First Impressions of Damage, Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII

I’m not usually one for flight simulations.  Much like fighting games, and, to an extent, RTS’s, I find the myriad of button combinations too difficult to remember to use effectively, and I often end up using the most basic combination of options and hope for the best.  It was this philosophy that allowed me to complete Tekken 3 on the original PlayStation using only the left-kick button; it has served me well ever since.

I do, however, sometimes enjoy the more arcade flight sims, and as a history buff, anything with a reference to World War II often pops up on my radar.  So it was with Damage, Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII.  Developed by Trickstar Games and published by Mad Catz Interactive, Damage, Inc. contains both simulation and arcade control options and has recently had a demo released on Xbox Live.

This demo allows players access to a single level, “Attack on Taroa,” which provides you with the opportunity to take in this game’s representation of a variety of staple flight sim experiences.  You’ll be bombing ground targets, escorting other planes, and defeating ace pilots.  There’s nothing really new or ground-breaking here, and although Damage, Inc. offers up a fairly solid flight sim experience, there isn’t much to write home about.

You’re given access to four different planes, all based on real planes from the era, including the F8F Bearcat and the P-61 Black Widow.  Each plane handles slightly differently, and each has its own strengths, weaknesses and different ammunition loadouts.  One thing I found similar across all the planes, however, is a sense of the controls trying to fight you at times.  I would be on the tail of an enemy plane, about to shoot it down, and I’d find the game auto-adjusting my plane, often causing me to lose my target.  I found the aiming to be inconsistent as well, with the slightest nudge moving your crosshairs much further than intended, and sometimes the targeting reticule moved around even as I flew in a straight line.

This could be because the controls are a little difficult to acclimatise to, particularly when using a standard controller.  It seems pretty obvious Damage, Inc. was designed for a flight stick, particularly as one is packaged with the collector’s edition of the game.  On a standard controller, the left stick controls plane movement, whilst the right stick controls throttle and banking.  It’s not a bad system, but it does make it difficult to use the face buttons, which are used for switching targets.

The aesthetics in Damage, Inc. are certainly a mixed bag, and for some reason the experience in the menus is much more impressive than in the game proper.  The menu screens take on the look of WWII-era propaganda posters, with an interesting mix of colours and art styles, and the music wouldn’t seem out of place in a movie representing the time.  Once in game, though, the visuals are sparse and fairly bland aside from the plane models, which seem fairly faithfully represented.  The music in game also takes a turn for the worse, becoming incredibly repetitive, and actually quite annoying.

Whilst I appreciate this is only a demo, and as such what is represented here might not necessarily reflect the final product, the launch of Damage, Inc. is less than two weeks away (August 28), and so I can’t imagine the final release code will be much different from the demo.  I say this as I encountered a game-breaking bug, where my plane disappeared and the camera instead focused on an anonymous island in the middle of the ocean.  The plane was still under my control, as I could fire missiles and machine guns, but the camera refused to move from the island.  The bug wouldn’t even let me load a previous checkpoint either, as the game had autosaved during my time staring at the palm trees.

This demo for Damage, Inc. hasn’t exactly set my world on fire. There seems to be a fairly solid flight sim here, but it certainly isn’t anything genre-defying or convention-breaking.  If anything, Damage, Inc. sticks to the tried-and-true and, unfortunately, this makes for a fairly bland and anonymous experience.  It will be interesting to see if the final game offers up more variety, but otherwise I can see Damage, Inc. featuring heavily in the Boxing Day sales this year.

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