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developer: Blue Omega
|ESRB rating: M
release date: May 26, 09
|» All About Damnation on ActionTrip|
If it's not fantasy, post-apocalyptic or sci-fi, the next logical setting for a video game would be (you guessed it) anything Steampunki-ish. Hm, come to think of it, not many games these days use that particular theme. Well, in this case, it's Steampunk meets the American Civil War era. Codemasters put money into the idea, backing up the folks at development studio Blue Omega Entertainment. One small thing should be said right at the beginning. Damnation was originally created as a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004. Seeing some potential in it, the devs put some effort into getting the retail version done.
It's the early 20th century. The American Civil War spanned over many decades in a world where electricity had been replaced by steam. The player starts off as an agile and skillful protagonist called Rourke, who, along with a small group of insurgents, keeps fighting against a wealthy industrialist and despot named Prescott. This is one evil dude, bent on getting rid of both the Union and Confederate armies.
If you're into this whole shebang most people like to call "a remotely interesting story" then I fear Damnation may not be up your alley. The dialogue sequences and cut-scenes are usually short and offer very little to get you immersed into the world. The characters feel dull, generic and quite unimaginative. However, I'll admit after facing so many failed attempts at creating a unique narrative for a video game, I was prepared to delve into this one and just have fun with the action. After all, we have seen the syndrome of 'Good Shooter, Lousy Story' many times in the past, so it didn't make much difference this time around. Still, most gamers are likely to be bothered by the absence of a decent story. As for us, we decided to devote all our attention to the gameplay.
The first surprise was that there are platformer mechanics at work here. It may not be worthy of Tomb Raider or Prince of Persia, but it did offer a few fun moments (very few). Apart from that, it's a constant shootout. Despite our great effort to make the most of this game, we started to run into one problem after another. Playing Damnation for an hour or so, any gamer is bound notice the completely underdeveloped and, at times, totally retarded enemy AI (and friedly AI). Enemies tend to run around in small circles (which is hilarious to watch before you blow their brains out with a grenade launcher), while other times they just stand in one spot, frozen. Because of this serious technical flaw, I thought it would be humane on my part to just go around killing every single opponent just to put them out of misery. Even that turned out to be a painful task, since I had to sit through some of the most pathetically voiced enemy solders in the history of gaming. Seriously, when dying, one of the foes let off a scream that sounded more like a rhinoceros faking an orgasm, rather than someone falling to their death.
The next nuisance is the utter lack of any sort of cover mechanics. Come on guys, this is 2009 and making a modern-day 3rd person shooter cannot be done without a proper cover system. For what it's worth, I cannot even begin to describe how many times I wanted to hide my character behind a pillar or rock, but I just couldn't do it.
Adding further to the disappointment, Damnation features some old-fashioned and seriously buggish driving sections. You control Steampunk style motorbikes. Just sit behind the wheel and floor it, while friendly characters ride along with you firing pointlessly at enemies. The awful vehicle physics and weird collision detection make each ride as entertaining as listening to those foul enemy screams I mentioned earlier. On one particular occasion, my bike got stuck onto a wall and just stood there. The bike wouldn't budge and the main character couldn't even dismount.
The fact that this game was initially imagined as a UT 2004 mod certainly shows. The visuals are almost archaic, frequently showing off hideous texture patterns and repetitive character models, as well as poor-looking explosions and other effects (wait a sec, what effects?). Gamers may enjoy some of the music themes, but even those feel weak somehow.
Guys, I'll be honest with you here. I really gave my best shot at finding some redeeming feature in Damnation. Truth be told, you couldn't find such a feature if you spent several days playing this tragedy of a game. And if you do take it upon yourself to play it for more than one day, I fear for your sanity. There's absolutely nothing in this game to hold your attention. The dystopian Steampunk setting offers potential, although the designers of this game clearly failed to realize that. We gave them some credit for at least trying... a bit; not much, but just a bit. Oh and there's the multiplayer, complete with co-op Deathmatch and, blah, blah. Don't bother, believe me.
Hey, you can always rent this and marvel at the fact how stupid the AI conducts itself during combat. It made me laugh quite a few times, so maybe in some part of the universe this can be construed as a good thing. This side of the galaxy, however, it can be described using two words: major cock-up.
Suffice it to say, they named this one appropriately - Damnation.
Damned be thy game indeed!
1.8 Don't Bother
Yeah... pondering. Well, you can always rent the game and get a chuckle out of the retarded enemy behavior (if that's you're idea of fun), other than that... nothing;
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