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Damnation

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Damnation
179464-damnation-playstation-3-front-cover.jpg
The title is the game's reputation.
Genre(s): Third-person shooter
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Release: EU: May 22, 2009
NA: May 26, 2009
AU: June 4, 2009
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Developer(s): Blue Omega Entertainment
Point of View, Inc.
Publisher(s): Codemasters
Country: United States

Damnation is a third-person shooter video game co-developed by Blue Omega Entertainment and Point of View, Inc., and published by Codemasters. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in May 2009 in Europe and North America, and June 2009 in Australia.

Development

The game originally started as an Unreal Tournament 2004 mod submitted for Epic Games' Make Something Unreal contest, winning second place for best Total Conversion game modification. The retail version is much more improved than the mod, but it still retains much of its core gameplay, including the third-person view, the acrobatic moves along the vertical environments and the spirit vision, which was used for spotting the exact positions of the enemies from cover.[1]

Why It's Damned

  1. First off, the game wasn't developed by a video game studio; it was developed by a film company that only made a couple of movies before beginning the development of the game with only Point of View, an actual video game studio, assisting on development. In other words, this game was developed by people who had no idea of how to make a single video game from the very basics, and while everyone deserves a chance of making something for the first time, this may be the reason for many of the game's failures.
  2. The game desperately tries to imitate the style and aesthetic of Gears of War, from the graphical ambientation to the main menu of the game, which is the worst offender because it uses the same film roll effect on the background, as it can be appreciated here.
    • Something curious is that the game uses the same engine as Gears of War: Unreal Engine 3.
  3. An abysmal amount of bugs and glitches caused by the ineptitude of the programmers that didn't bother testing the game, which include but are not limited to:
  4. Due to the poor programming of the game, you can shoot your weapons while a cutscene is being played. This can be perceived in a better way if you use a controller and then you aim your weapon and shoot, as this will cause your controller to vibrate, but even if you're not using a controller, after the cutscene ends you will see that your weapon was fired previously.
  5. In the console versions, the framerate in general is very choppy and it gets much worse during intense action segments, even running below 15 frames per second, affecting severely your precision and your movement.
  6. The controls in general are not very well polished and can cause several issues during gameplay, mainly because your movement is stiff and your character moves way too fast, making precise movement something very hard if you're not using an analog controller. Aiming with the weapons using a controller is also very imprecise due to the high sensitivity that the camera has by default.
  7. The control scheme is also a disaster and can cause several headaches for habitual shooter gamers:
    • First off, X (using the example of an Xbox controller) is used to punch while idle and while aiming, to reload your weapon, you have to press L3, a button that is not common and comfortable in shooter games to reload a weapon, as this button has other functions like sprinting.
    • Pressing the left trigger of the controller will aim your weapon, but to zoom, you have to press R3. The problem with this is that you need to do this every time you put your weapon down and aim it again, something that gets significantly worse when you're using a sniper rifle, as you have four levels of zoom: the default one, an augmented one without using the scope, and two more with the scope.
  8. Despite running on Unreal Engine 3, the graphics look absolutely muddy and outdated. At first glance, the graphics look quite nice and almost the same as the first Gears of War, but after seeing that this game was released three years after and comparing it with other games of the same year, the graphics may look ugly for many people. Many of the textures look very blurry and poorly worked on and sometimes the game can experience screen tearing issues, especially on the console versions.
  9. Animations are so lazy and poorly worked on that they can barely be considered "animations"; most of the characters move and jump in a very robotic way, the main character doesn't even hold the weapons adequately, when you're shooting certain weapons the cases of bullets will fall down in a very scripted way, and as mentioned in WID#3, the animations are very prone to getting bugged. Some animations are not even finished, as when you reload your weapon while you're holding onto a ladder, the weapon will reload itself, like if some ghost was reloading it.
  10. The visual effects also look very ugly because of how cheaply implemented they are; for instance, the gunpowder smoke that comes out of your weapon's barrel after you stop shooting it looks good, but the some that comes while you're reloading your weapon is excessively opaque and seems superimposed in contrast with the rest of the visual section of the game. Some other effects even look like gifs from the 90's, like the dust effects when you land your bike after a jump.
