The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Guildhall Game Corner

The Punisher offers twisted gameplay

A couple of weeks ago I was handed THQ’s The Punisher (Xbox) to review. Not being a big comics reader and having wished that I’d never seen the film version, there was a certain amount of apprehension about playing and reviewing this game.

I anticipated 10 minutes game-time before becoming bored with it. But when I looked at my watch after playing for a while, I was stunned to see two hours had blinked by! This game is actually fun to play, in a twisted way.

The story: you play Frank Castle, an ex-marine and ex-police officer whose family has been murdered. Castle has becomes the most brutal kind of vigilante possible, and metes out justice to the criminal underworld of New York with some gory but enjoyable methods. It’s a fairly common premise for a video game, but this game has some hooks that makes it worthwhile to play.


The graphics are very solid without any issues that I’ve come across with previous Xbox games. Explosions and gunplay, a necessary part of a game like this, are extremely well done. All the levels are very atmospheric and have an authentic feel, with vivid and individual colors used to denote where you are and who you are fighting against. Against the Mafia, you’re surrounded by plush velvets and Italian-style stonework. Against the Eternal Sun syndicate, you’re surrounded by Japanese sculpture and clean simple lines.

The game uses a system called Havok Physics, with which you can interact with the environment and it should behave like the real world — knock over a chair in the game and it falls over just like in the real world. I had some fun moving boxes and chairs around, blocking a bunch of criminals into a corner and tossing a grenade at them. I’m not sure if THQ wanted this to happen, but it was a nice touch that I appreciated.

Castle is extremely well animated (I suspect THQ used motion capture technology to get Castle’s moves to look so real), but many of the enemies had the same basic moves — hide, crouch, run, fire around a corner, or walk forward with guns blazing.

There are four different factions that Castle faces throughout the game, so it would have been nice to see some individuality among the enemy behavior. I was expecting the Eternal Sun samurai to be sleek and lithe, while the Russian Mercenaries should have been gruff and tough. That was disappointing, but it’s only looking back at those action sequences that I can really be critical. While playing the game, I didn’t notice that much.

Most of the in-game cutscenes are performed by simulated handheld cameras, all shaky and quick movements. This seems to be homage to the film version, I doubt it came from the comics, and it mostly works.


Various missions control each of the levels in the game, but there’s one basic goal — kill everything that moves.

Like the majority of action games, Castle has a health bar that is depleted every time he is hit by gunfire or explosions, but THQ have created an interesting way of recharging Castle’s health. Instead of picking up health packs, Castle regains health by interrogating criminals he comes into contact with.

And this interrogation is where the game becomes really fun. Certain criminals have white Punisher symbols over their heads, indicating they have special information about the current mission. Castle can interrogate these criminals in the standard ways (such as Choke-Hold, Face-Smash) or he can make use of Special Interrogation points dotted around each level.

At these points, Castle can make use of the local environment to force extra information out of the criminal and attain Style Points (which are then used to increase armor, health, ammo counts and so on). There are over 100 different ways that Castle can interrogate (or punish) the criminal — you’ll never look at a wood-chipper the same way again. Yes, I said wood-chipper.

The control system is actually very easy to use. There are a limited number of controls on console game pads, and many games try to use one button to perform 10 different actions. The Punisher control system is very simple to learn and use. A nice touch is that the entire first level is a tutorial, with the action pausing automatically to flash helpful text on the screen. You can jump straight into this game without reading the manual.

Both player movement and camera control use the thumb sticks. I’m not a fan of thumb sticks myself, but after a very short time I was controlling both player and camera with ease.

But I have to say that after a while, I wasn’t so much intrigued by the shooting and killing, more by the interaction between Castle and the criminals — how to kill them in the most satisfying way. I even began to ignore the mission profile and tried to drag criminals to the Special Interrogation spots (while still being shot at), just to see their gory deaths. Not that I’m normally that way, but it was the highlight in what became, towards the end, a fairly repetitive game.


I really did enjoy playing this game; some of this review may make you think that I didn’t. But it’s not a game that I would play just because I have an hour to kill, there isn’t enough thrill in the gameplay for that. For fans of the comics and the film, it is a very nice conversion. For the rest of us, just play until you get to the wood-chipper. You won’t be disappointed.

The Guildhall at SMU is an intense 18-month certificate program in digital game development. The curriculum was designed by expert teachers working with leaders in the gaming industry to provide students with a solid foundation in game development. Visit

More to Discover