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As competitions go, coming second is sometimes the new first. Many popsters have successfully taken over the person that beat them in 'Generic Pop Comp Factor'. Several silver medals earned in the 80s and 90s have been upgraded as one by one the Americans come out as drug cheats. No, second place is not always a bad thing and can lead to a bright future. This is what the developer Blue Omega Entertainment must have hoped when their Unreal mod 'Damnation' was picked up by publisher Codemasters and set to be a full game after it had finished second in a competition. Several years later and the game arrived, only for Blue Omega to fold. Was the game so bad that it could shut a studio?
'Damnation' is set in a steampunk/Western world in which the good folk in the rebel camp are rising against a fascist robot army. Player one controls a generic cowboy, whilst player 2 plays a series of allies depending on the level. As a third person shooter/platformer, you take the view point behind your character. The USP of the game is that you get to cross vast levels that appear huge in scale. As a game 'Damnation' throws too many elements at the gamer; shooting, platforming and driving elements. Rather than concentrate on making one area excellent, Blue Omega made all the parts awful.
The shooting feels loose and is made worse by some abysmal enemy AI. Two co-op pals can easily beat the game on the hardest level because the enemies are so stupid. Blue Omega must have known their game was broken because they added the ability to heal your co-op pal from anywhere. This is because you will be dying and reviving a lot. Just make sure that one person stays back to heal the other. The platforming is also pretty bad. The collision detection is flimsy, to say the least, so you have a habit of missing jumps. This is not aided by a dodgy camera that hinders the player. Finally, the mini driving parts are truly shocking. The game engine cannot handle the speed and jerks around far too much to be fun. The only saving grace with the gameplay is that it is easy enough that you may as well complete the game. (2 out of 5)
Perhaps this is one area that Blue Omega could gain some respect as it is not based on technical ability. The idea of a steampunk world with a Wild West mentality is a decent one. 'Borderlands' went on to take the idea to a new level and make a great game; 'Damnation' never did. A confused story, told in a patchy manner means that I had no idea what was going on, nor cared for any of the characters. The only parts that did work were the ever present propaganda messages coming over the loud speakers. At least these gave me a sense of what was going on. (2 out of 5)
I am tempted to say that 'Damnation' is a game that lasts as long as you can stand to play it. However, as someone who did complete it the game is a reasonable 7-10 hours long. (3 out of 5)
Another of 'Damnation's' saving graces is that the game is co-op online. This one element prevents it from being one of the very worst games on the 360. As someone who plays co-op a lot, I can attest that any game is better with a pal. There is quite a lot of enjoyment that can be gained by ripping into a game's failings together. The co-op itself did not really involve having to solve puzzles together, but for one person to always act as a defence, the other attack. The connection remained stable throughout. (3 out of 5)
I have played games for many years and during the late 90s and early 2000s I dabbled in the PC market. The dawn of 3D graphics meant that improving my PC to keep up started to cost too much. 'Damnation' looks like one of the last games that I played on PC around 10 years ago. The textures are poor, the number of glitches and pop ups are unforgivable. The lack of coherent colour palette makes the game harder than it should be as you look for a way out. In truth, there are fewer games that are as ugly as 'Damnation' and still remain playable. (1 out of 5)
An area that should have been the standout for the game is the level design. Blue Omega sold 'Damnation' on the premise that the scale would be huge. This is certainly the case as you pan across each level as you arrive, and they often stretch across a wide expanse. The levels are also multi tiered so you have to work your way up and down, as well as across. This should have worked well, but in fact it is a little poor. For all the options you can have to get anywhere, you end up following the linear path from one end of a level to another. The expanses seem to hang in the air like some sort of fantasy and are more in common with the magical DLC levels of 'Mirror's Edge', than the world of steampunk. (2 out of 5)
Forgettable is probably the best way to describe the sound work on 'Damnation' as that is what I have done. The music is none descript and the voice acting is on par with the low budget nature of the game. There is nothing annoying about anything that you hear, but nothing stands out. (2 out of 5)
'Damnation' is a game that came incredibly close to being a 1 star Sammy Stinker. The graphics, level design and gameplay are all well below what you expect from a modern game. However, for all its many faults one area it did get right was the solid co-op element. This meant that the painful experience of playing the game can be shared with a pal. The numerous mistakes suddenly become a source of amusement and you can play the game knowing that someone will be able to heal you should you inevitably fall. I picked this game up for £5 a copy and for that it was just worth it. (2 out of 5)
Maker: Blue Omega RRP £50
Amazon uk £8.79
As a critic of gaming, I sometimes find it hard to be really harsh to games which suck. Of course, when a game really does suck like Bullet Witch or Conflict: Denied Ops, I will literally give it the thrashing it deserves, but when a game with good ideas, poorly executed, comes along it's sometimes hard to criticise it when you can tell it's actually trying to offer a decent experience. Alone in the Dark being among a few disappointing titles fell into this category. Damnation, the game I'm about to review however, falls into neither of these categories-no it moulds its own. It's one of those rare games which are so atrocious that I actually would rather burn the disc and feed it to the fish rather than trade it in and get money back. It is so abysmal it is beyond belief that anyone could spend a good year making this crock of crap and charge £40 on release for it.
