Witchfire will hopefully be the long-awaited Painkiller followup that doesn't suck

I'm a big fan of Painkiller, so when The Astronauts—a studio founded by veterans of Painkiller developer People Can Fly—announced a return to the form in 2017 with Witchfire, I was very interested. We got a fresh look at the game today at the Summer Game Fest, and it's fair to say that my attention remains firmly fixed.

The trailer doesn't go too deep but it does have a similar sort of flavor to Painkiller: A pleasing blend of big, magic guns, crumbling dark fantasy landscapes, and bizarre monsters who go splat in interesting ways when the hammer falls. There's also glimpse at some supporting powers and environmental interactivity that could be fun, too.

It's quite a departure from The Astronauts' previous game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, but familiar territory for the studio nonetheless. "Witchfire is a dream project for us," The Astronauts co-founder and creative director Adrian Chmielarz said. "After The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, we’re back to familiar shooter territory, but with the benefit of 2022 graphics and design. Now we’re able to bring our dark fantasies to life with spine-tingling realism!"

Painkiller has been something of a cursed shooter series: The original, released in 2004, was brilliant, but the sequels have failed to recapture any of its magic. The Battle Out of Hell expansion was fine, but everything that's come since has been, well, bad. I've been idly looking for a decent Painkiller followup for close to 20 years now, and while I'm not holding my breath—it's been too many years, and too many disappointments—I am cautiously hopeful that Witchfire might finally be it.

Witchfire still doesn't have a release date, despite being announced a half-decade ago, but the trailer says an early access launch on the Epic Games Store is coming soon.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.