Pain

Pain is a sandbox game in need of a pail and shovel. Rag-doll physics are the primary plaything in this PlayStation Network download. Using a giant slingshot, players fling a Jackass-style stuntman toward a city skyline, slamming his body into brick walls, plate glass, and cases of explosives. The result is a kind of human pinball game where points (and sadistic pleasure) are racked up with every concussion. The game channels Burnout 3: Takedown with its angle on gleeful destruction. "Ooch" bonuses grant post-collision control—a necessity when trying to prolong your crash dummy's flailing rampage.

Before long, the novelty of trashing private property rapidly wears off, and a profound lack of customization stifles user creativity. The makers of Pain aimed to create an urban playground in the vein of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, but since players can only launch from one spot, their ability to explore and create their own "lines" is severely limited. It doesn't help that the game's prefab activities, particularly those for one player, feel phoned-in. Mime Toss and Spank The Monkey task players with flinging street performers into windows, or clotheslining bare-assed primates. Better are the multiplayer flavors of Bowling and Horse, but without online play, these offerings may well go unused. The good news is that the version of Pain we're playing now probably isn't its finished form. The game's developers promise updates, changes, and expansions. Though that's of little consolation to folks who've already forked over their dough.

Beyond the game: Pain should crib a couple of features from Halo 3. The game desperately needs user-created levels, where players pepper the game with obstacles, pedestrians, and explosives as they see fit. A built-in application that saves videos and kicks them out to YouTube would also be ideal.

Worth playing for: Set phasers to "lowbrow." Good aim can transform a building's neon sign from "Hotel Coral Essex" to "Hot Oral Sex."

Frustration sets in when: Players only get one character out of the box. Two more can eventually be unlocked, but before that, the game offers to sell you Santa and his sexy friend Cookie at 99 cents a pop. Talk about miserly.

Final judgment: An unfinished game that will likely see improvements over time.