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Devastation
Requirements:
  • Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
  • Pentium 3 500Mhz or greater with 128MB RAM (256MB strongly recommended)
  • DirectX compatible 32MB video accelerator capable of T&L
  • DirectX compatible sound card
  • 1GB hard disk space or greater
  • Broadband recommended for Internet play

  • Official website: http://www.devastationgame.co.uk

The year is 2075 and instead of a prosperous and rich society that you might expect, Earth has degenerated into a wasteland of destruction, violence and corporate greed. The Mega-Corporations have near total control of the surrounding populace and possess all the technology and power; elements that they use in tandem against anyone that might pose a threat.

As you might guess, not everyone is happy to bow down to the corporations, and those that resist have formed local resistance groups that work to disrupt them at every opportunity. You play the part of Flynn Haskell, a local resistance leader, and things are about to escalate...

Devastation is a futuristic first-person shooter that uses a heavily modified Unreal Warfare game engine, meaning it will require a little more 'beef' than most games to achieve a smooth experience. However, and I must admit to being a little surprised at this, the game was still asthetically pleasing even with a lot of the graphics options turned down. My little 1.1Ghz and GeForce 3 coped quite well throughout the entire game, rarely slowing to the point of a slideshow. As long as you have enough RAM, things should move along nicely.

To leap straight in, Devastation is not a ground-breaking game. It's a fairly enjoyable experience just like many other shooters currently on the market, but in terms of bringing new ideas to the genre or making you grin madly with enjoyment, it seems to just cruise along. Nothing made me think out loud: "wow, that's cool" at all, and it felt like I was being ordered to go there, do this, get that and so on. One of the major points about Devastation that is advertised a fair bit is the ability for you to do a vast array of things instead of just bundling in and blasting everything without a second thought. You could throw something down a hall to distract a guard, or sneak up on him with a katana, or order your squad members to do it all for you. But to be realistic, the effort required to actually do any of these things far outweighs the ease by which you could simply pop round the corner and blast the target away. There are a few times where you're forced to use alternative means, but for a game that praises "everything can be used or manipulated", it just doesn't encourage you to do so.

The rag-doll physics are great for a minute or so, the physics engine is incredibly weird (boxes dance and spin for 5 minutes if you so much as nudge them) and the artificial intelligence of your partners and enemies is unremarkable. It's nice to be able to do these things, but after a squadmate moved into a cardboard box which subsequently flew down an alley and hit me, literally shoving me into the aim of four well-armed patrol guards, I started to view the 'advanced physics' as annoying rather than amusing.

But enough about the bad side of things, let's talk about the good side. The first thing I noticed was the level design - it's pure excellence. I have never seen more detailed level construction, and I imagine this is where the majority of the work went into the game. Each level seems to have been lovingly crafted with absolute care for atmosphere and feel, and I often spent a few minutes just looking around admiring. Not many games offer this. Also noteworthy are the skins on the character models and items you can interact with. It seems that graphics were a high priority in the making of Devastation, which is appreciated, but only until you start to get used to the game and the eye-candy becomes less important.

Devastation also possesses simplistic controls for which I thank the designers for, since I hate getting wrapped up in menus and assigning nearly my entire keyboard to specific functions. The standard movement controls are present, along with a nice weapons hud which displays each weapon you currently hold in an easy-to-use numbered order, similar to Half-Life in some respects. Unreal Tournament has also had an influence on Devastation - the squad member control menu is identical in style to the menu used to control your bots in U.T., making issuing orders a breeze. There are little other controls available, and most anonyingly, there's no key for "pick up object". Instead, you have to select your hand, hold down fire to pick up the object and then do whatever you want with it. It get's a bit fiddly if you're trying to do this fast, and I don't see why this couldn't have been incorporated into one button.

If your squadmates are feeling under-powered, you have the ability to give them a weapon. Don't need that military sniper rifle? Hand it over to someone and watch him or her use it just as you would expect. Your squadmate friends (which are in reality just singleplayer bots) can use any weapon they find or are given, and if they have something you don't, you can demand it off them. This certainly helps prolong the lifespan of your companions, but oddly enough I never noticed their health decrease below 100%, no matter how much they were shot up.

Devastation is disappointing in a way, because the concept is actually a good one, it's just a shame it wasn't executed with more "oomph". Everything apart from the level design is standard - the weapons are what you would expect, the enemies are the standard stuff, your squadmates are just 'there' waiting for orders and the plot didn't grip me much at all. After playing Unreal 2 it's good to see an Unreal engine put to better-than-average use, but i'm still not convinced that the technology was used as well as it could've been, if it's so powerful. Apart from level asthetics, I can't really think of any amazing points about Devastation. My advice is that if you're after a gap-filler until Half-Life 2 and you want some multiplayer to to boot, and you don't mind shelving it after a run through, Devastation might be a good shot. If you're yearning for something more than a typical shooter, perhaps a slight delay is in order until something more arrives.