bad bad bad game do your self a favor and don't buy this game
A fundamentally flawed and ultimately broken attempt at revolutionizing the shooter genre, Damnation doesn't take a single step forward, but stumbles backwards off a cliff with no ledges to grab.
Graphics: 40 out of 100
Apart from the introductory cut-scenes, Damnation seems more like a first-gen game. The visuals, especially the character models are clunky, even in cut-scenes; the game world is huge but bland, and everything looks the same shade of bad.
Game-play: 20 out of 100
The Combat is just terrible, shooting or melee-hitting enemies is more luck than anything else. The platforming is repetitive and less than engaging, sketchy controls making it all the worse.
Content and Production Value: 50 out of 100
The story outset might be intriguing, but the game that follows is terribly stereotypical, poorly conceived and lacks in engaging features. Granted, there's collectibles, there's on-line multi-player and 2 player Co-op, but I just don't see any point in playing.
Sound: 40 out of 100
Music and Sound effects are barely noticeable, the voice-acting is tedious and bland.
Lasting Appeal: 10 out of 100
I had to put it down after about 30 minutes. Then I thought no, it can't be that bad, I must've been doing something wrong and I tried it on another day. And had to put it down again. Sorry, it's just that bad.
On-Line Co-Op: Yes, 2 Player
On-Line Multi-Player: Yes
The whole story:
1. The act of damning or the condition of being damned.
2. a) Condemnation to everlasting punishment; doom.
b) Everlasting punishment.
3. Failure or ruination incurred by adverse criticism.
It is rare that a game is so aptly named, but whoever committed this crime against video-gamers everywhere deserves at least the last two points, but most definitely everlasting punishment.
I love video games. I spend a lot of time playing, and I pretty much play whatever I can get my hands on. And despite how it might seem, I'm not just looking for the flaws. Quite the opposite in fact: since I spent at least some money on whatever is in my console at the time, I try to get the most possible fun out of it. I'm always looking for the silver lining, no matter how dark things might look.
When a game like "Damnation" comes along, claiming to revolutionize the shooter-genre with its vertical game-play and open-world freedom, it's hard not to have any expectations. I was actually looking forward to this.
They say "Prepare for the worst, but expect the best". But nothing could've prepared me for this.
Damnation is a 3rd-person shooter and tells the story of an alternate America sometime around the early to mid 1800s. I'd guess. I don't know for sure. I just didn't care. As a steam-punk adventure, it takes some historical elements from the times of the steam engine (hence "Steam"- punk), like the American Civil War, injects some science-fiction into the mix, like futuristic weapons, robots and some kind of power-enhancing but mind-numbing drug, and presto: alternate universe. Or alternate time line, if you prefer. Alternate reality. Whatever. The story revolves around a band of rebels or outlaws or whatever they are, fighting against the evil technological Overlord Prescott and his army of mindless, bowler-hat-wearing soldiers, robots and the like. Prescott, the inventor of these scientific marvels, used his creations to beat the whole country into submission and declared himself leader of this "New America", a very "Third Reich"-ish version of the good ol' US of A.
You play as Rourke, former soldier turned guerrilla fighter, and together with a band of nifty misfits (Prescott's former partner, the professor; a Native American woman with mystical ties to the country; and a Spaniard of questionable intelligence but extraordinary ego) to thwart Prescott's evil plan for world domination.
So far, so good. Now to the bad.
The game just feels... broken. Firstly, there's nothing new here, no revolution that I could detect or even suspect. Whatever the game tries (and I admit I'm not really sure it's even trying) has been done before, and better at that. You want engaging platforming with beautiful and ingenious level-design? Try "Prince of Persia" or "Assassin's Creed". You want open-world shooting with vertical game-play? Try "Crackdown". You want to throw down your controller in frustration, wondering what the hell the people that developed this game were thinking? "Damnation" is made just for you.
So, you start to fight your way through the different levels, always trying to get from point A to B however you see fit (the options are actually pretty limited), doing whatever you need to do. Along the way you collect collectibles and weapons and some more background into the story via cut-scenes. The game play basically splits into two parts, Combat and Platforming, both of which are unsatisfying, unattractive and unexciting, and, for the most part, mutually exclusive.
The combat is typical 3rd-person shooting, with the notable lack of a cover-system. You can run and sprint, jump and roll, shoot from the hip or aim your shots. The lack of a cover system is strange in itself, since from the very beginning the game-world gives you so much cover you just cannot use. Sure, you can crouch behind it, but you have to stand again to shoot. There is a semblance of a cover-system once you start scaling walls: The possibilities to do so are pretty rare, but when hanging from a ledge, you can use your handgun to shoot over the curb.
Well, if you want to call it shooting. The weapons in Damnation lack pretty much everything that matters. Next to the arsenal of "Bionic Commando", your small variety of weapons is probably the weakest assembly of "pea-shooters" in recent game history, and apart from the sniper rifle, their effects are embarrassingly similar. All of the guns, as well as your mines, have no substance, no Oomph! to them. You shoot something, yes, but do you enjoy it? Do you feel the carnal satisfaction of releasing a stream of deadly lead that will immolate your enemies and everything around them? No. No, not at all. Your enemies don't really react to your shots. They just fall down, eventually (but without losing their ridiculous bowler hats, mind you), the environment doesn't give a damn about what you do, and even exploding barrels seem like colored puffs of wind, even if they kill nearby enemies quite effectively.
