Suda51 and Shinji Mikami, noted for No More Heroes and Resident Evil respectively, have teamed up to create a new 3rd Person Survival Horror game: Shadows of the Damned. The game stars a Mexican demon hunter named Garcia Hotspur whose girlfriend Paula is killed and then kidnapped, yes in that order, by the Lord of the Demons, Fleming. Your objective: Rescue the girl from the Demon World where she is being kept. The game’s main two supporting characters are Garcia’s talking skull-that-can-turn-into-things Johnson who also serves as his advisor, light source, and weapon; and Christopher – a half demon who will trade currency for upgrades, ammo, and booze.
Risque, Controversial, or just Excessive?
It’d like to start with what is probably the game’s biggest defining feature: It’s humour and delivery. The story is pretty predictable for the most part. It does have a few really cool twists, such as one right at the end, but overall there’s not much there to really discuss with the story itself.
The bosses of the game have some interesting lore tied to them, which is imparted to you in the form of a story book read aloud by either Johnson or Garcia. This is a very nice touch, and the authenticity of watching Garcia struggle with some awkward words, or making jokes about the content is quite cool. These were, in fact, some of the best parts of the game’s story and dialogue.
The game’s most unique aspect is the humour. Unfortunately, unique isn’t always good. A variety of dick jokes, potty humour, and other such ‘controversial’ jokes and comments could have been a good foundation for a fantastic tongue-in-cheek game; but falls short in Shadows of the Damned. The jokes are, for the most part, very dry and lacking in shock value; and many of them are repeated a few times. That isn’t to say that none of it is funny, of course. Some of the comments made by Johnson were very funny, and every once in a while a joke would come out of Garcia that just caught me off-guard. But unfortunately, these were the exceptions, not the rule; which left me feeling bored with the dialogue much of the time.
Bones and Skulls and Teeth, oh my!
So your gun is a construct made by Johnson, your floating skull companion. The game plays mostly like a standard shooter. The aiming and shooting is fairly responsive, but headshot tracking is a little wonky – I found myself aiming at their necks because quite often hitting their heads wouldn’t qualify as a headshot.
Your three guns are a single-shot ‘boner’ that shoots bones as it’s ammo; a machine-gun ‘teether’ which shoots teeth, and the ‘Monocussioner’ which shoots giant skulls. Each of the weapons is unique enough to make them feel relatively fun to use in different circumstances. The Monocussioner, particularly, has a good feel of ‘weight’ to it when you fire.
Your weapons all have different upgrades. With each weapon you can upgrade it’s damage, reload speed, and ammo capacity using a special currency you’re find throughout the game. You’ll also find ‘mandatory’ upgrades in the form of green gems that force your weapons to change. Most of these changes are beneficial, but there was one I wish I’d had the choice to pass up. These upgrades include special abilities for your weapons or major changes. One of them makes your machine gun less accurate and use more ammo. Having that forced on me really angered me because I liked using that one and less accuracy is never something I favour, especially if it costs me hard-earned ammo. Overall, however, most of the upgrades are really cool, but I wish they could be turned off if you wanted to.
Enemies are pretty repetitive, with hundreds of zombies(some with helmets, others with full armor), some zombie dogs, and some giant monsters that call Frankenstein’s monster to mind. There are some other enemies, but those 3 make up the majority of the things you fight.
The bosses, on the other hand, are mostly very unique and are quite interesting to fight. The one exception, the 3 grim sister fights, which all are pretty-much the same at their core.
Come into the light!
The most unique mechanic in this game is the use of light and darkness. Darkness is a dangerous place in the realm of demons. When a demon passes through ‘Darkness’ he will get enshrouded in shadows and be invincible. Also, whenever you step in darkness, you have a gauge that will wear out and once it runs all the way out you start taking constant damage unless you find hearts in the darkness, which will extend your gauge. While in darkness you can see ‘dark cores’ that are used to solve puzzles, kill bosses, or other things. You can use a special light shot(a secondary attack that can be used with any ranged weapon by pushing the secondary fire button) on enemies who are covered in darkness to dispel it, and on goats heads to restore light to the area once you’ve done what you need to do in the darkness. As a counter to that, there are special lanterns(or creatures) that you can light up using the Light Shot which will provide you with a boundary of light that will protect you from most enemies while it lasts.
This use of light and dark really did feel unique, and add a fun puzzle feel to aspects of the game. Every boss used this mechanic – some well, others not so well – to add a level of strategy to killing them.
The game had some really unique levels, such as a few side-scrolling levels where you looked like you were made of paper. It also had some really frustrating levels that I just really didn’t enjoy. These were levels where you were being chased by a doll shaped like your girlfriend and if she touched you she would kill you instantly and you couldn’t hurt her. It just was not a pleasant experience, and the frequency with which it appeared really took away from my enjoyment of the game quite a bit for me.
The graphics and audio are really just mediocre, with nothing terribly special about them. The animations are a little forced, and Garcia’s looks quite awkward while running. The darkness looks fairly authentic and definitely gives the feel of being enshrouded in shadow. The voice acting is quite good as well.
The inability to do a manual save or to even maintain multiple autosaves was annoying, but as the game was fairly linear and wasn’t excessively difficult wasn’t a huge problem. Checkpoint frequency was fairly good, I never really felt like I was struggling to find my next checkpoint for my own piece of mind.
Shadows of the Damned is a fairly linear, straight-forward third person shooter with a story that is forgettable and humour that is rather overdone. There is nothing about this game that makes me say ‘avoid it at all costs’ but there’s just also not much about this game that makes me say ‘yes! Go get it now!’ The humour often comes so close to the funny side of ‘in bad taste’ but very very rarely actually hits that line that makes poor taste funny for me. I think that this game’s mechanics aren’t going to sell it to anyone, but if the type of humour is your bread and butter then you’ll certainly find a good spread here in Shadows of the Damned.
- Shooting mechanics are responsive.
- Story has some interesting twists.
- Storybooks about the bosses are a really cool mechanic for building lore.
- At a few points, the humour works well.
- Some of the boss fights are quite fun and make good use of light/dark mechanics.
- Interesting light/dark mechanics helped to spice up the game.
- Solid Voice Acting
- Most upgrades are cool and impacting in a fun way.
- Some very unique levels, such as side-scroller paper-themed levels in one chapter.
- Glad to see more people using the third person perspective for shooters.
- Checkpoint frequency was quite good.
- Most of the humour is dry and overdone.
- Tries too hard to be controversial, and misses the mark often.
- Nothing terribly memorable about audio.
- Normal enemies are a bit too repetitive.
- Headshot tracking is a little unreliable.
- Excepting a few twists, most of the game’s story is fairly boring.
- Grim Sister fights feel uninspired compared to most other bosses.
- Doll-chase levels were very frustrating to the point of not even being fun anymore – and they were way too frequent.
- Inability to do manual saves or maintain multiple autosaves caused a bit of frustration.
Review written by: Sean