Ever wondered what it would be like to be a US pilot in the thick of World War II, defending the Pacific from the Japanese hordes sent to destroy you? For those of us that do wish for such a thing, Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII does just that, sadly no one told us that the experience would be less than enjoyable.
The story is pretty dull and lacks no real substance or realism, as you will soon see. You are one of two brothers who join the US Air Force and US Marines. Funnily enough, the Air Force wasn't formed until 1947, so how you managed to join it in 1941 is a little confusing. As you are whipped into action during the infamous event's of Pearl Harbor in 1941, you soon see your brothers B-17 bomber taken out by a missile from Japanese A6M2.
This game has barely started, and as you can see, the realism factor has gone straight out the window, although the Germans had V1 and V2 rockets they never truly used anything under a fighters wing. The Japanese didn't even have the basic components of a rocket propelled missile, so to see one shooting down a B-17 in what is meant to be an 'authentic' game is somewhat disappointing.
Your campaign will take you through 23 missions, all across the Pacific, and your objectives will vary from taking out a fleet of Japanese landing craft through to precision carrier landings. Sadly, nothing here feels overly difficult, whilst failed objectives has you soon realising on your next play-through that each objective is ultimately timed, so if you don't take down the enemy aircraft on your first flypast you're resigned to simply 'restart from last checkpoint'.
Things don't get any better when it comes to combat either. Having played a plethora of flight sims, Damage Inc. falls very short of the mark expected by many wannabe pilots. Firstly your wingmen, they simply don't exist. During combat you are basically left to defend the skies on your own, as your allies are beyond useless. Objective target aircraft are highlighted by a bold red arrow, however there are also aircraft which are in the area that aren't objectives shown by an empty red triangle. You will at times be forced to fly through these 'swarms', amazingly though you'll barely ever find yourself targeted by them, which is a little amusing to watch. Downing enemy aircraft also becomes something of a turkey shoot, with your kill count sometimes closing in on triple figures in a single mission, which is funny, when the most successful American and Japanese aces combined didn’t even hit 130 kills over the entire Second World War.
Aircraft controls are also very skittish. Feather-light reactions are one thing, but you'll feel like you're making knee jerk reactions through your controller as there is no smoothness to flying your plane. You can turn on ‘slow-motion’ whilst in the air, but due to the poor control mentioned earlier you will still find yourself fighting to line up your aircraft with the enemy ahead. After two missions I never used this feature again.
So things aren't looking that good for Damage Inc. Surely its variety of true-to-life WWII aircraft can help save this title from a life in the bargain bucket? Perhaps not. There are a nice selection of aircraft: including Hellcats, Warhawks, Mitchells and Corsairs, not forgetting enemy Zeros, Petes, Bettys and Shindens. On closer inspection of the aircraft things look far from rosy, especially if you take the hit and select the game’s cockpit view. From afar they look like the real deal, but get in close and you’ll start to see texture issues along with frame-rate problems that plague the game, leaving you with a less than inspiring feeling when behind the joystick.
Explosions are pretty poor and head on collisions are impossible - just like reality [hmmm]. By a pure act of stupidity, whilst chasing down three Bettys, I flew an over-extended loop, leaving me flying straight through the rear gunner pod of the Japanese aircraft. There was no way my Warhawk could survive such a collision. After partially crashing and partially bouncing away, my aircraft found itself riddled with bullet holes, all caused by the above encounter - who knows where these phantom bullets materialised from. This is yet another aspect of the game which cares little for the authentic feeling so desired by flight-sim enthusiasts.
As we're skirting on the subject of graphics, let’s talk about the environments, ships and opposing forces. The enemy forces look diabolical, in fact they are some of the worst models I've witnessed having played over twenty flight sim games on the Xbox 360 to date. In one of the early missions you will be tasked with locating and confirming an enemy fleet of Japanese Destroyers, Carriers and Supply Vessels. Being a pilot who lives on the edge, I took my modified Warhawk to within touching distance of a Japanese Destroyer - how I wish I didn't. What you'll witness is more akin to a ship made from Mega Blocks than a versatile piece of machinery designed to exploit American ships and aircraft. It is quite obvious that little, if any, time at all was spent on designing enemy ships and subs. It once again takes you out of that moment when you do feel like a WWII ace skirting through the Pacific skies looking to be the next Red Baron. The landscapes also suffer from similar problems. Hangers look like they have been made with a couple layers of plastic sheeting, and air traffic control towers look out of place, stuck in the middle of an island along with buildings surrounding it.
Damage Inc. does support online multiplayer with dogfights, team dogfights, survivor and team survivor. Like many other smaller releases the biggest problem is the lack of activity online. It can take anywhere from ten minutes to an hour of searching before you finally get some action online. Even when you do, once again the poor frame rate and textures witnessed ruins the entire experience.
The game is a mess in all honesty. Graphically it seems like an original Xbox release, and a boring and uninspiring plot, along with its horrific controls only adds to Damage Inc.'s woes. They've tried to make it more interesting with the slow motion button, but it's already been done to death, and it would have been nice to see them try something new, different. Yes you have a true list of aircraft from that time period, but it’s just a shame that other aspects of your flight take away from their authenticity and realism.
The massive kill counts and lack of any allied AI once again leaves you as 'the one guy who can defeat an entire nation'. The war was won because of team work, not one single person. I realise that this can never truly be conveyed through a video game, but for that notion to be so crudely thrown to one side is very disappointing. Their lack of understanding extends to their apparent obliviousness to such facts as the US Air Force not even being in existence when you supposedly join up in the story, to the addition of missiles, that were barely on the drawing board by the end of the war. It seems that the developers have taken on a 'that'll do' approach to Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII, well I can tell you now, that simply won't do.
Lee is an avid gamer, photographer, film buff and sports fan. A scaly brat since birth it only seemed right for him to join Her Majesties Armed Forces of which he has been a proud member ever since. Despite a long absence from gaming, during which he spent many a night reminiscing about the glory days on Halo 2, Matty is now back online smashing his way through Black Ops and soon enough Gears of War 3 and Battlefield 3.