Damnation was introduced as a game that reinvents the shooter genre. Taken at face value, it does succeed in a gross reinvention of the third person shooting style, introducing new elements such as a more vertical playing style and a greater use of vehicles. Where Damnation fails in its reinvention, however, is in the playability and hidden linear level designs.
There is no denying that the game does indeed take the standard flat level design found in many modern games and reposition the layout to require a great deal of climbing and zip lining. The potential of this is enormous, it becomes easy to imagine the depth of gameplay available in not only attacking and defending from the front, but taking positions throughout various levels and fighting on a more 360 degree field. Unfortunately Damnation uses the vertical level designs not for combat, but merely as a means to make it over a wall obstruction here and there or scale a cliff to reach the next area in the game. The vast majority of combat remains on level ground, the enemies rarely taking up positions to be shooting at you from above or below, which many players deemed to be too casual for their taste.
To take that lack of enemy vertical combat further, the enemy AI in this game is subpar at best. When you are on a level above or below them, you will rarely see them attempt to shoot at you. As you take out one enemy character, his accomplice next to him will stand there and do nothing. An enemy that takes several hits to defeat will, even at the hardest difficulty setting, stand there unmoving if you haven’t entered his physical range of vision. Apparently being shot repeatedly is not enough for anyone to take notice of the situation. Unless you find yourself obsessed with killing every enemy in the game, most you can simply ignore and use the vertical level design to walk right past them without even being noticed.
As the enemy AI becomes more and more bland throughout the game, the lack of impressive environmental graphics and general glitchiness become the sole focus. The in-game characters show impressive graphical details, from wrinkles along the eyes to realistic facial expressions. This is rarely seen in enemy designs, as masks are frequently worn hiding any appearance of individuality. More attention appears to have been given to your playable character demonstrating a realistic looking scowl than any attempt to add a sense of realism to the environment. Every level looks nearly the same, sharp edges giving the world a boxy feel while the vertical layout design appears to have been created simply for the sake of having the right to claim taking advantage of a new concept in gaming. With the potential to take vertical gaming much farther, Damnation appears to have created its vertical nature simply for bragging rights, while offering no real advantages or new complexities from it to the gaming experience. The player must result to wandering around an area until spotting a ladder that will lead him to the next area which appears very similar to the one before it. To make the game even more linear, the vehicle system comes in at forced intervals, requiring you to ride throughout the same looking, poorly constructed tunnels that only offer one direction to go. These vehicle areas add miles upon miles to the game, but offer no purpose and no enjoyment. Outside of simply staying on the road and not driving into a hole or off the occasional cliff, the throttle is held down and the vehicles ride themselves until reaching the end of that particular linear path and forcing the player back into the usual state of wandering for the next tool to work upwards. Nothing positive can be seen throughout the vehicle portions of the game, the bragging rights that the game spans for miles seeming to be their only real purpose.