On a Wing and a Prayer
Mad Catz makes great stuff—fighting sticks, headphones, flight sticks and many more examples of excellent hardware. Video games, not so much. I appreciate the company’s desire to get into the game…er…game. After all, if you can sell your flight stick with a flight sim you can make two sales at the same time. Thus we now have Damage, Inc, an arcade style flight game that can be purchased with a flight stick—a flight-stick it does nothing to show off.
The game itself is a basic arcade-style airplane shooter. It doesn’t try to be a sim, and that’s OK. Or it would be if it executed on what it promised—fast action dogfighting. Instead the game is sluggish, both with a standard controller and the flight-stick. The planes lack any feeling of responsiveness. Heck, if real planes controlled this poorly we would have lost the war.
The designers, it seems, didn’t know how to fix the control issues, so instead they put in Reflex Mode, bullet-time for airplanes. There’s no limit on how long you can use Reflex, and you’ll find yourself turning to it often in order to get kills. All this does is sap the speed and excitement from the game by slowing things down. But fixing your red dot onto a target is a chore no matter how slow you’re moving because the game is just so herky-jerky. Taking down targets is satisfying, but I’m not sure if it’s because you’re beating the enemy or overcoming the poorly executed dogfighting design.
Some of the game’s other missions fare better, and the diversity is much appreciated. I actually really enjoyed the torpedo missions, and attacking ground targets is a hoot, even though accuracy remained a problem. The game includes a single-player campaign (with a throw-away storyline) that clocks in at about 10 hours, as well as competitive multiplayer and co-op modes. You can’t fault the designers for skimping on content, even if they skimped on quality.
Graphically, the game isn’t exactly ugly, but it doesn’t shine. The plane models are nice, but everything else is generic and bland. If it weren’t for the explosions, there are times I might have dozed off.
The collector’s edition of the game comes with the very nice Pacific AV8R FlightStick. I tried the AV8R with Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, arguably the best flight sim available this generation. The stick was quick and responsive and I preferred it to the Ace Edge stick that originally came with the game (though I did miss the separate throttle controls).
I hope Damage, Inc. doesn’t discourage Mad Catz from trying its hand at game publishing in the future. As much as I didn’t like the game, I definitely see potential in releasing games with a quality piece of hardware as part of a package, and Mad Catz has the hardware part down cold. Now we just need a flight game that doesn’t make me want to walk into a propeller.
SUMMARY: The arcade-style flight game, Damage, Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII, offers a long single-player campaign, multiplayer dogfighting and co-op modes. Unfortunately, the game controls poorly making gameplay a chore. For those who have the patience to tolerate the gameplay, there’s plenty of variety to the missions. The best part was the AV8R flight-stick that comes packed in with the collector’s edition. So if you are interested in a nice piece of hardware look for this one when the price gets slashed and you can grab it for the price of the hardware alone.
- THE GOOD: The flight-stick packed in with the game is top-notch—very responsive and accurate…with other games.
- THE BAD: There are times it would have been easier to fly an actual soup can.
- THE UGLY: Reflex mode—basically bullet time—just doesn’t work in a flight simulator.
Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII is available on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Primary version reviewed was for the Xbox 360.