Replay – Level One: The Punisher (2005)
This is Replay. Replay is a weekly segment where I take a look at a game from years past that got overlooked at it’s time of release and didn’t get the credit it deserved. Well, here at Replay, we give those games the credit they deserve. Today, we are looking at The Punisher (2005), a game based on the 2004 film of the same name, with more to offer than meets the eye.
The Punisher is a game appearing on the Xbox, PS2, and PC (it also got a Windows Phone port, so for all three of you with Windows phones, there you go) in 2005. The Punisher is based on the film of the same name starring Tom Jane, released on April 16th, 2004 (you can read more about that film here, or watch the trailer here).
That’s right, a movie based game. Now, allow me to address what everybody and their grandmother are thinking; “A game based on a movie that a loser on the internet is calling a hidden gem? BLASPHEMY! What is the world coming to?” However, it is 100% true. This diamond in the rough is one of the VERY few movie based games (bonus points given that it is a move based game made after video games reached the third dimension) that is actually good. In fact, not only is it good, but I would assert it is even great, to the point of surpassing the very film it is based on; The Punisher.
The Punisher follows a completely original story, following Frank Castle as he goes on a rampage against the mobs of Hell’s Kitchen, such as the Yakuza, the Gnucci’s, the Russians, and even Kingpin and his gang.
The story begins with The Punisher killing several Yakuza, and leaving the building he is in, where the police are waiting outside. After capturing him and taking him to Ryker’s Island, he is interrogated by two detectives, telling of the events leading to his arrest. This is where the game really begins. The game then cuts away to a flashback, where you are in the War Room (Frank’s apartment). Here you select your weapons (which you start with almost none), and use the War Zone to select missions. This leads you to your first mission, where you are tasked with clearing out a crack house for, and I quote, “target practice.”
After clearing out the crack house, you then exit the building. However, as you leave the building, you are almost ran over by a black car,
prompting Castle to follow the vehicle, tracing it to a chop shop nearby. As I’m sure you guessed, Frank then goes there and kills all the criminals there, including the owner (of whom he kills with a car compactor. No, there’s no relevance there, it’s just a badass moment), a Gnucci lieutenant, who confesses that the shop is controlled by the Gnucci crime family, headed by Ma Gnucci. This leads Punisher to Lucky’s Bar,where he kills one of Ma’s sons, Bobby Gnucci.
Ma, in order to get revenge for her son’s death, Ma hires Bushwacker to set up an ambush in order to kill Castle. In order to do this, Bushwacker kidnaps Frank’s neighbor, Joan. Castle tracks Joan and Bushwacker to the Central Park Zoo. There he rescues Joan, but at the expense of Bushwacker getting away.
The Punisher then goes to Bobby Gnucci’s mob funeral killing Eddie (Ma’s other son). (Castle does this by throwing Eddie out a window of the building, where he gets impaled on the fence spikes below. Again, no relevance, I just thought it was badass.) Punisher then goes to the Gnucci household to kill Bushwacker and Ma. Punisher wipes out Ma’s remaining men, leading to Bushwhacker, of whom he also kills. (This death is likely the most gruesome in the game. Punisher rips off Bushwacker’s rocket launcher arm at the shoulder, which ends at the elbow, and shoots him. This knocks Bushwacker off a terrace, to the cold ground below. Again, this isn’t an important plot point, it’s just something I found awesome.) Punisher then finds Ma, and throws her out a window, killing her.
As Punisher is leaving, he finds out the Gnucci’s are getting drug money
from the Russian Mob. So, he heads to the docks, where he hears the Russians are smuggling a nuke into New York City. Punisher raids the ship it was supposedly on. Finding nothing, Punisher returns to his apartment, where an assassin known as The Russian is waiting. After beating The Russian, Punisher learns his next lead: Grand Nixon Island. Here he meets Nick Fury, who helps him prevent the nuclear missile from launching. Both escape the island before the missile detonates, destroying Grand Nixon Island.
Punisher returns to Hell’s Kitchen, only to find Kingpin has been taking over old Gnucci territory. Punisher then raids Fisk industries, Kingpin’s headquarters, where he fight’s Kingpin’s right-hand man, Bullseye.
After throwing Bullseye off of a skyscraper, Kingpin warns Punisher his real enemy is the Yakuza. The Punisher then learns that a sect of the Yakuza, the Golden Sun, are taking over old Gnucci and Russian territories.
Punisher then learns the Golden Sun are after high tech and armor, so he
goes to Stark Industries (yes, the one owned by Tony Stark) to prevent them from stealing the technology. This leads The Punisher to the Takagi building, the headquarters of the Golden Sun leader, Takagi. Punisher learns from Takagi that Jigsaw has infiltrated the Yakuza, gaining followers. As Jigsaw is in Ryker’s Island, the Golden Sun plan to break him out. Punisher then allows himself to get taken to Ryker’s Island to confront Jigsaw. This brings us to the present, where a riot breaks out in the prison. Castle escapes his cell during the riot, and chases Jigsaw to the roof. Here, Castle beats Jigsaw, despite the stolen Iron Man suit Jigsaw wore. Castle then leaves Ryker’s in a helicopter, throwing Jigsaw out on his way out, killing him.
The final cutscene shows Kingpin swearing revenge on The Punisher as an emergency responder is loading Bullseye onto a stretcher.
The Punisher features a large number of characters, including several cameos by other Marvel characters. Here is a full list of all recognizable appearances:
- Punisher (obviously) who is voiced by none other than Tom Jane, reprising his role as The Punisher.
- Matt Murdock (Daredevil) who makes a brief appearance as Frank Castle’s lawyer.
- Nick Fury, who is on Ryker’s Island in all his awesomeness.
- Black Widow, who simply makes a brief cameo.
- Ma Gnucci, who dies by The Punisher’s hand.
- Eddie Gnucci, also dead.
- Bobby Gnucci, who was the first to die among the Gnucci crime family.
- Jigsaw, leader of the Golden Sun.
- Takagi, former leader of the Yakuza.
- Kingpin, who is a crime boss in Hell’s Kitchen, and basically the only villain to survive.
- Bullseye, Kingpin’s right-hand man, who dies in the most boring way possible.
- The Russian, who is a beast of a man.
- Bushwacker, who is a constant pain in everything he is in.
Mentions and References
These guys are just Marvel characters who got mentions, who I wanted to recognize.
- Captain America, Avenger
- The Thing, Fantastic Four
- Sunfire, X-Man
Now, I am well aware a game is not made on a decent story and cool characters alone. So, how does the game play, you may ask? Well, I can assure you, it has aged incredibly well, and is still a blast.
The Punisher is a third-person shooter, with remarkably fluid controls. Everything you do feels like a natural extension of your character, with the only disconnect being while you are holding a body shield, as your ability to turn is hindered by your lack of speed, and while dual wielding weapons, as the reloading is…weird. The dual wielding is hard to explain, but basically you have to drop a gun to reload, which is not an easy task to do without simply emptying your clip. Neither of these hinder gameplay, but they do get frustrating.
To conclude, The Punisher is a classic of a game, with fun gameplay, an awesome cast, and a creative story which will likely outlive the film it’s based on, which almost seems to fall flat in comparison. It is a game everybody needs to experience, and the best part is, it’s cheap, averaging less than $20 USD for the Xbox version (which is easily the best version).