Devastation

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a game by Arush Games
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 1 review, 4 reviews are shown
User Rating: 9.2/10 - 5 votes
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See also: Action Adventure Games

Multiplayer ones even more so. If you were to pop in on us during any given lunchtime (though we’d really rather you didn’t), chances are you’d find us hammering away at our WASD keys, red eyes fixed on pinpoint reticules, hurling sporadic abuse across the office at each other (mostly good-natured.. . at least since the counselling).

But as much as we look forward to each new shooter that comes along, there’s no escaping the realisation that most of them don’t matter. You’ve got your top tier of shooters - the kind that sit in our A-List for years and hog Internet bandwidth the world over - and then you’ve got the also-rans, the games that, rather than setting the world on fire, merely throw a match into a pile of soggy towels on the world’s bathroom floor.

Edge Of Chaos

At this point in time, Digitalo’s forthcoming shooter Devastation is interesting, not only because it looks extremely fine, but because it’s one of the games that could go either way. On the one hand, with its L/nrea/-powered good looks, clever object physics and host of cool weapons, it seems deserving of a slice of the online pie. On the other, barely anyone’s heard of it and it’s up against the likes of UT2003.

It’s a sticky spot to be in, but when we caught up with developer Digitalo there was no shortage of confidence. We asked Vic DeLeon, senior producer on the game, where they get the nerve.

"We’ve learned a lot from our previous projects. We worked on Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone last year, mostly on technical and visual level design. We also made a UT add-on pack, which sadly was cancelled just shy of its completion, but it was a key experience that got us where we are today regardless."

With such high-profile projects under their belts, the Digitalo lads have clearly been on the verge of recognition for some time. And with Devastation, a gritty shooter with a post-apocalyptic edge, they may have found the perfect vehicle to show off their talents. "One of the things we’re most proud of is the depiction of the real-world locales in the game," confers Vic. "It’s set in the near future, a dark age in which huge corporations rule with an iron fist. You play the leader of a small Resistance formed to combat the corporations and their Pacification Squads. They’re not your typical characters, they’re paranoid losers and criminals - they reflect the desperation of a future with no hope." A bit darker than the likes of Harry Potter, then.

Going Solo

Of course all this resistance leader guff only happens in the single-player campaign, while Devastation is focused primarily on multiplayer action. However, Vic is keen for us not to dismiss the single-player game outright. "It is very substantial, and although it prepares players for the kind of action and combat you’ll face in the multiplayer campaigns, it stands on its own. You’ll meet up with many sidekicks, travel the world, battle regiments of PacSquad troopers, sabotage corporate operations, and uncover a corporate conspiracy that threatens what’s left of the ravaged world. There are 20 massive levels set in four different territories, so it’s around a 15-25 hour play-through."

We’ve actually played some of these massive levels, albeit incomplete, and they do have quite a distinctive feel to them. The nature of the objectives is generally straightforward (something akin to the object-based multiplayer in Return To Castle Wolfenstein), and with the addition of Al wingmen, you sometimes feel like you’re playing a kind of multiplayer fragfest with bots. Strangely, it’s the very obviously programmed nature of the enemies that could counter such feelings - they are just far too human. Vic explains: "One of the goals of Devastation's Al was to move away from trying to simulate human players playing on servers, to emulating what a real-life human would do in our world. That means no enemies strafe-walking while getting ready to rocket-jump to that next ledge. Instead, you’ll see them engage you when appropriate, trying to take cover, possibly running to get reinforcements, or just plain freaking out and running away."

Shifting Conditions

Another key facet of the gameplay is its incorporation of interactive object physics. Roll exploding barrels at enemies, make a shiv out of a discarded bottle, drag heavy objects across doorways to make a sniping position more secure - the consequences for gameplay are vast. Of course it’s all made possible by Unreal technology, but Devastation is the first game to apply it in any truly interesting ways.

