World War II is arguably the most overdone setting for video games. With innumerable first- and third-person shooters set in the conflict’s various theatres of operations, it wouldn’t surprise if the number of gameplay hours devoted to the war actually exceeds the seven-year nightmare itself. So, when Damage Inc. came along promising a return to the period – specifically America’s involvement from Pearl Harbour onwards – eyes began rolling.
However, it earns a stay of execution thanks to being an aerial dogfighter rather than another ground combat excursion. Despite not being the most in-depth game of its ilk around, Damage Inc. manages to deliver a comparatively realistic feel while flying its assortment of battle planes around; at least, realistic enough for layman players. Hardened flight sim aficionados will likely find it lacking though, as even in the supposed simulation control mode it feels too much of an arcade experience.
While the airborne content is worth praising, that’s unfortunately about all that is. Visually, the game disappoints on just about every front – missions take place over an assortment of drab, grey expanses with curiously off-scale buildings and ships peppered about below. Ground-based enemies are so small as to be invisible, the markers indicating their position easier to spot than the targets themselves are, and everything is painfully low-textured. By all appearances, you could be playing a PS2 game. What passes for cutscenes fare little better, and despite trying to evoke the style of military posters of the time, instead look more like a selection of static slides. The single-player story mode also offers no surprises, a seen-it-all-before tale of a young flyboy whose life is torn apart by the Japanese invasion.
All that said, the game really only exists to support the rather good ‘AV8R’ flight stick. With a satisfying heft to it and pleasantly precise response times, it’s a solid mid-range controller that will sadly be better used on other compatible games. Add a star if you plan on getting the collector’s edition that packs it in as a bonus.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen