Developer: Digitalo Studios
Release Date: March 28, 2003
Buy 'DEVASTATION': PC
No one can accuse developer Digitalo Studios of being uninspired after having played their latest creation entitled Devastation, which attempts to fuse together myriad FPS styles into a single experience. Devastation runs the gamut of first-person features such as realistic physics, over 35 unique weapons, both arcade and strategic modes of play, and good ol’ fashion deathmatch style sequences. Sadly though, Devastation incorporates so many FPS elements that the finished product ends up being less than cohesive.
The storyline in Devastation is not unlike that of countless other FPS games released over the years and involves a revolutionary (that would be you) who is up against a tyrannical corporation that, as luck would have it, secretly presides over the world’s affairs. The number of formulaic chestnut sequences in Devastation ensure that you’ll experience more than a few flashbacks to other “minority resistance VS The System” games like Red Faction, Max Payne, and Half Life, though often without those game’s sense of originality. Expect to wade through levels that take place in all the obvious locales like corporate buildings, sewers, and subways.
Using the latest Unreal Engine as a foundation for game play, Devastation certainly controls well and offers up a bounty of independent physics for nearly every object in the game (mainly of the random garbage and crate variety). But while nearly every on-screen item reacts independently and can often be interacted with in interesting ways, which is in itself pretty cool, this feature tends to get in the way of progression in the instances where garbage is littered around locations that you need to access, making maneuvering needlessly difficult. Also, the physics engine used on these miscellaneous items is far from perfect; often objects will continually writhe about long after you’ve come in contact with them or at times simply disappear or levitate for no particular reason.
Another feature that initially seems cool but ends up being more problematic than its worth is the inclusion of computer-controlled teammates. Up to eight AI teammates will accompany you during some of the single-player mode’s 21 missions, and while you are able to issue basic orders to your teammates like: attack, defend, stop and follow – they rarely ever listen to you during the heat of battle. And to make matters worse, the majority of the missions that include NPC teammates end prematurely if a friendly gets killed. So unless the strategy of the game in regards to computer assistance was intended to be limited to simply issuing a “stop” command at every instance of enemy opposition, then it’s probably safe to assume that this feature wasn’t integrated to the extent of the developer’s original vision.
One aspect of Devastation that actually hits the mark, though, is found in the later levels of the game in a deathmatch style of play that involves two teams, each with their own base and destructible spawner that automatically respawns downed soldiers when they die. This interesting play mode is also featured in the game’s multiplayer component and is called Territories. This is a prime example of how the new Unreal Engine can really excel in FPS games as it offers up almost UT2003 caliber entertainment but is free to change style and pace to fit the game’s evolving story. But even this bright spot on an otherwise generic experience falls victim to the clumsy, and at times downright brain-dead, AI. You see, enemy forces have trouble with things like making out areas of cover on the playfield, often leaving themselves completely open for attack as they stand around dumbfounded and unguarded. In addition, the AI doesn’t know how to use grenades or defend against them. And most tragic is the AI’s complete inability to attack your base in the aforementioned Territory stages, instead putting up a struggle only when you bring the fight to them.
There is a difference between green lighting a game that has minor uncooked play elements that haven’t been refined and releasing a game that has obvious bugs which prevent the player from utilizing basic necessities of the game. Devastation is guilty of the latter, unfortunately, and suffers from a host of issues that range from unexpected crashes during single-player games to annoyingly unstable online multiplayer problems and inaccurate ping replies (I’m on dial-up so I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be getting “0” ping rates across the board). Also, there are some pretty serious issues with saving the game that can only be resolved via a hefty 66 MB patch which, I gotta say, is just plain wrong. But, if you’re not experiencing annoying crash-to-desktop’s or busy patching a broken save-system, the multiplayer modes are actually pretty cool. Aside from the Territories mode, Devastation also offers up deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag styles of play.
From a visual standpoint Devastation looks generic at worst and mildly impressive at best. The Unreal Engine is capable of kicking out some serious flash and flair and that fact is made evident in Devastation’s liberal use of dynamic shadowing, eerily realistic flame effects, and ragdoll physics that make fallen opponent’s corpses react in a believable manner to the surrounding environment. There is also a slight focus on target-specific body damage; if you shoot an opponent in the right place with enough firepower expect to see limbs fly. Unfortunately, the sound in Devastation is almost entirely forgettable, featuring weak-sounding weapons, mysteriously absent sound effects, and voice-acting that would be better suited for public access television.
The foundation of Devastation is a solid one, but the assortment of miscellaneous additions to the single-player aspect of the game bogs the experience down considerably, sometimes grinding it to a complete halt in the instances where you are thrown back to your desktop. It does have moments that are genuinely fun and do come together nicely, but that is only if you are willing to wade through considerable frustration-inducing sequences first. Overall, you could do much better than Devastation for your gaming buck, but you might want to check it out when it hits the bargain bin.
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