The enemies you face (or at least the enemies I faced during the first half hour of the game, or so) are all similar, all generic and differ only in their weapons. According to what I gleaned from the story, they are apparently men juiced up with a power-enhancing drug. Something green. They look a little like Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher in his full body armor and his goggles down. With bowler hats. Yes, seriously.
The enemy AI is inconsistent (if you want to be nice about it), ranging from "I can see you, even if you're behind cover a hundred yards away and two stories up and as soon as you show you're face I'll shoot and hit you", all the way to "So you're standing right next to me, shooting at my friends. What do I care? My bowler hat is way cooler than your Stetson." Once they start shooting, however, their aim is frighteningly accurate (due to regular bugs sometimes even through solid walls) and if you get caught in the open you're pretty dead pretty quick. Which happens quite a lot, especially when you try to implement some of this vaunted vertical game-play in combat situations.
Now, if the enemy AI is inconsistent, the behavior of your partner NPCs is outright infuriating. Despite the fact that they are completely useless in engagements, they're actually a hindrance, either storming at the enemy, ruining any element of surprise, or storming at the enemy and getting shot down. Once they are down you have to revive them. Unfortunately, there's no way to know where they are. There's no map or mini-map showing you their locations, no arrow pointing you to your injured buddy, and since their movement along the levels is utterly unpredictable, and the terrible level-design lets their crouching bodies all but disappear in the environment, looking for them in the line of fire gets you killed more often than it helps them. Yes, you get killed. They get injured and can apparently stay that way forever, saying "I'm not feeling too good", but you get killed outright without any chance of your partners saving you.
All in all the combat is frustrating, repetitive, bland, uninspired, flawed, and most of the time lacks any "verticality" whatsoever. Your idiotic partners make every fight a fight not to throw your controller at something valuable.
The platforming seems to be the only halfway working aspect of the game, yet it is far from entertaining, and probably couldn't spell "revolution" even if it's store-shelf half-live depended on it. It is true that the levels feature (almost) scary heights, but the way you handle these heights is just the same old ledge grabbing, sprint-jumping, pole-climbing, wall-jumping and wire sliding we've seen in hundreds of games since the early days of the PSone. Also, no matter how high you're supposed to be, the camera and the visuals make a tremendous job of nullifying any sense of height, vertigo or just plain excitement. Granted, some of the levels give you different ways to reach your goal, but the difference is merely cosmetically (climb a pole or wall jump up or ascend using ledges) and in the end, all roads lead to the same place. So much for open-world freedom. Freedom, Shmeedom. What's worse, the scaling and running and jumping is slow and stilted, making it impossible to use your abilities fluidly and effectively in combat. Or just fluidly and effectively.
Lastly, the sketchy controls and lazy camera movement conspire to take even the last fun out of jumping and climbing around, even if you know where you're going. Because if you lose track of where you're supposed to go, get turned around or separated from your partners, chances are you'll be running around in circles for a while. Like I said, no maps or mini-maps or objective-arrows or anything, the game offers no help at all in navigating the levels or finding your objectives, apart from a small cut-scene with a "suggested" way at the beginning of each level segment.
I have to admit, that maybe there's more to this game than I could see. Maybe the multi-player really kicks bowler-hats. Maybe the game progresses to become everything it claims to be in later levels. Maybe I just got my own bowler kicked and take my frustration out on the game. Maybe the story turns out to be inventive and engaging, instead of dull, uninteresting cut-scene fillers. Or maybe I'm just a hopeless optimist if I really think that. Or delusional.
But for better or worse, Damnation was so bad, that I couldn't stand playing it for longer than 30 minutes before the safety of my very expensive plasma screen was threatened by low-flying controllers. And even then I tried again, hoping that I'd missed something in there that would make it all worthwhile. Alas... It didn't happen.
Yet, the public opinion seems to swing both ways. There seem to be a lot of people that actually like this one. And maybe you're right, and I'm wrong. I said as much before, maybe I just didn't get it or cut it or whatever. But it just doesn't happen very often that a game feels so bad that I have to put it down after just a little while, especially when I was looking forward to it and especially in this genre.
I just can't help how it feels, but still, maybe on some rainy day I'll pick it up again and it'll be great and I'll come crawling back here on my knees, begging for forgiveness.
If so, I'll make myself available for a public flogging in a forum near you, but for now:
Game-play? Broken, stilted, forced, derivative, generic.
Graphics? Bland, confusing, uninspired.
Game-design? Poorly conceived, but perfect for the least amount of fun.
Story? Oh, please.
Frankly, the only thing I would recommend this for, is as a cautionary tale for young and aspiring video-game designers: Make a game like this, you'll go to hell! A special kind of hell, reserved for failed VG-developers, child molesters and people who talk at the cinema