It’s the age old tale, you’re a demon hunter who has fallen in love with a girl you found in a supermarket dumpster, however having pissed off numerous demons the big boss decides he is going to kidnap the love of your life and take her back to hell with him. Being a demon hunter you take it upon yourself to follow them back to the underworld and proceed to kick the ass of everything that gets in your way as you try to get your loved one back and also do your job at the same time. How many times have we heard this classic story?
If none of this rings a bell to you, then say hello to Shadows of the Damned, it’s dark, it’s violent, in fact it’s Resident Evil in Hell. Given this title come from the minds of Suda 51 (No More Heroes) and Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil), it’ll be no surprise to learn that it is pretty kick ass. The art style is outstanding and whole concept behind the game is both twisted and genius.
As mentioned in the summary of the story above, you play as a Demon hunter named Garcia Hotspur, whose girlfriend is taken to hell. It’s your job to get her back, along with your trusty sidekick and ex-demon friend, Johnson, who also doubles as your weapons and your guide. Along the way you will come across all manner of nasties and some of the most bizarre scenes imaginable, which includes feeding coffee beans and strawberries to demon enchanted gates in order to gain entry. Don’t let any of these bizarre thoughts put you off though, because this game is quite excellent.
Once all of the pleasantries are out of the way and you begin your journey into hell Shadows of the Damned really kicks off. You are introduced quite gently, with the game giving you a few hints and tips as to how best to kill demons with the weapons you have available. It won’t take you long to pick up the controls, especially if you have played Resident Evil 5, as this title is quite similar in that respect, although you can at least walk and shoot at the same time in this game.
The main premise of Shadows of Damned is the darkness. As you wander through the levels a cloud of darkness will often appear, when this happens any demons which are shrouded in it will be invulnerable, therefore you must disperse the darkness by firing your special light shot at the goats heads spread throughout the levels or through other means such as by lighting fireworks, which then brings a bit of light to the situation. You must also fire a light shot at any demons shrouded in darkness in order to make them vulnerable to your gun fire, although this will only work if they are not within the darkness (it may sound complicated but it really isn’t).
Obviously, when you start out the enemies are fairly easy picking, therefore the weapons you have at your disposal, Boner (a powerful pistol) and Skull Blaster (shotgun) are sufficient. As you get deeper into the game you will find yourself upgrading your weapons via red gems which can be found throughout the levels, and you will also upgrade to new weapons via blue gems. Getting hold of a blue gem isn’t necessarily easy, first you will generally have to take on some rather large creature whose no easy picking. To defeat these larger creatures you will often have to shoot at weak spots known as Cores which are placed on various parts of their bodies, and in addition to this, sometimes you may even have to go into the darkness to find these weak spots (known as Demon Cores), which is no easy task considering that after a period of time the darkness starts to drain your health.
As you kill the standard minions within the game you will be awarded with white gems and often ammo as well. The gems do not really serve a purpose until later when you come across vending machines and later still a demon/human merchant named Christopher. Gems can be spent on alcohol, which are the games healing potions, while Christopher will also allow you to buy ammo and red gems, the latter of which is essential for upgrading your weapons damage, reload time and capacity.
As well as some pretty tough combat, there are plenty of puzzles to solve within the game. One such puzzle sees you going into the darkness in order to open gates which are covered in Darkness vines (also known as Demon Pubes). Here you must shoot at and destroy a Dark Core, the weakness for which can only be seen within the darkness, and this in turn will kill the vines allowing you to pass through.
Shadows of the Damned is certainly a looker, even if it is in a dark and horrific way. Some of the scenes will have you cringing, with bloody filled rivers and stomach bursting demons appearing frequently. There is also the story which constantly runs throughout, with Garcia seeing his loved one only for her to be eaten, beheaded or ripped into pieces before his eyes. Finally there are also a few twists which turn the game on its side (although I won’t go any further into that).
One thing I will say is that the developer has tried their very best to inject some Western humour into the title, although not always with great success. Throughout you will be met with less than witty remarks about penises, as well as other sexual remarks which at times not only feel quite immature but unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll laugh at a penis joke just as much as the next man, but this game just seems to take things a bit far at times.
To sum this game up, whether you are fighting bosses or minions, Shadows of the Damned will see you doing it in style. This is one mighty fine and twisted game, both in looks and personality. Sure it can get repetitive at times and frustrating, and the less said about the humour the better, still there is no doubt this is one of the years best titles so far.
Rating: Excellent Review policy
You can order a copy of Shadows of the Damned here (PS3), or here (Xbox 360).