It’s been over 60 years since the Second World War ended and it should never be forgotten just how many lost their lives fighting for their country and the ideals of their nation. With over 60 million killed between 1939 and 1945, equating to 2.5% of the worlds population at the time, this was the biggest loss of life the world had ever seen. As you can imagine, dealing with such a subject in a game is a rather delicate thing, you can’t just turn war into an exciting and desirable situation full of action and fun, yet you also can’t have an action game not be full of explosions, excitement and fun. For years games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor provided the action while staying true to the context by basing their missions on the true stories. Damage Inc. does it a little differently though, and not just because it takes the battle to the skies.
Focusing solely on the US naval campaign of World War II, you’ll be stepping into the cockpit of various planes, each one suited to the situation at hand. You’ll be dogfighting against Japanese fighter pilots, taking down bomber planes, destroying Japanese ships, or even taking out their land troops as they storm US positions. And while it’s unclear if the ‘Reaper Leader’ you’ll be playing as ever existed, each of the battles really did happen, and the objectives you undertake would have been similar to – if not exactly – what happened as you take down key points, such as destroying Japanese destroyers or landing cruiser submarines.
Seeing as this follows the US campaign of the war, and has no ground based combat, everything takes place over the Pacific, meaning you’ll be seeing a lot of water. Missions start with the now infamous Pearl Harbour attack, that thanks to Michael Bay everyone believes they know about, before hitting all the other major battles people know about, such as Midway and Iwo Jima. Forgive me if that sounds all a little dismissive, but this is a very American game. It oozes with that fervour of ‘fighting for freedom’ and regularly tells you of the story ‘back home’ in the states – which is all well and good for those who may want some incredibly basic knowledge on the War, but as North America was never in any real threat – especially on the East coast – of being invaded like the entirety of Europe was, it’s a little hard to feel that impassioned. Pearl Harbour may have been a bit of a bloodbath, but it was an army base and – as the game glosses over in one sentence – the Japanese were provoked into attacking as America cut off their much needed oil supply, it’s just idiotic to assume a nation at war wouldn’t attack.
Anyway, I’m digressing. Although I may not agree with how it portrays ‘innocent America’ in this war, that has no impact on how the game actually plays nor how enjoyable it is. If you decide to opt for the standard controller you’ll find a highly enjoyable experience that’s rather easy to pick up and play, with some impressive visuals to boot – although it’s sense of scale is a little off as your plane is usually bigger than buildings or boats unless you have to land on them. Missions also seem to last forever, with many of the 20 levels on offer lasting at least half an hour if you manage to hit every objective swiftly without dying. A nice feature to see in Damage Inc. that really adds to the stimulatory experience is the dogfight tracking. Instead of many arcade games where you’ll just aim and shoot at a craft infront of you, here you have to shoot where the enemy plane will be by the time the bullets reach them. Handily this is shown onscreen in the form of a red dot that adjusts itself depending on your speed, their speed and each of your positions. It may seem odd at fist, but it’s pretty easy to get to grips with, and certainly adds a lot.
If you decide to pick up the Collectors Edition that comes with the Saitek Pacific AV8R FlightStick you’ll be in for a different experience as you can opt for a more stimulatory flight, using the stick to adjust the yaw independently from the roll with relative ease. This was the method I preferred during my playtime, and it was certainly better for tighter turning or mid flight corrections – especially if you feel comfortable making minute movements during a bombing run. The AV8R does have some problems though – and that’s not counting the incredibly cheesy name. While the FlightStick has some innovations, such as stands that allow it to stay flat while on your leg – perfect for playing on the sofa – it has the worst of speet spots around. You’ll be doing delicate movements for slight turns or tracking an enemy, but then a movement a little too far sees the stick become loose and your aim go crazy. It’s something you do get used to, but it’s not something you should really have to get used to.
The build of the AV8R is also slightly cheap with it’s very light frame made entirely of plastic. The grip is rubberised though, and genuinely feels of higher quality than the body, but the ‘grippy’ design does begin to feel uncomfortable after prolonged use – especially if you’re continually twisting the stick to adjust yaw as your hand begins to grip tighter than it may otherwise have done. Luckily the 3 metre cable means you’ve got plenty of distance between you and the screen and console so you wont be sitting uncomfortably when using it.
Overall Damage Inc. is a highly enjoyable experience. It may have some pretty wooden voice acting – where everybody seems to just take things with a matter-of-fact attitude – and levels all seem pretty similar; but with over thirty authentic planes, a co-op mode, online multiplayer and some pretty intense dogfights and bombing missions you’ll come out having had fun. I would advise against picking up the Pacific AV8R though, unless you know you really want it, as it really just frustrates due to its floaty controls.
Audio/Visual – 4/5: Wonderfully realised planes and the open skies have never looked so beautiful. There are some issues with scaling but the dramatic music that accompanies your attacks immerses you enough to just ignore it.
Gameplay – 3/5: Good fun and surprisingly innovative. Dive bombing is incredibly annoying – more so with the FlightStick – but you won’t get bored despite the somewhat repetitive shoot A, defend B objectives.
Value – 4/5: Plenty of hours here for you to enjoy, with co-op and online multiplayer only adding to it.
Innovation – 3/5: Trickstar have done a good job of evolving the combat flight game, but it’s still just a little too dry to call it innovative.
Final Score: 3.5/5