Blue Omega-developed Damnation - the "shooter gone vertical" to be published by Codemasters this winter - will feature buddy-buddy action from beginning to end.
"The single-player campaign is fully playable in two-player co-op," chief designer Jacob Minkoff told videogaming247, adding, "After just one multiplayer match, trust me – you’ll see what makes it different, and I think you’ll love it. I know we do."
The steampunk action title - described by Minkoff as a "hardcore shooter" - adds co-op to what sounds like sprawling cityscapes, over which up and down matters just as much as across. Sounds a bit like Crackdown fused with Assassin's Creed. With loads of vehicles.
"You’ll start out a level standing on the top of a tall cliff and looking far into the distance where you’ll see a sprawling cityscape, dominated by a huge tower that is miles away," explained Minkoff. "Your goal is to get to the top of that tower and defeat the boss enemy atop it but, to get there, you’re going to have to make your way through the city, climbing across rooftops, ducking inside buildings, descending into sewers, etc – until you can finally climb your way up to the top of that tower.
"Then, you’ll be able to look back at the city and see all the places you’ve been to and fought in. Rather than making a hallway shooter that consists of tiny alleys, warehouses, and office buildings, we’ve made an epic, expansive, varied would for the player to explore."
Colour us interested. Read all of Jacob's answers to our questions after the link. Damnation releases for PC, PS3 and 360 in the fourth quarter.
Videogaming247: You say in the PR that levels can be up to three hours long. That sounds like a hell of a lot. What's the save system like? And how many levels are there in total?
Jacob Minkoff: What we really want to get across about our levels is that they’re of a scale that you’ve never seen before in a hardcore shooter. Our goal from the very beginning was to allow the player to see their objectives in the distance from the start of the level and then work their way towards them in an intuitive and immersive manner. When we say three hours – what we mean is that you’ll start out a level standing on the top of a tall cliff and looking far into the distance where you’ll see a sprawling cityscape, dominated by a huge tower that is miles away. Your goal is to get to the top of that tower and defeat the boss enemy atop it but, to get there, you’re going to have to make your way through the city, climbing across rooftops, ducking inside buildings, descending into sewers, etc – until you can finally climb your way up to the top of that tower. Then, you’ll be able to look back at the city and see all the places you’ve been to and fought in. Rather than making a hallway shooter that consists of tiny alleys, warehouses, and office buildings, we’ve made an epic, expansive, varied would for the player to explore.
Don’t worry about the save system – it’s very generous. Our goal is to make a fun and challenging experience, but never to be frustrating. As for the levels, there are four major ones and two smaller ones, representing very unique and varied environments. Each of the worlds is then subdivided into as many as four very different thematic locations that have very disparate, yet complimentary visual stylings. That way, the player won’t get tired of the game’s look – it’ll keep changing as they progress through the world. We felt that regular visual changes were very important for communicating the feeling of an epic quest. Whether you look at Star Wars or Lord of the Rings – “epic” means visiting many different locations that each look strikingly different from one another.
Is co-op play included in the game? All the screens feature a man and a woman.
The single-player campaign is fully playable in 2-player co-op.
On the "vertical" element. Firstly, what was the thinking behind going up and down instead of across, and what control design issues are you facing because of that choice?
We feel that opening up the vertical space of the playfield provides us with tons of unique and exciting gameplay options to explore. There are two major reasons we’ve taken the shooter vertical:
- Risk vs. Reward - In Damnation it’s all about risk versus reward. The player will constantly have to ask themselves things like, “Do I stay where I am and use my machine gun, or do I try to climb up to that rocket launcher that I can see on a rooftop above me? If I stay here, I’m behind cover and safe, but my weapon is comparatively weak. If I run out there, I’m exposed while I climb onto the roof, but I get a much better weapon AND I’ll have a fantastic sniping spot to rain down death from above.” Basically, you can choose to try to make it to high ground – which will make you much more powerful tactically, or you can choose to try to stop others from getting that tactical advantage. It’s a really fast-paced dynamic that makes our multiplayer, in particular, really exciting.
- Intuitive Navigation – Instead of searching for keycards or pulling switches, finding your way through Damnation’s levels is all about being resourceful. You’ll need to look around, examine your environment, and figure out how you’re going to get to your goal. Remember those huge levels? Well, if your objective is to get to the huge tower that you can see in the distance, you’ll be able to look up and see it looming above the rooftops. You’ll need to figure out how you’re going to get to those rooftops and climb your way up there. Where Half-Life 2 uses physics as its primary puzzle-solving mechanic, we use climbing.
Vehicles look to play a major part in the game. Can you tell us a bit about the various types and how they affect play?
Over the course of the game, the player will get to drive and interact with different types of vehicles – from super-fast motorcycles and ATVs to massive mobile artillery that can take out whole buildings with a single shell. Most of the driving sections are focused on speed and covering lots of ground since Damnation sets the player on an epic journey that crosses an entire continent. The driving sections are like car chases in action films – put the pedal to the metal and go! Plough through enemies, avoid rockets and falling debris, do death-defying jumps over huge ravines, etc. Sometimes the vehicles will even be required in order to solve puzzles – allowing the player to reach area that they couldn’t on foot.
Finally, you say Damnation's going to be "evolving the shooter genre" but surely it’s going to have to be very special to stand out in such a saturated sector. What's your major hook?
The funny thing is, we’ve been told that we have “too many” new and innovative features. Damnation has a deep, immersive story set in a retro-technological world that’s different from the sorts of settings players are used to seeing in shooters. It has enormous, beautifully detailed levels that push the Unreal Engine 3 to its limit and let players intuitively and immersively explore levels on a scale never seen before in a hardcore shooter. But, if I had to pick one feature that really sets it apart – Damnation’s fast-paced vertically-focused combat is what people will really experience when they sit down and play it. After just one multiplayer match, trust me – you’ll see what makes it different, and I think you’ll love it. I know we do.