Damnation: Hell Breaks Loose

There are two keys to creating quality third person games. Since you spend most of your time looking at your actual player model, you must absolutely have appealing playable characters with good animation. That's number one. Well, luckily, Damnation pays off big-time here. All of the characters have a tinge of Old West to them and are complete with detailed costumes. You have your required testosterone-boosting Indian maiden, Yakecan, sporting battle gear the size of a tea towel. You have two desperado trench-coat-wearing badass types for the angst ridden teen. You have your sneering bald convict soaked in blood, who is, unfortunately, not playable. More about that later.

I love a challenge!

The next, and most important, ingredient to solid third person gaming is - surprise - the control. I feel like the team has done an admirable job in this respect. The trigger spots where climbing/sliding/hanging animations all take over are generous and easy to hit. You won't fumble around a lot or find yourself plunging over too many ledges because you couldn't get your character to respond correctly. If you find yourself falling over the edge, it will be of your own volition. The animations for these events are very well done too; from the hand over hand ledge crawling and rope sliding to just climbing up and down ladders. You can tell that a lot of time was spent on the control and animation of the special moves of your avatar.

Likewise, the camera/player control is very intuitive. You basically use your keyboard to control the directional movement while the mouse allows you to rotate the camera freely around your player. Switching to first-person is as simple as pressing a button to draw your weapons - one of the unique twists of Damnation. It's much more effective and fun than the targeting system that games like Tomb Raider use to keep you in third person. Not to mention, going into first-person allows you to see your weapons, which brings us to my next point.

The weapons are fairly straightforward, but are just gorgeous to look at. You wield an Autorevolver in each hand and fire them simultaneously. These are no ordinary revolvers, however, each gun holds four cylinders with eight bullets each. That's 64 shots without a reload! Reloading is optional, by the way. You can do it manually at your convenience, or the game will automatically go into the reloading animation sequence and do the job for you. The Arrow Rifle is unique in design, but is fairly straightforward in that it allows you to complete slower, silent single-shots with the primary fire and explosive shots with secondary. The last weapon won't be picked up until near the end of the game and it is unique in design, but rather straightforward in action, as well. The Steam Gun is very much like a flamethrower that uses scalding steam instead of flame to kill. A nice touch includes a zoom window that pops up off of the side of the weapon at the press of your alt-fire button. All three fit the theme well but aren't very groundbreaking once you get past the "cool factor". I want to see more.

Ready... aim... FIRE! Akimbo Pop up zoom-screen Now this is steam I can USE!

Another creative feature of Damnation are the Spirit abilities. By channeling the spirit powers you can heal yourself at totems scattered througout the game. If you are killed, you can choose a point nearby at which to respawn, provided you have one of your spirit tokens left - these can be recharged on a limited basis at the aforementioned totems. You are protected by a Spirit Shield which is represented by a second lifebar on your minimalistic HUD. The last Spirit ability is the most entertaining - the Spirit Walk. Basically, it is the power to possess your enemies. Find a place nearby to sit (you must be fairly close as your spirit powers dwindle the further they are from your body) and then you will enter the spirt world where you can seek out enemies to possess and do your bidding. This comes in handy for reaching out of the way objectives or just causing mayhem in a crowd of adversaries. Or for entertainment value - try running your foe into a chasm before releasing control! These powers are limited, but recharge over time.

Spirit Totem Energize! Spirit Walking Finding a victim... Do my bidding! Thanks!