|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Blue Omega||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Codemasters||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 26, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
In the months leading up to its release, Damnation was a game that really sounded like a winner. It was described as a title whose gameplay mixed elements of climbing, platforming, exploration, and shooting wrapped perfectly in a steampunk Civil War era setting. The concept alone was intriguing, which made me fairly excited to see how the game would finally turn out. Unfortunately, the finished product fails to take advantage of its own interesting concepts and instead winds up just feeling like an unfinished and half-baked mess.
The premise behind the games unique backdrop is that steam power is discovered during the Civil War era. In turn, this allows for rapid advancements in technology that otherwise wouldnt have been possible at the time. More specifically, this is mostly just applied to war-related technology such as more advanced weaponry, robotic prosthetics for soldiers, and even fully functional steam-powered robots. As expected, these advancements also come at the price of extending the Civil War by several decades and causing even more pain and devastation to the country and its inhabitants. While the steampunk twist is an interesting idea, it just comes off feeling like a lame excuse for having more modern weaponry and vehicles in an otherwise old-time setting.
The story of Damnation is one that revolves around the main character named Hamilton Rourke. You play as Rourke, a member of a rebel gang trying to stop an evil industrialist named Prescott from taking over the country. With the aid of a never-ending supply of steam-powered robots and serum-controlled troops, Prescott is seemingly unstoppable. However, for Rourke, stopping Prescott comes secondary to tracking down his missing fiancée, which oddly enough winds up having something to do with Prescott. Basically, the story itself is largely laughable and extremely clichéd, and the spoken dialogue doesnt do it any favors either. Listening to characters converse is rarely anything but painful, be it due to the terrible dialogue or how its delivered or, more often than not, both.
Of course, most players wont really care about the storyline because they likely wont get a chance to experience it all. This is because the gameplay in Damnation is borderline broken on top of being horrifically repetitive and wildly uninteresting. Since this title is listed as a shooter, Ill start with just how bad the simple act of shooting is. Players will control Rourke from a third-person perspective and have access to two larger guns, a pistol, and a handful of mines that can be thrown and detonated at all times. No matter which weapon you are using, except for the sniper rifle or anything that explodes, it will take way more rounds than it should to take out even the weakest of enemies.
The gunplay in Damnation is among the sloppiest and most unsatisfying Ive ever experienced. Even at a close range, the bullets you fire seem to spread out as though they were meant to create an outline around whatever you are shooting at rather than actually hitting the target you are aiming for. Zooming in can slightly help with this problem, but it is still pretty unreliable and makes shooting even more cumbersome, as youll need to depress the right analog stick every time you try to take aim at an enemy. If you manage to get more than twenty feet away from your target and dont have a sniper rifle, you might as well give up any hope of taking them out before you run out of bullets.
Thankfully, in situations such as these, the games ludicrously brain-dead A.I. actually comes in handy. When positioned on a high ledge or a decent distance away from your enemies, they will often just stand around while you to pick them off one by one. Since you can basically only do this using a sniper rifle, perhaps thats why you can only carry twelve bullets for it at a time. Things dont get much better when in close proximity, as they will just resort to running from one position to another, stand out in the open, or somehow remain blissfully unaware of your presence. Its pretty sad when you walk straight up to an enemy, who is facing in your direction mind you, and unload ten to fifteen bullets into them without any reaction whatsoever. Sadly, this isnt a rare occurrence either, happening to me at least a few times every level.