Gaming Under The Radar – Shadows of The Damned
For the next part of Gaming Under The Radar I decided to go with Shadows of The Damned, a third-person shooter resulting from a collaboration between Goichi Suda (No More Heroes, Killer7) and Shinji Makami (Resident Evil, Devil May Cry). The game shares a lot of similarities to resident Evil 4 in terms of gameplay, as you follow demon hunter Garcia Hotspur into the depths of the underworld to save his true love in a humorous and gory adventure.
Despite the pedigree of its producers and other established names in the gaming industry (composer Akira Yamaoka for example, famous for his work on the Silent Hill franchise) the game sold very poorly, with only about 50,000 units being sold in North America in the weeks after its release. It’s hard to understand why as the following review will hopefully explain.
As mentioned, Shadows of The Damned plays a lot like Resident Evil 4. Fleming, the Lord of Demons, has abducted Garcia Hotspur’s girlfriend Paula to be his mistress and it’s up to you to get her back with the help of your trusty sidekick – a talking skull named Johnson. You play from a third-person perspective throughout most of the adventure, and the controls are fairly standard and easy to get to grips with – on the Xbox 360 version LT and RT aims and fires respectively, X reloads your weapon, A is to dive out of the way of enemies and RB fires a blast of light. The reason for that is in the underworld darkness understandably consumes everything quite regularly, and the light shot serves as a way of dispelling said light. To do so you have to aim at glowing sheep heads before your health runs out, which adds a challenging element to the game.
Unfortunately it’s not all good news here, as some annoyances are present throughout Shadows of The Damned. The most prominent annoyance comes by way of side-scrolling elements here and there, which sees Hotspur and Johnson inexplicably thrown into a paper-thin world where the objective is to clear the area before you’re swallowed up by the scrolling screen. Fortunately only about three levels of the game’s 25 acts (five chapters split across five acts each) are dedicated to having to endure this, but nonetheless it’s an annoying experience and one that’s unnecessary. Also at certain times you’re chased by a demon version of Paula, which took me several attempts to get through each time. As soon as she touches you she gives you a kiss of death and it’s game over, and she runs as fast as Hotspur does. Yes, Hotspur can sprint by pulling the right trigger but he doesn’t have a whole lot of stamina, slowing down mere seconds after you’ve built up enough speed to put some distance between him and his possessed girlfriend. What makes the experience worse is that cutscenes cannot be skipped, and it can get irritating having to sit through the same three minute sequence everytime you’re killed. Overall though the gameplay here is solid and enjoyable.
Score – 7/10
I was surprised by the graphics in Shadows of The Damned. On the one hand they’re far from cutting edge, but the rough-around-the-edges approach gives a real grunge-type feel that compliments the overall style of the game. The gore is hugely over-the-top but something you’ll never tire of seeing, pulling of a first time headshot treats you to a satisfying close-up of the damage you’ve just inflicted upon your enemy and the gradual dismemberment of body parts is immensely satisfying. The character animations are generally smooth with the exception of some demons, but I’m quite sure this is deliberate. I only encountered one or two minor glitches during my playthrough but it’s nothing bothersome.
Score – 8/10
Sound & Music
Akira Yamaoka lent his brilliance to Shadows of The Damned immediately after resigning from Konami in 2009, and his work is nothing short of fantastic. The music featured throughout your adventure is astounding and easily one of the highlights of the game, and the gruesome sound effects are as violent as you’d expect them to be.
The voice cast generally does an excellent job as well, the voices behind Hotspur and his sidekick Johnson in particular are excellent and the two characters have great chemistry as a result of that.
Score – 9/10
I completed Shadows of The Damned in about eight hours, which is pretty standard for a game in the action adventure genre. It sports three difficulty settings but unfortunately no New Game+ or anything along those lines, it’s not essential but I would have liked to have kept my ammo and weapon upgrades when trying out the harder difficulties. The game is very linear as well so each playthrough will be identical to the last but with harder demons to face so as enjoyable as this game is it’s probably worth a rent over a purchase, at the moment the game sells for about £25 which in the UK is about right for a game that’s been available for as long as this one has. That is still quite a lot of money for a game that doesn’t have a whole lot of replay value and can be completed over a weekend but for the completionists reading there’s still enough collectables to find to keep you occupied and a memorable experience awaiting all players.
I suggest waiting until the game falls to under £20 (or the equivalent in your currency) or indeed renting it, Shadows of The Damned is a massively fun game that’s been criminally overlooked and deserves a lot more recognition. It’s just a shame there wasn’t slightly more on offer to keep me coming back for more.
Score – 7/10
Overall Score – 31/80 – 78%