Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII Adventures in Pre-Release Gaming
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 13th Aug 2012
When the nondescript box arrived on my desk in the bullpen I knew three things from looking at it: It was a large box (large enough so that it was already getting eyed by other staffers and interns as potentially holding gaming goodness), it wasn't from one of the countries that routinely causes your boxes to given secondary screening (which means it was not pre-opened for me by the post office), and finally, it had to be a game, right? Right!
Pulling out my trusty "Gears of War Lancer with Bayonet Affixed" Commemorative Letter Opener that was given to me by one of the dev's from Epic Games at the now historical Microsoft Games Studio Gears of War Pre-Release Bash that was held in September of 2006 just weeks prior to the official launch of the final release version of the game -- bearing in mind that (A) back then the pre-launch parties for AAA titles were more about giving games journos an opportunity to get some hand's-on time with the game mostly because that happened to be in the middle of the two-years when E3 was radically reduced in size, invitations, and being candid here, effectiveness; and (B) when studios and publishers threw parties back then they were Par-Tays! Not like today, just saying... And they always tried to give you something commemorative in nature but also cool and helpfully useful in reality so that you had something interesting as a souvenir and to remind you of the event.
I keep my commemorative Gears of War Lancer with Bayonet Affixed Letter Opener sharp -- and under lock-and-key -- since I would not be at all surprised or shocked if it was re-tasked in my absence were I to just leave it on my desk... But I am getting side-tracked here... Yeah.
-- The Box on My Desk and its E3 Connection --
The razor-sharp Bayonet permanently affixed to my Lancer cleanly sliced through the packing tape and soon enough the top of the box was open, revealing the top of the boxed special edition set of what is perhaps one of the most talked about upcoming releases here in the GU Bullpen: Mad Catz' freshman game title, Damage Inc: Pacific Squadron World War II -- the hybrid arcade-flying-sim title that puts gamers in the cockpit of classic WWII-era US and Japanese fighters, bombers, and fighter-bombers (and torpedo planes, dive bombers, you get the idea), and lets them replay some of the most important battles of World War II!
As I peeled back the top of the box and realized what was inside, visions of the private exhibit space on the second floor of ther LA Convention Center above the main corridor that linked the two primary show floors together at E3 flew to mind unbidden...
The classy layout, ice cold beverages, and the polite but harried crew who, in spite of the massive crowd -- their private room was packed with games journos, including a camera crew and interviewer who had grabbed hold of Alex Verrey and were monopolizing his time much to my disappointment -- were making things slightly more tense than seemed usual. But hey, it was E3 after all, and in addition to the standard new hardware that was being unveiled in the Mad Catz and related lines of game controllers and peripherals, there was also the new games that the company was soon to release -- that's right, one of the best known game controller companies was branching out into game publishing!
The reason behind the disappointment that I keenly felt had to do with the fact that Alex Verrey and I had something of a history of being two ships passing in the day-night-afternoon-whenever, having a well established tradition of not connecting with each other that dates back years, starting at one of the annual Consumer Electronics Shows (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I had been tentatively scheduled to hook up with him at the Mad Catz booth but for reasons not to be blamed on anybody we *just* missed each other.
As can happen in this sort of situation the near-miss set in motion a history of sometimes tragic, sometimes funny near-misses so that in spite of both of us being present at a variety of official events and expos over the course of the next few years we never quite managed to connect. Convinced that this year would be different, your veteran GU reporter approached the door to the Mad Catz room, dewey-eyed Intern in tow, convinced that this year would be The Year to Meet Alex!
-- GU Reporter Claims Technical Victory --
While I am declaring a technical victory on this, the truth is that my meeting with Mssr. Verrey consisted of roughly 25 seconds during which we shook hands, commented on the fact that the meeting was long-overdue, and then Alex apologetically handed me off to an assistant because he was to be interviewed for one of the video-based video games journos who was present and eagerly awaiting his interview, and so Alex was committed to having his soul stolen by the infernal demon camera and all that goes along with it...
