Shadows of the Damned is a prime example of why the old adage of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” still rings true. Not so much because people are generally too quick to judge, but rather because said cover can often contain blatantly obvious lies, which can quickly lead one’s judgement astray, based on the obvious inaccuracies presented by the tag phrases on the back of the box. Wonder why? Read about it after the break.
I found myself in an odd predicament when Lord Prawn gave me Shadows of the Damned to review, as the box-art didn’t exactly fill me with inspiration to even pop the game into my console, never mind actually finishing it for a review. It’s a good thing, then that I ignored the blurb on the back, and ventured valiantly onwards into the bizarre and surprisingly entertaining world that is Shadows of the Damned. Sometimes it’s better to start completely fresh with a game, having absolutely no idea what it’s about, instead of being let down by months and months of hype.
My initial fears were mostly related to the following…
“A psychological action thriller from Suda 51: Director of No More Heroes, Shinji Mikami: Director of Resident Evil 4 and Akira Yamaoka: Sound Director of Silent Hill”
I enjoyed No More Heroes for the short time I had spent with it when I still had a Wii, as utterly bizarre and over the top as it was, it was refreshing and the first genuinely adult waggle-game. Resident Evil 4, much like Resident Evil 5 I absolutely despised, much like I do most Capcom games, for it’s obviously broken Japanese logic and design. And as for the mention of Silent Hill, I expected to spend hours on end, listening to radio static.
Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, game covers can often be rife with false advertising leading to bad assumptions, which is exactly what happened here. This game is not a psychological action thriller by any means, but rather a bizarre shoot-em-up with some very dark, very innuendo-laden humour. It’s a whole lot more comedy than it is thriller of any sort, never mind psychological. Imagine if Dead Space were designed by Monty Python, and you’ll start to get an idea of what Shadows of the Damned is about. It consists of the most bizarre mixture of components that you could ever imagine anyone could make work together, but it does so unbelievably well. Imagine taking the movies Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn, throwing in a swig of Ghost Rider, then liberally pouring some Gears of War, Final Fantasy, Dead Space, and Devil May Cry into the same pot. Now go one step further and add any random porno of your choosing into the mix [Ed: Debbie Does Hell, perhaps?], and you’ve got more or less an idea of the kind of crazy that you’ll find in this title.
You start off the game on what appears to be a relatively serious note, when Garcia Hotspur, our Spanish hero (yes that’s right: Spanish!) is approaching a demon lying on the floor of a back alley, whom he has just half murdered and is about to put out of its misery when the usual “you’ll never defeat all of us” conversation ensues. Soon after that, hell quite literally breaks loose, and the piss-taking that is the entire game commences. Each and every time you think it’s time to take things seriously, the game throws something new and utterly ridiculous at you. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing at all, it’s unbelievably entertaining and at times so funny that you cry with laughter. It’s often cheesy, but just enough that it doesn’t present itself as a Duke Nukem-like try-too-hard. An example would be the little winged demon, who poops himself when you reach a checkpoint; it never gets old, and you find yourself chuckling each and every time.
When you first gain control of the character, presented in a third-person over the shoulder fashion, much like Gears of War, a tutorial is presented on the fly, showing keys required for different actions as you play. A handful of demons attack immediately, and you very quickly realise that this game requires pixel-perfect accuracy to hit targets, making headshots a surprise, more than a frequent occurrence. The aiming and combat system is about as much as this game has in common with Resident Evil. It’s incredibly slow, and zoomed in way too far, so that you can’t see anything happening around you while aiming your weapon. There’s also no blind fire, so it can be rather unwieldy to deal with multiple enemies at the same time.
Moments later the sexual innuendo rife throughout the game get thrown around by Fleming, the demonic antagonist of Shadows of the Damned, when he murders Garcia’s girlfriend Paula in front of his eyes, and promises to have her die a thousand deaths if Garcia doesn’t succumb to his will. Needless to say, Garcia doesn’t, otherwise this would have been the shortest game in history. Paula gets whisked away to the underworld, and of course Garcia goes flying through the wormhole after her. And that’s when the game actually starts, and where you are introduced to Johnson, as in Garcia’s Johnson [Ed: Not his Purple-Headed Warrior?]…yes that’s the kind of humour you should expect from this one. Johnson is an ex-demon of some sort, who has at some point become Garcia’s sidekick. Sadly Johnson’s story never really gets explained throughout the game, but there is a Johnsonopedia in the pause menu that might fill in some details. Johnson is effectively Hotspur’s weapon of choice, and mutates into a variety of different devices, which add some variety and spice to it all. Most of the time he is a flaming (possibly homosexual) skull torch, which you carry around in your hand and can also use for melee attacks.
The review continues on page two…