Did you hear? The Punisher is in the next series of brilliant-except-for-that-last-episode-which-was-clearly-rushed Netflix series of Daredevil, allowing all sorts of people to proclaim they ‘love Punisher‘ and ‘you should read ‘Welcome Back, Frank’, it’s the epitome of the character‘, ‘did you know he was originally a dog?’ and other such Wikipedia copied soundbites which may or may not be true…
Not that I’m a comic book elitist, far from it, I just find it funny that everyone suddenly becomes an expert on b-level characters once they break into a bigger, more popular medium…
Speaking of bigger mediums, there’s only two games you need to worry about when it comes to ya boi Frank Castle, the first being Capcom’s excellent arcade brawler, handily titled The Punisher.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I fucking love me a scrolling brawler, especially when they’re put together with such clear love like this game was. Huge sprites full the screen as heavily detailed backgrounds scroll away behind you. The animation is absolutely perfect here, take a look at the gif below.
Check out all the little details as Frank mows down some helpless punks: his face changes from a snarl to a more severe growl, his arms springing back from the recoil of the gun, the bullet casing flying around and of course, that lovely light from the muzzle illuminating him; it really is incredible.
But to quote your Mum: ‘Graphics ain’t everything’ and how right she is and thankfully, Punisher has the gameplay to back it up. Levels take the standard ‘beat the shit out of everything’ approach, with Pun having a nice range of attacks from the usual punch combo to straight up smashing skulls into pavements with an Izuna drop. But every now and then, Big P will pull out his gun and go to town with infinite ammo and waves of enemies. It’s not massive variety, but it certainly breaks things up.
With its attention to detail, nice little character touches and one of the best continue countdowns ever, this ranks amongst the best brawlers Capcom produced, which is saying a lot considering the stone cold classics they put out during the 90’s. And oh my, this advertising artwork. 90’s Capcom was just the best.
And the second player character was Nick Fuckin’ Fury…so there’s that too…
In 2004 when all the wider world had really seen of Frank Castle was a really strange Dolph Lundgren film adaption, we were gifted another cinematic crack at the character that was…alright. I guess? And along with a glorious turn in film as a Russian Sailor by Kevin ‘Big Sexy’ Nash, we got a PS2 game, which was rather lovely.
Ranking up there with Wolverine’s Revenge as a forgotten gem of the PS2 era, the game is a loose combination of the film and the now classic Garth Ennis run on the comics Punisher and takes all the cues it possibly could from Max Payne without being a Max Payne game. Though where that series reveals in wonderfully overblown Noir tropes, The Punisher puts heavy focus on glorious, over the top violence.
The game offers you plenty of thugs, gangsters and drug dealers to plow through with a variety of weapons and it feels great bursting into a room of mobsters playing poker only for them to freak out when they see Castle standing there, floor length trench coat, shotgun in hand and scatter as you unload your guns mercilessly. There’s also a great ‘rage’ meter mode. Chain enough kills and Frank will take out two knives and get up close and personal with the criminal scum for a limited time.
Famous at the time for the interrogation gimmick, little set pieces activated by the player dragging a wounded enemy near specific parts of scenery to trigger a mini-game of sorts in which you use drills, wood-chippers, welders, fish tanks, car doors, oven hobs, windows, to simply hanging guys off buildings, to get information from them. Push them too far however and you get a pretty graphic kill.
The absolute epitome of violence for violence sake…but that’s why it’s great. The comics are full of over the top violence, sold as a power fantasy for anyone who’s ever wanted to take things into their own hands. Bad people getting their just desserts at the hands of a man who sees everything with the absolute finality of a black and white world.
By no means a solid game, it has flaws – mostly the controls feel incredibly floaty and feedback from the guns feels a bit weak, but the well written story, cameos from other Marvel characters, the attention to the comics and some great voice acting from Punisher actor Thomas Jane helps lift this game above being an average shooter to a decent little waste of your time.
So that’s it. Go forth with this new knowledge and play some forgotten gems. Just don’t go back as far as the Amiga game.