Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII -- Game Impressions
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 3rd Sep 2012
As for the difficulty in unlocking the online Achievements and Trophies that many gamers say is present with that type, I have to agree that they do present a challenge -- especially when you stop to consider that most of the time when you encounter games for online play they are peopled by members of the same guild, who are there to play with each other, and not necessarily you... Which suggests that in this case you may want to arrange your own group of players to specifically work on unlocking them.
Summing up Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII
As I battled my way from the opening hours of the war in the Sandwich Islands, on to Wake, through Midway, dunked in Guadalcanal, on board the USS Enterprise, and elsewhere what I experienced and what you will experience is a journey through history in which many of the high-points (and a few of the low points) are visited. The process is fun, but certainly not a simulation of the overly realistic type, and if that is what you are looking for you are sure to be partly disappointed. While the combat elements -- and in particular the ridiculous number of enemy planes you will encounter and shoot down -- does not really lend itself towards a realistic representation of the war in the air, bear in mind that 20 of the planes that VMF-214 commanding officer Greg "Pappy" Boyington were actually shot down during a three-month period and not over a period of years, largely because fighter pilots generally did not serve in active duty combat squadrons for longer than that.
While you cannot have studied these events in history class without recalling as you play the details -- the nastiness of what the Japanese Imperial Army officer's did to the prisoners that they took, and all of the other atrocities that history has excused and forgiven them for and their own history basically denies ever happened -- but as this is not a politically motivated game, those are not really factors that appear in the story. Despite the fact that you know how this whole adventure actually turns out in no way cheapens or lessens the experience or the feelings of accomplishment in your victories, so in that respect it is a great game and an immersive romp through history!
Having pointed all of that out, I wanted to also offer a summary of my take on the story that is laid out in the game -- and the cheesy ham-handed voice acting that largely makes up that story... If you are old enough to remember what they used to call the Spaghetti Western -- movies like My Name is Trinity, Trinity is My Name, Hang 'em High, and dozens upon dozens of other titles in a genre of film that was started by gamed Italian director Sergio Leone, you have a pretty good idea of what the game is like. If you are not old enough to remember those, Google the phrase and read the Wiki entry for it... The acting style in the game and the often over-the-top Seven Samurai slash The Darkened Crane dialogue that is offered by the four Japanese warrior-aces that you face as the boss-battles every so many missions in the game certainly bring those examples to mind, and I seriously doubt that this is accidental!
The story that was written for this game both laughs at itself and offers the player plenty of opportunity to laugh -- both at and with it -- as it embraces cliche and the vamping style of 1940's radio melodrama in so spot-on a fashion that, well, it is so bad it is good! This is especially true of some of the events that net you colorful medals as their reward, and this is doubly intriguing in that these events reflect specific historical happenings (though perhaps we should emphasize, as they are included here, not necessarily historically accurate events) like saving JFK's PT Boat, taking out Yamamoto's transport, that sort of thing. They do add to the immersion effect of the game even if you do not usually find out what historically significant action you have taken until after the fact.
With every combat flight sim that gets made there is invariably a list of features that we would have liked to see in the game that were not present, and things about the game that we wish that they had done differently, and Damage Inc. is no exception to this rule. One of the pet peeves of a lot of the gamers I played the game with in the process of reviewing it found with it that the limited perspective of the Arcade Mode was particularly regrettable. As it has you playing with the plane in your face throughout the game, this is easy to understand.
The Simulation Mode offers additional POV's that include a view from in front of the plane and a view from within its cockpit, which means a lion's share of gamers will be playing it in Simulation Mode. That is not the annoying bit mind you, the annoying bit is that there is no mechanism inside of the game to change your POV on-the-fly -- to accomplish that you have to pause, access the options menu, and then select the POV that you want to use -- something you will end up doing several times if the mission you are on has you begin by dog-fighting and then segues into a lengthy bombing section, as bombing it an activity in the game that was really created for people with three hands as far as the controller layout is concerned when using the gamepad... That may not seem like a big deal but when you are switching between dog-fighting and bombing several times in the same mission and sometimes rapidly, it is a big deal.
