Shadows of the Damned… preeeetty pretty pretty pretty good…

A lot of gamers would be familiar with and happy with the sounds of Shinji Mikami, Akira Yamaoka and Suda51 teaming up to make a game. For those who don’t get all the hype when those names are mentioned I will break it down like this:

When looking at that equation the industry hype is quite understood and the games public reception since release has been somewhat agonizingly frustrating. Does it live up to the expectations of having 3 gaming giants behind it or do to many cooks spoil the broth?

Story:

You play as Garcia “mother f******” Hotspur – demon hunter who has gotten the attention of the Lord of the Dead, appropriately named… Fleming… hmm.

Fleming pays you a little visit at home and decides he is going to take your girlfriend Paula to come and live with him in his Castle and if you want her back come get her. And so as the gamey premise goes ahead Garcia along with his penis obsessed companion Johnson head into Hell to get her back.

Let the dick jokes ensue!

The story in Shadows of the Damned is hardly anything to write home about, but you get the impression it was never totally the focus during development. However it does have its charm in its cliché story, you know the one – Girl gets taken by bad guy, good guy goes after her to save the day. Of course in the modern context it’s filled with much more peril than turtle shells and Goombah’s. As underwhelming as it is as a premise I would be lying though if I said I didn’t enjoy this little nostalgic trip and it’s not like I was expecting Dostoevsky to be writing the script.

More than meets the eye...

There is no surprise that dialogue is not a strong point either in Shadows of the Damned what with its non stop onslaught of innuendo and often times totally blatant sexual reference (particularly that of the male phallic). The humour is a real tour de force of penis jokery and in the end it will either win you over by overwhelming your senses or you will tune out and pay no attention. Kind of a real no harm no foul element of the game, unless you are offended easily and in that case you will probably stop playing immediately.

Gameplay:

Have you ever played a Resident Evil game and wished that raising your gun didnt render you a statue? well that’s what we are looking at here in Shadows of the Damned. Shinji must have realised that as a Demon Hunter Garcia may need to strafe from time to time while firing or he wouldn’t be much of a Demon hunter. Just how the S.T.A.R.S members have survived for so long with their rigid combat training I will never know. It’s a welcome little wrinkle and it certainly adds to the gameplay core mechanics of shooting and surviving.

All in all its a linear go here and shoot this Third person action game, with slight exploration and your now run of the mill mini RPG upgrade elements, it plays like a Resident Evil/Devil May Cry amalgam. Once again this is in no way a slight on the game itself, it does this very well and its pacing by using separated Acts (again like Super Mario World) which keeps you striving for the next loading screen. One thing that it does do beyond the basic gameplay is that Shadows of the Damned keeps itself fresh from one-act to the next. It certainly felt like each act introduced a new kind of enemy or a new challenge, even if it simply meant combining a few prior enemies in a certain situation. There are also 2D side scrolling sections that at first are a pleasant surprise to see but quickly become tedious and frustrating.

Some of the best sections of the game come from the interplay between light and darkness. These work particularly well because while being in the darkness does drain your life you often find yourself needing to be in the darkness to defeat a boss or solve a puzzle. It certainly lends itself to some very tense moments and you will be sure to be needing some alcohol after its completed. By that I mean the game character himself because in Hell alcohol gives you life and heals all wounds. They also seem to love Fireworks in hell also so I can’t really figure the place out.

Design:

It certainly is a different and interesting take on Hell and it is reflective of the creative heads behind it because it certainly combines elements of the villages in Resident Evil 4 and the atmosphere of Silent Hill. It’s not particularly scary either and not even for the cheap thrill of a Demon jumping out at you. It’s very deliberate almost in its attempt to not be scary so I am fairly sure that it was intended to be. That being said it’s certainly atmospheric as torment and torture can be heard all around you just like you would expect in Hell.

Busking in Hell should be made illegal

The music by Akira Yamaoka is a very eclectic mix and sounds to have an almost Kill Bill-esque flavor to it but it can also turn to real heavy metal and violent sounds with the appearance of a horde of demons. While sometimes the mix can be a little jarring it does mix quite well and it was always a pleasure to hear the Spanish guitar during the initial loading screen while you get yourself set up.

Closing Thoughts:

When it’s all said and done Shadows of the Damned is certainly a fun gaming experience, which is what I think it was intended to be, and it is definitely worth more attention than it has received publicly. The three major players behind the game are all represented evenly in their ideas and the gameplay variation makes it becomes hard to put it down. Also if your into incessant dick jokes you will be in heaven in hell.

Score:

8/10

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