Damnation

damnation
3.0 Overall Score

Steampunk setting is original | Dialogue is unintentionally hilarious | Leaping around levels can be entertaining

Hideous textures, blocky animations and stuttering framerate | Voice-acting is absolutely atrocious | Combat is mindless, enemies are stupid and weapons are wimpy

You can’t fault publisher Codemasters for getting swept up by the idea, an alternate history in which steam-powered weaponry kept the Civil War raging forty years past its prime, but developer Omega Blue definitely shoulders some blame for squeezing out the steaming steampunk turd known as Damnation. Aside from the thrill of hearing Lincoln’s name uttered in the same breathe as battle robots, everything about this game is badly done or just plain broken – the graphics are hideous, the animations are robotic, the gunplay is repetitive, the framerate is choppy, the sound is grating, the story is convoluted. The list could go on, but it all boils down to Damnation being one of the worst third-person shooters ever designed on the Unreal Engine, which has powered such genre-defining titles as Bioshock, Mass Effect and Gears of War. There’s no excuse for Blue Omega to have released this game in the state that it is in, and no reason for you to play it, but feel free to read on if you still need convincing.

As outlaw cowboy Hamilton Rourke, the Stetson-sporting archetype torn between stopping despotic industrialist Prescott and finding his lost fiancée, you will spend your time divided between gunning down shooting gallery enemies and leaping around levels that make as much architectural sense as an M.C. Escher painting. Billed as a “shooter gone vertical,” Damnation attempts to break with gravity-bound tradition by giving you the ability to backflip up buildings, leap across rooftops and shimmy up flagpoles. It can be fun at times, springing off walls and clinging to ledges like a spaghetti western version of Spiderman, but mildly amusing acrobatics can’t distract from the clunky animations and needlessly contrived controls – is it really necessary to press two buttons just to jump backwards? Sigh. When not wandering through empty, gravity-defying ruins, you’ll be stumbling into ambushes. As frustrating as the constantly stuttering framerate, blurry textures and blocky animations are, it’s nothing compared to this title’s actual combat, which could be studied by future game makers as a practical example of how not to design a shooter.

 

Enemies are both abundant and abundantly stupid, either standing in place like shooting gallery targets or popping in and out of cover like suicidal prairie dogs. Suicidal prairie dogs that can take a ridiculous amount of punishment. It’s hard to tell if it’s the constantly meandering crosshairs, the pathetic selection of peashooter weapons, or some Early-American antecedent of Kevlar, but these baddies put up a frustrating, albeit ultimately forgettable fight. Every chapter is the same song and dance – climb around the jungle gym of a level, get ambushed by idiotic A.I., juggle shooting in the general direction of the enemy with reviving your constantly falling comrades, who seem to delight in taking round after round of buckshot to the face with little resistance. It’s sad when a game’s main characters don’t even want to play.

There’s a half-hearted cover system, seemingly designed by asking some guy who saw some other guy play Gears of War through a dirty pane of glass how it worked. Needless to say, not very well. It’s difficult to stick to a wall, impossible to blind fire, and reloading requires you hold down a button while pushing in a stick. Double sigh. Multiplayer fairs no better than the single player unless you believe in the old adage misery loves company. Live and local co-op is present, along with the typical versus modes, but all the same problems that make the single player campaign such a chore are front row – no secret to those unlucky enough to have dropped actual money on this mess, as there’s next to nobody playing this online.

 

Damnation tried to break with convention with its steampunk story and acrobatic gameplay, but just ended up broken. An interesting concept can’t detract from the hideous graphics, repetitive combat, robotic animations, convoluted story and constant glitches in gameplay that would have shamed a last generation game, let alone the latest entry into a genre repleat with genre-defying examples of shooters done right. Even if Damnation looked good, which is doesn’t, and the story made sense, which it doesn’t, it’s simply no fun flipping around architecturally unsound mazes, gunning down shooting gallery enemies with laughably weak weapons. Don’t even get me started on the motorcycle sections, which will have you wondering when you time traveled back to the early days of console gaming, minus the nostalgia. Not only do I not recommend this game, I actively warn you against playing it unless you want to know what damnation feels like, in the form of an agonizing videogame metaphor. Actually, let me go ahead and save you the trouble and tell you it feels like reading reviews of Damnation before playing the game, but after removing the shrink wrapping – may God have mercy on your soul.

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Author: Kristen Spencer View all posts by

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