Damnation is a glowing example of how technology in the wrong hands can lead to disaster. Now, when we say this, are we referring to the story, which sees you taking on an army of evil robots in an alternative, steampunk version of the US Civil war? Or are we referring to the fact that Blue Omega have made one of the worst Unreal Engine-powered games we’ve ever seen? Hmm…
It’s hard to believe that Damnation – in all its glitchy, twitchy, and downright fugly glory – was created by the same tech that gave life to Bioshock, Mass Effect and Gears of War. Now, we can forgive the fact that it looks like Gears swallowed a Western and promptly vomited it back out, half digested. After all, flashy visuals aren’t everything. What we can’t overlook, however, is that Damnation feels so bloody awful to play.
Best described as an action platformer, your time is split between shooting and jumping across roofs. Neither element is well executed, and both feel like absolute chores to pull off. Aiming is loose, weapons are far from accurate, and even if you do score a headshot or two (probably using the sniper rifle, the only firearm worth firing) your enemy won’t drop because they’re tougher than 50-year-old jerky. But, of course, they can take you down quick enough.
The platforming is equally awkward largely thanks to the contrived controls. Do we really have to hold R1 and press X to jump off a pole? Can we not climb a ladder without pressing X? Do we need two buttons for punch? It’s such a massive effort to explore the numbingly repetitive environments, you’ll resent having to do it; especially when you realize the only reward for exploring is finding 20 useless bonus items. We found most of them, but sadly they didn’t unlock a mode that made the game enjoyable.
So, does the left-field story save Damnation from, er, damnation? We’re going with ‘not one tiny bit’. Although the concept is interesting enough, the characters are detestable 2D cut-outs that wander around looking grizzly, or with their boobs hanging half-out, and spout random hokum with such wooden delivery that every line becomes unintentionally hilarious. As you plough deeper into the steampunk setting it becomes painfully obvious that the plot is the same, timeless, good-versus-evil guff that you’ve heard a hundred times before. It all adds up to one (excuse the pun) epic failure.
May 27, 2009