Shadows of the Damned
Shadows of the Damned review: beautiful survival horror with disappointing gameplay
When two video game legends decide to make a game, a certain calibre is expected. Shinji Mikami (of Resident Evil fame) and Goichi Suda, who previously co-wrote and directed Killer7, have now served up Shadows of the Damned — a third-person shooter-cum-survival horror title starring a suave Latino demon hunter and his loquacious shape-shifting demon-weapon pal.
- The humour and creative settings makes it a pleasure to play
- Banter between G and Johnson keeps things interesting
- Memorable characters
- Painful linear nature
- Weapon upgrades are limited and bland
- Boss battles are fun but also a bit too easy
Shadows of the Damn isn’t perfect but what it lacks in substance it makes up for in attitude. The game has attitude and is just fun to play. All you need to do is just sit back and enjoy the ride.
The demon Johnson accompanies Garcia (who he calls G) to the Underworld, to rescue his friend's dead-and-kidnapped girlfriend Paula. As if being attacked by hordes of grotesque demons wasn’t bad enough, apparitions of Paula attempt to lure Garcia to danger in the underworld, dressed in revealing lingerie — not very helpful to say the least. Garcia’s only protection in Hell is Johnson, who acts as both weapon and guide. Thank God Johnson is upgradeable. Oh, and did we mention Johnson can turn into a motorcycle?
The game is whimsical, gory, smutty, and we like it.
Garcia is a composite of many video game personalities. He has the cockiness of Dante from Devil May Cry, the cheekiness of Bayonetta and the crude appearance of Marcus Fenix from Gears of War — you can guess that he’s not an attractive fella. But he's charismatic, and his banter with Johnson is funny. In some ways, Johnson is like Wheatley from Portal 2 — both are funny, mechanical and, well, British. Shadows of the Damned’s dialogue is laden with profanities, bad puns and lascivious humour thanks to Johnson, and it works to keep the entertainment rolling.
Garcia and Johnson aren’t the only interesting characters in the game, though. Throughout their trip through Hell, players encounter a bunch of different personalities. They're mostly demons that are either there to help or destroy you, but all of them will leave a lasting impression.
Shadows of the Damned is a beautiful game, in a morbid way. The underworld pays homage to the Silent Hill series, twisting familiar settings into nightmares. No matter the environment, disturbing images decorate the scene — piles of disfigured corpses (which reanimate into demonic forms), rivers of blood and baby heads guarding doors. Again like Silent Hill, the surroundings can take on an even more evil form, the Darkness, which sometimes engulfs the places Garcia is exploring. While he's in these areas, Garcia must replenish his health constantly or be killed. This creates a sense of urgency and keeps players on their toes. The game doesn't rely on fear to get the player’s heart racing — it does so through fast-paced sequences.
While we were thoroughly amused by the grotesque setting and smutty dialogue, the gameplay let us down a little. A lot of creative energy has clearly gone into creating interesting bosses in Shadows of the Damned, but they aren't as frightening we expected from a survival horror game. A lumbering giant with chainsaws for arms and a harmonica for a mouth is more humorous than scary. One complaint we have is that boss battles are a bit too easy, especially with the game's over-powered weaponry.
We're big fans of the tried and tested over-the-shoulder third-person shooter style, but we think this game could have done better. All the weapon upgrades, which have names based on variants of 'boner' (get the pun?), conform to the standard shooter template; players can really only choose between a pistol, shotgun, machine gun or other formulaic artillery piece. We’ve seen it all before, and it makes taking down enemies a little less satisfying. It plays like a simplified version of Resident Evil 5, which isn’t surprising given Mikami’s influence on the series. There are occasional minigame distractions — swinging a giant chandelier around to crush enemies, for example — but they're not common.
Shadows of the Damned isn’t perfect, but what it lacks in substance it makes up for in attitude. It's fun to play even if it isn't as frightening or polished as we'd hoped.
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