World War II games have been something of a rarity lately. There used to be no shortage of World War II games, as it was the focus of many military shooters such as Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Battlefield. Then, as quickly as they appeared, World War II as a setting for military games vanished. Similarly, the flight simulation genre has not been well represented recently, which used to be quite popular as well. Luckily, Damage Inc., Pacific Squadron WWII , has combined these two classic genres into one excellent package.
Damage Inc. takes place immediately before the events of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Life has not been good to your character. Your father tries to make a living, but comes up short year after year. Your family decides to move to the city, and your father takes work wherever he can find it. However, all is not well; with the Nazi army sweeping through Europe and the rise of the Japanese army, it is not long before war breaks out. You and your brother decide to join the armed forces. You head off to the Air Force, while your brother is placed in the Marines. Things start off with a bang; after the necessary tutorial mission, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor by the thousands, bringing the United States into World War II. It is a massive battle, and you will be taking on various objectives as you try to fend off the Japanese. You will have to shoot down enemy fighter planes, protect ground troops, escort defenseless planes, and shoot down some more fighter planes. This sets up the rest of game well, as not only is it a massive, chaotic battle, but it also has youdoing a number of different tasks other than dogfights.
You will fight your way through a total of 23 missions in 11 different locations. Damage Inc. follows the American campaign against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945, ending with the battle at Iwo Jima. As you progress through the missions, you will unlock new planes to pilot in the campaign, including fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes. There are a total of 32 planes, and each one can be upgraded by spending points you earn for completing missions. The game is generous when it comes to upgrade points, as you can earn extra points by completing difficult bonus objectives.
The gameplay is solid, and there are quite a few genuinely great moments to be found in this game. Battles can get intense very quickly, and as the war continues on, your enemies will be getting better due to their technology advancing. The difficulty rises at a steady pace, but you have “Warspeed”, which allows you to speed up or slow down your plane significantly. This is extremely handy for when you need to make a quick escape, or to get the perfect line on your target. In addition to the gameplay, you are treated to a history lesson. Mad Catz and Trickstar paid attention to the details and kept this game historically accurate and it shows. After finishing up the missions in one particular campaign, you are given a piece of narration that takes you through all the major victories and losses of the war during your play session. If you happen to be into history, you will appreciate the work that went into this reconstruction of events.
The visuals are decent, but the environments can get a little on the plain side. The planes are the most detailed objects in the game, and overall, they look good. Other things, like the ships and buildings, are not as detailed, and can make for some ugly visuals when you get up close to them. However, most of the time you are not going to be looking at the ground, since you will be too busy watching your plane and enemy fighters to notice your surroundings.
While the graphics may leave something to be desired, the sound, on the other hand, does not. The game actually does have a very good soundtrack, but it can get lost in all of the commotion and noise of the battles. However, the planes’ engines and the guns sound great, and help to immerse you in the action of the game. Sadly, the voice acting isn’t anything to write home about. The voice direction is bad and they lack emotion most of the time. The battle at Pearl Harbor is a perfect example of this; there are plenty of reasons to be panicked, but your character’s exchanges with Control are cool and calm. Thankfully, this is not the case for every character in the game. The emotion does begin to pick up as you get closer to the events at Iwo Jima. Some of the secondary voice actors are quite good, and later on in the game the main character actually has a few great moments of his own. They are few and far between for the most part, but at least these moments of emotion and urgency are there.
Once you are finished with the single-player campaign, there is a multiplayer mode for you to take on. The usual modes are there, like deathmatch and team deathmatch, but this time they are called “Dogfight” and “Team Dogfight.” All modes can support up to eight players, but if multiplayer is not your thing, there are other game modes like Survivor, Team Survivor, and Scratch One Flattop. In Survivor, you start out with a set number of lives, and once they are gone, you are out of the game. Team Survivor is just the same as Survivor; the only difference is you are on a team instead of doing it alone. Scratch One Flattop is a very different team-based game mode that has you working as a team to try and take out the other team’s aircraft carrier. This means that you will need torpedo planes and bombers to take out the carrier, while your fighter planes try to keep the bombers safe. This forces you to work as a team, and, as the aircraft carrier can take a lot of damage, it can make for some tense battles. Overall, the multiplayer modes are good and certainly worth checking out.
Any fan of flying simulators will tell you that good controls are the most important thing for these games. With the Collector’s Edition of Damage Inc., there is a Saitek AV8R Flight Stick included. Additionally, Damage Inc. is actually compatible with all Saitek flight sticks. The flight stick is a great piece of equipment, but it does feel a little on the light side, making it move around a little too much. Damage Inc. comes with two different control mode options: arcade and simulation. Those who are new to plane simulation games will want to start with the arcade settings while those who are more familiar will be fine with using simulation mode. MadCatz, however, recommends that the AV8R Flight stick is used in simulation mode, where it does indeed work better than the controller.
Unfortunately, as good as this game can sometimes be, it suffers from a number of bugs. Every so often, cutscenes would produce nothing but an annoying screeching noise. Occasionally after a cutscene had finished, the camera would lock, leaving you with nothing to do other than restart from a checkpoint. There were also times when the plane makes no noise, and when this happens, bullets will not do any damage at all. Additionally, there are times when objectives would disappear entirely from the map, meaning you cannot complete them and advance through the rest of the missions. These bugs did not happen frequently, but they did appear after some time.
Despite Damage Inc.’s bugs and flaws, which are difficult to overcome at times, you can’t help but enjoy playing the game. It offers a number of exciting moments, and even though it is lacking in other areas, it does pull off the most important part of any game: it’s fun. This game will not be for everyone, but World War II history enthusiasts and flight simulator fans will enjoy it. For these players, the game will be fun and interesting enough that they probably won’t have a problem forgetting the bugs. For everyone else, however, this is one of the games where it is better to rent it and make sure this is something you can enjoy.
This review is based off a review copy of the Playstation 3 version of Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII developed by Trickstar published by MadCatz