In Devastation, players take the role of Flynn Haskell, a member of the Resistance, who leads a team of freedom fighters against the Pacification Squads of the corrupt Mega-Corporations in a technological "dark age" on Earth in the year 2075. Single-player action offers two main modes of play: arcade and simulation. The former consists of fast, furious action with an emphasis on speed and combat. The latter requires strategy and realistic tactics, with serious combat conditions such as friendly-fire damage and the need for teamwork.
Weapons in Devastation are divided into eight categories: close-combat melee, handguns, light duty automatics, assault rifles and shotguns, sniper rifles, heavy duty rifles, special duty weapons, and grenades. Environmental objects like chairs, cans, wood planks, bottles, helmets, barrels, boxes, and even body parts can also be used as throwing implements, for setting traps, and to create distractions -- in fact, entire levels can be played using ordinary objects as weapons.
While single-player action focuses on a linear, objective-based progression, multiplayer offers a choice of 50 characters for competition in Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, or the innovative Territories. Territories is a team-based game that mixes a search-and-destroy scenario (find and eliminate opponent's base and spawning devices) with engagement of the enemy in a fight to the finish (last-man standing).
It is the year 2075, and all of the Libertarian party's dreams have come true. Governments are long gone and only huge corporations have survived to make laws and impose their will upon the people. As Spider-Man once taught us, "With great power comes great responsibility". Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the corporations who have run amuck, growing richer and more corrupt. Small pockets of resistance have sprouted up around the globe, but have been powerless to make any large-scale changes until now.
This is the world of Devastation, a new first-person shooter from developer Digitalo Studios. A bit clichéd? Maybe, but with some interesting level and game design Devastation had the potential to set itself apart from the current crop of shooters. Unfortunately, poor AI and numerous bugs reduce it to a merely mediocre experience.
Devastation is loaded with weapons, around 35 in all. You can use everything from broken beer bottles to dual-wielded pistols, Uzis, sniper rifles, harpoon guns, and my personal favorite, the rat bomb. Prime your rat, set him down, and the camera switches to mouse-eye view. Use the normal keyboard controls to move him to a pack of enemies, then sit back and watch the fireworks. Another fan favorite is sure to be the laser rifle, which fires a tight, railgun-type beam. When the beam hits someone, it immediately blasts them into wisps of crispy, carbonized flakes.
For those not satisfied with just one type of run-and-gun action, Devastation offers two different modes of play: arcade and simulation. Arcade mode features faster-paced play with no weight limits, and your character picks up just about anything you run over. Simulation mode requires a bit more thought (not too much, though) -- you will become encumbered if you pick up too many weapons, you have to stop and physically pick up any items you might want to grab, and thus the game slows down a bit overall. The differences are slight, however, and whenever I felt myself getting a bit bloated with hardware I would just get rid of a bunch of seldom-used weapons.
Your journey begins in San Francisco, where Flynn Haskell (your character) is the head of a small time band of resistance fighters. One of his team members has been working undercover at Grathius, the largest company in the world's new oligarchy, trying to dig up evidence of their suspected wrongdoing. When he is discovered and taken captive, he gives a disk full of incriminating data to his co-worker Eve to give to Flynn. From there, Flynn, Eve, and a half-dozen other resistance fighters work their way from San Francisco, across the Pacific to Taipei, then on to Japan to stop Grathius.
One of the exciting features touted in Devastation is that you will have varying numbers of teammates (up to eight at a time) accompanying you on missions. You are even able to swap weapons with your teammates, giving them more firepower if they are stuck carrying pistols, or borrowing theirs if they happen to have a better gun. You can also give them commands, letting them know whether to accompany you out on your assigned tasks, or to stay home to guard the fort. The control scheme is limited, however, with only four commands to give individually or to all teammates: attack, defend, hold, or follow.
