Everything you need to know about this game can be summed up in the opening cut-scene. The player notices The Punisher examining his magazine clip. There is one bullet left. Then, a hit squad emerges from a room near by. As the hit squad is scavenging the area, one of them steps on an empty magazine. When the person looks up, he is greeted with a 12-gauge slug in his face and sent flying into his friends. Panicked, the hit squad starts to back up. The Punisher then proceeds to single-handedly murder the entire squad in what would best be described as The Punisher's take on CQC (Close Quarters Combat) from the Metal Gear Solid games. Except, well, brutally murdering everyone in sight. After the last enemy is killed, The Punisher then proceeds to exit the building and greeted by a couple dozen of New York's finest with about enough hardware to level the building. He is then arrested and thrown into Rykers Prison.
Well then, let's get started. On the premise of the story, fans of the comics will be happy to know that Garth Ennis (The man who has written one of the most critically acclaimed Punisher comics ever) and Thomas Jane (Yes, THE Thomas Jane of The Punisher movie) has lent his voice to the game.
(Thomas Jane from The Punisher movie)
(One of Garth Ennis's most celebrated comics)
Back to the plot, The Punisher is then seen in an interrogation cell. The detectives that join in grill him about the events that lead up to his arrest. This is where the levels are based off of during the game. It starts from The Punisher wiping-out an entire crack-house all the way to his attack on the building where he was arrested.
The first levels of the game are what makes The Punisher unique in the fact that the situations that he gets involved in could be classified as being realistic, due to the fact that the early enemies are crack dealers that have almost no training in fire-arms compared to The Punisher, who has an extensive background in military tactics and weapons expertise. The first few levels make it seem very possible that some of the actions The Punisher does can happen by somebody else tomorrow. Then half way through the game, the sense of realism decides to do a triple axle nose dive over a shark. By that I mean the final boss (START OF SPOILERS) is a mob boss that is wearing Tony Stark Iron Man armor that is also leading a massive prison riot using said stolen technology. (No, I am not making this up. He is legality wearing an Iron Man suit.) (END OF SPOILERS) So for about half of the game, it follows the direction of the comics, but then half way, the plot has a mind of its own. But let's serious, most of the people that have ever heard of The Punisher don't give two shits about the plot. Don't worry COD fanboys, the gameplay is just as brutal as The Punisher in the comics.
Since this is The Punisher we are talking about, it should come to no one's surprise that this game is VERY violent. I would even go as far as to say that at this writing of the review, (06/18/13) the game would still make it onto the lists of most violent games ever made by other online gaming web sites. Since this is a 3rd person shooter, the variety of weapons that you can get your hands on are very limited at first, but then you can use any weapon from 9mm pistols all the way to flamethrowers. There is a cool feature in the main menu where if you select the armory, The Punisher himself will give a narration on the different weapons available.
During the missions, you can obviously just shoot at the enemies with whatever, but where the game really shines is the close quarters executions. If you are on the PS2, you would run up on an enemy and hit square. The animations differ greatly from just shooting the guy in the back of the head, to slitting the guy's throat ear to ear. There is also a point system that is used in the game to purchase upgrades such as better body armor, adding scopes and silencers to different weapons, all the way to gaining health from kills. (A VERY useful upgrade on higher difficulties)
Another point where the game shine is the special interrogations and execution spots in the game. Special executions are marked with a golden skull and there are very useful for gaining extra points for upgrades. The same cannot be said for interrogations. If you decide to kill the person during the execution, not only will it look really cool, you will actually loose points instead of gaining them. Some of these are your standard point-the-gun-in-the-face-and-talk interrogations, all the way to using a frickin wood chipper!
(You can use your imagination on what happens here if you decide to execute the guy.)
The game also features a very interesting cheat code system. The way you unlock the ability to use them is buy getting a gold medal on certain levels by achieving a certain score near the end. These cheats are your usual unlimited ammo, infinite health, all weapons unlocked, all upgrades, the usual. However, the only way you can earn medals in the first place is to play the game on the hardest difficulty. So if you want to use those cheat codes, you're going to have to earn it. You also cannot use unlocked cheat codes to help you get other medals because if you do, the game will not save your progress.
Overall, if you find this game in $10 bargain bin somewhere, I highly recommend picking it up and enjoying the playthrough.