Painkiller: Hell Wars

Game review by
Chris Jozefowicz, Common Sense Media
Painkiller: Hell Wars Game Poster Image
Disturbing, disjointed, and dull -- adults.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Lots of guns, blood, and body parts. Players blast their way through hundreds of realistic-looking fantasy enemies.


Some partial nudity on one female character, obscured by long hair.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a violent, bloody first-person shooter game: Players use an array of fantasy weapons to shoot, burn, blow up, electrocute, and chop up enemies. Bloody body parts fly around and even stick to walls and ceilings. The story is set in purgatory and hell, so it features satanic imagery, and players fight against demons; a recurring character is shown partially naked. The game also features an online mode.

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What's it about?

PAINKILLER: HELL WARS traces the adventures of Daniel Garner after he and his wife are killed in a car crash and they end up in the afterlife. Before Daniel can join his wife in heaven, an archangel recruits him to fight Lucifer. The lord of darkness has amassed an army of demons to take on heaven, which they plan to reach by first fighting through purgatory.

For die-hard shooter fans, Painkiller offers some impressive open arenas and boss battles against giant monsters that tower over Daniel. Although there are only five guns, each packs a wallop and has a secondary function. The game also has a decent online multiplayer mode with variations on shooter classics like deathmatch and capture the flag.

Is it any good?

Painkiller hearkens back to classic first-person-shooter games in which players had two goals: run and gun. In small doses, this old-school violence -- like blasting hell's minions to a pounding heavy metal soundtrack -- can be exciting. But extend those doses past 10 or 15 minutes, and Hell Wars becomes one dull slog through purgatory.

Not all action games need tight stories, but the levels in Painkiller feel particularly disjointed -- and disturbing. Players blow knife-wielding children apart in a haunted orphanage, move on to electrocute evil nurses in a haunted laboratory, and then zip off to incinerate zombies in a parking garage. Mostly, though, gamers will find Painkiller too simple. Much of the game's action involves fighting the same enemies as they reappear in an area over and over until Daniel has killed enough for a door to open.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in first-person shooters. Do bloody kills and graphic violence make this genre more exciting? Is the violence more acceptable if it's directed against monsters rather than enemies that are human beings? Families should also discuss proper online etiquette.

Game details

  • Platforms: Xbox
  • Price: $29.99
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Dreamcatcher
  • Release date: August 14, 2006
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Intense Violence
  • Last updated: June 21, 2019

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