It turned out that it was Gamespot that was doing the interview with Alex -- a fact that I verified by checking the different video tours of the Mad Catz space until I recognized the interviewer -- you will get the full picture if you watch the video embedded below and picture in your mind's eye myself and my Intern safely tucked away behind the cameraman who is filming this interview:
Gamespot's Correspondent Carlos Rodela interviews Mad Catz' Alex Verry and gets a tour of the Mad Catz booth at E3 2012
-- The Mad Catz E3 2012 Presentation Space --
In addition to being the first chance for most games journos to get a peek at Damage Inc. for the first time, the folks at Mad Catz also had on display in their Official E3 2012 Exhibit Space a number of new offerings in their controller lines that included a set of accessories for Nintendo's upcoming Wii U next gen console, their TRITTON Kunai headset, a bunch of charging docks, a variety of traditional and FPS controllers, and some other items that will soon be featured here on GU as part of our special hardware coverage as the 2012/1013 Video Games Season officially busts wide-open on 1 September, marking the official end of the Summer Doldrums and the resumption of AA and AAA title release schedules - Woot!
While Alex -- who is indeed a rare and beautiful Snowflake -- was being interviewed for Gamespot my Intern and I began to work our way through the various hardware and game offerings on display, obtaining some valuable hands-on time with Damage Inc, what is arguably one of the most exciting air-combat and flying simulation titles to land on Microsoft's Xbox 360 platform in a very long time indeed!
Bearing in mind that Damage Inc. does not officially launch until 28 August, and is under partial embargo as far as some preview details are concerned, and full embargo with respect to review details and the use of images or video from the game -- we carefully checked in with our official contact at Mad Catz, one Monty "the Wild Man" Rimorin, who approved some limited preview details for this piece! So without further obfuscation, we now return you to my desk in the GU Bullpen where, thanks to the magic of time travel, you now rejoin me as the events unfold!
With the top of the box now open one of the Interns announced that I had recieved "a bitchin' model airplane!" and wondered out loud if it was radio controlled? It turned out that what "it" was is a die-cast metal replica of a World War II Vintage Wildcat fighter plane with markings from the game, firmly affixed to the top of a box that contained a special edition of the game along with its Saitek AV8R Flight Stick Controller for the Xbox 360, and how freaking cool is that? Very freaking cool, that is how freaking cool!
Due to the embargo we cannot show you pictures of the un-boxing, but check this out and you will get the idea:
-- A Limited Damage Inc Preview --
At E3 we were presented with the opportunity to briefly play Damage Inc with the AV8R Flight Stick and what we found was a very polished and fun game in which air-to-air combat in the form of dogfights provided some excellent seat-of-the-pants excitement, and though we barely had time enough to master the necessity to lead our attacks by aiming a bit in front of the path of the enemy (there was a helpful red aiming-dot) and take in the challenge of quickly switching from dogfighting to ground-attack objectives what we found was a combination of fine control thanks to the flight stick which offered a level of flying combat gaming that is rare for console gaming.
To put this in perspective for you, the last popular but well-balanced air-combat games to be released on the 360 is a list largely made up of purely arcade-style games like Air Combat, H.A.W.X. 2, Birds of Steel, and IL-2 Sturmovik -- all of which are very good games for what they are, but in the case of Damage Inc. there is a little extra oomph, from the basic start in which you throttle up and take off from the runway to the fierce combat and finally, the skilled manner in which you set up your approach and throttle down to make a perfect landing so that the ground crew can fix your crate so that you are ready to fly up and fight another day!
As you play through the story -- whether via the Arcade or Sim Modes -- a stylized version of the historical events unfolds beginning in the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor -- the day of the attack during which your character -- codenamed "Reaper Leader" -- witnesses the death of his brother as he is helpless to prevent it -- and then goes on to play a key role in the air defense and eventually offense that made up the series of battles that projected from the sneak attack on Hawaii all the way through Midway and beyond.
The collection of planes that are available to fly and fight against reads like a historical catalog and reference guide to the high-end hardware of the era, and in the process of heroically defending your turf your character gets the opportunity to win a variety of medals in recognition for their heroism, including the Air Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze and Silver Stars, and the Navy Cross just to name a few. There is plenty of adventure to be found here, and though it has a limited story that plays out as a mixture of narrative and active dialogue via radio between your character Reaper Leader and the various ground elements and other pilots, there is just enough meat to it to keep you immersed and interested.
While we are restricted in what we can say in detail, we can say that you should be prepared for an in-depth assessment of the game and its flight mechanics, as well as some colorful observations and our impressions of the game when that pesky embargo is lifted on the 28th. Until then though, know that whether you choose to play the game with the standard gamepad or the special flight stick (both bring their own unique advantages to game play) this one is unlikely to disappoint!
Check out this narrated preview of the game by Mad Catz' own Alex Verrey, who since he is the official spokesman for Mad Catz does not have to worry about violating any of the embargo conditions right? Right! So here are a bunch of things we would love to have said and some tasty video clips we would like to have shown you: