hizang's Shadows of the Damned (PlayStation 3) review

Grip your Johnson and shoot your load all over this game.

Suda51 has made some cool games in his time, Killer 7 and No and More Heroes being his best pieces of work. Despite those games having such a cool artistic style and overall presentation, that same skill used to make them look great did not translate over to making them play great. So Suda's got a helping hand from Shinji Mikami of Resident Evil 4 fame, if you never played Resident Evil 4, that game was fantastic. They also brought on Akira Yamaoka, he did the sound for Silent Hill which had a brilliant score. So what game would these men make, the answer is Shadows of the Damned.

Shadows of the Damned gives you control of Garcia "Fucking" Hotspur, a badass Demon Hunter who spends his time doing just that, hunting and killing Demons. One night he comes home to find his apartment is crawling with demons led by a big demon called Fleming. After making dick jokes that would make Duke Nukem blush he takes your girlfriend Paula into Hell, Garcia not knowing what lays ahead jumps in after his one and only love. Upon landing in Hell you are introduced to Johnson, a floating red skull with a British accent that also happens to be your gun. So Johnson turns into a Motorbike (Yes a fucking motobike!) and they ride off in search of Flemming and Paula.

Right from the get go you know whether you will like the humor or hate the humor, there are a lot of dick jokes across the game and refrences to modern day culture. Most of the jokes however are done fairly well and are genuinely funny, there just handled better than they are in Bulletstorm and Duke Nukem Forever, Shadows of the Damned is a game that knows how to pull of a dick joke. There is certain chemistry between Garcia and Johnson, you can sense that they have known each other a while just by the way they converse with each other. Johnson is always calling Garcia "G" and they both poke fun at each other in a buddy comdey type of way. Johnson is also where I found most of the humour to come from, i do not know whether that was because I was British or not, but he had me laughing on occasion.

Shadows of the Damned at it's core is a third person shooter, ironically simmilar to that of Resident Evil 4/5, but better in almost everyway. Picture playing Resident Evil 4, but with the abilty to turn directly behind you in less than a second, plys you can move while aiming and that is pretty much what Shadows of the Damned is. It does take a while getting used to because there are not many games that follow that game control choice. It's one of those games where you start off not really clicking with the controls, but after about half an hour you get the ghang of it and can pull of a fair amount of head shots.

You will need to get used to them quite fast as well because the games enemys don't lay about, the enemies in the game are not zombies, but Demons. Demons are not hindred by the slowness that Zombies are and can move bloody quick, but there lies a small gripe I have with the game. Sometimes the enemys can move to quickly for you to keep up with, Garcia is slow at turning his gun and often enough you;ll find you thought you shot a enemy in the head but instead got his shoulder, it's a mixture of slow turning and fast enemys. The game is forgiving though and gives you lots of ammo and health in abundance.

Johnson is your only weapon throughout the game, however he is not limited by that in any means. Johnson can turn into a Pistol, Shotgun, Submachine gun and a Torch for meele attacks. At a glance this looks like a poor gameplay design but you contantly get wepon changing upgrades throught the game. Varoius grenade types, homing shots and rockets make it so you never get bored. These upgrades happen after you aquire a Blue Gem, you get Blue Gems by defeating bosses and completing certain chapters. You can upgrade your weapons fire rate, force etc by collecting Red Gems.

Red Gems are located in hidden places all through hell, you can also purchuse them from a demon vender called Christopher. He will sell you Red Gems, as well as health and ammo if you give him White Gems. White Gems are everywhere and after you kill enemys they will drop them. It's a simple and basic system that never gets over your head because there's not a whole lot to manage. Health and ammo you rarely need to buy because you'll collect a ton of each from just walking around the world, which leaves you the rest to spend on Red Gems. Throughout the entire game I think I bought ammo once and I never bought Health, the game isn't easy, they just seem to hand you so much of it so it never becomes an issue of ammo mangement.

Alongside the combat the game has its fair share of puzzles, the biggest one is the Light/Dark mechanic. At times in the game you will enter Darkness, while in darkness a health bar will go down, think of it as your O2 gadge in water. After that goes down your health will go down, you will either need to leave the darkness area or make light. To make light you will need to find a deer head and shoot it with a light shot. You can fire a light shot by using the R2/RT button, this will also stun normal enemys. If any enemy is covered in darkness they will be invunrable to normal shots and will need to be delt a light shot first and then killed normally. There are also further puzzle elements with the light/dark mechanic, some switches can only be shot while in the darkness and some enemys can be killed by the darkness. The majority of the game features these, it never becomes boring or a hassle though, it even adds tension at some points though when theres a whole mess of enemys in the darkness with you. Enemys can't be killed in the darkness, and there are even some enemys who will put out the light and ad darkness.

That is pretty much the basis of the game, there are a few other mechanics that appear in the game such as a turret like seqence and a side scrolling shooter. Both of them feel misplaced though and don't really fit in with the game, the side scroller is good but I am not sure why it's there as it only happens about 3 times. And the turret sequence is a frustratingly difficult turret sequence. Then there are the bosses, they are standard bosses that require yoy to shoot of find the weak spot and hit it about three times untill it dies, simple but the bosses are fun to beat and your always craving for anotther upgrade.

The game has an incredable atmosphere and they really have made there own unqiue hell, it's not just all red and fire and burning ashes and volcanoes. You travel through a vaiety of places to get to Flemmings castle, you go through strip clubs, a library, a small village, a neon city up in the clouds and there is even a point where you walk over a naked lady and walk over her tits. Throughout the game there are posters and story books that the Garcia and Johnson can interact with, the storys seem a bad idea on paper (Because you are pretty much halted in your tracks for about 5 minutes) but the dialogue is so well spoken you won't even care.

The voice acting and script is well done, Johson especially, he reminded me of Wheatley throughout the game and his pre-credit sequence was simply outstanding. Garcia becomes a likeable character as well and his voice actor is decent. Akira has done a spectacular job on the sound and it fits the game perfectly, Garcia is a mexcian so the game has an odd mix of spooky/rock/mexcian and its really good. The sound of enemys being shot is satisfying and makes you want to shoot more enemys, always a good sign.

I completed the game in about 6 hours, the game is lacking a new game plus feature which has stopped me from going back and playing it immeditaly to get the Platinum Trophy, which by the way is quite easy. But to be quite honest I had got my moneys worth on one playthrough alone, Shadows of the Damned is a fantastic game. It is a right shame that this game sold really bad, it probbaly means we will never see Garcia or Johnson again. If you can take some dick jokes and some slighlty iffy/twitchy controls you should buy this game, and shoot your load!



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