The WW2 flight simulator market, while a niche one at best, is still ripe for some tapping, as several game developers have in recent years attempted to do so, churning out dogfight games that were more or less underwhelming experiences that were bogged down with bland visuals and repetitive gameplay. Can Mad Catz do what so many others have failed to do, or does Damage Inc: Pacific Squadron crash and burn with the rest of the blighters?
Right from the get-go, you’ve got two options here to start the game with, Arcade and Simulation mode. Arcade mode hands you a plane that is more generous with the various nuances and subtleties of flying a wooden kite during the battles of WW2, albeit with only one perspective allowed, in the third-person view. Don’t like it? Tough! That’s all you’re getting.
Simulation mode includes a different take on steering and flying your aircraft, something that purists always yearn for, with more camera angles and vantage points allowed, albeit with players having to choose before a game starts, or through a pause menu, meaning that switching between the views during combat is out completely.
Right, with that mission profile ticked off, it’s time to take to the air chaps! You’ll do some tutorials, watch a nicely animated film that sets the tone, and hop into a plane as you circle around some of the most god-awful visuals ever seen.
Sure, the planes boast some nice details and touches, but as for everything else? Lets just say that Damage Inc has landscapes that look like Jackson Pollock had a drunken paint enema squirted onto his canvas.
And then we’ve got the fact that this game regularly suffers from inconsistent frame-rates, creating some choppy action as you try and take down torpedo bombers and enemy aces, as the game struggles to keep up with you.
As for combat, the basics are all there. You’ve got a mini-map highlighting your foes, the ugly landscapes are at least vast enough to fly around in, and you’ll perform off moves which are less simulation in Arcade, and more the type of showboating that is usually accompanied by “Rock you like a hurricane”.
So you’ve got a dogfight on your hands, and you need some extra time to focus on getting that kill, without having your spitfire torn apart in the process. Warspeed is the tool that’ll help, as you use it to slow down time, Matrix-style, and let loose the machine guns and help you align that shot up perfectly. It works, and it does come in handy during Damage Inc, as the regenerating meter complements the speed booster that occupies the other half of your dials.
Damage Inc attempts to introduce some variety into the overall campaign, as players get tasked with doing some reconnaissance missions, but it quickly becomes repetetive, tiresome and feels tacked on, all in an effort to market the Joystick device that the game comes with, for those of you dedicated enough to buy one.
Our review copy was missing that joystick, so we can’t comment on it, or it’s effectiveness and whether or not it adds anything to the game. Moving on, players will also get to fly from waypoint to waypoint during their tour of duty, a useful feature that for some reason disappears during the heat of battle, when pilots get tasked with protecting certain buildings and convoys, as a timer ticks down to their imminent destruction.
But hey, Damage Inc isn’t all doom and gloom on the single-player front! You get to spread that misery on multiplayer as well! The targeting is terrible, the frame rate is even worse and the frustration when playing with human opponents who are suffering the same issues is only amplified, as my final online session involved a Scotsman cursing so loudly at the game, that he would make a Drill Sergeant blush.
Arcade mode is where the action is at, and just barely. A magic Warspeed button brings the timer down, as you shoot down Messerschmitt after Messerschmitt, quickly becoming repetitive as you race from dogfight to dogfight, while several glitches and inconsistencies drag the kite down even further into mediocrity.
As for the more authentic simulation mode, besides some varied handling and flying aspects, it’s rather similar overall, providing little alternative to the forced perspectives given to players.
Design and Presentation: 4/10
Absolutely gorgeous. The box art I mean. Much like a Turkish movie poster that exaggerates certain features, players get suckered into a product that looks dated, and as if it belongs to a previous generation of consoles, as the choppy action and bug-riddled experience leave the game looking mediocre at best. On a good day. When the tides are high. During specific planetary alignments.
The sound is passable however, and the animations, while cheaply animated, are actually striking, as the fervour of American patriotism plays out.
You’ve got to ask yourself “Do I really want to play the same missions over and over again, with attempts at variety coming off as hastily tacked on alternatives?”. If you do, well, good for you then. As for the rest of us, putting down the controller after going through both single-player and multiplayer section is going to leave us severely traumatised.
Mad Catz makes some great peripherals for gaming, but when they concentrate on a game, it feels like a dated, shoestring-budget attempt to sell some more wares, as quickly as possible before gamers cotton on.
Damage Inc” Pacific Squadron tries, but not very hard, to be an all-encompassing stab at the genre, but feels like a plane without wings, on fire, as the ugly visuals and boring gameplay frustrates more than it excites.
Reviewed on Xbox 360
Last Updated: September 3, 2012