alongside the weapons are also perks. Some are passive, but some have to be activated by the player. They help to even out the playing field a bit and the good thing is, upon dying, any perks and weapons can be swapped out.

One of the big drawbacks to the offline play is simply the AI. It can be exceedingly good sometimes, but others it can be exceedingly stupid. In a deathmatch scenario for example, the bots seem to have no real awareness of anything other than the target they are aiming at. Whereas in an all-vs-one scenario, the bots seem to spend a lot of their time running away from the player character. Their running patterns are also very poor, as they're very linear; it looks very computed.

Considering this game is a PSN title, it looks incredibly good. This is probably due to the fact it's using the Unreal 3 Engine, but it's still commendable. Some of the animations are a bit sketchy, but for the most part things look like a full-blown store title and that's not something to be snubbed.

However, when looking at replayability, it will nearly all be gained from playing online. The single player campaign is ridiculously short, taking approximately 30 minutes to complete. There is also no real incentive to play through it again, aside from a trophy here or there. The online is where the majority of the time will be spent on this game, but it's really difficult to get invested in it. While the gameplay actually seems quite good in offline play, it really starts to show its holes when playing online. Players seem to have a ridiculous amount of health and sometimes emptying an entire machine gun clip into someone doesn't guarantee success. That said, some of the game modes are actually quite fun, and it's a shame the gameplay detracts from them. There are eight different players that can be used though, and they all have different mannerisms, so it helps to keep things fresh.

Final Thoughts

Graphically, The Punisher: No Mercy looks like a full-blown title, but when looking a bit closer the cracks start to show. The AI is exceedingly buggy and the lack of any real structure in the single player campaign might put people off this title completely. If not, the fact it's exceedingly short definitely will. There are lots of multiplayer modes to enjoy if the player can get invested in it, but the experience overall isn't one that's easy to recommend.

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