The only other majorly annoying presence in the game is the complete remapping of the controls between the two modes -- for example in one mode the throttle is the right joystick, in the other it is the right trigger, and so on. Those issues do not really appear when you are using the flight stick, because the flight stick doesn't care what mode you are playing it in, it knows that the throttle is the throttle, the trigger is the trigger, and the gun goes boom!
The Non-Traditional Traditional Review Scores
After giving the game a very strong play-through and milking as much of the content that runs parallel to the story as I could, the overall impression that I formed of the game and its combination of fun, challenge, and entertainment causes me to give the game an overall score of 8 out of 10 if you purchase just the game -- and therefore are playing it using the standard game pad -- and a 9 out of 10 if you bought the CE or you own a Flight Stick (though the AV8R Flight Stick that comes with the game includes additional special function toggles along its base that also add to the fun and the much more responsive controls scheme that the stick makes available to you. I want to add that the AV8R Flight Stick is not just for this game, but can be used with other combat flight sims and flight sim games on the 360, and in particular was tested on JASF with much glee.
The online modes of the game were well-attended and nicely structured, and it should also be heavily emphasized that they are not simply a turkey-shoot or one-on-one PvP mode, but also includes a Co-Op mode that has you playing through the story missions with a companion (or companions) from online, which really does boost the game and its entertainment value to new heights. To make a good go of the online modes it is in your best interest to start out by flying pick-up games of the Quick Play variety, and meeting a large group of players, then inviting them to play the other modes with you. By taking that approach you are almost certain to find a group of like-minded gamers willing to play through the co-op campaign mode with you.
I ended up deducting a full point from the score due largely to the haphazard manner in which several of the mission briefings go about explaining what you actually need to do in order to fulfill the basic requirements to complete some of the missions, which is to say that in several cases you simply are not provided with the information that you need, and so can easily end up getting side-tracked or even failing the mission simply because you failed to grasp that all that was necessary was for you to fly around and not get killed until an invisible timer counted down (that being one example).
Another element that contributed to costing the game a full point off if its score was the unfortunate inconsistencies in the level design that too often found the game requiring you to provide immediate assistance to units that are on the other side of the map after the previous stage in the mission forced you to fly to the far side of the island, making it a simple impossibility for you to not fail the mission at least once if not more often until you figure out which direction you need to point the plan in and then go to emergency full military power as you rocket in the direction of the units you will very quickly need to support by blasting away the enemy that will appear and attack them. There is also the necessity to experiment with the order in which you engage the different enemy units until you find the correct (or at least most effective) order to complete that part of the mission and not fail it.
Considering the meaty online Co-Op and PvP content as well as the collection of upgradable aircraft and the ability to fly the enemy fleet of warplanes, you are going to want to play and replay each of the missions in different ways, over and over, and then there is the chance to alter your strategies and approach, or select an airplane for your replay that was simply not available the first time you played through, it should be easy to understand how it is that the game received a very high to astronomical replay score...
While the average gamer might easily burn through the single-player story mode and campaign in something like 25 hours if they really put their mind to it, there is enough entertainment value and fun to be had in seeking out all of the possible targets and being sure to be in the firing line for the special challenges that unlock their corresponding medal in the medals screen, which when this is taken into account easily stretches the average play-through from between 35 and 40 hours not including online play. That gives the retail version of the game -- which has a RRP of $49.99 -- ends up with an average admission price of just $1.24 an hour, but that works out to considerably less when you factor in the online play time and replay times. The Collector's Edition of the game -- which comes with the AV8R Flight Stick has an RRP of $99.99 which gives that an average admission price of $2.49 per hour.
The game is properly rated as T (for Teen) by the ESRB and contains no objectionable material or content that would be of concern for parents.