I was never really into planes, model or otherwise, as a kid. More of a dinosaur person. But that couldn?t quite stop my big gormless grin when I first sat down with the flight stick to try out Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII.
The version we recieved for review.
Unfortunately it soon became apparent that my childlike enthusiasm far outstripped my actual skill. Apparently Pearl Harbour would have gone a lot worse if I?d been out there. But despite my rapid first few dozen crashes I was determined to pull it together and do my bit for the war effort.
substantial campaign covers a good chunk of World War II, following the adventures of a plucky young American pilot as he single-handedly routs Japanese forces from the Pacific. There?s a generic ?avenge the dead brother? story woven into the background, but the storytelling and voice acting is so bland and uninspired that the effect is more comical than dramatic.
Each chapter tends to follow a specific pattern, with a few warm up runs at each map before you?re plunged into the final battle for that location. The early missions tend to keep things light; you?ll mostly just have to recon certain areas and take out the enemy scouts.
The final battle mission, on the other hand, is endurance-testingly long and busy. Although it is divided up into multiple objectives, there doesn?t seem to be much in the range of variety here. You?re usually just directed to zip back and forth across the map taking out enemy jets and bombers before they can take out their target.
Despite being a big focus of the game, combat is unfortunately pretty dull. Once you?ve mastered the art of not ploughing straight into the ground the game doesn?t really throw many challenges at you. This is mostly due to enemies not trying particularly hard to kill you.
Occasionally you?ll see some bullets ricocheting off of your craft but with no visual indicator of damage sustained I?m still not entirely sure if it?s possible for me to die at enemy hands. This worked out well for me because even a decent way into the campaign I still had my hands full trying to survive my own piloting skills... or crashing skills.
This complete lack of interest on the AI?s part extends to your own side as well, on the rare occasion that you aren?t out there on your own. While the big battles will be teeming with friendly and enemy planes, they don?t really seem to do anything other than fly around each other while you get on with the work.
It makes for a very lonely experience as you slowly work your way through the enemies one at a time when you?d expect things to be a lot more chaotic. Fortunately there is an online co-op mode that allows groups of four players to tackle each campaign level as a team, but finding three other people willing to play through Damage Inc with you might be a challenge in itself.
The graphics are dated. The sky and clouds are particularly rough, this stands out because, well, you?re in a plane. Water is also very flat looking. It?s not all bad though, ground terrain looks a lot better and there?s a lot of detail in the buildings and vehicles that you?ll fly over. This seems like a slightly off decision however, seeing as how you?ll only catch glimpses of the buildings and vehicles as you fly over them while the sky and water is almost always in view.
It doesn?t help that in order to shoot anything you?ll need to rely on the bullet time-esque ?reaction mode? which slows down time enough for you to get some shots off at an enemy but also heavily blurs everything. At least the damage effects on enemies works well, with jets smoking and losing pieces briefly before exploding in a fairly satisfying shower of fire and metal.
One of the game?s strongest points is the vast amount of jets you can unlock as you progress through the campaign. Success in missions earns you points which can be spent to unlock upgraded models of your jets, further increasing your collection. I couldn?t really begin to judge how accurate they are, but they definitely look convincing enough and there?s a wide range of plane designs with different stats that influence their handling and combat prowess.
Revisiting completed missions even lets you try out any Japanese fighters you?ve unlocked so far, which of course come in a wide range of models and can also be upgraded to match your home-grown planes.
The unfortunate truth is that Damage Inc.
is part of a very niche genre and does little to really stand up against bigger names like Birds of Steel
or the more mainstream Ace Combat
series. Still, if you happen to need a new good-quality flight stick you could possibly do worse.
The campaign is pretty sizeable and unlocking all the different planes should take some time. Even longer if you want to build up enough points to upgrade them all. But it will definitely be a somewhat tedious process.
Arcade controls easy to learn.
A lot of unlockable planes.
Really dated graphics.
SPOnG Score: 5.5/10