Another key ingredient in the game’s make-up is the vast preponderance of weaponry. More than 40 weapons will be available in total, including rifles, shotguns, handguns and blades of every description, not to mention the much-touted rat drone: a remote-control spy-rat fitted with a C4 pay load.

Pushed to name his favourite weapon, however, Vic is rather more down to earth: "The coolest weapon, if not the deadliest, is the 2x4 wooden plank! Smacking an orderly-trooper in the Asylum level makes you feel like Jack Nicholson in a new One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest."

Ultimately, it’s memorable touches such as this that are going to make or break Devastation. At heart it’s pretty much a straightforward shooter, but given a certain vigour by the addition of many small tweaks and surprises. Whether this is enough to secure a spot alongside the likes of UT2003 and CS is another question - we’ll keep you posted.

Download Devastation

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

In Its Own quiet way. Devastation has been building up expectation as a game that could well turn out to be the biggest FPS surprise of the year. The screenshots looked good, it's powered by the latest Unreal technology and it promised lots of gore-packed action. More importantly perhaps, it offered a proper physical world to explore, with virtually every object in sight (even recently decapitated heads) a potential weapon to pick up and throw at your enemies. So can the finished game live up to its potential? Is it some kind of wonderful cross between the violent bloodlust of Soldier Of Fortune II and the infinite interaction of Deus Ex'? Is it going to be a sleeper hit that will live on for years thanks to a wonderful multiplayer? No. No. And no.

Let Me Count The Ways

In the face of such mediocrity and shoddy design, it's hard to know where to begin. I might as well start by debunking all the features that had us excited in the first place. Surely the one thing it should have going for it is decent visuals, even if it was always going to come second to Unreal Il's sheer gorgeousness. This is far from the case. Despite some excellent-looking character models the impression you get as soon as you start playing is that a group of kids have made a mod using five-year-old textures. The levels are flat, colourless, and exceptionally dull. But because of the demanding engine working beneath it all, you still need a beast of a machine to run it. Low frame-rates and choppy gameplay are common when there are a few characters on screen at once. The animation is passable, but it doesn't quite do justice to the models, which do in fact look fairly impressive when static.

Although the core of the gameplay is as simple-minded, narrow, repetitive and unsophisticated as the first Soldier of Fortune and Kingpin, the gore is well within the normal bounds of an FPS. A bit of blood here and there, the odd head lopping off... There's no dismemberment or bowel spilling, no gurgling gasps as throats are ripped by bullets, no hopping about yelling in agony as kneecaps are shotgunned out of existence. So, if extreme violence would have been enough for you to forgive its numerous flaws, that's out too.

Will Things Ever Pick Up?

And what of the much-flaunted real physics? Well, it's true that you can pick up nearly everything you see: cans, bottles, gasoline canisters, chairs, and so on. Barrels roll and boxes are kicked across the room (usually to your extreme annoyance), and you can even look into microscopes. But the physics are far from real, and the objects are all so ugly and textureless they might as well have been lifted from Duke Nukem 3D. While it's always nice to have interactive environments, it all seems a bit pointless within the context of the game. About the only useful thing you can do is grab a can of gasoline, throw it at some enemies and then shoot it to cause a small explosion. Being able to pick up things (and crucially, keep them in an inventory) worked really well in Deus Ex, but here the thrill of throwing a chair across a room fades very quickly. It's all too limited and badly implemented. I can give you an example that also illustrates some of the under-par game design: in a level set in an asylum you're armed only with a stick and there's a small empty room with weapons you can see through some windows. The door is locked so, naturally, you pick up a trashcan and throw it at the window, reasoning that you'll break the glass and be able to climb through. Silly you. In fact, the trashcan, along with an assortment of boxes and bottles goes right through the glass and into the room. You continue through the door in the level that is open and, on reaching a certain point, trigger a scripted moment. The door to the room you were trying to get into opens by itself, miraculously producing some guards out of thin air too. You have to backtrack, deal with the guards and then get your weapons. Just like real life.

