Review :: Shadows of The Damned

Robert Rodriguez meets Resident Evil during an acid trip

Written by Super User

Published Monday, 27 June 2011 20:00

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I’m a huge Goichi Suda fan. Shinji Mikami (the man behind Resident Evil and the recently released Vanquish) also ranks among my favorite game designers. So when these highly regarded designers decided to join forces for Shadows of the Damned - their first collaborative effort since the Gamecube cult hit Killer7 - my interest was piqued from the moment it was announced. That interest isn’t even necessarily because of their track record but mostly because of the bizarre and immature set-up. A man’s quest for vengeance as he slays demons, cracks d*ck jokes and swears to rescue his love interest from the hands of an evil deity. Yes, this crazy action shooter isn’t going to win many awards and most will likely be turned-off by it. But since there’s a market for these kind of experiences (as long as they have solid production values supporting it), why ignore it?

Meet Garcia Fucking Hotspur (no kidding!), a demon hunter who, after seeing his girlfriend hang herself in their bedroom and being claimed by Fleming - Underworld’s main dude - jumps through a vortex that leads him straight to Hell. With the help of his buddy Johnson, Garcia embarks on a quest to get her back. The story doesn’t make any sense, mind you. Obviously, Suda and Mikami wanted to crank up the fun while paying homage to several B horror movies like Evil Dead and other Grindhouse-style tales. Shadows of the Damned’s depiction of hell, demons and its hunters come often by in this industry and while some get lost in the process (ahem, Dante’s Inferno), this one actually makes its way through with very few notable hiccups and makes it quite enjoyable...provided your funny bone is flexible enough to support Spanglish slurs and lots of unsubtle sexual innuendo among it’s many other “impurities”.

Mikami’s input into the game is quite obvious. Using a over-the-shoulder third person view, controlling Garcia around the environments feels and plays like Resident Evil, only faster with multi-directional evade rolls and 180 degree turnarounds to make him an agile demon hunter no matter how big or small his enemies are. Every graceful demon hunter requires a set of interesting toys to make him effective. This is where his “Johnson” comes to play. A British-accent floating skull head, Johnson transforms into three different weapons: a pistol, a shotgun and a machine gun. He (or it whatever fits you best) can also be used as a torchlight but also as a powerful bat. Enemies get tougher as the campaign progresses, which lasts around 10 hours, and your Johnson will need some help to get stronger. The solution? An archaic yet simplistic upgrade system to get you by. Unfortunately, the improvements done to your arsenal won’t improve their targeting. And when the camera goes crazy, shooting becomes imprecise and rather challenging to pull those satisfying headshots. Much like Resident Evil, nothing difficult to cloud the overall experience but awkward enough to raise a certain ire. Once in a while, Hell gets enveloped in darkness, to either dispatch tougher enemies or set the table for some puzzle solving. At that point, Garcia’s companion can shoot light blasts to weaken the undead or chase off the deadly shadows when combat isn’t recommended by lighting living goat heads. If this sounds crazy, wait until you come across the baby demon doors who will let you pass if you feed them with brains or strawberries. Things get weirder...and funnier but I won’t spoil any more of the fun surprises. Let’s just say that Shadows of the Damned assumes and embraces its juvenile silliness to the fullest.

Shadows of the Damned’s look and feel is distinctive. To Suda51 and Mikami, Hell is quite different from what bible folks have made it out to be. London-inspired unkempt alleys, creepy catacombs and unsettling forests aren’t totally surprising but to see strip clubs and booze vending machines is a hilarious touch. Character animations aren’t at their best and environments do suffer from several texture pop-ins but I’ve see worst. Supporting the overall presentation, the over-the-top voice-over work (led by Steve Blum who also voiced Bulletstorm’s own macho Grayson Hunt) and an amazing soundtrack put together by Akira Yamaoka, the man behind Silent Hill. The visuals carry their own “charm” but are far from being incredible, the audio - paired with the rather friendly and satisfying gameplay - makes this horror-fest succeed where a game like Splatterhouse failed miserably. Note that the game is the first to make use of Dolby ProLogic IIz, a new technology that enables two additional listening channels to existing 5.1 and 7.1 speaker layouts. If you audio set supports it, you’ll be at bliss.

If I had one little thing to complain about Shadows of the Damned (aside from the aiming!) is the absence of a New Game+ option. More games are starting to offer it with the idea of keeping players interested to replay the game more than once at a higher difficulty level. To not see it here pains me somehow.

Conclusion

Funny...

A few days ago, I reviewed a sexually-charged, profane and thoughtless shooter called Duke Nukem Forever and now, I got to write about Grasshopper Manufacture’s latest effort which in many ways can sit right next to the babe lover and have a conversation without feeling strange. Luckily for me, and gamers looking for a crazy game to check out, Garcia Hotspur’s ‘road movie’ punches Gearbox’s latest Franken-project in the gut, drills a new hole and banishes it to the land of wind and ghosts with little chance of escaping.

A guilty pleasure worth telling your friends about...provided its their kind of game, obviously.


Pros
+ A hilarious, mature storyline + Distinctive presentation + Amazing sound work
Cons
- Stiff animations, texture pop-ins - Game begs for a New Game+ option - Wonky camera, touchy targeting system

Final rating
8.2 / 10
Comments
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Game details
Shadows of The Damned
Release date : 2011-06-21
Platform :
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : Grasshopper
Gameplay : Survival Horror

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