This limitation is especially ugly in the first half of the game, where you have to restart the mission (or at least reload your last saved game) if you or any of your teammates die. Your teammates also don't listen to your commands very well - even if you have specifically told them to hold their position. They will then continue to shoot until there is no one left to kill, or until they're killed themselves. Your teammates seem to get lost pretty easily and many times you will leave them behind when going about your business, only to return and find them stuck behind a fence near the beginning of the level. The squad idea is a good one but the poor AI and limited command choices make it easier for you to command them to stay home while you strike out alone.
This changes later on in the game with the discovery of the Regeneration Device, another idea in Devastation that sounds okay on paper, but doesn't quite live up to its promise. The devices are exactly what they sound like: spawn points, which Grathius uses to regenerate its troops. About halfway through the game, you capture one for your team, which (thankfully) makes dying much less of an issue. Instead of having to start over at your last save point, you (or your downed teammates) just respawn in the machine, fully clothed, armed to the teeth, ready for more battle.
The downside to this is that that many times the levels become hunts for the enemy generators, in order to stop them from spewing out endless numbers of bad guys. Remember the old arcade classic Gauntlet, where you fought your way through waves of baddies to take out their monster generator? That's what Devastation feels like - trying to fight my way upstream through a river of enemies to destroy their spawn point.
On the subject of enemies, it must be noted that -- like your teammates' lack of cognitive ability -- the bad guy AI is nothing to write home about. Quite often, they stay put in one area or walk preset routes, even as their buddies are getting shot all around them. When they do finally attack, they usually charge relentlessly into your bullets, guns a-blazing. On occasion, they do hide and will take you out from behind a barrier, but they can also duck and try to hide in the middle of large open areas as well, making for easy kills. Their group tactics are usually of the "bumrush the show" variety, and there is generally enough cover to sit back and pick them off one by one while slowly moving towards their spawn point for the final coup de gras.
Using a modified version of the Unreal engine, Devastation is quite impressive in the graphics department. The levels are dirty and dingy, but a beautiful and stylish dirty and dingy. There are excellent flame effects, dynamic shadowing, and the game really shows off what the Unreal engine is capable of. The ragdoll effects from the engine are also in full effect, and when you take out a bad guy he will crumple in a very realistic fashion. Shoot someone in the right spot, and you'll see limbs get blown off. (Ouch!) Most of the objects in the environment are also interactive, so you can kick cans, throw boxes, hit people with chairs (viva la WWE!), break computer monitors, and peer into microscopes. Everything looks great, and Digitalo deserves to be commended for making such a gorgeous game.
Unfortunately, the same accolades can't be heaped on the game's sounds or its stability. The weapons sound very weak; the shotguns sound more like a cough than the thunderous boom that should be emanating from the weapon. There are significant clipping problems as well. At one point you are locked in a jail cell with no weapons (another tired FPS cliché), from which you have to escape. Quite by accident, I found myself pulling a chair in though the cell door bars, and soon afterwards I was able to walk my character right out of the cell through the bars as well.
The highlight of many shooters isn't the single-player game, but the online experience. This is not the case with Devastation. The usual game types are offered: deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and a fourth type called Territories. In Territories, you and your team have to hack the code to the other team's base, take out their defenses, and wipe out their regeneration points (just like many of the missions in single-player game). After doing that, you have to wipe out the remaining enemies to win.
Devastation seems to have a lot going for it: the Unreal engine, gorgeous graphics, a decent (albeit clichéd) storyline, a veritable cornucopia of cool weapons, and a whole slew of different teammates to back you up when the going gets tough. But its shortcomings really bring down the entire game. The AI on both sides just isn't very intelligent, and there are enough bugs to make you wish the developers had spent another month or two on quality control. If you're hard up for another first-person shooter, you could do much worse. In the end, Devastation is a decent, but flawed, FPS experience.
People who downloaded Devastation have also downloaded:
Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza, Dead Man's Hand, Global Operations, Dead to Rights, Deadly Dozen, D.I.R.T.: Origin of the Species, Combat: Task Force 121, Descent 3
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