While they’ve been on the peripheral scene for a long time now, Mad Catz has recently made the decision to move into the gaming realm by making low cost/low risk software to bundle with their hardware. The collector’s edition bundle of their new WWII flight sim Damage Inc. comes complete with a 1:48 Die Cast model of a WWII fighter as well as the brand new Pacific AV8R flight stick. The game is also available on its own but is it worth a pick up if you aren’t looking to add a flight stick and a model plane to your collection? The answer is an unfortunate but resounding no.
Visually, Damage Inc. is a mess. The game is full of muddy textures and graphical issues. The environments, which traditionally play such a large role in immersing the player in a good flight sim, look like they came from a late generation Xbox game. The trees are 2D sprites and the ground is one big flat low-res texture. Water looks better than the ground, but not much better. In addition to just looking sub-par visually, the game also performs poorly. Enemies, environmental objects, even parts of your own plane pop in and out as the game chugs to load. Planes you’ve targeted to blast out of the sky occasionally just disappear on their own. Ground units you’ve been tasked with destroying sometimes truck along invisibly, showing you only the marker that tells you a target is there. Aliasing is pretty rough throughout but particularly bad on the edge of shadows. All in all, this is definitely not a game you break out to impress your non-game-playing friends.
Unfortunately the technical issues aren’t limited to just the visuals. Several times I had to completely restart missions from the beginning because of crippling glitches. Twice the game refused to acknowledge that the current objective had been completed and trigger the next objective, which left me flying around in circles attempting to get it to trigger. Twice more the camera hard locked the screen during a cut scene, although the scene continued to play out in audio and I could hear the sounds of gameplay after the scene should have completed. Perhaps the worst glitch I experienced involved an enemy ground unit I was tasked with destroying before it invaded our hangar. As I tracked the unit along it sunk straight into the ground, leaving me completely unable to damage it. It of course reached its destination and caused me to fail the mission.
Perhaps all of these things could be easily overlooked, if they surrounded an incredible game. Unfortunately, even the gameplay in Damage Inc is pedestrian. It is a competent, if unspectacular flight “sim”. I put sim in quotes because it’s really only a simulation in the loosest connotations. Don’t expect a detailed technical aircraft sim here. The story surrounds a young pilot who loses his brother in the game’s opening (in a completely emotionless moment) and his campaign through WWII’s Pacific theater. It plays out across multiple missions that contain just enough variety in objective to keep from being completely monotonous.
There are a ton of possible planes to unlock and several multiplayer modes. These range from standard dogfights to a really cool sounding mode called “Scratch one Flattop” which involves destroying your opponent’s fleet. I say cool sounding because despite multiple attempts over several days I was never able to get into a game.
Since it’s being packaged with the collector’s edition game (and was the sole impetus for the game’s development) I suppose I should spend a couple words discussing the AV8R flight stick. The stick is a very solid option for gamers looking for a sturdy console flight stick. Everything responds very well, from the throttle control to the switches on the front.
The collector’s edition of Damage Inc. retails for $89.99. Unless you really love the model and desperately need a serviceable console flight stick I would stay away at that price. The game is just too problematic for me to recommend the investment. I’ve haven’t seen confirmation yet (although I have to assume it will come) that the stick will be available on its own. In the end, MadCatz’ new business model of releasing software to complement their hardware will only work if the software is of respectable quality. Otherwise, it has the potential to drive customers away from rather than towards their product.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.