Shadows of the Damned features a hilarious script, great gameplay and a superstar team behind it
Shadows of the Damned brings together Suda 51, Shinji Mikami and Akira Yamaoka into one sublime horror action game.
It’s a gamers dream. The minds behind Killer7, Resident Evil AND the composer for Silent Hill? The game utilizes a simple, but fun, gameplay style with a generally unique world to play it. Unfortunately, Shadows of the Damned did not sell well. It was published by EA, who did not know how to market the game’s unique flavor. It also suffered a protracted development cycle which involved changing gameplay styles and script rewrites. This resulted in a game that sat on store shelves and was barely cracking the half million mark worldwide.
Later on, Suda 51 and Shinji Mikami found the whole project to be disappointing. It’s a shame, since Shadows of the Damned is a fun, tongue-in-cheek action game that is always keeping the player entertained. It’s a great trip through Hell.
Shadows of the Damned’s humor mixes well with its environment
Shadows of the Damned has players taking the role of Garcia Hotspur. Hotspur is a demon hunter whose gun is actually a reformed demon named Johnson. Hotspur’s girlfriend, Paula, is taken into hell by Fleming, the Lord of the Demons. Garcia and his demon friend are on a quest to save her.
The initial story is about as bare bones as any game can be. However, the humor comes a lot from Hotspur and Johnson’s dialogue. Hotspur is a rugged, hypermasculine Hispanic demon hunter, who would fit right in an early 90s Image comic. Johnson is a blinged out floating skull on fire who talks like an uptight Eric Idle character. Their personalities clash and result in some generally funny dialogue. The two characters are clearly tongue-in-cheek and are very likable.
The game also manages to create a creative version of Hell. It’s more of a stylized haunted house, than a place of eternal damnation. Shadows of the Damned always has a unique vision for each stage and players will not find themselves getting bored. Hell has broken down villages, complete with political propaganda asking demons to vote; a gigantic library and an even sleazier version of Las Vegas. One of the more clever stages is in a massive forest that turns into a gigantic Evil Dead reference.
The soundtrack from Yamaoka is filled to the top with variety. It goes from folk music, to generic metal to atmospheric droning quite well.
Action heavy gameplay keeps Shadows of the Damned fun throughout
The game uses the typical, over-the-shoulder format seen in Resident Evil 4. However, it does not restrict players, as Hotspur can move around while aiming. Johnson can transform into three different guns. A handgun called the Boner (because his name is Johnson, get it?), a shotgun called the Monocussionor and a machine gun dubbed the Teether which shoots demon’s teeth.
The ability to switch weapons and move around makes action go by quick. There is even options of melee attacks, where Hotspur beats them with Johnson.
The darkness of Hell comes into play quite a bit. Being a human, Garcia cannot survive it for long, so he needs to stay in the light. The dark/light aspect comes into play in creative ways, such as going into dark worlds to hit certain weak spots on bosses. It allows for some decent strategy and planning in an otherwise straight forward action game. It also manages to add to the impressive level design.
One of Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures
Shadows of the Damned is an excellent action game which is able to balance comedy, creativity and fun quite well. The characters of Garcia and Johnson keep players laughing, but the gameplay and overall uniquely creepy design of the game’s world will keep players interested.