What do you get when Suda51 and Shinji Mikami work on the same game? A third person shooter with a ridiculous amount of sex jokes. Shadows of the Damned stars Garcia Hotspur as he takes on the lord of the demons to save the woman he loves. Keep reading if you wish to find out if this game is damn good, or just completely hellish.
The story line in Shadows of the Damned is very tongue-in-cheek. Suda51 was the director for the story, so it contains a lot of jabs at the gaming industry and main stream gaming plot devices. In a nutshell, Garcia Hotspur’s girlfriend is kidnapped by the lord of the demons, and Hotspur spends the entire game trying to get her back. The game is broken up into five complete acts, and at the end of each, Hotspur thinks he has found her, but she is taken away. The phrase “your princess is in another castle” comes to mind. Since this is a Suda51 story we are talking about, instead of Paula just disappearing, a demon bursts out of her in a gory mess. As the game accurately describes it, “Demons are like men, they want to be inside the prettiest woman.”
As for the dialogue, it is filled with low brow dirty humor, which isn;t for the feint of herat. Your sidekick is a floating skull head named “Johnson” and the game makes use of every opportunity to make a sexual innuendo. For example, Johnson serves as the base for all your weapons and one of them is named “boner”. So, if you are not a fan of toilet humor then you will be annoyed by the dialogue throughout the entire game, because it never stops. Personally, I loved the dialogue and thought Shadows of the Damned is funnier than most games on the market.
Shinji Mikami handled the gameplay, so Shadows of the Damned plays much like Resident Evil 4 or Vanquish. It is a third-person, over-the-shoulder shooter, and you can switch between weapons with a press of the d-pad. Aiming and shooting are responsive, and serve the game well. As mentioned earlier, Johnson serves as the basis for all three of your weapons. Much like in Vanquish, switching between weapons is very fast, since the guns just transform into each other. You have three weapons including a pistol, a sub-machine gun, and a shotgun. These can be upgraded to inflict greater damage, have greater capacity, and even reload faster. They will also be upgraded with more features as you defeat bosses. The sub-machine gun will get auto-lock on, the shotgun can fire multiple shots, the pistol can shoot explosive charges, and so on. These upgrades spice up the gameplay a bit, and make milestones even more rewarding.
At times, the regular gameplay is broken up with special sequences. There are a few levels that you play as a side-scrolling shooter, and these offer a nice break from the action. They are challenging enough that they don’t feel useless or unnecessary. There are also segments where you have to navigate a simple maze, one where you have to rearrange moving platforms, and a few times when you have to run away from Paula. The sequences where the player is chased by Paula were, by far, my least favorite. If she catches you, you have to start the sequence over again and she doesn’t leave much room for error, literally.
The enemies in the game are not designed very well. Most of the enemies are very slow. Occasionally they will charge at you and there is one enemy type that rolls quickly along the ground, but for the most part, enemies walk slowly towards the main character. Enemy attacks also tend to be very slow. Oftentimes, if there was an enemy behind me, I had plenty of time to turn around and shoot him without having to leave aiming mode. When you are in a room with multiple enemies, walking around in a circle will leave the enemies swinging at air, and the player can very calmly take out enemies one at a time. I would have also liked to see more enemy variation in the game. You fight the same generic demons throughout the entire experience, and only towards the very end do you start getting some different types.
Darkness plays a large role in the gameplay. At several points through the adventure, you will have to navigate through a blueish liquid called the “darkness.” The main character can only stay in the darkness for a limited time before he starts taking damage. Usually, the player will have to illuminate the darkness by shooting a light source with a special light shot. Goat heads serve as a light source in the game. Why goat heads? Well, the game doesn’t say, but if I had to guess it would be because the goats make a lot of noise, so the player always knows when they are near one. Demons are also sometimes coated in the darkness and you will need to illuminate them before the demons will take any damage. The developers took advantage of the darkness mechanic to create some clever puzzles. Certain doors can only be opened by shooting a target that is only visible inside the darkness. At first, it starts out with only one target to open a door, but then they get more complex as the game progresses. The darkness will also have to be navigated through during boss battles.
Boss battles in the game are hit or miss. A few of them are very fun, but others are some of the most frustrating boss battles I have encountered in a while. There is one boss in particular that has a weak spot on his back. To get at it, you have to melee him to stun him, and then walk behind him and shoot the weak spot. The window of opportunity you have to shoot the weak spot is very short and as soon as you get one shot off, the boss turns around. Fights with this boss, which you have to fight about three times in the game, can take a very long time, especially if you haven’t upgraded the damage on your weapons. The other boss battles are a lot better. Most of them have weak spots that you have to shoot. Some of the weak spots are always visible and some of them can only be seen when the boss covers the area in the darkness. There is plenty of variation between the boss fights, so they all feel unique.
Shadows of the Damned takes solid gameplay and pairs it with a hilarious story. Shadows of the Damned varies the gameplay enough to keep you engaged, and the story will have you craving for the next witticism from Johnson. Poor enemy and boss design is the only thing holding this game back from being a hit. Even then, Shadows of the Damned offers a satisfying experience that doesn’t seek to invent, but offers enough of a package to be a justified part of your collection.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ Strong, varied gameplay
– Poor enemy design