Posted on September 7, 2012 AT 11:38am
One of the first things you notice about this MadCatz WWII flight simulator is that it plays like a History Channel special. On more than one occasion through out my time playing, I pulled up Google to run a fact check and see if the game was as true to the time period as it was boasted to be. And I can honestly say that I didn’t find any discrepancies. But is Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII worth your time and money? Well that all depends on what your expectations of a flight simulator are. The copy used for this review was apart of the Xbox 360 Collector’s Edition and included the Saitek Pacific AV8R Flightstick.
Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII’s campaign introduces you to your fighter pilot; aside from being called “Reaper Leader” through out the game he has no real identity. It fits in quite nicely under the concept that you are slipping into the shoes of any fighter pilot that took to the skies during WWII. While we learn some back story on Reaper Leader, it is oddly appropriate to not have a name or face put to the character. Via the historical footage and voice over work between missions, we learn that like many soldiers during WWII, Reaper Leader comes from a working class family and has suffered the loss of a family member as a result of the war. The initial two levels of the campaign give you a brief, but often times tricky, tutorial on how to become a master dog fighter. The tutorial is not as helpful as it could be. It will often times instruct you to use a certain feature, but fail to tell you what button triggers that feature. After some time tinkering with the controls you can make out most of what was being indicated, but it tends to be long after the instructions have been given.
The campaign begins shortly before the historically tragic events of Pearl Harbor, and no matter how good of a pilot you become, you sadly can not change the outcome. However, the realistic depiction of events through out Damage Inc. is part of the title’s charm! Everything within the story appears to be totally accurate and history buffs will enjoy picking up on all those little gems as the game progresses. The planes available to you at the start of the campaign are the only ones that would have been flown during WWII in the year your mission takes place in. When upgrades do become available for your air craft it’s only when your story has reached a time where those technological advances have been made. Your plane may very well struggle to keep up with the enemy craft at times during the campaign, but that’s war, and it’s based off of the real specifications of those crafts. Playing with such handicaps requires you to learn the specific manner that each plane needs to flown in and adapt to its strengths and weakness. As a result you will also end up using far more strategy than you would expect as you learn that completing the objective isn’t as simple as gunning down the enemy. You need to pay attention to your distance in relation to their artillery, their speed against your agility, and so on.
The length of the campaign, like all games, is entirely based on your skill level and if you are better with the flighstick or a standard controller. If this is your first flying game or your first time using a flightstick, you can expect to spend about 30-60 minutes on each mission. While getting the most for your money is important, there were times when the campaign missions carried on just a little too long. The dog fights are a blast, but the recon missions that require you to swoop in on top of an enemy ship several times can lead to disaster if you’re not careful about how low you are flying. The good news is, if you do end up taking a dip into the big drink, you will only be placed at the start of that objective not the beginning of the level. The bad news is that some of those objectives can be rather lengthy. So spending 15 minutes in a dog fight and getting 9 out of 10 planes down is great, but if that last one manages to bomb its target before you take it out… It’s back to the objective start you go!
Damage Inc. is exceptionally pleasing to listen to if you have it hooked up to a headset or stereo system. The game is chock full of explosions and the pings of gun fire bouncing off metal. There is some voice over work which is simply scripted and well acted. All the voice over bits that you hear are queued by the events of the objective you are playing. Hearing the same stock lines once or twice isn’t so bad, but if you get stuck on a mission and have to repeat an objective several times the repetition of the voice overs will most likely end in you yelling “I know already!” at your television.
Visually the game takes full advantage of the graphics available on a console, but at times can be a bit choppy. However, given the amount of moving around you have to do during a flight simulator the occasional moment of slow rendering can easily be excused. The level design for the scenery is surprisingly detailed given that most of the game occurs in the air. Flying in close to the ground will allow you to see all the little buildings and hangars that are on base as well as trees and sand of the surrounding areas. When doing recon on an enemy submarine you can not only swoop in close enough to see the vessel cruising along under the water, but you can also see the wake of water left behind if you are targeting a destroyer. A nice touch comes when you shoot down an enemy aircraft and a tiny parachute falls to the relative safety of the land below.
As I was barrel rolling my way through the campaign, I was becoming more and more excited about taking a stab at the multiplayer mode. The sights and sounds of epic sky battles were ringing in my ears and it was time to see if I was up to snuff and go against the public! Only one problem… the public wasn’t there. Allegedly there is a co-op mode available for multiplayer, but I wasn’t able to get a single partner in a public match-up to try it out with. There is a versus mode in which up to eight people can engage in a dog fight, either as individuals or in teams of four. The largest number of people in one game I was able to play with was five. And this was over the course of several days and logging on at different hours. I don’t entirely blame Damage Inc. as a game for this set back. Flying games are not intuitive for a lot of people and as they are rather difficult to learn I can see why some may shy away from playing online. If you are lucky enough to get into a public game, you will have access to the thirty two historic air craft included in the game that were available during WWII. Struggling with getting into a public game is worth the effort just to experiment with all the different planes. But it may not be a feature worth troubling yourself with long term.
In the humble opinion of this author, you are doing yourself a disservice by purchasing Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII and not getting the Collector’s Edition, which comes with a Saitek AV8R Flightstick. At first the flightstick can be a bit difficult to get accustomed to as the sensitivity is off the charts. But once you adapt to using it, you open yourself up to a much more unique and fun game play experience. You’ll not only find yourself quite naturally leaning into the turns your craft is making, but you’ll also breath a heavy sigh of relief when you are able to pull your flighstick back in time to avoid a crash. The game can be played with a standard controller, but where is the fun in that? The Collector’s Edition also includes a die cast replica of a Corsair which is beautifully painted and worthy of being showcased on a shelf in your home.
SUMMARY: Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII is a great flying game complete with both arcade and simulation modes. If you are looking for a WWII game with a lengthy campaign and historical accuracy, this is a good buy. If you are looking for the replay value that comes with a great multiplayer, this may not be such a good choice. The game is available now for PlayStaion 3 and Xbox 360 at a retail price of $39.99. But if you are looking to get the most out of the game, I would recommend purchasing the $99.99 Collector’s Edition with comes with a Corsair replica and Saitek Flightstick.
The Good: Historical accuracy, detailed graphics, and sound effects are where the game’s strengths are.
The Bad: Tutorial may leave some gamers feeling discouraged as it’s not always helpful. Voice overs can be irritating if you find yourself repeating missions.
The Ugly: Multiplayer is a dead zone and will likely lower the replay value.
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