Preview: Hands on with Damage Inc Pacific Squadron WWII
Have you ever fancied yourself as a pilot? King of the skies? Maybe a maverick or goose!
Well in all honesty I haven’t, I HATE heights, I have however always loved the idea of planes and dog fights happening miles above in the sky, but lets face it nearly all decent games involving any amount of flying are either crazily complicated simulators that take an age if not at least 3 degrees in order to work out just how to use, or they’re really basic husks of what we would call a game with all the joy sucked out into a vacuum and all of this is after you finding the cash to afford such extravagant controller set ups.
So what’s the middle ground? Wewant a realistic game, setting you up as a pilot but with more of an arcade focus so that we can skip reading the 200 page manual required and get to the good stuff, huge dog fights miles up in the sky with a barrage of explosions and fire!
Fear not my friends! It looks as if Mad Catz and TrickStar Games have you covered with the release of Damage Inc Pacific Squadron WWII. Starting you out right in the middle of the attack on Pearl Harbour, Damage INC will take you through all the battlefields of the pacific theatre of war and for those of you who really want to get into battle mode Mad Catz have constructed the Pacific AV8R flight stick.
I was lucky enough to get some hands on time with both the game and the flight stick, which I was pleasantly surprised with, not only was Damage Inc quick to pick up and sink its addictive hooks in but the AV8R flight stick really added a whole new edge to the experience, I almost immediately felt like I was playing with a standard control pad, which would be impossible to use for this game (or at least nowhere near as fun)
My first mission was to fight off waves of Japanese fighter jets, in defence of the great Pearl Harbour. Ttaking off was a great experience, lining up the rudders before pulling the throttle back to hear the roar of the engines and then just as the engine sounds as if it’s about to explode, pulling the plane’s nose up and head straight for the sky. This for me was a really nice start to my time with Damage Inc, showing straight away the importance or at least the luxury of the AV8R flight stick, it helped to spell out the games’ intent as well trying to get you in the mind-set of the fight to come rather than dropping you arbitrarily in the middle of the sky with no reason and a long hand holding tutorial session.
The fights surprisingly are quite intense requiring you to chase your enemy down before unleashing a hail of gun fire, with the inclusion of a slow motion effect to aid you in your goal, the physics may not be super realistic but you’ll soon forget all of that once you experience a barrel roll down onto the tail of an enemy fighter and tearing his cockpit in half. Not all missions are so straight forward however, on occasion you’ll be tasked with controlling a bomber and setting up a path of destruction which is no mean feat when you’re piloting a juggernaut and trying to survive heavy fire.
Visually Damage Inc looks great, it won’t win awards for revolutionary new graphics, this isn’t frostbite 2 lets face it, but it has a good solid look with some beautifully crafted planes and great set pieces with nice effects and explosions. Within Damage Inc there are 30 types of fighter plane for you to choose from, I had a test run with just about half of them and there’s clearly reason for choice, with each plane having its own advantages and disadvantages. It really pays to choose wisely before each mission and with so much variety you’ll enjoy testing each to its limits to find your favourite.
Obviously with such a battle heavy game the addition of multiplayer is always welcome, who wouldn’t want to go head to head with their friends to see just who is king of the sky! but does the concept work as well as the dream? With five modes to choose from there’s been a lot of time and thought put into it that’s for sure. You can choose between Dogfight and Team Dogfight which both play as your standard death match scenarios, these work very well and quickly become intense matches between friends! You’ve then got Survivor and Team Survivor which again play in much the same way however you are each left with a handful of lives until you’re thrown out of the game, think of last man standing only without the standing part.
Finally you have Scratch one flat top, which was my personal favourite, all the players are split into two teams and each are tasked with sinking their opponents aircraft carrier while simultaneously defending their own. This mode almost immediately turns into absolute joyous chaos, with fighters and bombers scrambling all over the map hell-bent on sinking their opponents ship. The multiplayer elements of Damage Inc may be considered standard ideas but they are executed well and with the addition of scratch one flat top, I’m sure many people will be left playing for some time after launch.
So my time with Damage Inc Pacific Squadron WWII was time well spent, it was clear for me to see what Mad Catz and Trickstar Games have tried to achieve a very polished arcade flying experience and they’ve definitely achieved this in my mind. It won’t break any new ground in graphics or concept, but it will have you hooked and if you’re lucky enough to lay your paws on the AV8R flight stick you’re in for a real treat! In fact I challenge you not to duck and dive with the plane as you’re engrossed in the battle!