Game Over Online ~ Damnation

GameOver Game Reviews - Damnation (c) Codemasters, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Damnation (c) Codemasters
System Requirements PlayStation 3
Overall Rating 40%
Date Published Thursday, July 9th, 2009 at 06:39 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

There are times when a game gets raked over the coals by reviewers because it's perceived as safe to do so. Maybe it's from a B-list publisher, whose advertising dollars aren't so crucial as to endanger whoever's publishing the review, or maybe the company is infamous for making some truly poor games.

As such, the game gets worse reviews than it deserves because it's a safe target, and it becomes a sort of pressure release valve for frustrated reviewers industry-wide. If you've been gaming for a while, you can probably name a good half-dozen titles like this without even trying very hard. Sometimes, a game doesn't deserve its rep.

Damnation is not one of those games and this is not one of those times.

Damnation is the first and only production from Blue Omega, a developer that folded a month after the game was released. Apparently, the game had an extremely shaky development history, which explains a lot about the product that was released. Frankly, I'm surprised it's on shelves at all.

Damnation, to be fair, has good concepts scattered around within it. Set in an alternate-history America where the Civil War has dragged on for decades, the game follows the mission of Rourke, a resistance fighter in the shattered ruins of what was once midwestern America. He's searching for his fiance, who's gone missing in the wake of several shattering defeats, but all sorts of things keep getting in the way. One of those things is Prescott, the owner and would-be Emperor of "New America," who enslaves workers with a psychoactive serum of his own design.

There's some merit to the idea of a steampunk Western, although Damnation throws in psychic Indians, motorcycles, zombies, biplanes, machine guns, and half-naked women, which makes me think it's not so much "steampunk" as it is a combination of whatever the concept artists thought was cool. That's fair; video games have a long and storied tradition of being about whatever the artists thought would look cool.

Damnation is running on the Unreal engine, so it has decent graphics. The environments are often muddy and indistinct, but the characters are well-animated.

At this point, I have run out of nice things to say about the game. Damnation is not a finished product. A bit more work could've made it into an entertaining rental, as every level is a huge sniper's alley; the idea of a third-person shooter that's mostly devoted to pursuing other people through mazelike ghost towns is oddly appealing. The characters are also agile enough to scale walls and do some light platforming, which allows for a lot of freedom within each stage. There was potential here.

The game as it stands is crap. Enemies have a patrol range of roughly five feet square, and can often be found either standing perfectly still or walking in small circles around one another. If they spot you, the game actually starts cheating like hell; a random generic opponent can absorb two shotgun blasts to the torso without slowing down and put three bullets inside a playing card from two hundred yards away. A couple of times, I've shot a distant opponent down with my sniper rifle, dodging his gunfire all the while, and discovered he was using a shotgun.

Meanwhile, Damnation's basic weapons are almost all complete crap. The machine gun is utterly inaccurate at any range other than point-blank, your pistol must score a headshot to be effective, and pulling the trigger on the shotgun is a gamble. It might kill a guy, or it might not, or it might not even make contact. Grenades have a habit of bouncing off of small, otherwise-irrelevant chunks of the landscape, going everywhere but where you want them to go, and the "railroad spikes," which are actually very pointy grenades, have a blast zone measurable in square inches.

The sniper rifle is the only good gun in the lot, and ammunition for it is rare. I've won almost every fight I've gotten into in Damnation by outrunning an enemy until their AI resets, then turning around and blowing their head off of their shoulders. This game doesn't want you to kill its enemies, but even it can't argue with a decapitation.

Damnation has frequent vehicle sections, as you'd expect from a modern shooter, but the physics are strange. Apparently, rather than actually trying to replicate gravity within their engine, Blue Omega simply decided to let motorcycles drive along walls. You can simply grind up onto a vertical surface any time you want and drive along it for a surprisingly long distance; you only have to stop if you hit enough of an incline that you lose momentum.

That's really the best example of how outright sloppy the game is, but now I feel like I'm belaboring the point. I was inclined to be a lot meaner to Damnation before I read up on the game's history. Before, I thought its developers were incompetent. Now, I realize there were more factors at work, and I have to back off a bit.

That doesn't mean you should actually play Damnation. It's not even so bad that it's funny, although it certainly started off that way. It's just plain bad.


See the Game Over Online Rating System






Screen Shots
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot

Copyright (c) 1998-2009 ~ Game Over Online Incorporated ~ All Rights Reserved
Game Over Online Privacy Policy