As soon as you begin, you'll immediately spot that Damnation is butt-ugly. It starts the games absurd plot by showing perhaps one of the most pixelated and grainy cut scenes I've seen in history and it isn't much more pleasing after it. Textures are bland and flat with crude corners, characters are made up with very few polygons and their clothes seem to be stuck to their skin, the colours are atrociously bland and the animation is stiff and poor. There's tons of clipping issues, like when you are simply scaling a building and you'll see the characters arm go through the wall, and it just looks to bland, and is rather technically poor too. The only good thing is that the theme of Damnation, steam-punk cowboys and the like, is rather unique but it poor comes to life in Damnation.
The story in Damnation is weak and laughable. You play as Rourke, a member of a group of rebels who are in a struggle with a military contractor trying to dominate the country of America. This involves giant trains launching artillery attacks on a country, using 'serum' to make soldiers stronger and meaner, and even drilling holes into some Indian dudes head. Its story is forgettable, but the over-the-top characters really put me off. There are so many goofy and wacky people that it's hard to take the game seriously-there's a chick who wears all green and even has green eyes, a stiff and cold Indian healer, and some dude looking for his missing lover. The twist on that part of the plot-you'll see it coming a mile away. In the end I just didn't care who made it out alive and what happened in the end of this stupid war.
The other thing you'll notice from the first cut scene is that the voice-acting and dialogue is poor. Characters vary from the British sounding Winslow, to the grizzly main character Roukre(stupid name I know), to the Southern sounding Zagato who is so irritating that it made me want to stop playing altogether. And the dialogue is laughable too, where you are heading to the next checkpoint, and suddenly Zagato spurts out 'I hope I'm not too late'. Too late for what? The music however fits the bill quite well, sounding like a mix of orchestral music with, well, more orchestral music. It's not original, but it fits the game quite well.
Something else that isn't original is the actual game play from Damnation. Borrowing Epic's lauded, but somewhat messy, Unreal Engine, Damnation feels like something powered by a Gears of War engine. The game is a third person shooter which also mixes a second element of game play into the mix-platforming. It borrows the same kind of jumping and climbing from games like Tomb Raider and mixes it with the shooting from a third-person shooter like Gears of War. This should be one of the most unique and enjoyable games on the market-mixing two popular game play styles from two popular franchises should be a hit. Right?
Wrong. No, you are dead wrong. In fact, Damnation's gameplay couldn't have missed the mark if the mark was highlighted in green and was the size of Tokyo. It is so unbelievable how poor Damnation has ended up in the final product. The controls are what almost completely break the game in two. There are two modes you will be in-adventure mode and gunplay mode. You will always be in adventure mode unless you hold down the left trigger to aim down your gun in which case you can fire. If you are in the adventure mode, you will be able to jump around the environment and do all the platforming stuff but not fire your guns. And there's the big problem. On several occasions I was climbing up a ladder only to find several enemies on top, and because I was in adventure mode I couldn't fire my guns, meaning death came a knocking. It happened way too many times throughout the campaign. Controls also sometimes don't respond, or in some cases, do respond when you haven't pressed a button at all and movement is stupid slow and sprinting doesn't help because you run out of breath in about three seconds.
The problem is that Damnation tried to mix two styles which don't gel together at all. Because of the platforming, a cover system was completely cut-out meaning you have to crouch behind objects to shoot, which sometimes isn't exactly effective. The platforming is bogged down by being too simple-you can merely wall jump from object to object and climb and you can't used any cool acrobatic moves during combat. Each gameplay style has been numbed down to not overwhelm each other, but now the platforming seems like a simpler and boring version of Tomb Raider, and the shooting is like Gears of War without a cover system and done completely wrong.
