Gameplay: 4 (cool parkour style however other games does this a lot better / crappy storyline)
Graphics: 8 (beautiful vistas however the building structures doesn’t make sense)
Sounds: 4 (poor voice acting / boring musical scores / mediocre environmental sounds)
Value: 5 (gameplay length about fifteen hours – nice co-op features however very little replay value other than multiplayer)
Tilt: 4 (I ‘m glad I finished it)
Actual score: 4.6
Back in 2004, a contest was made by the chaps of Epic Games titled ‘Make Something Unreal’ obviously using the unreal engine. To date there was four of them and the first one (2004) was entered by the guys who did this game ‘Damnation’. Originally a mod for the 2004 engine, they came second place (the first was Red Orchestra) and decided to make it an official release. After many, many false starts, it saw the light of day in 2009 only to fall flat on its face. If the game was released a couple of years earlier, this will tell a different story.
The plot is nothing more than woeful – it’s based on the ‘What if’ scenario where what if the civil war hasn’t ended. Both the Union and the Confederates are still at war with each other and another party entered the fray called the ‘American Empire’. This third party is now the ruler of America filled with steampunk technology (where I have no idea where the abundance of water arrived from until way later into the game) and considering this new ‘American Empire’ rules with an iron fist, a bunch of freedom fighters are planning to dispose the leader Prescott.
That’s the good part. The woeful is the freedom fighters themselves (and you are one of them). Filled with cliché from head to toe, the heroes are your stock standard muscle bound men and erotic women with clothing that physics cannot explain. One of the freedom fighters chick (don’t know her name – that’s how memorable it was) dad was caught during Prescott’s rampage and of course you need to save him. It also happens to be that he’s a shaman that able to see the future and his daughter doubles as a healer. So of course you need to save him and if that’s not bad enough, the ‘twists’ are ever so predictable, it hurts.
So what made this game remarkable as a mod was it was played in third person view, performing parkour jumps with breath taking environments. That was back in 2004 however looking into 2009, these parkour jumps performed extremely clumsy comparing to other games that perfected it (e.g. Mirror’s Edge / Assassin’s Creed). Seriously, the hero cannot perform a simple straight up jump as most of the parkour effects stems from him needing to leap jump of a wall to hang on to the adjacent one. Yet there are some ‘set piece’ straight up jumps however the rule of the thumb is if in doubt, leap jump of a wall as he will ‘float’ to the adjacent wall – yes I mean float perfectly in a straight line.
Another feature was the hero was able to see his enemies using ‘spirit vision’. When using it, you can see all your enemies by their heat signatures so practically you know where they are. Now add on you have ‘console healing abilities' (i.e. just stand still and heal – realistic) and completely dumb AI (who on rare occasion duck for cover only to leave a split second later), you have the world’s easiest game. I played this on the hardest difficulty and rarely encountered any issues however once completed the game, another difficulty level opens up and frankly, I don’t care so I cannot say how difficult that will be.
Yet I was fortunate enough to play this game on co-op as well, albeit it didn’t last long due to the other person giving up (for reasons unknown). Again playing it on the hardest unlockable mode, it was quite fun as all the areas are designed to have multiple routes. This of course made us think tactically to tackle the enemy however we soon realise that the AI was equally stupid on co-op so we just rampage our way through a couple of levels.
And if you are in the mood to explore, you can try to locate all twenty blue discs throughout the game. I located fifteen without trying too much when I completed this game. I feel that the only reason I’ve found them is because I had an urge to jump through all the windows. Yes the game was that exciting that I need to smash through every damn window in this game and I’m not sure what benefit you’ll get if you manage to locate all the discs.
As far as multiplayer goes, good luck finding anyone these days however I was fortunate enough to locate just a small band albeit only for a brief visit. We mucked around in Capture the Flag and actually it was enjoyable as the maps have multiple paths to take so hitching a zip line to grab the flag was indeed cool. There are other online modes like Deathmatch / Team Deathmatch and King of the Hill however you need a GameSpy account before logging in.
If there’s a highlight, it’s the graphics. The unreal engine is powerful for visuals and straight off the bat you will get that ‘vertigo’ feel as everything seems to be built along the canyon walls only. And that’s where the vertigo stops short as I wonder ‘What in hell’s name would someone build a structure like that?’ – Seriously it seems that everyone’s mode of travel is to parkour their way in / out of every building otherwise sit tight and enjoy the views. And besides, how in the world do people move their furniture into these structures? Other words, it does look cool however poor implementation. And why does the hero looks like he’s constantly covered in Vaseline?
Sound wise it’s quite boring to listen too. Mediocre environmental sounds like gunfire, explosions and the like doesn’t produce enough oomph to shatter your skull. However when jumping, that does sound quite intense (maybe all of them have extremely heavy boots). The musical scores are all forgettable the moment you turn off the game and the voice acting has a lot to be desired. I think reading a wall of text is a much better option here.
Damnation as a mod was terrific for its time (2004) as it demonstrates how versatile the unreal engine was with its cool vistas and parkour style jumps. However moving to 2009 where games are moving into that ‘parkour’ direction, Damnation is showing its age. Whilst Unreal Engine 3 made some remarkable improvements over its predecessor, it couldn’t match the games that were purely built for this style of gameplay thus falling behind the eight ball. Sadly Damnation is a product released way too late to capitalise its strongest features.