That is one hard man.
I'm quite a big fan of the stuff Suda 51 and Shinji Mikami have created. Resident Evil 4 is without a doubt one of the greatest games ever created and Killer 7 in particular is one of my personal favourites, I'd love to see a re-release of that on PS3 with Move support. So I was looking forward to playing Shadows of the Damned, and yeah, it's typical Suda 51 for sure.
You play as Garcia 'fucking' Hotspur, a demon hunter on a quest into the underworld to rescue your girlfriend, Paula. So far so mental. It doesn't even start to make any more sense, but to expect it to do so would be doing Suda 51 a disservice. At your side you have your trusty sidekick, Johnson, a talking skull who also functions as your weapon throughout the game. As you progress further through the game you unlock more powerful versions of the guns Johnson can turn into. The Hot Boner, the Big Boner. Yeah, the humour is on that sort of level and whilst it's mildly amusing at best a lot of it is mostly forgettable.
Garcia and Johnson, as you'd expect sidekicks to do, talk a fair bit on their travels and some of the dialogue genuinely does raise a smile. Garcia's tale of how he found Paula in a dumpster behind a shop for example is a quirky distraction to listen to as you progress to the next area. Johnson's nigh-on constant innuendos are rather amusing, and some of them had me burst out laughing. His "That is one hard man!" after meeting a Gears of War reject along the way cracked me up whereas other comments just didn't affect me.
One thing that really stood out for me, and I feel it has to be mentioned as stuff like this is often overlooked, is the excellent soundtrack done by Akira Yamaoka (sound designer for the Silent Hill series). It's a really heavy soundtrack and it fits in with the game just perfectly, which is no surprise considering his frankly amazing work on the Silent Hill series.
The game itself plays out like your usual third person action game, with the addition of occasional darkness 'puzzles'. Being in darkness is a very bad thing as you'll eventually start losing health and you can't hurt enemies that are shrouded in darkness either, so how to take away the darkness? You shoot a goat head with your light shot, of course. So not really puzzles then, more a 'spot the goat head' type of thing. This does add a sense of urgency to proceedings and it can all get rather tense when your health starts to drain, you've a bunch of demons hunting you down and you're trying to make the shot on the goat head.
The boss fights are quite impressive, some of them are huge and they look brilliantly designed. It's just a shame that the majority of them boil down to the very same method of shooting the big red glowing spot until it goes 'pop'. A word of warning too, if you're playing on the highest difficulty the bosses make a giant leap in terms of how long it'll take to kill them. Whereas on the two lowest difficulties they'll take barely five minutes each, you're looking at double that, at least, on the higher difficulties. They don't do anything new, they just have much more health.
The game world is well designed and the visuals look the part, which is to be expected of an Unreal Engine game. It all looks how you'd imagine a demon underworld to look, plenty of grotesque stuff on show, dismembered corpses, skulls, bones, blood, all of that is present and it creates a vivid world to roam, it's just a shame it's all so linear. The frame rate is pretty solid with the only noticeable dips being when several enemies are on screen at once and you decide to blow them all up. There's a couple of chapters halfway through the game which play as a 2D side scrolling shooter and these look rather lovely and are a nice change of pace from what you've been doing up to that point.
Overall Shadows of the Damned is an enjoyable third person action game. If you're a fan of Suda 51's past work you'll most likely love this too. For those not familiar, the experience may seem a bit too over the top. The action can get repetitive and the unskippable cut scenes can be incredibly annoying, especially when they happen right after a checkpoint in sections where you're prone to dying a few times. There's a fair amount of game here, and you'll get even more hours out of it if you go searching for all the Red Gems to upgrade your weapons with.
- Batshit mental.
- The soundtrack.
- The Evil Dead homage chapter.
- Huge bosses.
- Unskippable cut scenes.
- Gets a bit repetitive.
- Rather linear.
- Big red glowing weak spots.