Shadows of the DamnedESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: 3rd Person: Action, Action/Horror
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
500 KB to save Game
After experiencing EA’s latest release Shadows of the Damned, I sit here trying to think of how to go about writing this review. The first thing off the top of my head is that this game will not be for everyone, given the extremely mature content, but that should not sway those age appropriate gamers to look away. Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, led by Suda51, the same name attached to No More Heroes, this game is an adult themed shooter that should please most people out there who want a true mature gaming experience.
The visual’s strengths lie in the artistic design that Grasshopper Manufacture has put forth, as it is incredible, original, and way over the top. If you have ever had any image of what Hell may look like throw it out the window now as Hell has never been imagined like this. Shadow of the Damned uses the Unreal 3 graphics engine, which we know is quite robust and quite versatile. I think that this was a great engine to use given the game is a third person shooter. The environments are solid, the colour suits the tone, and there is not a lot of repetition as each level has its own feel to it. If there is one negative thing that hit me here, it was that there was a little more texture pop-up than I would have liked.
The characters found in Shadows of the Damned are original too. You’ll find quite a mix of enemies, as well as the NPC’s that you will interact with. Again, I give the development team high marks for their creativity as I have never seen, let alone imagined, characters like this. Your main character can animate quite stiffly now and then, but overall I give some pretty high marks for the characters overall.
The audio in Shadows of the Damned is yet another highlight to this game. The soundtrack that is employed is so good you will want to listen to it on its own. Music composer Akira Yamaoka, of Silent Hill fame, was in charge of the soundtrack, so it is no surprise that it sounds as good as it does. There is a large variety of music to be found, from guitar riffs, piano melodies, to the opera heavy tracks, and each piece of music adds atmosphere and emotion to each scene it is attached to. It is uncanny how the music and what was happening on screen meld so well.
The sound effects that are included here are top notch too. You will really feel some chills as sounds come from all around you. Surround sound is employed to the fullest, as all the sound that comes out is active in all speakers. From creatures growling to babies crying to demons howling, all the sounds that are created to bring the underworld alive do a great job of setting the tone of this hellish world.
Also worth commenting on is the voice acting. Although it can be over the top at times, it is a good over the top and the dialog and emotions that are attached to the words really help the game keep that Grindhouse feel. I have to give kudos to the voice actors who manage to help the characters in the game come to life.
Make no doubt about it, Shadows of the Damned has a twisted story right from the start. You take on the role of Garcia Hotspur, a demon hunter with a heart. His lovely girlfriend Paula has killed herself and the lord of darkness has claimed her soul, who in this case is a demon named Fleming. Fleming is a little angry given your passion for killing demons, so he takes Paula in an effort to “pay you back”. Garcia pals around with a minor demon named Johnson, who is best described as a demon head on stick. This is as much of he story as I will share. I think to share anymore would be to spoil too much of the fun attached to it.
As mentioned, Garcia is accompanied by a demon named Johnson. If this sounds anything remotely referencing a penis, then you are correct sir, as Shadows of the Damned is filled with penis references. Ok, enough about that. Johnson is not only Garcia’s, but he also transforms and upgrades into three different weapons. These weapons are the demonic equivalent to a sidearm, auto-rifle, and shogun (editors note: what would any shooter be without a good old shotty?). You will find that Johnson is a great companion to have; not only for his weapon abilities, but as well being able to explain game mechanics, back-story, and helping you traverse the hellish environment you come across.
Shadow of the Damned is played from a third-person perspective. I found that it really suited the style of the game given you were immersed in the world of Hell that little more. If I had one complaint on how this view affected the gameplay, it was that the actual view is almost a little too zoomed in on Garcia and this affects your view of the surrounding enemies now and then. That being said, this complaint is not a deal breaker, just something I noticed during my gameplay experience.
Controls feel very much like an FPS, and those who have played any FPS or third-person shooters will feel right at home. Given that the most recent third-person shooter release was Red Faction: Armageddon, I think obvious comparisons to that great game will be made, and the control is very much on par with it. If there is any thing that I noted here, it was that Garcia’s movement was not as fluid as I had wanted, and this could affect my ability to navigate through the level at times, particularly when running, but these frustrations were not something that made for a maddening or controller-throwing experience, it was just something that I had to adjust for once in awhile.
As you venture throughout the underworld you will find and collect three different colours of gems. White gems are the official currency of the underworld and you can use these in vending machines (yes, I said vending machines) or when meeting a specific NPC to buy new items. Red gems are a special currency used only to upgrade your weapons. They can be bought, but they can also be found in secluded areas within the Demon world. Finally, blue gems are rare gems in the Demon World. These gems are said to be possessed by “bosses”. If you come across one of these you can apply it to Johnson’s head making it possible to obtain new weapons and/or new functions. These gems make it fun to kill demons and I found that I was always interested to see how my weapon(s) would change next effecting how I would dispatch of the next batch of enemies.
Before you think that this is just another mindless shooter, you do have to solve puzzles as you make your way through the game. These puzzles are part in parcel linked of the overall experience, and at no time did I feel that they were tacked on. Many of these puzzles are associated with The Darkness, which is a constant threat found in the game that, when you come across it, slowly depletes Garcia’s health until you find a way out of it or a way to disperse it. Having to deal with a way to ‘solve’ this dilemma, while monitoring your health, is yet another feature of Shadows of the Damned that makes this game so engrossing.
Of course what would an adventure game be without boss battles? Well Shadows of the Damned has these in spades as well. Each boss that you come across has a specific way that they can be killed, and it is up to you to figure it out. Some require specific weapons, while others require specific spots to be shot. Although you do have to figure out how to take down these crazy and hellish bosses, you will be able to do so by watching and listening to those you have to fight against. Some of these boss battles will take some time as well, so if it feels like you are getting no where in hurry, don’t worry, there is a good chance that this is part of the script. Oh yeah, and I have to say that developer Grasshopper Manufacture has created some very crazy and original looking bosses to say the least so expect the unexpected in this area.
You will find that your adventure takes a linear approach as you venture down a set path in your effort to save your loved one. There is not a lot to do other than kill demons, solve puzzles, and make your way to the climatic ending of the game. Shadows of the Damned does not make any claims other than to be a visceral experience that is more attuned to providing a “holy shit” atmosphere rather than a deep and mind boggling one, and this is not a bad thing at all. In terms of how long this game will take you to get through, expect to play anywhere from 9-13 hours, give or take a bit of time. It all really depends on your skill level and what level you play the game through. Once you complete the game you won’t find any reason to play through it again. Although the urge to experience this crazy world over will knock on your desire to do so, there is no incentive to start again. You cannot carry over your powered up weapons and there is no change to the original story.
Finally, there are no multiplayer or co-operative modes to speak of. Although I am a big advocate of such, I find that this game would not lend itself to anything like this, given how it looks and plays in final form.
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