Review: Shadows of the Damned

Review: Shadows of the Damned (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)

When I grew up my parents always warned me about hell. You know? The place where you’ll end up when you made a mess of your life. You’ll burn for eternity without the opportunity of escaping. But now that I’ve been there, I discovered that my parents were liars. Hell isn’t such a bad place, it’s actually quite fun. The only downside is that I’ll have to shoot Goat Heads with my Boner to switch the light on.

Shadows of the Damned isn’t your average shooter. The game is created by three of the most loved and crazy game designers in the business: Goichi Suda (Killer 7, No More Heroes), Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil) and Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill). The first two gentlemen created by far the most creative and twisted digital version of hell. The last gentleman was responsible for possibly one of the best soundtracks of this generation. With a team like that you’ll probably wonder what the game is all about.

Garcia Hotspur, that’s what it’s all about. Hotspur is a professional demon hunter from Mexico and he isn’t afraid to provoke nasty demons. But one day Hotspur learns that his girlfriend ‘Paula’ committed suicide. The mental insane but very beautiful girl is abducted by the lord of hell. This mighty lord by the way is very disappointed that Garcia’s weapon can’t ‘penetrate’ him. Although Paula doesn’t really shows her love for the Mexican lover boy, he decides to take a leap of faith and go after her in hell.

Lucky for Garcia, he isn’t completely alone in this hellhole. Garcia gets help from Johnson, who used to be a demon himself. But now he’s just a random flying skull that can transform into pretty awesome stuff. A machine gun, shotgun, motorbike and a Big Boner. Don’t get me wrong, Boner is the name of Garcia’s favorite gun. But when Johnson calls a, let’s say ‘interesting’, girl he gets all excited and changes into the Big Boner. This is your handgun but with a ridiculously long… barrel.

You’ll mostly use Johnson to shoot the angry demons you’ll come across with during your journey. This will happen like in Resident Evil 4. You’ll follow the action just behind the shoulder of Garcia. This was a good system back in the days, but nowadays we’re used to more modern and smooth shooters. The game mechanics can feel a bit outdated thanks to this perspective. The bright side however; is that you’ll be able to upgrade Johnson with some gems. Blue gems will give him the ability to transform into a new weapon while red gems give him the ability to increase damage, bullet amount and so on.

During your adventure in hell you’ll definitely fall for the charms of both the main characters. The voice acting is really good and the humor of the two is absurd and twisted. It’s this humor that creates such a different shooter. Garcia and Johnson are very rude and have a weak spot for sexual jokes. But it’s not only in the main characters that you’ll find the humor. It’s in whole the game and level design. For example, the game saves itself by a little demon that drops a warm hot shit right in front of you.

Next to this humor it’s the use of darkness that will often return in the gameplay. The game starts out as a regular and straightforward shooter without any special features. Later in the game, the darkness kicks in. This dark mist covers entire areas and will make it impossible for Garcia to survive. You’ll have to switch on the light, by shooting a goat head, to make the darkness disappear. At the start of the game it’s very simple to do so. But the more you’ll advance, the harder the darkness will become to overcome. It’s a race against the clock because Garcia can’t stay too long in this deadly mist. And don’t forget that enemies will become invincible once they enter the darkness. Only a shot of light will make them vulnerable for your bullets (which are actually teeth in this game).

Although this darkness creates an extra challenge in the game, it doesn’t really change during the game. The concept won’t change during the gameplay. This means that you’ll know what to expect and what you’ll have to do to defeat the darkness after the first time you faced it in game. That’s a shame because the darkness creates an extra vibe and challenge throughout the game. The only thing that will change is the duration of the darkness and the puzzles you’ll need to solve to shoot a goat head for light.

The same goes for the bosses that Garcia will have to defeat. They are all very impressive and their design is very unique in gameplay terms. The creators gave it their all to create one of the most disturbing and sick boss fights in gaming history. Did it work? Not completely. The bosses sure are very intimidating and sick but their weak spot is always exposed to the gamer. This means that’s those fights won’t be a big challenge to complete. It’s only a matter of shooting all your bullets on the weak spot to defeat the boss. This is a missed opportunity because the gameplay stays very much the same this way.

Does this means that Shadows of the Damned isn’t fun to play because you won’t be surprised? No, not at all. Although you won’t find much variation during the gameplay or the boss fight, the environments and characters do create a lot of variation. Each chapter introduces a new part of hell and each new part is more unexpected than the previous one. Hell is recreated in a way you can’t possibly imagine. This makes it fun to play the game because you’re always curious about what will come next. A swamp after a disco, strip club after a forest. It doesn’t always make sense but that’s the fun part. This vision of hell is by far the most unique and sometimes sick version you’ll find in videogames nowadays.

The same goes for the characters. The characters really come to live in this game. Garcia and Johnson will steal your heart with their absurd way of surviving and you’ll even start to believe that Garcia really is in love with psyco Paula. Each monster, demon or boss is designed in another way and they’re all very unique and creepy. This creates a world where you’ll be happy to spend some of your time.

In the end Shadows of the Damned isn’t a bad game after all but it’s neither an AA-title. It’s too bad that you won’t find a lot of variation during your stay in hell and that you’ll be stuck with a camera like Resident Evil 4. But then again, you still have the humor, environments and characters. It are those things that make sure Garcia and his monsters will earn a place in your heart.

If you are in need of a modern shooter with an online community, don’t buy this game. But if you’re looking for a new and unique feeling in a shooter, Shadows of the Damned might just be your thing. If you’re not afraid of sick monsters and sexual humor, this is a game you’ll enjoy playing for hours. This game deserves to be taken serious and deserves to be played by more gamers.

 Game Rate: 7.5/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.