Developer: Blue Omega Entertainment
Release date: May 22nd, 2009 (PC), May 26th, 2009 (Consoles)
Available on: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewer’s note: I originally wrote this review September 29th, 2009 for Giant Bomb. I am cleaning it up and putting it here as an effort to keep all my reviews in one place.
Every now and then a game gets released that is obviously not finished. It has issues like having many glitches and having awful gameplay and graphics. I’m talking about this because, clearly, Damnation is one of those games. Trying to pin itself as a combination of Gears of War and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, this game manages to not live up to either game nor any other game that rips off of them.
Damnation takes place in a steam punk setting where the Civil War went on another twenty years. In this time a large weapon manufacturer named PSI raises an army and takes over America. You play as Captain Hamilton Rourke, a no-personality commander of the resistance. Your job is to beat back Prescott’s forces and hopefully destroy PSI. At the same time, you learn that your fiancé Dayden is being held in one of PSI’s POW camps. Oh, and so is your team mate’s brother. Oh, and the professor’s daughter Jack is one of the PSI commanders. Oh, and PSI has a new super soldier that seems to have come from nowhere. You may notice I’m throwing these story elements at you at breakneck speeds. That is because that’s the same speed the game throws them at you. Damnation has no clue how to pace. You will move from one location to the next and then to another so fast it’s near impossible to keep up with. There is an interesting story buried under here somewhere, but it’s not worth digging up through this mess of cut scenes. It does not help that the game also does things like introducing magic for no reason other then forwarding the plot/telling people where others are/saving Rourke.
Sadly, the gameplay doesn’t fare much better than the plot. The game is broken down into three sections. You’ll either be shooting, platforming or driving. Starting with the shooting, you come to the biggest problem seconds into the game. Even though this is a third-person shooter, there is a lack of a cover system. Combining this lack of a cover system with some sluggish and poorly laid out controls leads to a truly awful experience. It doesn’t help that the enemy and friendly AI can’t seem to register simple commands and can often be found walking into walls or not moving at all. There is one exception to this, and that’s when you have a sniper rifle. The minute you zoom into an enemy, they know you are there and kill you in a second flat. Maybe it’s to make up for the god awful AI, but enemies are beyond overpowered in this game. It’s not a particularly difficult game per say, but enemies can and will mow you down faster then you can respond to them if given the chance. The game’s arsenal pretty much consists of all the TPS shooter stand bys, and you can hold two big weapons and a handgun. I think the one creative weapon out of the group were the grenades, which doubled as trip mines and remote mines. Besides that… there was a gun that shoots railroads spikes (Pretty much a copy of the Fallout 3 gun that does the same thing, and the Halo plasma pistol in the fact that you can charge it for more damage) but nothing really noteworthy.
The second part of the gameplay would be the platforming, easily the best part. Granted, that’s not saying much at all. Rourke has a bunch of acrobatic moves for him to pick from and he could get around an environment easily. Because the game world tends to be big, this means that you can use some platforming to jump around the map in different and unique ways. See a group of enemies? See if you can jump up somewhere to snipe them, or use a different route to go around back. The few times you do this are pretty cool, but before long you stop caring. I’m sure if this was implanted in a better game it would be more fun, but Damnation manages to suck the fun out of everything. There are a few parts in the game where you need to use the platforming to reach the next place to go. These few times manages to fall flat because of the game’s lack of a compass, map or any type of directions. They expect you to know where to go, but the answer is usually something incredibly obscure and difficult to find. More then once I had to refer to a guide to help me through these segments.
The third and final part of the gameplay are the motorcycle segments, which are just flat out boring. They usually consist of riding the motorcycle from point A to point B with little to no interaction in between. Every now and again you may have to ride on the side of a wall, or through a group of people who want to shoot you. Even this is not fun, wall riding is abused to often and the enemies only show up once or twice a ride. Also, the motorcycles make the same exact noise no matter how fast you’re going. It’s annoying as hell having to listen to this same sound for what could be about 10 minutes straight.
The game does have some multiplayer. The entire game can be played co-op either local or online, in case you feel like sharing the pain with a buddy. Likewise, there is a competitive mode that supports up to 12 players in either deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag or king of the hill. Sadly, I was not able to try out either feature since no one was playing the game on the PsN. There is likely a good reason for this though.
Graphic wise, Damnation is an ugly game. The dated graphics are just… bad. There is some nice artistic design, yes, but the technical stuff is not nice. Worst of all has to be the animations. While Rourke’s animations aren’t so bad, it’s everyone else’s that are notably bad. Like most games, Damnation tries to make games not lag by cutting some animations when enemies are to far away. For some reason though, to far away means “a few feet away.” It’s dead obvious when they do this, as you can see the enemies twitch hilariously in the distance. On the audio front, the most I can say about the soundtrack is that there is a soundtrack. I really didn’t listen to it. As for the voice actors… awful. God awful. Half of them don’t even sound like they are trying or interested. We’ve got fake accents all around, and some poorly written dialog too.
So, overall, how does Damnation fare? If you’re asking that then you haven’t read the review. It’s just simply a bad game. Awful. It’s a mismatch of bad shooting, platforming and driving segments. Nothing in this game works or is fun in anyway. It should be avoided and you should not even think of buying it.