The weapons don't help either, as it's your typical set, albeit more steam-punked versions, of pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, rocket launcher and sniper rifle. There are no weapons which scream out to me because they are all simply standard. Not to mention the big problem of the aiming, which seems rather awkward because shots which are highlighted red by the aiming indicator miss yet some shots which aren't over enemy targets kill. Weapons don't feel powerful at all, except when used in conjunction with explosives. But that's flawed too because when you cause an enemy to explode, they always blow into small meat chunks-there's no damage modelling which makes it more unique like, for example, someone's arm being blown off.
But the biggest combat gripe with Damnation is its abysmal enemy and friendly A.I. Enemies are usually dumb, with simple movements and shots, but can be overpowering because on even Normal difficulty, you can die far too quickly and on the hardest difficulty can be a pain in the ass. The other problems include them constantly moving from side-to-side, making it impossible to hit them, and even them just standing there, despite you being right in front of them. The friendly A.I. isn't much better, constantly dying all the time, though later in the game you get an ability called spirit vision which shows where enemies and your comrades are, and you can revive comrades in the vision. Don't ask me why it's in the game but it makes your comrades constant deaths a bit easier to handle when on harder difficulties.
Perhaps the only saving grace of Damnation is its level design. Big spacious levels give plenty of wiggle room to fight wherever you want in combat, but the pacing of the game is atrocious. One minute you're in an intense fire fight with enemies and the next you are slowed to a crawl as you try and figure out what to do next. The game is only split into six chapters which take up to three hours a piece, and you are constantly in the same area for the whole chapter. It can make Damnation, quite simply, a chore to play. The other piece of game play is the vehicle sections where you must drive a motorbike to the next area, but wonky physics on the big and a horrible sense of slowness and these sections are too left to bite the dust.
If there's a good thing Damnation stole from Gears, it's the ability to play online against other people as well as play through the whole campaign in co-op. Unfortunately, both are squandered by one simple fact-no one plays online whatsoever. The modes are boring-deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag is all that are featured in the game. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to tell you whether the game lags or not, or if the unique platforming is a part of multiplayer, but every time I tried to find a game to play the same message kept popping up-there are no games available. There is split-screen competitive multiplayer, but with only two players there is no point in it.
The co-op too featured no games online, but with the prospect of gamer score, I managed to convince a mate to try it out on me with insane difficulty selected. Co-op puts the other player in the shoes of other characters that follow you around in the game. It, like most co-op modes, makes the game easier as you can revive each other with spirit vision. It suffers from problems in co-op games like Rainbow Six Vegas 2, where one person can camp back while another rushes ahead. If they die, P2 can revive them. It's also not very good in split screen because it makes the camera smaller meaning platforming is more awkward. And with all the flaws from the campaign featured in co-op, why would you play this when you could play many better co-op games. Still, the gesture is nice.
Is Damnation good, bad or ugly?
Damnation, simply put, is a disastrous game of seriously epic proportions. It was a promising game because the screenshots didn't look bad and the setting and game play sounded unique. But what has essentially happened here is that the spine of Tomb Raider has been mixed with the blood of Gears of War and been mixed with the body of a Western Steam Punk setting, and it has ended up with one seriously bad Frankenstein of a game. It tries to achieve too much while failing to entice the sense of sound and sight. It's just such an unbelievably bad game that it hurts my head trying to comprehend this madness. Stay far, far away from this trash and save your money for a much better, more polished and more interesting game and trust me, there will be plenty soon. It's hard to believe that games like Call of Duty 2, released nearly four years ago, are more fun and even better looking than from a game from 2009.
This game was released on May 22nd, 2009 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. It is rated 18+ for strong bloody violence and can be bought for £30+.
Bringing dramatic third-person shooter action to huge, steampunk-inspired environments, Damnation for Xbox 360 puts a range of unique weapons in your hands and lets you test the limits of the human body by performing acrobatic stunts to move through vertical levels. Set in an early 20th century world where the Civil War never ended, this game will have you climbing walls, commanding killer vehicles, and seeking out ways to stop industrialists with a thirst for totalitarian power.