This one slipped under the radar, and perhaps for a good reason. Hyped to be a “shooter gone vertical”, Damnation promised epic levels and frantic battles, with buckets of acrobatics to put lady Croft to shame. Sounds good yeah? Read on.
You play as Hamilton Rourke, a guy who just radiates that cold man on a mission look, in desperate need of a shave and as gruff as they come. One look at his industrial cowboy get up would lead you to assume he kicks ass and is not to be messed with. Set in an alternate history America where civil war has hampered technoligical progress, steam has remained the sole provider of power. Rourke is essentially a steampunk cowboy running loose and on a personal mission.
So do the graphics make it pleasant on the eye? Using the Unreal 3 engine you expect this game to at least compete with current titles, sadly it falls far short of any current gen title. Grass pops up within a few feet of you as you run forwards, and bushes consist of that annoying paper thin design that a five year old could construct after a little “Art attack” inspiration. When the action picks up you will see a drop in frame rate too, oh dear – things are not looking good.
Fire your gun and it gets worse: the damage it causes is also well out of sync, as are the death animations of the enemy AI. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the individual frames in the enemy death animations are visible, and really make this game feel cheap. Sure some draw distances are impressive, but what is the point in such scale if the pop up just in front of your feet is going to take your eyes off anything in the distance.
The acrobatics Rourke performs are okay, and for the most part seem reasonably fluid, but there is nothing that hasn’t been done before, and Mr Drake would wipe the floor with this guy. They serve their purpose at best, allowing Rourke to navigate the plain and bland environments and occasionally come close to pulling you back into the game when you would otherwise be dozing off. But you won’t be witnessing any jaw dropping moves and will simply appreciate the fact that at least these moves work.
You also have the ability to fire whilst edging along ropes, and that leads on to the subject of shooting. Rourke could not hit the bright side of a barn or even water if he fell out of a boat. You will waste an environmentally unfriendly amount of lead trying to hit the world’s dumbest AI; it’s so frustrating to fire at an enemy not more than ten feet away only to draw an outline of the lucky target on the wall behind. You would be better off emptying the bullets into your hand, forming a tight fist and then smacking the guy in the face.
The poor collision detection and lack of a decent (stick to the wall) cover system really takes any potential fun and drama out of the battles. The controls are a royal pain too, to reload you need to hold down the left trigger and then click L3, not an easy move when in the heat of battle, and for the love of all things shoot ’em up – why make it so complicated? In all honesty it took me until well into the game to even discover you can reload manually. I would have a dig at the lack of blind fire when taking cover, but it would seem you are constantly firing blind when out of cover to make up for it. An epic fail in the combat mechanics department.
Later in the game you will come across motorbikes, and the vehicle sections should at least offer a little fun for the money you paid. Sure enough the bikes are fast and not too shabby, with the ability to drive up walls conveniently marked with tracks signalling the correct path to take. Pulling back on the throttle and ploughing through enemies offers a little amusement for five minutes and gives you a Trophy for doing so.
There is very little in this game to draw you in, and it doesn’t make any effort to keep you interested. The story is boring, and the cut-scenes full of badly voiced drivel that will make you want to pop a cyanide pill. I have witnessed friendly AI attempt to shoot an enemy through floorboards, a feasible tactic when engaged in a fire fight, only the enemy targeted was actually on a ledge at least a hundred feet away from the floor being shot through. At one point I was confronted by two guards packing sniper rifles up high in two towers, a challenge it seemed. But no, the guards just stood there and quite happily let me chuck lead their way without so much as a flinch. Oh dear.
With Codemasters publishing this title you would expect a decent end product. But as it stands this game is in need of a new title, such as “Damn-we fluffed that one”. I cannot recommend this game at all, and would be doing an injustice to you the reader by not telling you how bad an experience this title will more than likely give you. With so many great titles arriving in the coming months, do yourself a favour and save your hard earned money for something more worthwhile.