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Painkiller: Battle Out Of Hell

Dante, Virgil, Milton, Homer and the bloke who wrote the Revelations bit in the Bible. They all tried to describe the horrors of the underworld, yet all missed the mark spectacularly. Nope, it wasn't until plucky Polish developer People Can Fly managed to successfully recreate the sound of wooden stake on zombie face that modern civilisation truly realised the terrible fate that awaits those who sin. Or how fun it can be.

Now we have the expansion pack, containing all the things that expansion pack lore has demanded through the ages: new weapons (two) and new levels (ten), along with a difficulty rating that's gone through the roof. People Can Fly is holding its tarot cards pretty close to its chest, and most of Battle Out Of Hell's levels remain under wraps - apart from a sneak peak at a warped funfair and an insane Stalingrad level that the team let us fiddle with when they weren't looking.

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More Pain!
The key here is excess - more enemies, more bullets, more explosions and an exponentially increased need for the quickload button. To be honest, the level of onscreen action has been raised so high in the Stalingrad level that myself and my rig (itself pretty proficient at handling Painkiller last time round) exchanged some fairly worried looks. Russian music chants in the background, buildings collapse and tanks thunder around; bombs fall from the sky, fat men run around laying dynamite in your tracks and Russian and German zombies run amok with murder on their minds. Basically, there's a hell of a lot going on here.

The new weapon we played with (half 'meh!' semi-machine gun, half 'ooh!' flamethrower) also proved useful in what seems to be an increased need to swap weapons in the game - cutting down on my previous loyalty to the stakegun.

You'd think that my love for Battle Out Of Hell would be a given: I've practically been pushing a Painkiller box around the office and calling it my baby for months.

However, I can't help but feel there's something missing in what I've played so far - perhaps because while Painkiller-proper had periods of chaos interspersed with moments of utter insanity, BOUH is a merciless, all-out onslaught where you sometimes feel you die out of course, rather than your own lack of skill. Of course, this is one level speaking - so I'm not going to be too hasty, especially not when the fairground level looks so sweet.

Battle Out Of Hell is on its way - stakes will fly, bosses will tower and Daniel Garner might just get to heaven after all. Whether I'll still be sane by the end of it is another matter entirely.

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