My initial perceptions of Damnation were of a game I would enjoy. A third person shooter? Great, that’s a genre I enjoy. Steampunk? Okay, you’re selling it to me, keep it going. Oh, there’s some good hats. That’s right, if you want a game that offers you a third person shooter in a steampunk setting, with people wearing some nice looking hats, then this is your game. If at any point you have ever wanted more from a game than that, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, you may be disappointed.
Taking the role of Hamilton Rourke you are thrown into a war-torn industrialised America, leading a rag-tag bunch of freedom fighters against the standard evil dictator situation. The story is unfortunately cliched with every element being tired and over-used, from the gruff and jaded main character, to the spunky and shirt-busting sidekick. The combination of a steampunk genre in the time period of the civil war is one that is not without promise, but any interest you may have will wear off quickly due to bad writing and worse voice-acting. But, hey, at least they have cool hats.
Unfortunately Damnation suffers from a myriad of other problems too. It was a game that promised so much, perhaps getting sucked up into its own hype machine. There were promises of a revolution in navigation, adding a large vertical scale to the game, with multiple routes of completion. The end result is somewhat lacking. The multiple routes are generally irrelevant as wandering aimlessly towards your objective is likely to find you a path. The feel of exploration was never there, whereas games like Mirror’s Edge or Prince of Persia captured it perfectly and had a fluid movement system to back it up. Movement in Damnation feels clunky and never precise, with a camera that never really feels on the ball.
Your comrades in arms will not only disappoint you with their dialogue, but their actions as well. The AI for almost everything in the game is shocking, and even on the easiest setting the helpful indicator to show that one of my team mates was down rarely left my screen. After a tutorial level you are granted the ability to help them up from afar, rather than just up close like Gears of War or Army of Two make use of, this eases the pain somewhat, but “less bad” is still far from good.
In these type of games it normally ends up as “one man versus the world” and as such there is a certain amount of bad-assery you come to expect, but the weapons that are made available feel ineffectual offering little bang to the buck.
Perhaps the most baffling decision of all is the controls. This genre of game often follows a tried and true formula, and for a game to have borrowed so many other aspects from big titles in the genre, I’m quite confused where the decision to mix things up came from. Whilst the left trigger does bring up the aiming reticule, the right trigger will only fire if you have the reticule up, otherwise it will be a melee attack. There also seems to be a complete lack of cover mechanics, which offer a hefty amount of additional elements such as leaping between items of cover, or blind firing. By not including this, it feels dated, and basically just plain bad.
Damnation misses the goal in just too many areas. It aims high claiming to evolve a genre, and doesn’t even end up competing in that genre. One bad decision after another has crippled this game, leaving you with nothing but a less than mediocre third person shooter. If you are such a fan of this genre, and you have set it as your goal to play every one of them, or if you are such a fan of steampunk that you will buy any glimmer, then sure go ahead and buy this game, but aside from those reasons I cannot think of a positive word to say to justify anyone purchasing this game. Well, except for the hats, you can’t deny those are some funky hats.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
Dodgy graphics and disappointing cut-scenes leave this nothing to write home about. Although, I’ll admit I never write home anyway.
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A variety of bad choices, from AI to level design make this game just not fun to play.
Whenever there is dialogue it’s probably best to just press the mute button.
It would be hard to justify this game lasting a while, when every minute of playing it made me want to put it down.
The sheer amount of bad elements in this game leave almost nothing positive to say, this is simply a game to avoid.