There are great-looking games out there with broken gameplay. There are great-playing games that look terrible. There are games that hover somewhere in between, offering snippets of brilliance despite their flaws. Damnation falls into none of these categories, but rather, fits into that horrible subset of games so disgustingly bad that one can't help but wonder the developers did with all the time and money. Damnation is a game that in short is ugly, broken, and absolutely frustrating to play.
Damnation is one of the worst games put out this generation.
Looking at the game's packaging one might think otherwise. The world of third-person shooters is rather amply stocked with bald, muscled space marines. Comparatively, the steampunk, alternate-Civil-War setting of Damnation could have been a breath of fresh air. Sadly, the world depicted on the cover art is rendered utterly dull by the game's shoddy story and presentation. The narrative is interesting for about all of the introduction and then devolves into a general lousiness made all the worse by consistently bad writing and voice acting. This could be a bit forgivable if the game's visual presentation were better, but alas, Damnation at its best looks like a late-generation PS2 game, and its worst may remind some of the N64. Filled to the brim with poor character models, ancient animations and monstrously bad textures, the world of Damnation is simply too ugly to enjoy.
Even this could be redeemed were it any fun to play, but it isn't. Veterans of third-person shooters will have little trouble picking up the controls, and playing the game isn't really hard in the conventional sense. But the game is consistently dogged by it's unwavering devotion to annoying the crap out of you. Case in point: you will never find another game, as long as you live, with weapons as inaccurate as those featured in Damnation. You start the game off with a pistol, machine gun, and shotgun, and the only one that is even remotely effective is the shotgun. The pistol is weak and misses nine times out of ten. You can unload sixty rounds of machine gun fire and hope for maybe a quarter of them to hit anything. Even with the shotgun, you can fire at an enemy at point-blank range and miss. On top of the almost nonexistent hit detection, the recoil on basically every weapon is game-breakingly extreme. It will oftentimes seem as though none of your shots strike home, no matter what range or how well-aimed they are.
The final straw is the fact that it takes a lot to kill the most basic foes. You'll often count more then ten or fifteen direct hits before even the lowliest grunt will go down, and for the most part while the enemy AI is basically set at all times on the immobile drone level, their gunfire will hit you more often then you'll ever hit them. Getting in close enough to use the ofttimes necessary shotgun is frustratingly difficult. Combine this with annoyingly long levels and lame vehicle segments and the game is overall a complete bust. To its credit, Damnation does feature some mildly entertaining platforming, but imprecise controls and an uncomfortable camera make it harder than it should be for all the wrong reasons.
The game does have multiplayer elements, but they too suffer from largely the same problems as the single-player campaign. Playing other people is fun, but not when the game itself is so basically broken that you can't realistically play it well no matter what you do. Similarly, the online and split screen co-op help to make the story mode a bit easier, but chances are neither of the players will enjoy the experience all that much.
Overall, Damnation is one of the worst games put out this generation. Other titles stumble a bit from a lack of polish, but this game falls flat on its face due to a lack of anything good. Its only redeeming quality is, that as of the writing of this review, it is still new enough that Gamestop will give you twenty dollars for it used. Converted into Wii points, that could actually buy you a few games worth your time and money. Otherwise, Damnation is terrible and should be avoided at all costs.