Steampunk is a great genre. Its generally close enough to our tech to be a more believable sci-fi, but throws a great “what if” scenario out there. In the case of Damnation, it is a gritty and violent western with some “what ifs” creating new gameplay challenges. We recently got to go hands-on with Codemasters’ “shooter gone vertical” at Comic Con and even though I got my butt handed to me, I liked what it brought to the genre.
We started off on a level where the object was to get your team of three up a mine shaft. On traditional shooters this would be played out in a series of caverns connected by tunnels or mine cart riding like in RE4, but here players would have to navigate up the central shaft, which looked easily 30 stories high if an inch. There were many paths that could be taken with zipcords and ladders to reach new levels. The shooting is fast and frantic. Enemies have the same abilities as our hero Rourke and take the high ground to pin the player down as much as possible. Damnation is meant to be fast paced and doesn’t provide much cover. It is up to the player to think carefully about how approach a level.
Damnation does give players help to survive tough spots. First is that NPCs in party will actually do something instead of just getting killed. Its cowardly to rely on teammates all the time, but every little bit helps. Second is that bullets leave trails, which is invaluable when pinned down by a sniper. I was able to trace the line back to the ugly bastard and shoot the ever convenient fuel barrel next to him for highly entertaining results.
Finally is the new gameplay mechanic called Spirit Vision. Here players can go into a Spirit state and view the entire level through walls. Enemies appear as red heat signatures through the blue walls. This helps figure out how to go about the stage. It can be used for as long as needed and as many times as desired, but since Rourke is completely vulnerable while in Spirit Vision it isn’t something that can be done every few feet.
The single-player campaign was all that was available, which should be a 10-12 hr experience. But there will also be a large multiplayer element with co-op as well. Navigating the level and trying out all the platforming elements left me hopeful, but there was one bug. I shot at an enemy several times and he didn’t die, however that didn’t stop him from killing me. That aside and since I refuse to blame the player (me) I just hope that’s fixed by the time Damnation falls this April.