Our initial reaction to Codie's Damnation is confusion. Even after sitting through a twenty minute play-through, we couldn't explain what the hell was going on. The chaps from Blue Omega are keen to repeat the phrase "taking the first-person shooter vertical" but we're actually watching a third-person shooter.
Damnation's lead game designer Jacob Minkoff argues, "People have considered Gears Of War an FPS, and what we're doing is the same - moving the camera back slightly from the character so you can see around, but it still plays like an FPS." There's a grain of truth in this - there isn't a cover system allowing you to hide and recover. Instead Damnation relies on frenetic FPS-style shooting.
Thankfully the story is far more straightforward if, well, a bit rubbish. Evil baron WD Prescott (really) wants to rule all, but our chiselled hero Hamilton Rourke would rather he didn't. And Rourke's also got to save his fiancée from the wily dictator. Damnation plays out like a mix between Prince Of Persia's acrobatics and Drake's Fortune's gun-blasting sections. You'll be able to choose your own path from A to B across huge landscapes that can take up to three hours (real-time) to cross. You can shimmy up lampposts, smash through windows to surprise enemies and backflip up to high ledges - which will make those folk afraid of heights feel a bit queasy as you look down into the abyss below.
It all looks nice too, which is no surprise since Damnation is using the Unreal 3 engine. The animation is being tweaked to a high standard too, to show Rourke scuffing his knees on ill-timed leaps or scrambling for grip as he misjudges a ledge, desperately clawing for purchase before he falls. We're also told there will be a few vehicles to bomb around on, including a motorbike that you can ride across walls with. Nice.
Fight here, fight now
Hamilton will get some help with his plight from a gang of AI-controlled freedom fighters. Each one will have their own personality and a sub-plot that will affect the overall story outcome. Sadly, you won't be able to order them around with squad commands but they will attack and hide efficiently, as you'd expect. However, judging by the kaleidoscope of different enemies you can see from these screens, we're not sure exactly what other forces will be getting involved.
There are aliens, zombies, Helghast-esque goons with green eyes and porkpie hats, and even robots. It's as if the developers have thrown every bit of cannon fodder they've ever seen into the mix so as to cover every base. Fingers crossed that Damnation remains focused enough to see these ideas through.
Right now, we're nonplussed about Damnation - we can't say that it looks like offering anything that we haven't seen before. We'll give it the benefit of the doubt, though, as we've only seen early preview code - the proof will be in the, er, review 'pudding'. The environments are amazing and we like the idea of attacking stages in any way we see fit - but we'll need to have a proper play session before we can even begin to understand it.