Review: Damnation

Damnation seemed like it may have had all its ducks in a row, at least as far as third-person shooters go. Set in an alternate-reality Civil War where America is ruled by a dictator, serving up co-op action for Xbox Live diehards, and classic Steampunk influence, it looked like quite promising. Unfortunately, muddy controls, a nonexistent cover system, forgettable characters and downright terrible graphics turn Damnation into an exercise in frustration rather than a playable game. All Codemasters could manage to get right here was the title, which is actually quite disappointing, considering their previous works have never been this horrid.


Explore an Alternate History

Damnation places you into the shoes of one Hamilton Rourke, quite the rebel, who is set to take down industrialist Prescott, the current dictator in power over New America. In this alternate take on 19th-century America, various types of robots and steam-powered weapons were introduced to the populace. A war broke out thanks to Prescott’s army of menacing robots, as well as Serum, a drug that pumps up normal soldiers so that they can take out all in their path. As you explore various areas throughout the game you’ll be subjected to Prescott’s rants being played over loudspeakers that lend a sort of Andrew Ryan-esque feel to the environments, though even with all of the intriguing steampunk imagery, this game just cannot be salvaged.

 Roam if You Want To

Set in various areas dotting New America (run by dictator Prescott) and as Rourke you’ll have the chance to explore each area to your heart’s content. If you would like to traverse a cabin, then you can. If you can see the area within a level, you can usually get to it, though you may have to call upon all of the patience in your very being to get there. This kind of free roaming is something rarely seen in more contemporary titles as of late, and even though there isn’t too much to see in Damnation, you’ll appreciate the fact that you can scout out the areas you’ll be entering if you so desire.


Nonexistent Cover System

In any decent third-person shooter you would expect to be able to properly duck behind debris, columns, or walls in order to keep out of the line of fire. Even more important, the ability to blindfire from cover, or to simply stay out of harm’s way would certainly be appreciated. Damnationoffers none of these things. While it is, in essence, a third-person shooter, there is no real discernable cover system. In order to keep Rourke out of sight, you must simply duck behind a viable surface. It should be an absolute requirement to implement working cover. Apparently, ducking is the only real way to evade bullets in an alternate history of America. Seeing as you will need to rely on cover quite often, you’ll find yourself going down every few minutes the instant you forget that this isn’t Gears of War or even Wanted: Weapons of Fate. What a disappointment.

Broken Acrobatics

One of the most unique aspects of Damnation (if it has any) is that you must employ flips, swings, and various acrobatic movements in order to progress through the game. It’s going through a terrible identity crisis and can’t decide if it would rather be an incredibly bland shooter or a pathetic attempt at a vertical platformer. Jumping can be smooth and fluid via the right bumper and face buttons, but too often you’ll find yourself making the worst of blind jumps – a miss means death and a restart from the previous checkpoint. What’s more, climbing up the side of a building a la Donkey Kong seems absolutely laughable in a plot that’s supposed to be decidedly gritty. Gameplay should fit the overall aesthetic of a title, and Damnation proves that some modes of play just aren’t fit to be tacked onto a certain genre. Instead of adding in some truly atrocious gymnastics, why not add a functional cover system?

Where Do We Go From Here?

Though you’ll receive objective updates quite often throughout Damnation’s campaign, there is no map or compass to aid you in figuring out where the heck you’re supposed to go. A lot of trial and error is required, and if you can’t figure out where to go, then you’ll be left to wander around aimlessly for a couple hours until finally a lightbulb snaps on in your head. When you do finally decipher a correct pathway, your teammates will have already jumped there. How swift.

Imprecise Controls and Dim Enemies Ever wonder what it’d be like to play a shooter with the reticle hovering just over your target rather than where you actually need it? As you can imagine, it’s quite frustrating. Combine this with the fact that the enemies within Damnation are dumber than a bag of hammers, and you have a recipe for disaster. They’ll simply stand in one spot, riddling you with bullets (while you crouch OR stand) until you can finally down a few. Shootouts never succeed in being any kind of real fun, and imprecise controls coupled with absolutely mindless enemies will grate on your nerves early on within the game.

Terrible Graphics

When a friend passes by the television you’re playing Damnation on and mistakes it for an early PlayStation 2 game, something is horribly wrong. While the character models and limited cut scenes do a bit to distinguish this 360 title from a last-gen game, in-game enemies as well as environments are decidedly bland, with absolutely horrid textures. Even separate areas begin to blur together after a while as they are all almost carbon copies of each other. Not even the steampunk aesthetic can change the fact that you’re basically exploring the same places over and over, only with a palette swap and alternate mission title.


For as much as this game does wrong, there’s one thing it managed to get absolutely right: succeeding in becoming one of the worst games I’ve ever had the misfortune of playing. In fact, I found myself routinely pausing the game simply to take a break from the frustration it was causing me. With that said, stay far, far away from this monstrosity. Do you have some paint and something that needs a fresh coat of it? Do that instead. I can promise you that you’ll have an absolutely exhilarating time with that compared to this trash.

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