"Damned" If You Play, "Damned" If You Don't
Goichi Suda is one of, if not, the craziest game creator out there, so when word got out that he was teaming up with Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami gamers across the globe waited with high anticipation for the monster they were to unleash unto the consoles. What they came up with was a massive homage to the classic grindhouse films of past and present called Shadows of the Damned, not to mention a memorable anti-protagonist by the name of Garcia Fucking Hotspur.
Hotspur is a demon hunter, and after he comes home to find his girlfriend Paula being kidnapped by demon lord Fleming he and his trusty skull buddy Johnson travel down to Hell to rescue her. From there players take on demons, zombies, and other creatures of the underworld, slaughtering them all with Hotspur's massive guns and tactics. In order to get through each level Hotspur must feed these strange baby-faced doors eyeballs, brains or strawberries (which you might not want to eat anymore when it's revealed what the fruit really is); you also sometimes will have to travel through the darkness, which drains him of his health. Fortunately, unlike most games (and possibly real-life), alcohol can help Hotspur get back onto his feet. You will also learn about the backstories of the bosses you will have to face, such as George the scary harmonica player and Elliot Beast the bird man. There are also more dick jokes than a Judd Apatow film.
Throughout the game players will have to earn upgrades for Hotspur's weapons and stamina, some of which will be obtained after the big boss battles. These boss battle upgrades also transform your weapons to even-bigger destruction makers, some of which have such unique names as Hot Boner (contains a sticky explosive), The Dentist (can be used to fire multiple teeth at enemies) and the Skullblaster (fires four skulls and grenades). There will be no bigger smile-enducing moment, however, than when it comes time to use your Big Boner. Using a phone sex hotline Johnson becomes a long, massive cannon that Hotspur fires between his legs at larger demons. Isn't subtlety great?
While the weapons do pack a punch it doesn't help that the aiming system is overly sensitive. There were times where I was aiming for a demon that was inches from my face, and I still managed to miss him. It's moments like this that will cost Hotspur his life, and it happens more often than not. While you can carry loads of alcohol on you it's best to save them for the big boss battles, especially during any of the frustrating grim sister fights. These boss battles can sometimes cause much frustration, as you'll need to use split-second precision to fire on their weak spot. Sometimes it will be revealed using the light shot, while other times you'll be forced to go down the trial-and-error route. Believe me: it can get annoying when you have to waste almost every drop of your precious liquor on one boss battle.
While beating demons and bosses you are given gems that can be used to buy more ammo, liquor sometimes red gems for upgrades. Once in a while you will run into Christopher, a half-demon redneck with a heart of gold that wants to help Hotspur by any means necessary. These items can be pricey, though, so it's best to save up those white gems in case you need them for something else later on. The vending machines lie around in different areas of each level, so you won't feel regretful if you walk past one without using it.
Shadows of the Damned is quite gruesome-looking, but in the best way possible. Both the characters and the worlds just jump out at you while playing, filling your TV with a nice batch of dark essence at every corner. Granted it's no graphical breakthrough, but the usage of the Unreal Engine was used to its fullest potential. However there were times when the worlds took some time to properly render, and I did find myself caught in a glitch that had me stuck in a graveyard area, forcing me to restart from a previous checkpoint. (I'm actually surprised that, after all this time, they haven't released an update to fix this issue.)
The real stars of the game, however, are its storyline and soundtrack. The teamwork of Suda51 and Mikami helped to bring together a story that not only pays great tribute to past flicks like Evil Dead and Ghostbusters, but also manages to keep the true spirit of a memorable grindhouse movie all together. Both creators' styles are in full force, from Mikami's creepy undertones to Suda51's over-the-topness, the latter of which pulls a No More Heroes with its hilarious side-scroller levels later in the game. The voice acting from Steve Blum (Hotspur) and Greg Ellis (Johnson) showcases the best "buddy cop" style of dialogue and bantering since House of the Dead: Overkill hit the Wii two years ago. Lastly there's Akira Yamaoka's musical score, which is rich with Spanish guitars, cabaret blues and burlesque jazz. You will probably want to load up your iPod with these melodies, so long as you can find the proper places that sells it.
Shadows of the Damned will take you roughly eight hours to beat, and while there's an extra hard mode to unlock by beating it in the medium/hard difficulty there are no other real extras to be found. It would've been great to have a New Game+ mode so you can play with all the upgrades you've earned, but no such thing can be found. You can't even revisit previous levels, rewatch the great FMVs that appear throughout the game or reread the hilarious stories behind the boss characters. Don't even ask if there's multiplayer, as you probably already know the answer to that one.
- Memorable storyline
- Fantastic voice acting and musical score
- Hilarious dick jokes
- Aiming system is waaaaaaay off
- Boss battles more frustrating than challenging
- Lack of extras is kind of a turnoff
Shadows of the Damned had the potential of being one of this year's best games, but its flaws keep it from reaching the greatness it could've been. Its short length and faulty aiming system, not to mention the lack of extras, make it hard to really fall in love with this title. However the game's strengths manage to keep it above the water, and the powerhouses of Suda51 and Mikami still pull out some great twists, turns and laughs throughout the game's duration. Give it at least one spin, and you'll find out why a guy named Garcia Fucking Hotspur needs to continue living on in the gaming world.
FINAL GRADE: 7.1 (out of ten)