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VIDEO GAME Getting comic hero right isn't always easy

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Be the judge, jury and executioner as Thomas Jane.
The Punisher, THQ/Volition, PlayStation 2, Xbox, $50.
Fans of the Marvel comic-book franchise who have had to sit through two horrible Hollywood movies finally have something to celebrate: THQ has done justice to Frank Castle, the vigilante hero of the comic. This third-person-perspective action game effectively puts you in the combat boots of this one-man judge, jury and executioner.
Although Thomas Jane, who played The Punisher on the big screen, lends his voice to the game, its visual style stays faithful to that of the original comics. In its story, written by Marvel scribes Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti, you'll battle numerous mobsters, terrorists and other enemies as you traverse 16 levels.
The mayhem
As you might expect from the Mature rating on the box, The Punisher offers more than 100 ways to send these foes to their richly deserved fate using both an arsenal of weapons and moves. For example, you can fool a thug by throwing your shotgun to him, then stab him in the face after he catches it. The over-the-top violence includes the ability to interrogate -- that is, torture -- enemies using such persuasive tools as a wood chipper and an aquarium tank filled with piranhas. If you feel like tossing your opponent into the chipper or the tank even after he's answered your questions, you can do that, too.
Much of the actual combat plays no differently than that of any other shooter, but the game makes good use of its comic material to offer fans a rewarding experience. Like its hero, it's violent and bloody, but also entertaining. And in the end, the bad guys always lose.