Damn This Game To Hell!
Note: The following was written last year on another site, shortly after the game was released. But after filling out some information to complete the task on this wiki entry, I felt the need to paste it here anyway. Enjoy. --------------------------------------
Let me start off with this blurb about the game I found at GameRankings:
"Evolving the shooter genre with its unique and exhilarating combination of fluid action and combat, Damnation will feature huge, open environments, frenetic combat, daredevil acrobatics, and high-octane vehicle-based stunts. Presenting players with an intense test of reflexes, quick thinking, and rapid-fire conflict, Damnation will feature vast, breathtaking landscapes, each covering miles of distance and thousands of vertical feet."
Strip away the BS, and what this blurb tells you is the following:
--Our levels are huge!
--We have guns that you can shoot people with!
--The character has a "dodge" command!
--There's a few driving sections!
--Don't forget those awesome jumping puzzles!
--Oh, and did we mention our levels are huge?
I guess my first warning playing this piece of crap was when I went to rent it at a local Blockbuster store, and the teenager behind the counter snickered as he read the title. Maybe he thought the title was funny, or maybe he heard the game was a piece of crap. Surely, it couldn't be that bad, right? After getting home, I popped the game in my 360 and decided to jump into a single-player game.
I was greeted with textures that could've come out of a PS2 game, an oppressive army marching down a street, and some unexplained evil ninja. Then a bunch of awesome heroes slid under a falling pillar with their bikes and destroyed the evil Serum-infused soldiers with only a few shots. This is probably the coolest part of the game. If the gameplay itself was any better, I could have forgiven the last-gen graphics.
From what I've gleaned in the story, Damnation takes place in an alternate version of America where steampunk technology reigns supreme. The main producer of this tech, Prescott Standard Industries (PSI) has decided to use it to conquer its own swath of territory in the "Sovereignty" and turn it into "New America" (yeah, real original name there). You play the deep and mysterious Rourke, who apparently lost his girlfriend at some point during the Civil War and seeks to get her back along with stopping the evil PSI. The story premise actually sounded interesting in a kitschy way.
Then you actually start to play the game, and it goes downhill. Oh, where do I begin? First of all, you're only allowed to carry three weapons, including a pistol and two larger guns. You have your standard weapon loadout, though it has steampunk touches: a full-auto rifle that takes an entire drum just to kill one guy, a sniper rifle that can gib anyone's head but otherwise has no effect, a shotgun that is useless when the target is more than five feet away, and a revolver with all the stopping power of a particularly pissed off gnat. The only decent gun in the game I found was a "railroad spike" gun, but it only appeared once in the first level when I found it and it had such limited ammo I didn't keep it for long.
Of course, none of this matters when you can't actually hit the motherfuckers. No, this is not an "I suck but I'm blaming the game," thing. I mean that the aiming control is too damn twitchy, which makes it difficult to hit someone from far away with any efficiency, and there's no slider to change the sensitivity either. To top it all off, the game doesn't even give you a cover mechanic which kind of became standard in most third-person games ever since Gears of War (or perhaps Kill.Switch, if anyone remembers that game). I actually found myself wishing that they would rip off Gears of War a little more than they did. Sure, you can dive through surprisingly weak windowpanes (not really "dive" so much as "walk through") but that doesn't help when people are shooting at you.
But don't worry, they made sure the AI is pretty freaking stupid. Sure, they can shoot straight most of the time (as long as you're the target anyway), but they will stand out in the open shooting, not even bothering to take cover if it's not in their script to do so. On occasion, when you snipe their friend standing a mere centimeter away, they won't even notice. The friendly AI also has similar brain-farts of this type, but unlike the enemies they can't really die, just sit on the ground gasping for air until you revive them or all enemies in the area are gone. This may sound pretty easy, until you realize that almost all of the weapons have been gimped in order to give the retarded AI a fair fight.
As for the "high-octane vehicle based stunts," they have steampunk-ish motorbikes scattered throughout each level, lending itself to a driving section. These things basically handle like speedy shopping carts, the only innovation being that you can drive on some walls where you see conveniently-placed tire marks. It sounds cool until your bike gets stuck in some piece of the level geometry for the umpteenth time and falls off a cliff, then you just want it to be over.
Speaking of innovation, I hope you like jumping puzzles, because you'll need to complete a lot of them just to get to the next checkpoint. Rourke will be forced to shimmy along aluminum siding, climb up ladders, wall jump off of various objects and make leaps of faith in order to get to the next part of the level, and it's often difficult to find the way you're supposed to go in order to accomplish this. You can also shoot enemies with your pistol while hanging on a rope/pipe/chain/whatever, but I've only found one part of the game so far where this was absolutely necessary. Not to mention that Rourke's hand has a habit of disappearing into a wall when he's shimmying along it.
Note to the developers: making big levels does not make your game good on their own. It makes them boring and even frustrating at times. And when the game starts to feel frustrating, that's when I start looking at the game as a damn chore and start losing my will to continue playing it. Fallout 3 and Oblivion had huge freakin' levels, but they were able to compensate for this by throwing up occasional random encounters and useful items in this big world. In Fallout 3's case, they even had some radio stations. No one's going to pay $60 for a game full of jumping puzzles punctuated by lame gunfights.
For those of you who were chomping at the bit to do all of this awesome puzzle-jumping, pea-shooting action in online multiplayer? Good luck. No matter how many times I searched over Xbox Live, no one was playing online. No one. Granted, it's only been two weeks since launch, but even the first Gears of War had some people chainsawing each other online by that date. If there is anyone who's played Damnation online that doesn't include the development team, please let me know.
The last straw for me was during Act 3 of the story when Rourke and his Spanish sidekick Zagato were sent to destroy some giant artillery pieces. You think that one of them would have considered maybe bringing some explosives, but no. After spending a while clearing out all of the enemies, I finally figured out that I had to use one of the artillery pieces themselves to launch a shell at this large stone tower which would conveniently fall down and smash all of them. Each time I fired at it, Zagato yelled at me in a three-second cutscene to clear the area before it fell. And even though I jumped clear of the artillery piece, the game still decided to kill me off anyway. I did this many more times and got the same result.
As the exasperated zookeeper said to the last male panda in the world while pointing at the species' only remaining female, "Fuck. That."