Shadows of the Damned Review

☆☆☆ (out of five)
 
Shadows of the Damned, in which Garcia Hotspur ventures through Hell to save his girlfriend Paula from the demon lord Fleming with the aid of his trusty sidekick, the flaming, talking skull Johnson (capable of transforming into a torch, a motorbike and a variety of guns for Garcia to use), is a very disappointing third-person shooter. 
 
Its primary problem is simple: Garcia is overpowered. His dodge roll is quick and spammable, and he's invincible for the duration of the move. He has at his disposal an unlimited supply of light shots which temporarily stun enemies, leaving them vulnerable to instantly killing headshots and contextual one-hit-kill melee attacks. His regular melee attack interrupts and knocks back enemies, and can be charged to become every bit as lethal as its contextual brethren. And these are just the powers you possess early on – over the course of the game you acquire things like target-seeking machinegun rounds and sticky bombs that can be remotely detonated, making you even more ridiculously powerful.
 
The enemies – almost exclusively featureless and very boring humanoids with glowing eyes – simply stand no chance against Garcia and his Johnson. The vast majority of them have no ranged attacks, and alternate between walking and running towards you while leaving themselves completely open to the killing tool of your choosing (think Ganados from Resident Evil 4, except slightly faster). Enemies that deviate from this norm are rare, and pose no real challenge when they appear – the dodge roll and the light shot enable you to dispatch of them with ease.
 
Sometimes you will find your path blocked by vine-like demon pubes, at which point you will have to engage in something resembling puzzle-solving by venturing into Darkness (a blue, demonic substance that drains your health if you remain in it too long, and grants enemies a protective veil that must be removed with a light shot or a melee attack) and shooting red containers that can only be harmed from within the devilish matter. Also breaking up the monotony of the regular combat are shooting gallery sequences and side-scrolling shoot ‘em up levels. These are, unfortunately, even more boring than the usual action – they’re both simpler and slower, and last way too long.
 
The worst parts of Shadows of the Damned, however, are neither the shooting galleries nor the shoot ‘em up stages, but the boss fights. The bosses look and sound absolutely insane (one, for example, rips out and eats his own heart, transforms into a man with a goat’s head and mounts a horse with a human’s face) and in that regard feel like a breath of fresh air compared to the bland creatures that populate most of the game, but fighting them is an absolutely agonizing experience. They’re just as easy to defeat as the rest of what the Netherworld has to offer, but unlike their lower-ranked associates they don’t have the courtesy to go down quickly. Instead they delay their inevitable demise for what feels like an eternity with slow, primitive attack patterns and copious amounts of health in what can only be interpreted as an attempt to bore Garcia to death. 
 
The game is beautiful, at least. Shadows of the Damned’s Hell is dark, gloomy place where a mixture of muted green, yellow and red dominates, punctuated by the occasional blue, health-sapping darkness. The environments might not be the most creative – ignore the blood, the guts and the occasional bizarre detail, and you will find that with the exception of the final area, the Underworld in its entirety consists of rather unremarkable locations: a forest, a library, a sewer, a red-lights district et cetera – but thanks to great use of colour and absolutely stellar lighting, they are nonetheless remarkably pleasing to the eyes.

The combat looks great, too. Garcia’s animation is excellent, and slow motion effects and exploding heads that accompany the frequent one-hit-kills ensure that they feel fairly satisfying despite the lack of challenge. The melee attacks look particularly powerful – Hotspur will, amongst other things, knee enemies in the face, kick them in the balls and jump on them with such force that they shatter into tiny, demonic flesh chunks. Cool little details like a neon wire-frame effect that appears when Johnson switches between gun modes further enhance the visual experience, cementing the game's position as one of the very best-looking third-person shooters in the business. 

The sound isn’t bad, either. Gunshots and melee attacks sound gratifying and the music, while nothing exceptional, complements the gloomy environments nicely. The voice acting is excellent, and the writing is generally of a high quality – there are a great many chuckles to be had at Hotspur and Johnson’s humorous banter (though some of the dick jokes do feel forced) and the game’s many references.

Shadows of the Damned is undeniably a letdown (especially given the involvement of Shinji Mikami, who not more than a year ago put out the most amazing third-person shooter) but despite its many issues, it’s actually decent fun. It offers cool sights and good laughs, and while the combat may be too easy it is for the most part fast, fluid and aesthetically gratifying enough to provide fairly agreeable entertainment.

24 Comments
25 Comments
Edited by Icemael

☆☆☆ (out of five)
 
Shadows of the Damned, in which Garcia Hotspur ventures through Hell to save his girlfriend Paula from the demon lord Fleming with the aid of his trusty sidekick, the flaming, talking skull Johnson (capable of transforming into a torch, a motorbike and a variety of guns for Garcia to use), is a very disappointing third-person shooter. 
 
