Known world wide for their high-end video game accessories, Mad Catz is publishing their first videogame, but is it any good?
Titled Damage Inc: Pacific Squadron WWII, the game will have players step into the cockpit of a variety of World War II era fighter planes while offering a complete campaign mode, along with a variety of multiplayer options, including co-op.
We were invited to the Mad Catz E3 pressroom to go hands on with the game and check out the exclusive flight stick that will be released with it. After having a chance to get behind the controls, I’m rather impressed with this title; considering this is their first attempt at publishing software.
The Flight Stick
Before jumping right into the action, I was introduced to the new flight stick. The Pacific AV8R Flight Stick will be available for the PS3, 360 and the PC as both a standalone product, or in a bundle with the game.
If you’re wondering why you’d want to buy a flight stick just to play one arcade style WWII game, Mad Catz has you covered. The flight stick will be fully compatible with a multitude of titles on all three platforms, including games like HAWX, ACE Combat, and Birds of Steel. For the full list of compatibility on each platform you can check out the official Damage Inc. website.
In terms of design, you can tell Mad Catz has put some love and care into the research behind the product. The flight stick features a grip that is fully inspired by real WWII planes. In fact, one of the Mad Catz team members is an actual pilot. While he was demonstrating the product for me, he pulled up some of the reference photos of real planes used to develop the stick, which you can see below.
Aesthetically, I do wish the stick came in different colours, especially since it is compatible with other games, however, it does include a sheet of decals to customize the unit to your liking. Also, the actual flight stick can be unscrewed from the base. I was told this was mainly done to allow for easy storage, but that the possibility of additional stick designs is on their radar. These could include new looks, or even other button layouts to expand support to other titles. While nothing is confirmed just yet, it’s impressive they’ve thought this far ahead.
Another great design feature is actually found on the base of the unit in the form of removable legs. Now, these legs can be used to add a few inches of height to your flight stick, but more importantly, they act as a stabilizer and comfort rest for your leg. So if you’re playing from your couch, you won’t need to worry about the unit sliding around in the middle of a dogfight.
The joystick is lighter than I expected, but retains the high quality I expect from Mad Catz these days. The joints are sturdy and secure, all the moving parts felt solid, and the spring and accuracy of the actual joystick during gameplay was spot on. I felt pretty boss, cranking the on stick throttle to speed away after a bombing run.
While I’m going to have to wait to play the full game before really reviewing the title, I wanted to give an overview of my experience with it. Overall the game is a solid action flight combat game, though if you’re looking for a WWII flight simulator, this might not be for you. Damage Inc. is designed to be more of an arcade experience. But this isn’t a bad thing; it’s actually the charm of this title.
While the controls and actual flight are very simple to jump into, you still feel like you’re doing a lot of stuff while using the flight stick. You have a fully functioning throttle, and a multitude of toggles to control your engine boost, weapon load, camera views, and you can also enter “Reflex Mode” which will slow down time.
Unlike the “Bullet Time” in Max Payne, Reflex Mode doesn’t really give you a major advantage of your enemies, but is more designed to help you get use to dog fighting. You do not move faster than opponents, and it does not affect the AI in any way. I found I was constantly in this mode for the first 15 min of play, but slowly started using it less and less as I became accustomed to hunting down bogies. It’s also handy during precision bombing runs, but don’t expect to dodge bullets or anything.
The graphics in the game aren’t mind blowing, but they are by no means bad. The draw distance and detail of land, sea and sky are commendable, but I will admit it does feel a little bit like a PSN / XBLA download, compared to a retail store release. However, it does look pretty kick-ass when you gun down an opponent and their plane explodes in a fiery hail of debris.
The game will feature a huge range of missions in an effort to avoid endless dogfighting. You’ll be partaking in recon missions that may require surveillance photos, bombing runs and encounter a mixture of ground and areal targets.
One of the more impressive features is that the entire single player campaign can be played in co-op, giving you real wingmen. You can also challenge your friends in other modes such as head-to-head, dogfight, survivor, and team survivor. Mad Catz has even included a unique match type called “Scratch One Flattop” where two teams will battle to sink each other's aircraft carrier.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with this first development venture from Mad Catz, especially since you can purchase the game and flight stick together for under $100. Considering you’re getting a flight stick that works with other flight games on the market, this is a pretty solid deal. The game releases August 28, 2012.