Shadows of the Damned Review (Xbox 360)

Game Review: Shadows of the Damned
Release: June 21, 2011
Genre: Third-person Action/Horror Shooter
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Players: 1
MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: Mature

It’s not every day that you get to take a trip to the Underworld, but, in Shadows of the Damned, that’s exactly what you get to do. As a demon hunter, Garcia Hotspur has made his fair share of supernatural enemies. Fleming, the Lord of the Underworld, is particularly upset at Garcia’s chosen profession. To teach him a lesson, Fleming kidnaps Garcia’s lady love, Paula, effectively throwing down the gauntlet. Armed with/accompanied by his faithful ex-demon sidekick, Johnson, Garcia embarks on a mission of rescue and revenge.

As the brain child of three Japanese “superstars” — Suda 51 (No More Heroes), Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil), and Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill) — Shadows of the Damned has every right to be an amazing game. And, for the most part, it is.

Suda has effectively created one of the wildest stories I’ve played. Although I’ve listed this as an action/horror game, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the abundance of humor. For instance, Johnson (mentioned above) is capable of transforming into various weapons, including Garcia’s handgun, the Boner. Eventually, the Boner can be upgraded to the Hot Boner and, finally, when Johnson becomes excited, the Big Boner. Childish? Sure. Amusing? Without a doubt. To hear Garcia yelling “Who wants a taste of my Big Boner!” as he *ahem* unloads…well, it’s just so bad it’s good.

Even when it’s being obscenely referential — there’s a chapter called “As Evil as Dead” where Garcia and Johnson visit a derelict, albeit familiar, cabin in the woods, complete with a ghoul in the cellar — it embraces it openly. Shadows manages to succeed where Duke Nukem, a game that tried many of the same tactics, failed.

Where the comedy resides in the writing, the action/horror comes from the gameplay. Aside from the occasional puzzle sequence, the game is mostly run and gun — much like Resident Evil 4, Shadows of the Damned is a third-person, over-the-shoulder shooter. And, while Garcia is a capable demon hunter, there were still moments of panic as some of the bigger baddies got a little too close for comfort; crowd control and ammo management are a must in this game. There are also sequences where darkness will fill the environment, making the enemies indestructible until it is dispelled. On top of that, the very same darkness will also drain your health over time, so, needless to say, juggling skills are a must.

While Mikami made the game fairly intense in the way that it plays, Akira Yamaoka made the game ominous in the way that it sounds. It has to be said: Yamaoka is my favorite sound designer in video games. His effects, his music — it all gels perfectly to create an outstanding aural experience. If you have played the Silent Hill games, you should already know what I’m talking about. In fact, there were a few songs in the soundtrack that sounded as if they could have been lifted from one of the previous Silent Hill titles. The sound effects were spot-on; disgusting one moment, devilish the next.

But, while I have plenty of love for Shadows of the Damned, it isn’t perfect. The controls could have used some tweaking, for instance. While Garcia is running — something he can only do for three seconds at a time — his turns are a bit less precise. This isn’t too much of a problem until you end up in a chase sequence, running for your life because getting caught means instant death, and promptly get snagged on a rock or tree. The aiming is also pretty loose, but a little sensitivity adjustment helped to alleviate some of the annoyance.

With the omission of multiplayer and a story that clocks in around the 6-8 hour mark, Shadows may not be the best value for a lot of gamers. But, if you can accept a short but well-made experience filled with blood and guts and T&A, then maybe, just maybe, Shadows of the Damned is worth your time.

  • Outlandish in every way
  • Not for the kiddies
  • A longer single-player or the addition of multiplayer would greatly increase the value

Final Score

8 out of 10

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