I'm With Stupid

It doesn't stop there though. Another feature of the game is that you get team mates on your side to whom you can give some very simple orders: Attack, Defend. Hold and Follow. Again though, Digitalo has bitten of more than it can chew, producing some of the most atrocious team Al since Daikatana. They get stuck in doorways, shoot at walls as often as they do at enemies and generally drive you crazy by getting themselves killed thus ending the game. The only thing to do at times is to tell them to stay put while you fight on ahead. Even though their health replenishes itself constantly, they have a habit of running into the rooms of enemies, standing still while being shot or continuing to charge when they run out of bullets. The problem is that some levels are designed with their backup in mind, so leaving them behind makes it safer but also much harder.

The enemy Al isn't that much better, sometimes running off and appeanng to sit down in the distance, most of the time just charging at you like imbeciles. Even the ones armed with planks don't seem to notice your machine gun spraying into their face. The sounds of the weapons, however, are fairly convincing, having been improved late on in the development process after criticisms from many who played the demo.

Like Whatever, Dude

If you're hoping for a decent story to lift it above averageness, forget about it. While the basic concept is appealing enough (lead an underground resistance movement in the year 2075) it's so badly developed and narrated you'd be hard pressed to flesh a second-rate comic book out of it. Again the overwhelming impression is of a somewhat rushed effort when it came to coming up with a plot, characters and dialogue. How else can you explain the risible members of the so-called resistance, from your very own peroxide punk to some sort of beach babe and what looks like a skater from a Tony Hawk's game? There are occasional cut-scenes, but the bulk of the background info comes in the journals your character keeps, which you can read at the start of each level. They're written by someone trying to sound literate and failing miserably. As an example, the blonde teen thug you play expresses himself like this on being captured: "My foolhardiness had been advantageous in the past but this time, I have been bested." They couldn't even get the commas right.

As you may well have gathered. Devastation has turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. Despite the odd tense moment and its relative freedom to interact with the surroundings, it's ultimately little more than an average shooter.

Arcade Or Simulation?

The Choice Is Y-Yaaaawn...

Before starting a new game you have to choose between sim or arcade mode. You should choose the first unless you want to drop another 10 per cent off the score. The game is simple enough without making it more arcade-like. In sim mode you have to pick up health (rather than automatically absorb it), you have a weight limit you can carry and the crosshair disappears when you're running. Stupidly, this mode also removes automatic reload. But hey, you can't have everything. No, really, you can't.

Let's All Devastate Together

Is It Any Better Online?

Compared to the awful single-player, the multiplayer mode is far more interesting. There's no getting away from the drab-looking levels, but it's not much worse than any number of shooters and it beats the solo campaign hands down. There's a new type of mode to complement the standard deathmatches, CTFs and all the rest, called Territories. Each team has a base with a respawner, so each time you die you will come back to life there. The object is to kill the opposing team permanently, for which you need to destroy said respawner and then track all the survivors down. As usual, we will bring you an update on how the online game develops.

Yes, yes, the future's going to stink - thanks for reminding us. The cities are going to be poisoned, shattered war zones, corporate bigwigs are going to rule the world from secluded strongholds and waves of cloned corporate bully-boys are going to sweep the ground-level slums to harry us into submission. Luckily, in Devastation's account of things, at least, we'll have loads of guns on hand. More than 40 unique weapons in fact, ranging from simple pistols to high-tech laser cannons can that reduce even the most elite genome soldier to a cloud of red mist.

And as far as we can make out, this is exactly what post-apocalyptic shooter Devastation is all about. We recently got our hands on the latest playable build, some 90 per cent complete, and it soon became apparent that this game is all about brutal carnage and not much else. The weapons are satisfyingly diverse and powerful, with a regional system positively encouraging you to remove limbs, heads and torsos with your improbable array of artillery. Not to mention the real physics engine, which allows you to pick up the decapitated heads and play a spot of post-bloodbath basketball. It's dumb stuff, but you can't deny the appeal.

