Reader Review: Shadows Of The Damned

I found it quite depressing when I heard that Shadow of the Damned didn't sell as well as expected. Not that I'm in love with the game, it's just that... well, I don't like it when any top notch game does poorly. At least Kermitron bought it! I know this because he's just sent us a Reader Review. So take it away Kermitron!

And don’t forget the best review each month will recieve a Blu-ray pack from Madman.

Shadow of the Damned I don’t know what I’ve come to expect by way of video game marketing in this country, but for some reason titles like Crysis and Dead Space become commonly known, but more interesting experimental titles like Bulletstorm and Shadows of the Damned don’t.

For that reason, Shadows of the Damned may well have slipped under my radar, if not for my beloved wife, who caught wind of a new game during her trawling of the intertubes. A bold new game where the guns are called “Big Boners”, and instead of seeing a naked woman in a level, the naked woman is part of the level.

I was intrigued.

Shadows of the Damned, as unfortunately generic and unconvincing as it sounds is a title with nearly no branding power but the pedigree behind it is frankly, to me, astonishing.

Firstly, this is a Suda 51 production. I only know Suda 51 by reputation: I haven’t played his previous titles, but now I feel like I’m missing out.

Secondly, Shinji Mikami is responsible for the gameplay design. I’ve only played the Wii port of Resident Evil 4, but if you’ve played that game then the aesthetics and gameplay won’t be unfamiliar to you.

Thirdly, lastly, but certainly not leastly, Akira Yamaoka was responsible for the music and sound. As a Silent Hill fan (and who has played Silent Hill 2 without becoming a fan, I ask) this was probably the biggest selling point for me – or would have been if I had known before his name flashed up during the opening title credits.

In the opening scenes of Shadows of the Damned, we’re introduced to our hero, one Garcia Hotspur, accomplished and infamous Demon Hunter. Without wasting precious time on exposition, he’s visited by demons who snatch his girlfriend away to be the personal plaything of Fleming, the Lord of the Underworld. These opening scenes are absolutely riddled with innuendo, and set the tone for the rest of the game rather effectively. If you absolutely cannot tolerate dick jokes, now would be the time to stop reading.

Joining Garcia on his quest into hell is Johnson, an ex-demon floating skull who acts as a source of companionship, transport, light and firepower. While traversing the levels normally, Garcia holds his flaming Johnson upright, lighting his path – when facing enemies you’ll hold the left trigger to sight along the length of Johnson as he transforms into a rigid Boner – a powerful revolver that uses demon bones as ammunition.

I’m personally not the biggest fan of (read: I suck at) Mikami’s particular variety of over-the-shoulder gameplay which prevented me from enjoying Resident Evil 5, as it feels clumsier and less refined than faster paced third-person titles such as Gears of War or Uncharted. Here, however, it didn’t really trouble me. Garcia’s improved movement and dodging ability make avoiding enemies fairly easy when you’re in a tight spot (you’re effectively invulnerable while dive-rolling) which made up for my clumsy thumbstick manipulation, particularly during boss battles.

There’s very little in the way of story here, with most of the dialogue consisting of dick jokes and sexual innuendo which in just about any other game might be offputting to people sensitive to vulgarity when there’s an attempt by the writers to make them ironic or tongue-in-cheek, but Shadows of the Damned plays this dialogue so straight that it loops around and becomes almost innocent again. A few of the lines become tiresome quickly (and are unfortunately placed in sections that you’re more likely to have to repeat than others) but this is a minor quibble and as always, your mileage may vary.

The level designs are mostly linear with the occasional instance where you’ll have to backtrack in search of keys, but there’s a fair amount of variety to the levels while still maintaining a consistent overall style. There’s a few cunningly integrated puzzles with the occasional curveballs like 2D-shooter sequences or MC Escher-esque levels composed entirely of rotating blocks that mix things up and keep you interested to the very end.

On top of that, there’s a refreshing self-awareness wherein Shadows of the Damned absolutely knows it’s a video game and offers up some clever metahumour alongside blink-and-you’ll-miss-it homages to classic comedy-horror movies like Ghostbusters and The Evil Dead.

It’s an enjoyable game to play and a satisfying game to complete, yet addictive so that as soon as you’re dumped back at the title screen you’ll want to hit Start and begin your road movie all over again.

One downside was the lack of a New Game+, but as you unlock upgraded weapons only at set points as the story progresses, I can appreciate why that option would not have worked here. You can improve your currently-held weapons in terms of damage, reload speed and capacity with red gems, which are scattered throughout the game and provide incentive to do more than simply rush to the next checkpoint after every skirmish.

Overall I feel this is a solidly made, well presented but woefully underappreciated game that really deserves to be checked out. It’s not exactly groundbreaking but it’s definitely time well spent.


Comments

    Nice review Kermitron. Was yet to be convinced that this was worth playing, might just be a hire title though.

    Yes I intend on getting this in the coming weeks for sure. I like it when games are different and stylised. Why olay CoD every year all year when i can play Ninja Gaiden, Bayonetta Yakuza and bulletstorm to name a few great pc/console releases that buck clich'e FPS trends.

    I was pretty much sold on the Mikami/Suda part. Then my friend was telling me about the music guy bit, and he was all hyped for that. He loves it, has been raving about it since he got it. Can't wait to give it a try myself :P

    Definitely worth playing. I had heaps of fun with it and always wanted to keep going. :)

    This is one of the games I mentally labeled "play it next year when it's cheaper and you have the money and time to do so"...

    So now I'm looking forward to next year :)

    Not that Shadows of the Damned isn't one of my favorite games of the year...because it is. Number 2 spot, actually, but...

    what's wrong with Dead Space? It's an amazing game with great atmosphere and story, and Dead Space 2 is my number one for the year. Actually, I feel like that game is really under-appreciated as well.

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