Its primary problem is simple: Garcia is overpowered. His dodge roll is quick and spammable, and he's invincible for the duration of the move. He has at his disposal an unlimited supply of light shots which temporarily stun enemies, leaving them vulnerable to instantly killing headshots and contextual one-hit-kill melee attacks. His regular melee attack interrupts and knocks back enemies, and can be charged to become every bit as lethal as its contextual brethren. And these are just the powers you possess early on – over the course of the game you acquire things like target-seeking machinegun rounds and sticky bombs that can be remotely detonated, making you even more ridiculously powerful.
 
The enemies – almost exclusively featureless and very boring humanoids with glowing eyes – simply stand no chance against Garcia and his Johnson. The vast majority of them have no ranged attacks, and alternate between walking and running towards you while leaving themselves completely open to the killing tool of your choosing (think Ganados from Resident Evil 4, except slightly faster). Enemies that deviate from this norm are rare, and pose no real challenge when they appear – the dodge roll and the light shot enable you to dispatch of them with ease.
 
Sometimes you will find your path blocked by vine-like demon pubes, at which point you will have to engage in something resembling puzzle-solving by venturing into Darkness (a blue, demonic substance that drains your health if you remain in it too long, and grants enemies a protective veil that must be removed with a light shot or a melee attack) and shooting red containers that can only be harmed from within the devilish matter. Also breaking up the monotony of the regular combat are shooting gallery sequences and side-scrolling shoot ‘em up levels. These are, unfortunately, even more boring than the usual action – they’re both simpler and slower, and last way too long.
 
The worst parts of Shadows of the Damned, however, are neither the shooting galleries nor the shoot ‘em up stages, but the boss fights. The bosses look and sound absolutely insane (one, for example, rips out and eats his own heart, transforms into a man with a goat’s head and mounts a horse with a human’s face) and in that regard feel like a breath of fresh air compared to the bland creatures that populate most of the game, but fighting them is an absolutely agonizing experience. They’re just as easy to defeat as the rest of what the Netherworld has to offer, but unlike their lower-ranked associates they don’t have the courtesy to go down quickly. Instead they delay their inevitable demise for what feels like an eternity with slow, primitive attack patterns and copious amounts of health in what can only be interpreted as an attempt to bore Garcia to death. 
 
The game is beautiful, at least. Shadows of the Damned’s Hell is dark, gloomy place where a mixture of muted green, yellow and red dominates, punctuated by the occasional blue, health-sapping darkness. The environments might not be the most creative – ignore the blood, the guts and the occasional bizarre detail, and you will find that with the exception of the final area, the Underworld in its entirety consists of rather unremarkable locations: a forest, a library, a sewer, a red-lights district et cetera – but thanks to great use of colour and absolutely stellar lighting, they are nonetheless remarkably pleasing to the eyes.

The combat looks great, too. Garcia’s animation is excellent, and slow motion effects and exploding heads that accompany the frequent one-hit-kills ensure that they feel fairly satisfying despite the lack of challenge. The melee attacks look particularly powerful – Hotspur will, amongst other things, knee enemies in the face, kick them in the balls and jump on them with such force that they shatter into tiny, demonic flesh chunks. Cool little details like a neon wire-frame effect that appears when Johnson switches between gun modes further enhance the visual experience, cementing the game's position as one of the very best-looking third-person shooters in the business. 

The sound isn’t bad, either. Gunshots and melee attacks sound gratifying and the music, while nothing exceptional, complements the gloomy environments nicely. The voice acting is excellent, and the writing is generally of a high quality – there are a great many chuckles to be had at Hotspur and Johnson’s humorous banter (though some of the dick jokes do feel forced) and the game’s many references.

Shadows of the Damned is undeniably a letdown (especially given the involvement of Shinji Mikami, who not more than a year ago put out the most amazing third-person shooter) but despite its many issues, it’s actually decent fun. It offers cool sights and good laughs, and while the combat may be too easy it is for the most part fast, fluid and aesthetically gratifying enough to provide fairly agreeable entertainment.

Edited by SethPhotopoulos

@Icemael said:

Shadows of the Damned is undeniably a letdown

Technically that's not true unless you mean financially.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Being overpowered does not seem like a problem to me. He is Garcia Fucking Hotspur after all.

Moderator
Posted by Giantstalker

Good review for a game I will never, and have never intended, to play. Really well written though.

Posted by Enigma777

@Giantstalker said:

Good review for a game I will never, and have never intended, to play. Really well written though.

Don't forget about his Big Boner.

Anyways complaining about a game being too easy when you can change the difficulty setting in an instant invalidates his whole argument in my eyes.

Posted by SethPhotopoulos

@Enigma777 said:

@Giantstalker said:

Good review for a game I will never, and have never intended, to play. Really well written though.

Don't forget about his Big Boner.

Anyways complaining about a game being too easy when you can change the difficulty setting in an instant invalidates his whole argument in my eyes.

What if the hardest difficulty is easy?

Posted by Enigma777

@SethPhotopoulos said:

@Enigma777 said:

@Giantstalker said:

Good review for a game I will never, and have never intended, to play. Really well written though.

Don't forget about his Big Boner.

Anyways complaining about a game being too easy when you can change the difficulty setting in an instant invalidates his whole argument in my eyes.

What if the hardest difficulty is easy?

