September 10, 2012
The story focusses on World War II from an American perspective. At the start of the game you're introduced to how the war was panning out and why the United States were forced to join in the global conflict. This means your first mission takes place at Pearl Harbour, but you'll also be venturing further afield as the narrative continues to play out.
The campaign is rather lengthy, and while it attempts to throw in some historically accurate information, the actual gameplay couldn't be further from this. In the first mission alone you'll find yourself shooting down 50+ enemy planes.
There is a good amount of variety though, in between the mindless shooting down of Japanese dog fighters. In some of the more specialised missions, you'll have to some torpedo runs, dive bombing and also some reconnaissance. It's all too infrequent though, compared to the amount of planes you'll be shooting down outside of these activities.
Even with the Saitek AV8R flight stick, you will instantly find that the controls aren't as good as they should have been. And if you're playing with the gamepad you might well be in for bumpy ride. Everything is far too sensitive and it means attempting to line up a shot on an opposing plane is far more cumbersome that it needs to be. To alleviate this problem, the developers implemented "Reflex Mode", which makes everything go into slow motion, but you still have to be roughly in the right area to start off with.
To highlight the arcade nature of the game, the Reflex Mode is also infinite. You can stay it in for as long as you want without any kind of penalty. You'll also have an infinite amount of machine gun bullets.
Despite the difficulty manoeuvring your plane sometimes, there's no real danger presented by what happens in the game. It's far easier to fail an objective because you couldn't shoot down opposition planes quickly enough, or you just crashed, than because you've been taken out by opposition firepower.
Missions can also last a rather long time in some instances. Despite having quite a few different tasks to perform, they all have a very similar premise and they can be tedious sometimes. It ends up being a juxtaposition. Some elements of the game are on the arcade side, while having to fly for 30-45 seconds to reach a new objective is more on the simulation side.
When looking at the game's graphics, things don't improve. While some elements look nice, like the scenery from afar, others just look terrible. Credit should be given to the developers though for their historical accuracy. As you play through the game, you'll unlock different aircrafts (30 in total) and they are all in keeping with the time period. The same applies to the story. Unfortunately, how planes crash when you shoot them wasn't given the same attention to detail - something that should be more important.
Despite the control issues, the flight stick does make the experience far more enjoyable. And once you start to get the hang of things, it starts to slot into place a bit more. There's nothing more satisfying than lining up a perfect shot and hammering down the trigger to see your foe be destroyed in a bullet storm.
In terms of replay value, Damage Inc. has a decent array of options. You can play against humans in the online arena and it makes things a little bit more complicated, but fun too. Scratch One Flat-top is a fantastic idea, as it tasks opposite teams with taking down an aircraft carrier, while also dealing with the dog fighting aspect - it's rather chaotic.
Damage Inc. is a flight game which seems a little bit confused. Some strong attention to detail has been paid to some aspects of the game, like the historical accuracy. However, when it comes to the gameplay and mechanics, things start to fall down. There are numerous arcade elements thrown in there, but simulation elements also appear at other times, and it makes for a game that can get rather tedious sometimes. The controls also struggle, although the AV8R flight stick at least offers some respite. It's issues like this that shouldn't be there and stop Damage Inc. from being a solid game.
Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII was reviewed on the PS3.