Shadows of the Damned
- Street Date:
- June 21st, 2011
- Reviewed by:
- Adam Dodd
- Review Date:1
- October 14th, 2011
- Game Release Year:
- Electronic Arts
- Grasshopper Manufacture
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
Shadows of the Damned is much more than another stylishly directed horror game with a raunchy sense of humor and over-the-top gameplay. This game is also a collaborative effort from some of Japan’s top talent, including Goichi Suda, aka Suda51 (No More Heroes), Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil 4), and Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill). With talent like that behind it, Shadows is almost destined to blow everyone’s mind, and it might very well do just that, it’s just a matter of whether or not this is your “thing.”
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
I say this for a few reasons. First off is the game’s sense of humor, which ranges from a harmless jibe here and there to becoming borderline offensive. This isn’t the type of game you want to play with family nearby, and not just because there’s a ton of gore here. Shadows is also insanely naughty, with plenty of sexual innuendo (one of your weapons is the Boner) and sometimes you’ll even have to traverse gargantuan, mostly nude versions of your girlfriend. Thankfully, there’s a lot more to be had here outside of the naughty bits.
Once you’ve booted up the game you’re almost immediately thrown into one of the coolest depictions of hell I’ve seen in a video game. You won’t be seeing many fiery pits in this hell; instead they’ve been replaced by the neon lights of a city brighter than Las Vegas to the dark blue shadowy realms that the demons call home. Because the latter slowly drains your health, you’ll need to find sources of light, usually in the form of goat heads hanging on the walls. Once lit, the blue shadows wash away and you’re safe again. Albeit, temporarily.
Shadows of the Damned pits you in the shoes of demon slayer Garcia Hotspur, whose girlfriend Paula is kidnapped by a demon to become his bride. Now, Garcia isn’t having any of that, so he follows the demon into hell in order to save Paula, thus beginning the adventure into the colorful pits of hell. Garcia is a likeable enough character; his accent is thick but only helps to dramatize everything that comes out of his mouth. Garcia is joined by a floating torch named Johnson, the first of the many sexual innuendos you’ll come across in this game. The two characters work incredibly well together, I dare say better than the best of buddy cop comedies.
As for the controls, if you’ve played Resident Evil 4 this game plays similarly but with a few tweaks here and there to make it feel less clunky. If you’re not familiar with that game then you should know that this is a third-person shooter, with the camera nestled comfortably over Garcia’s shoulder (similar to Gears of War). You can do many of the things you’d expect in a game like this, including strafing and running, though the latter only last for a short time before Garcia has what sounds like an asthma attack and is forced to return to walking. In the very beginning you’re teased with the possibility of a driving segment, but unfortunately, the game is completely on foot.
The campaign might take only 8-10 hours to beat but it’s an experience that’s filled with action, intense boss fights, clever puzzles, and creative scenarios. Sure, it would’ve been nice to have a longer campaign, especially in a game with no multiplayer, but the content that’s there is more than satisfying. Many of the features in Resident Evil 4, including the aforementioned camera and controls, have made their way into this game in some form. The merchant is quirky and gives you gems that can be used to upgrade your weapons and abilities, and the layout of the story is formatted in Acts that are made up of Chapters.
What at first might look like a painfully shallow arsenal of weapons quickly turns into a pretty decent selection. There are three primary weapons, a pistol, shotgun, and machine gun, but as you use the gems gathered from slain bosses these weapons evolve into deadlier versions of themselves. The pistol becomes a more powerful magnum, the shotgun transforms into a grenade launcher, and the machine gun gets a homing ability. It’s still not the deepest of weapon selections, but it’s got everything you’ll need on your adventure.
Overall, Shadows of the Damned is a quirky, fun game, that’s very Japanese in its style. Everything about it won’t appeal to everyone, especially the raunchy humor and short playtime, but that shouldn’t deter fans of the genre from checking it out. Just make sure you go into it knowing that it’s less a horror game and more a game about two funny guys jumping into hell with bloody violence and comedic mayhem ensuing. If you expect that, you won’t leave disappointed. Bewildered maybe, but definitely not disappointed.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
This is a gorgeous game and definitely one you’ll want to play in HD, if only to see the tremendous amount of detail in the creatures, environments, and specifically, the gore. Gorehounds will find a lot to love but if that’s not necessarily your thing there’s always the unique interpretation of hell. This is a very vibrant game, filled to the brim with bright colors, cool effects, and all things red and squishy. For the most part the character animations are solid, but there is one exception: Garcia Hotspur. Controlling him is easy, but his awkward jog animation consistently bothered me. Outside of that, the characters move great, especially the monsters that come at you in a creepy, freak circus sort of way.
There are also the ingenious visual cues that let you know what’s about to happen before it does. These range from certain spots in the environment and on enemies that give you hints as to how they can be vanquished without completely giving it away, as well as environmental tips like the glowing blue flowers that let you know the merchant is nearby (no doubt a reference to the blue torches in Resident Evil 4, one of Mikami’s previous games). And like I said before, you’ll be able to customize the experience a bit to fit your setup and personal tastes, including adjusting the brightness and turning the subtitles on or off.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The voice work is amazing—Garcia Hotspur and his sidekick Johnson are funny, charming, and there’s a chemistry between the duo that can’t be found in many other games. I’ve mentioned how gory this game can get (it’s not for the squeamish), so it’s only fitting that the game should have satisfyingly wet and squishy sound effects. Blowing the limbs off enemies sounds great, with each gun having a unique sound and feel to it, and I constantly found myself wondering how they made the roar or howl of a particular monster sound the way it does. It’s all done extremely well.
The music is quite possibly one of the best things about this game. I’m sure those who are familiar with Akira Yamaoka’s work on the Silent Hill soundtracks aren’t terribly surprised to hear that, but it’s true. The flavor is decidedly different, but that’s a good thing. Shadows of the Damned is an opportunity for Yamaoka to give us more of what we love but in an altered way to match this new game. You’ll recognize it instantly, but it’s different enough to keep you from wondering when Pyramid Head is going to show himself.
Shadows is an example of quality over quantity. If you’re looking for a game to keep you busy for a few weeks, this probably isn’t the best choice. It takes roughly 8-10 hours to beat and there’s some motivation for returning for a second playthrough if you like seeing everything it has to offer, like hidden items or fully upgrading the weapons, but once you’ve beaten it you’ve seen pretty much everything. The biggest problem here is the surprising lack of a New Game+ option, to allow you to play through it again to fully upgrade Garcia’s abilities and arsenal of weapons. This would’ve been a welcome feature and definitely would’ve been good motivation to return to the game for another go, but sadly, it’s not in here.
Shadows of the Damned isn’t like anything else out there right now. It’s original and not afraid to do something wildly different with its familiar setting and story. Add to that a Suda51 inspired punk-rock edge and a fantastic score composed by Akira Yamaoka, and Shadows really is a beautifully bizarre game.
- Dolby Digital 5.1
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