  11. The interface of the game during the gameplay is really lackluster, consisting only of the crosshair of your weapon, the weapon you're currently using and the amount of ammo available in the magazine and in your stack. And besides that, these elements just appear on screen when you load your previous game and when you aim with your weapon. When you're walking and out of combat, the screen won't show anything; there is no minimap, no markers and no objective pointers to know where to go, and due to this, travelling through the levels is very confusing and can take a lot of time.
  12. Terrible and awkward camera that places the main protagonist in the center of the screen. This is something that could work in a third-person shooter with platforming mechanics if it wasn't for the fact that sometimes the position of the camera can obstruct your crosshair when you're aiming with certain weapons, like the submachine gun, and even with that, the camera doesn't even try to follow the player's movements. Instead, it's like if the camera just focused on a single spot of the screen and just moves when you move the mouse or the right analog stick, blocking your field of view considerably.
  13. While the gameplay could be average at best at the beginning of the game, it will just get more and more repetitive because you only do the same things over and over: shooting enemies, making some platforming and driving an all-terrain motorcycle after the shooting sections end. You never experience any new mechanics and the game will never try to change the existing mechanics, like making more difficult platforming sections, giving you upgrades for the motorcycles or even allowing the player to use them anytime he wants to; instead, the game limits their use to certain linear zones.
  14. Painful and terrible gunplay. Almost all of the weapons can barely hit an enemy from more than 30 meters, especially with the submachine gun, which is the least precise weapon in the game. However, this also affects the shotgun in an even worse way, since you have to be at point-blank range to kill an enemy due to the excessive dispersion of the pellets.
  15. Somehow, the game is very inconsistent with the deaths caused by falling off from high places. Most of the times when you fall off from a certain ridge or building, the character will just fall down and reappear after a few seconds, something that makes no real sense, but the worst part is when sometimes you actually die by falling off from the same places, being more noticeable when you fall off while driving a motorcycle, forcing you to reappear at the last checkpoint saved.
  16. Just like Action 52, Rourke can actually die by touching the air. This make sense if you fall to a spot where you can't get back, like a canyon or a ridge, but this also affects ground spots where you can perfectly die by falling from a surface that was too high from them, making the game look pretty incoherent, especially when you realize that Rourke doesn't even gets hurt by falling or jumping from certain high places.
  17. The number of actions that you can perform with the motorcycles is very limited. You can only accelerate, go backwards and use the nitro. Additional actions like wheelies or jumps with the bike are not available in the game, something that can make them look rather boring than exciting.
  18. Driving the motorcycles is a very tedious task because sometimes you won't be able to climb certain walls properly and the steering has a very poor range, which means that, to take closed curves, you must stop your bike, go backwards to adjust the position of the motorcycle and then accelerate again, and besides that, for some strange reason you can only turn the camera while the motorcycle is completely stopped. When you accelerate, the camera will get fixed at the back of the player and you will never be able to move it.
  19. God-awful AI. Enemies will never be in alert or in combat position even if they hear gunshots or explosions; instead, they will just ignore you, to the point that you can shoot an enemy from a distance and he will never try to do anything to stop you. However, when they are in combat, they can be either very tough or very stupid; in the first case it's mostly caused by artificial difficulty rather than being good at combat, because their weapons have a perfect accuracy about 90% of the time and sometimes they can kill you with only one single shot, the enemy snipers being the worst examples of this. In the second case, sometimes the enemies will never hit you with their guns at a certain distance, and if you're too close to them, they will mostly try to punch you with their weapons instead of shooting you, but this is rather useless because they can hardly hit you, probably caused by the poor hit detection of the game.
  20. The game tries to implement an alternative version of the American Civil War during the end of the 19th century as the main ambience and a conflict between the army of a dictator who wants to industrialize the whole country and a group of rebels as the main plot. On paper, this idea sounds great; however, the execution was horribly performed because the plot is actually very generic and sometimes it makes almost no sense. For example, in the introductory cutscene, it shows the main concept of the game and what the main characters are fighting for, but after some minutes, Rourke suddenly remembers his dead ex-wife and the plot is suddenly changed by this. What makes this much worse is that the actual background of the characters is never mentioned in any part of the game, so this part of the plot ends up being unnecessary and seems more like a poor attempt to make the game darker.