It's not.

Posted by DrPockets000

I loved this game, actually. Not sure exactly why but I think it had to do with its dark, vulgar charm.

Posted by SethPhotopoulos

@Enigma777 said:

@SethPhotopoulos said:

@Enigma777 said:

@Giantstalker said:

Good review for a game I will never, and have never intended, to play. Really well written though.

Don't forget about his Big Boner.

Anyways complaining about a game being too easy when you can change the difficulty setting in an instant invalidates his whole argument in my eyes.

What if the hardest difficulty is easy?

It's not.

I don't know about the highest hieghest difficulty but I breezed through Legion Hunter. But there are also people who think that Demon Soul's is easy so difficulty is a weird thing to complain about.

Posted by ComradeKhan

Shadows of the Damned was very enjoyable, its quick to play and entertaining the whole way.

Posted by Enigma777

@SethPhotopoulos: I believe you die in 3 hits on Satanic and booze is rare so you really gotta make all your shots count. Also bosses are a lot tougher.

Oh, and I didn't find Demon's Souls to be very hard either.

Posted by Icemael
@SethPhotopoulos said:

@Icemael said:

Shadows of the Damned is undeniably a letdown

Technically that's not true unless you mean financially.

You know perfectly well what I mean, just as you would have had I written "certainly". 
 
@Enigma777 said:

@Giantstalker said:

Good review for a game I will never, and have never intended, to play. Really well written though.

Don't forget about his Big Boner.

Anyways complaining about a game being too easy when you can change the difficulty setting in an instant invalidates his whole argument in my eyes.

I played it on Legion Hunter, which was the highest difficulty setting available.
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

This is one of those games, much like Resident Evil 4 & 5, that I don't really want to play, but like watching Internet videos of people playing it instead. The bizarre story and characters appeal to me, but not the gameplay. In any case, great write-up.

Moderator
Posted by Icemael
@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Have you tried Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition? If you haven't I recommend it, even if you haven't enjoyed prior versions. The IR aiming makes the game a great deal more enjoyable.
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Icemael: I have, and while I like the controls quite a bit more, it's still not a game I'd play through by myself. It also should be noted here that I don't do well with horror games in general.

Moderator
Posted by LiquidSaiyan3

Reading your review I expected you would have given the game at least a 2.

Posted by JTB123

Pretty much spot on, Shadows of the Damned is a game that you really need to click with to have a great time. 

Posted by Video_Game_King
@Enigma777 said:

@Giantstalker said:

Good review for a game I will never, and have never intended, to play. Really well written though.

Don't forget about his Big Boner.

Anyways complaining about a game being too easy when you can change the difficulty setting in an instant invalidates his whole argument in my eyes.

But wouldn't changing the difficulty kinda invalidate his arguments? What if he said that the game is too hard? You'd respond, "Of course it's hard when you make the game that way!" (I assume he's playing on Normal.)
Edited by Icemael
@LiquidSaiyan3: Hmm... it's possible I came off as a bit too negative. Basically, on a purely mechanical level it is a two star game, but the humour and the aesthetics save it.
Posted by RoyCampbell

"The sound isn’t bad, either. Gunshots and melee attacks sound gratifying and the music, while nothing exceptional, complements the gloomy environments nicely."
 
Hilarious. 
 
The sound design/music was absolutely stunning. Aside from that, I'm wondering why you think you're so special posting this as a topic instead of submitting this as a review.
 
I say that because then I wouldn't have had to read this.

Posted by Claude

Shadows of the Damned...it's a video game.

Posted by FourWude

Garcia "FUCKING" Hotspur, Mi Amor!!

Bones the shit out of the undead.

A Mexi-Can who does, with his trusted Big Boner Johnson. And cajones that make Machete weep in jealousy.

Edited by Icemael
@RoyCampbell: I'm not a big fan of Akira Yamaoka in general (his music isn't bad, but most of it doesn't particularly impress me) and I'm posting this as a blog attached to the forums so that, for example, people who don't know about the game can find it. You will find that this is a fairly common practice (see for example Video_Game_King's blog).
Posted by owl_of_minerva

Yes, I entirely agree with the review, it's a stylish yet unchallenging and rather uninteresting game mechanically. A significant failing of the game is the enemy AI, or rather the lack of it. The enemies and bosses are totally predictable and thus pose little threat, and from Mikami this is a disappointing and quite an obvious oversight. For an action game, there often seems to be not that much action, the exploration, puzzles, minigames and storybooks all distractions to paper over how poor the action is. This might be subjective, but I didn't feel the controls were quite right either; the aiming felt off. Perhaps Suda got his hands on the designs and turned gold into lead?

Posted by Icemael
@owl_of_minerva: The AI was definitely lacking, and at its worst when I encountered those spiky, rolling demons. When they appeared in pairs they would often continuously knock each other out, allowing me to just stand still and shoot their weak spots until they were dead.

As for the controls, I found they were perfectly serviceable after lowering the aim sensitivity. There was still a certain looseness to the aiming, but nothing that prohibited me from shooting what I wanted to shoot.