Damnation PS3 Review

Damnation is partially a rip off of Gears of War, using the same names for its difficulty levels, having at least one accompanying character with you at all times and the pause screen even has its similarities with Epic‘s popular shooter series. The game itself is something else though, it doesn’t even have the most basic of cover systems, thus moving away in another direction entirely, taking inspiration from elsewhere.

The Steampunk inspired universe is welcome enough, although the surrounding story is pretty weak. It’s an alternative history, in which the American Civil War has been going on for decades and Damnation has been brought about leaving the American west in ruins. The protagonist is Captain Hamilton Rourke, a former soldier turned rebel who is hunting for his fiancée whilst battling against Lord Prescott, a baddie who’s ambition is to conquer America using drugged up people with green eyes.

I mentioned the Gears of War influences in the opening paragraph, although it barely stretches into the game mechanics themselves. There’s a lot of shooting but there’s also plenty of jumping around to be done, something which Marcus and company would struggle to achieve with all that bulky armour.

Despite the claims that the game was going to be fluid in its execution, this really isn’t the case. The shooting is decent enough but can hardly compete with something like, say, Devil May Cry for fluidity, also whilst all that leaping about is nice enough, thanks to some stiff and laughable animations it wouldn’t really be wise to throw endless positives at it.

The lack of overall polish is also something that hurts the game. Graphically, it looks drab and dated, with serious frame-rate issues popping up from time to time, some of the animations are just downright embarrassing (melee combat appears to be mere fly swatting) and all around the place detail is lacking (Rourke himself looks like a mannequin modelling cowboy garb, such is his dead stare when you get a camera close-up during the game). This lack of polish also extends to the game itself. Your AI team mates often disappear only to be waiting for you further ahead, and their assistance is as helpful as someone would be attempting to help out with a light gun in a gunfight: being forced to the ground by the enemy rather than standing on their feet and doing something worthwhile.

The steam-powered shooting isn’t particularly great, either: guns feel pretty weak, enemies don’t react when hit and often just stand there or run past you, seemingly oblivious to your presence. If not for the jumping around well designed levels and its hissing motorbike sections, we’d be looking at a much worse game.

Damnation isn’t a complete failure, though, the strength of the game is definitely the earlier mentioned jumping through big, open levels. There’s all the normal hanging from ledges, climbing up or down ladders, sliding down ziplines, sidling along ledges, leaping across gaps and wall hikes to gain height. There’s little real finesse and similar games have given us graceful animations that makes each jump worthy of framing and putting on the wall, although this portion of the game is still where the most fun is to be found.

The level design certainly helps matters, making the scaling of heights a decent amount of fun. Environments may not match up to Tomb Raider in their quality, although they’re still enjoyable to traverse and for those who dislike the puzzles of said game, there’s few to be found here.

There’s a number of steam-powered motorbike sections as well. These vehicles are very well designed and the tracks you race along often have you riding along the walls, making for an entertaining break up of the more regular shooting and jumping portions of the game.

The game is mostly generic, although Rourke does have a couple of relatively unique skills. Spirit vision allows you to see through your surroundings to determine where your enemies are, and spirit revive makes reviving dumb AI buddies from a distance possible.

At least the multiplayer options makes available the chance to get rid of these dumb AI buddies, replacing them with an actual player like yourself. Yes, the game can be played in coop, online or in split screen, but it also has competitive modes with the usual Deathmatches, Capture the Flag and King of the Hill options. Online, it’s not very highly populated, but there is a small community to be found if you stick around for long enough.

Damnation started life as a Unreal Tournament 2004 mod and, even in this full retail release, it shows. The game is glitchy, unpolished and could have done with an extended development time to make things right. Due to its many problems, Blue Omega Entertainment’s first retail release is nothing more than average, though there is fun to be had for action adventure fans, particularly those who can manage to live with or see past its many flaws.