  21. All of the side characters are the purest definition of generic and uninspiring. They don't have any kind of character development or interesting personalities and they barely make anything for the plot of the game. Even the main protagonist, Hamilton Rourke, is affected by this, and as it was stated in the previous point, Rourke remembers his dead wife right after he and his teammates find the rest of a robot. What's even worse about all of this is that in some of the cutscenes (especially the introductory one), the game tries to make the main characters look like authentic heroes by doing all of the work to fight against PSA, but due to the poor execution of this, it looks more like if they actually were some kind of Gary Stu.
  22. Almost everything that happens in the game barely makes any sense or makes no sense whatsoever. As was mentioned previously, in the introductory cutscene all of the rebels are killed by the PSA army, but after Rourke and his teammates arrive, they shoot some soldiers from their bikes and suddenly all of the soldiers in the area are dead. However, the worst offender of all is at the end of the same mission: after destroying an artillery cannon and a bridge at the same time, one of the transports of PSA from the other side place an alternative bridge in the same area where the destroyed bridge was, allowing the other cannons to fire. All of this in less than ten seconds. Watch for yourself.
  23. Painfully bad voice acting. The voices of all of the characters are the purest definition of lifeless because they sound more like if the dub actors were just reading the lines without involving any kind of emotion on them. Even the PSA soldiers are affected by this, and instead of sounding menacing for the player, they sound more like if some elder was using a walkie-talkie to scream a lot of incoherent words.
  24. The sound effects, especially the ones from the weapons, are very screechy and have unbalanced volume. The worst example of this is the submachine gun, because its firing sound is very high-pitched and can make your ears hurt if you're using earphones and you're playing the game with a moderate-to-high level of volume. The fact that the submachine gun has a pretty high rate of fire just makes this much worse and even more ear-raping.
  25. The game included a multiplayer mode, and while this could add some replay value to the game, it is very limited in terms of maps and gamemodes available, and it also has many flaws; for example, the maximum amount of players on a server is eight, but all of the maps are very huge, making the matches very tedious and boring, since it's very hard to find anyone to shoot at.
  26. Since GameSpy closed its servers in February of 2013, the multiplayer and the cooperative mode in the PC version can't be played in any way. You can use some external programs to make some multiplayer matches like Hamachi, but these programs won't work on the cooperative mode for some strange reason.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. As ironic as it may sound, considering what was said in WID#8, the graphics of the game help it to look bleaker, something that fits incredibly well with the steampunk ambientation that the developers tried to express in the game.
  2. The soundtrack of the game is also very fitting to the levels and the action happening in them. To describe this, in action segments the game will play certain tracks that can fit with the intensity of the firefights, and while platforming or walking, the music will suddenly change to a bleak track that can make the player feel the desolation of each level.
  3. Even if the implementation of the all-terrain motorcycles was not executed adequately, the idea behind it is excellent and very creative. The designs of the motorcycles are also great and have a very good-looking aesthetic.
  4. As the game focused heavily on the "vertical" playability of the game, the general level design is entirely developed under this mold, thus, the obstacles and the many challenges that the game provides are very well implemented, though many people may dislike this kind of gameplay, mainly because the game doesn't indicate to you where to go after the guide cutscenes end.
  5. While the Spanish dub of the game is not the best one, it's much better and inspires more credibility than the English dub.

Reception

Damnation was considered a commercial failure and has received negative reviews from critics. This had killed Blue Omega before closure a year later, given that it was the one and only game the studio developed. It holds a Metacritic score of a 41/100 on the PC version [2], and a 36/100 on the PS3 [3] and Xbox 360 version [4]. It's often considered to be one of the worst games of all time.

Adam Brown from Cheat Code Central rated the game with a 1.7 out of 5.0 and said: "In the end, Damnation really is a sad story. The game had an interesting concept and a good amount of potential but it just never came together. It is really unfortunate to see it fail in just about every aspect because even if it had gotten one thing right, be it platforming, shooting, multiplayer, or its storyline, perhaps it could have still found an audience happy to check it out. However, as it is I can’t imagine anyone enjoying their time spent with this game."[5]

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