Damnation – hands-on

The Wild Wild West gets wilder in this Western steampunk shooter

For those who can’t seem to make up their mind between buying a new shooter or a platformer, now you can have both in Blue Omega’s upcoming release, Damnation. The game takes place in an alternate future, as though the American Civil War has dragged on well into the 22nd century. You play as Captain Hamilton Rourke, who leads a guerrilla resistance force called the Peacekeepers. We were able to get our hands on some gameplay at last week’s Codemasters Gamers’ Day 2009, but with the release date only a month away, we could only hope that the final build will show some improvements.

Damnation combines Gears of War-style third-person shooting with Assassin’s Creed-like platforming. Thankfully, shooting feels faster in the game, especially while aiming, where your movement normally would slow down in other games. However, the enemy AI seems a bit off. The enemies appeared to do more damage to our shotgun-slingin’ cowboy from a distance, but once we got close to them, they got scared and ran away. We found that a lot of times we could just sneak up to an enemy and kill them in one shot.

The platforming part of the game also felt a little wonky as some of the acrobatic jumps we had to perform seemed impossible to make at first glance. The controls were not camera-specific – you can’t move the camera around to see where to land, you just have to hold one button to prepare for the jump, another to actually jump, and then just hope for the best. The representative told us that they implemented a technology called ballistic prediction in the game where collisions are detected closer than usual, which explains why we made all of the impossible jumps. How this is a good idea is beyond us, but then again Keanu didn’t think he could make that jump in The Matrix… wait, he didn’t. Shoulda had that ballistic prediction!

Prepare to also get lost in Damnation’s vast levels – literally. No really. There are no maps or type of arrow to guide you where to go between killing enemies. Playing through a bit of a level, we found that you can play one level in different ways because of the various paths you can take to one location. While this does make the game more interesting and less linear, it was easy to get lost and confused as to where we had to go next. The representative told us that the final build won’t have any maps and you have to use your instincts or your sorcery to figure it out. Yeah, we said sorcery. One of Damnation’s features is a sort of Native American-inspired magic you possess called Spirit Vision that can help you find enemies hiding in buildings and show where your AI comrades are. You can also use these powers to revive them when they’re down.

Lastly, Damnation could use a bit of color. Many browns and grays define the look of this game, from the metal-constructed buildings down to the plain-Jane character costumes. Maybe people start to stop caring about vivid colors when a war’s been going on for several years, but hey. Couldn’t hurt.

While Damnation looks like it could be a promising game presenting another shooter-meets-platformer genre, the game could use a nice control polish-up and a few more choices off the ol’ color wheel. We just might have to wait and see when the game releases this spring.

Feb 27, 2009

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GamesRadar Verdict: [ 8 ] Great You'll love: + Stunning graphics + Impressive AI + Replay value You'll hate: - Getting your ass beat at Halo - Jealousy - Heartbreak

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