Until a developer creates a game that puts players into the shoes of a severely demented protagonist who disembowels his adversaries with a plastic fork and wears their intestines as suspenders, The Punisher will hold the notorious distinction of being the most grotesque and violent game to date. While most of the gameplay unfolds through fairly tame and enjoyable shootouts reminiscent of the Max Payne series, it paves its own bloody path with a unique interrogation system that shows just how ruthless and psychotic The Punisher can be.
Whether you are holding an adversary at gunpoint, dangling them off of a ledge, or threatening to grind the flesh off of their face on an electric sander, The Punisher knows just how to make people talk. It's what happens after they squeal that is truly disturbing. You can do the humane thing and let them go, or you can finish them off in a way that usually leaves a blood smear the size of Rhode Island. Horror movie fanatics like myself will appreciate just how creative Volition has been with the vast array of deaths in this game. Limbs and heads are lost in fans, bodies are crushed in compactors, humans are added to shark and python diets, facial cosmetics are taken to the next level in deep fryers, and I've learned that wood isn't the only thing that burns in fireplaces. These executions are so grisly that you can't help but grimace at each drop of blood that is spilled. They are sick. They are wrong. But they are also executed brilliantly. If you think that a specific execution may be too much for your heart to handle, don't do it. Just get the info you need and release your prisoner. The player is the one who determines how violent the action gets. Do you value your ethics? Or do you want a gruesome thrill? The choice is yours.
Mechanically, the interrogation system is easy to use and the array of actions that The Punisher can utilize is quite impressive. Volition also did a phenomenal job with level design. No two stages feel alike, and each is brimming with unique death traps, scripted events, and questioning techniques. The game also embraces the atmosphere of the comic series to such a degree that it also feels like you are playing through one of its stories. Several of Frank Castle's recent affairs in the comics are recreated, and Volition even enlisted the talent of longtime Punisher scribe Garth Ennis to give this script that authentic feel. To much surprise (this is going to floor you), this game isn't nearly as gory as the comic book. Regardless though, The Punisher still takes video game violence to the next level. In many ways, it makes Manhunt look as meek and mild as Sesame Street.
It's a decent play, but it doesn't stack up to other run and gun shooters like Max Payne and Psi-Ops. Laughable enemy AI, a poor targeting system, and sluggish movement really hold it back from being anything more than average.