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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Jul 20, 2012

Review – Shadows of the Damned (Xbox 360)

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Product Information

MSRP: $19.99

Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture

Publisher: EA

Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3

ESRB Rating: M for Mature

Genre: Action/Shooter

So I was late getting to the party, and I picked up Shadows of the Damned earlier this year. I wanted the game ever since I saw gameplay from it and I knew it would be something that would be right up my alley. Suda 51 is known for crazy, over-the-top type antics, and Shadows of the Damned didn’t stray from this one bit. In this game you’ll fight plenty of demons, swoon over a beautiful lady, and even show how immature you are by cracking perverse jokes. It’s all okay though, because I laughed right along with the game.

Story and Visuals

The story in Shadows of the Damned follows the romantic love stories we’ve seen in movies for years. Garcia Hotspur, resident badass and demon hunter, comes home to find his girlfriend, Paula, being abducted by the Lord of Demons. Fleming, as this demon is called, brags that he will take Paula with him to the underworld and kill her over and over again. Garcia won’t have any part of this, so he grabs his leather jacket and high-tails it into the portal to the underworld himself. This, of course, creates the timeless story of a strapping lad setting out on a perilous quest to rescue his damsel in distress. Except this time it’s a bit more deadly.

Through the journey into the underworld we get to learn a bit more about Garcia and his little helper, Johnson. Johnson is a renegade demon who has escaped the underworld to help Garcia hunt down and kill those of his own kind. What’s his reason for this? He simply didn’t like how things were being run down there. Johnson is a unique character in that he can transform into different objects. Most of the time he functions as a torch to light up the place, though he also becomes the different weapons that Garcia uses throughout the game.

Though there are moments of humor, which are plentiful through the game, the storyline gets quite serious as you continue your quest. Johnson helps enlighten Garcia on different personalities and locations in the underworld while he rummages through the grime and darkness, which makes for an interesting journey. One of my favorite things about this game is the perverse humor that is born from the relationship between Garcia and Johnson. There are tons of boner jokes, chauvinistic references, and all around funny quips that come from both characters which makes the game fun to play. At one point you even meet a half-demon, half-human named Christopher who acts as a merchant for you. He’s got a backwoods, southern accent and is hilariously creepy. It’s these subtle touches that make the game interesting.

In terms of visuals the game looks great. Though you’re in the underworld where everything is dark and drab, Grasshopper Manufacture found a way to shoot in color that makes each scene bright in its own way. From the color of Johnson’s flame to the reflecting light off of Garcia’s jacket, the scenery is always alive.

Graphics are smooth and detailed. Honestly, when it comes to character models the game does a great job. At some points there could be a little more detail, such as when an enemy eats flesh (seriously all the bosses do at some point). Still, each of the different levels remains different in its own way. Garcia is well-shaded, and when you see Paula in her different encounters she’s definitely a jaw-dropper. Shadows of the Damned is like a beautiful woman – deadly but plenty of fun to look at.

Gameplay

At its core Shadows of the Damned plays like a third-person shooter. That’s exactly what it is. However, it does incorporate RPG elements in a leveling system. As you traverse the different levels of the underworld you’ll collect red gems. These gems can be used to upgrade different weapons and abilities. For instance, you can level the damage, rate of fire, and capacity on the weapons you own. You can also raise Garcia’s health and lower the time it takes to charge the torch to make a strong swing attack. This opens the game for different play styles.

In the game Johnson will be able to change into 3 different weapons, 4 if you count the torch as a weapon (Garcia can swing it to hit enemies and take them out with a charged swing). The first of these weapons which is a large pistol called the Boner. It literally shoots the bones of demons as weapons. Next up is the Teether, which, you guessed, shoots demon teeth. It’s an automatic rifle. Finally there’s Skullcutioner, which is a big shotgun that shoots demon skulls. It’s easily my favorite weapon in the game.

The Boner can shoot a special “light shot” that stuns enemies, but it is very significant to the gameplay in Shadows of the Damned. At certain points you’ll wander into “darkness” that engulfs the area. While in this darkness Garcia suffers a soul meter that rapidly decreases. Once this meter runs out Garcia’s health decreases. Naturally, if it reaches zero he will die. This is where the light shot comes in handy. In the underworld goats are considered a source of light, and you’ll see goat heads posted in certain places throughout each level. Once the darkness engulfs the area you can target these goat heads with the light shot which will restore the area to normal. Enemies inside the darkness are granted an immunity shield that can only be dispersed with the light shot when outside of the darkness’ reach. What’s more is that the game throws in puzzles that can only be solved inside this darkness, which makes things more challenging. Finally, traversing between zones happens inside this darkness, which changes things up a bit.

Honestly, the controls in Shadows of the Damned are tight. You can dodge, make quick 180 degree turns, and move about quickly. Each weapon comes in handy in different situations, and killing enemies is fun. There’s a wide variety of dudes to shoot, and they all have increasing difficulties. Bosses are even better. When you’re going against a boss you’ll see bright red blood pustules on their body, or certain parts of their body will light up. This is their weak spot and where you’ll need to hit them. Boss combat reminded me of The Legend of Zelda in that, once you hit them in their weak spot so many times they drop.

After boss battles you’ll be rewarded with a blue gem. Garcia takes this wonderful item and puts it into one of the openings in Johnson’s skull. With these gems Johnson will upgrade each type of weapon he can transform into. For example, the Boner will upgrade to the Hot Boner which will allow Garcia to charge a shot and stick it to an enemy. He can then shoot it to make an explosion, sort of like a sticky bomb. Each weapon will get unique upgrades and become even more powerful outside of upgrading them with red gems.

The only issues I ran into with the gameplay was dodging some enemies. There are certain points in the game where you have to run from Paula as she’s demonic and will kill you if she reaches you. If you’re not fast enough you’ll die. Also, you can’t dodge around her. No matter what, if she gets close to you, you’re dead. Also, if you get swarmed at all then there is almost no way out. Enemies will attack one at a time, so you’ll suffer an attack, then another, then another if you don’t spam the shotgun to blow everyone away you’ll not make it out alive.

The Verdict

After finally playing Shadows of the Damned, I am almost ashamed of leaving the game on my shelf for so long. Once I started playing it I really couldn’t put it down. It’s an extremely fun game and it had me hooked from the moment I pressed start. I’m one for perverse humor, so I laughed all the way through the game. Though some of the bosses were tough, I made it through the game in about 8 hours of game time. It wound up being a little short in the end, but that’s all the more reason to pick it back up and tackle the harder difficulties. If you’ve skipped out on Shadows of the Damned, you’re missing out. It’s under $20 right now, so there’s no excuses!

The Good

  • interesting gameplay
  • fun upgrading system
  • unique enemies and locations
  • humorous, although perverse

The Bad

  • dodging enemies is a bit difficult
  • quite short of a game
  • humor isn’t tailored for everyone, could be offensive

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