The World Around Us

After the sheer brutality has worn off. the next most immediately impressive thing about Devastation is the quality of the environments, which are sprawling, well-realised affairs, brought lovingly to life by meticulous detail and generous smearings of virtual grime. The singleplayer game takes you through burnt-out slums, abandoned Chinatown streets, maze-like corporate installations and neon-soaked Tokyo shopping districts, all looking as solid and imposing as you'd expect considering the Unreal engine is chugging away under the bonnet. Beyond this the game is, as we expected, a fairly straightforward urban shooter, but given an extra measure of charm by its wilfully over the top weaponry, gleeful blood-letting and highly interactive Unreal-powered environment.

Another handy feature is the option of playing in either arcade or full sim mode, with the latter turning on such features as manual reload, restricted inventory capacity, realistic weapon recoil and uncompromising friendly fire.

Fear Factors

However, we'd be lying if we said there weren't a few worrying signs, especially at this late stage of development. The object physics, for example, is yet to be entirely sorted out, leading to all sorts of comical moments. Crates flying 20 feet into the air with the merest brush of an arm or leg. Packets of freeze-dried chicken (functioning as health packs) dancing farcically around the floor as they ping from surface to surface - you might as well be fighting on the moon.

Collision detection is also a bit dicey and characters have a tendency to float a couple of feet above the ground. The enemy Al is still extremely basic, and the whole thing has a slightly amateurish ring to it courtesy of some clunky character models and B-grade dialogue.

Not good signs you'll agree, but by no means disastrous. The team-based multiplayer, not yet up and running in our version, still promises to be hugely enjoyable, especially the intriguing Territories mode, and there are still a couple of months left to refine other areas.

We've reined in our expectations of this title, but the signs are still good for a fun, blood-soaked genre blaster. We'll have a review in a couple of issues.

Devastation is a first-person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world. You control a freedom fighter resisting tyrannical control of a huge and evil, of course, genetics-oriented corporation. Ho hum. The secret to the cause of the cataclysm appears to be at the center of your quest in the game and the solution looks to be telegraphed early on in the room clearing. One room has dozens of suspended tables with what looks like covered cadavers. Soylent Green and Coma are two movies that come immediately to mind. Whatever. The goals in these games are secondary to the carnage. This one has a Gore Level setting in the game set-up, offering more or less splatter, player's choice.

Devastation has lots of weapons, slightly intelligent opponents and offers control of a non-player character team, but is in a severe rut theme-wise. Along the way you'll meet teams of the evil corporation's death squads and your occasional random 2x4 wielding street thug. You'll have to find your way along dark corridors and alleys, trying all the doors and groping through the shadows for obscure stairways. Considering this type of experience narrowly defined then, those gamers who dig other games like it might enjoy this title, and thus it makes it into the Fans Only category.

The trite story is set in a lush photo-crisp world and though the early levels are linear, later ones are promised to be more open-ended. Multiplayer was not tested but the publishers promise improvements in a patch, if that tells you anything. Two play modes are available, Arcade and Simulation, although the definition of the latter is quite wide. Damage is still measured in straight hit points -- no critical hits or realistic wound model.

Most of the world of 2075 AD here is a trashed mix of abandoned buildings and surprisingly well-preserved leftover semi cabs and buses of early 21st century vintage. You can, for some reason, blast your way through a quite festive, paper lantern festooned Chinatown. Though many of the objects can be manipulated, most are untouchable. You can't shoot out every light or security camera, although you can waste the rats you see scurrying around. And not every door can be opened. This gives a strange incongruous powerlessness to these games. You can accumulate vast firepower (Pulse Laser!) but you can't blast through an obviously wooden door. Designers might someday pay as much attention to splintering as splattering.

Besides the death-dealing, the M rating implies some foul language. In both areas this software does not disappoint. All in all this game has what fans of first-person shooters would want, a simple goal, lots of exotic weapons and a skillfully rendered graphical environment in which to stack bodies.

Snapshots and Media

PC Screenshots