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Submitted by Derek dela Fuente on July 12 2004 - 00:00

The guys at Volition risk the wrath of The Punisher to give TVG a sneak peek…

With a Movie on the way, Punisher, based on a Marvel comic strip character, has a lot going for it and is not your typical third person shooter. With a big mystery to unravel, the lead Frank Castle, is a very angry man. Derek dela Fuente, spoke with affable James Tsai, at Volition, to find out more about this very moody looking game.

Driven by a hatred of crime bordering on insanity, Frank Castle became The Punisher, a one-man army whose mission goes far beyond revenge. Taking on the city's high-powered crime lords, he wreaks havoc on the corrupt with methods reserved for those on the wrong side of the law. The Punisher video game represents the best of over 30 years of Punisher comic books and depicts some of the grittiest storylines in the Marvel Universe.

The dark humour and aggression of the comic books is a focus for the team and this is certainly not your pretty run of the mill Marvel offering.

TVG: Whose decision was it to create a game around the Marvel comic strip character The Punisher and what are the inspirations and aspirations for the game?

The decision to create a Punisher game came about as an amalgamation of several factors: the availability of the license to THQ, the desire to produce a gritty and realistic shooting game, and the enthusiasm we had here at Volition to be involved with a famous comic book franchise of which many of us were fans. We have lots of team members who have been reading the Punisher on their own for years now, and those who didnâ??t have quickly been converted. Itâ??s an exhilarating feeling to get to work on something that youâ??ve been an enthusiast of for a long time.

TVG: Could you tell us some of the qualities about the main character and the universe the game is set in that makes it so suitable for a video game?

The Punisher is ideal for a video game because the character is so complex and simple at the same time. He is an unrepentant and resourceful killer, which serves as the basis for both the fundamental shooting element as well as the unique interrogation and environmental killing game mechanics we feature. His unwavering belief that he is justified in his actions, even as he is hunted by police and lawmakers, allows us to generate wonderful depth of story in that the writing can address issues such as moral relativism and the value of preserving innocent life over destroying criminal life. The player can be good or bad, innocent or guilty, brutal or methodical â?“ the Punisher taps into this visceral undercurrent of emotional conflict that has inspired many other games already on the market.

TVG: What kind of feedback will the team get from Marvel Comics pertaining to the game and also what kind of research and accuracy will the game have with the comic strip? (To add, is the expertise of Writer: Mike Baron, Artists: Hugh Haynes/Jimmy Palmiotti being sought?)

We are working closely with Marvel comics to ensure that the game is representative of everything the Punisher embodies: justice and judgement. They have been very active in providing thoughtful feedback on critical elements of game design and also act as an additional source of constructive criticism on the look and feel of our characters and levels. Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti, two creative veterans of the comic book industry who have worked closely with Marvel in the past, have also been brought on board to help us tighten up the story and make sure everything has a guaranteed â??Punisher feelâ??.

TVG: What is the basic overview/storyline to the game and what kind of actions will be the main focus of the game? How have you gone about selecting the storylines when there are over 30 years worth of material?

The Punisher universe is ripe with interesting scenarios and plot lines that are being carefully woven together to form a complex but original game world that should feel brand new and yet instantly familiar to a player at the same time. Some of the more memorable moments for the character, such as disposing of his enemies in Central Park Zoo, are no-brainers for inclusion in our plot. At this time, the game story is incomplete and undergoing revision, but players are guaranteed an experience that pits them against some of the most vile thugs in the Marvel universe â?“ expect to see several villains that Frank Castle has done battle with over the years, such as Jigsaw, the Russian, and well connected crime families such as the Gnuccis. The game takes place a few years after the events in the movie, when the Punisher has become more experienced and has a more steely perspective on his role in the world.

TVG: Is there any cross over from the film or the actions appearing in the Punisher? Will it have the same storyline and if so the game is out late in the year whilst the film early, would this not cause a problem?

The upcoming game incorporates the strongest elements of the Punisher franchise, both comic and film. The story will not run parallel to that of the movie; though the transformation of Frank Castle from family-oriented war veteran to steely vigilante is addressed in the game, the plot will occur some years after the original story fans will see in the film. The game strikes a strong balance between incorporating the history of the Punisher and staking out new territory for the player to experience.

TVG: Are there any premises the team has made i.e. to have plenty of diversity, interaction, action, use of weapons? How essentially does the team recreate the kind of mood and ambiance that a comic sets?

Our entire goal is to put the player inside the Punisherâ??s mind, to see things as he sees them, to make the choices that he makes. Every level will feature a strong mix of gunplay in an action oriented locale, interaction with the environment for interrogation techniques, physics-simulated objects that react to impact and can be used as weapons by or against the player. When laying out gameplay, we keep in mind that we are trying to recreate memorable â??Punisher momentsâ?? that are reminiscent of the defining elements of the comic.

TVG: How technology innovative will the team be in setting new technical ground? Is this low on the priority list and what engine will they be using?

The Punisher is running on a greatly enhanced version of the Red Faction 2 engine which can use deferred rendering to show environments with 600% more polygons than we have employed in the past. By removing the design complications of Geo-Mods, we are able to focus on making the AI handle a wider variety of combat situations and behave more realistically. Additionally, weâ??ve implemented our custom â??Interrogation Modeâ?? which allows players to actually control how the Punisher treats his suspects and what he does when heâ??s trying to shake them down for information. Weâ??ve made a fair number of advancements from technical, design, visual, and audio standpoints throughout the entire project.

TVG: Looking at other comic strip games placed onto the console what are the teamâ??s thoughts on their inventiveness?

Games based on comics or those based on television or film face the challenge of offering innovative, original gameplay and incorporating familiar elements that stay true to the license under which they are adapted. For some superheroes, the defining elements of the franchise are so unique (swinging across webs, flying faster than a speeding bullet, etc.) that they lend themselves nicely to interesting gameplay that has not been explored in past development efforts. Other story realms, however, are often based more on realism and defined by a lot of character interaction; in these cases, the onus is on the developer to create innovative gameplay to set the title apart from the lookalikes. The Punisher will be one of the first games to take a character with no superhuman strength, no x-ray powers or laser beams, no wall climbing ability or regenerative healing, and deliver a compelling, unique experience like nothing else the player has ever seen.

TVG: What kind of cast and weapon list will be on offer?

Players can expect an arsenal of real-world weaponry inspired by the Punisherâ??s tools of the trade as portrayed in both the film and comics. His signature Colt 1911s are the staple of his handgun collection, supplemented by semi-automatics and revolvers. And never being one to shy away from assault rifles, such as the M4 Carbine or a trusty 12 gauge shotgun, fragmentation grenades, flashbangs, and just about any lethal implement he can fashion from the environment around him, Frank Castle will be well armed in his crusade against the criminal elements of New York.

The voice acting cast is yet to be finalised for the game. Because the dialogue of the Punisher, both internally and externally, is so critical to defining his character, recording game voices will not begin until we are 100% confident we have actors who can carry the roles with the intensity that is needed.

TVG: How would you describe the genre of the game and can you sum up in one sentence what you hope the experience to be?

The game is a new breed of third person action shooter that brings to the forefront the sometimes difficult but always violent distinction between criminality and justice. One sentence that summarizes what we want the player to feel when playing would be: â??I choose, I judge, I kill.â?


The Punisher film, starring Thomas Jane, John Travolta and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, is a production of Marvel Studios and Artisan Entertainment.

We'll have more information on The Punisher soon.

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