Review: Shadows of the Damned (PS3/360)

One Hell of a Glitch Trip

Suda Goichi is known for his strange and bloody games. Shadows of the Damned – a third-person shooter, made with the Unreal Engine, and published by EA – is, in fact, probably his most “mainstream” title so far. As in other mediums, moving more into the mainstream should mean more success for Suda 51 and for Grasshopper. But does that make it a better game?

Fend off the hordes of Hell.

SotD keeps the aforementioned style of “Suda” games by being incredibly strange and full of tangible punk-rock influences. With an all-star development team behind it, headed by Goichi, Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, and Silent Hill sound director Akira Yamaoka, what becomes of this union is an amazingly crafted B-movie style game with great controls, an entertaining story and fun gameplay.

It’s too bad it has so many irritating glitches.

You follow Garcia Hotspur, a demon hunter pursuing his kidnapped girlfriend Paula, who has been taken into the underworld by the King of Hell, known to us this time as the totem pole-headed “Fleming.” In the style of a B-movie, the characters are given very little background information: it is a simple set-up with the star of the game taking a trip through Hell. And what a grand trip it is. When not slicing and blasting through demons with your own demonic sidekick, Johnson, both weapon and guide, there are rivers of blood to traverse, doors of dead babies to overcome, and goat heads with which to dispel darkness.

Your weapon/sidekick, Johnson, has plenty to say.

The Devil Makes Work for Idle Thumbs

Garcia can freely move and shoot at the same time. However, the Resident Evil-style aiming remains, and it works extremely well. Garcia’s shots must be incredibly precise to do reasonable damage to most enemies in the game. The upgradeable guns provide some variety, and execution attacks look and feel incredible. But even though the weaponry is rewarding, you’ll be using it to fight the same types of demons over and over and over again. I can’t tell you how many times I fought a boss and felt really satisfied, only to have the game drop one or two more identical ones later in the game. An angry “Oh, come on!” starts to become an understatement.

The enemy types aren’t the only part of this game that repeat. A great deal of SotD is simply nothing more than “kill a couple of demons, remove darkness, rinse and repeat”, often even in the same room. In fact, most of the bosses are nothing more than “shoot the red thing”. Other mechanics, like using fireworks and having to “shoot the red thing in darkness” are attempts at keeping these encounters varied, but by the end of the game you’ll almost be on autopilot, doing the same task over and over.

The repetitiveness of this game isn’t enough to harm it on its own, but when combined with the extreme glitches, one even causing the game to not load for a week, its faults become absolutely inexcusable. Beyond that example, several enemies will attempt to attack you and get stuck in a corner, or just run around in a circle. Hell is full of glitches. Towards the end of the game, I had killed all the enemies in a room, but the game refused to pick up on it, so I had to start the whole damn room over again. For a room designed to waste your time with a lot of difficult enemies, it was incredibly frustrating.

The Final Verdict

This is tough. I’ve loved all of Suda Goichi’s games all the way back to Killer 7, and this game continues a tradition of fun, silly storytelling, and awesome gameplay, but at the same time, the glitches combined with the repetition make it hard to recommend. However, if you buy it for $40 or the equivalent, you will get a great shooter and “One Hell of a Trip”. It is a shame that such trivialities keep this game from being the weird fantastic game that it so truly wants to be.


Comments
2 Responses to “Review: Shadows of the Damned (PS3/360)”
  1. Great review, Seb! Goichi, Mikami, and Yamaoka pretty much sound like the dream-team of out-there creepiness; kind of like when Sakaguchi, Horii, and Toriyama teamed up for Chrono Trigger. What a shame Shadows wasn’t more playable.

    • Chad M. says:

      Oh well, maybe it’ll receive a good patch? I’m still gonna get Shadows because of how balls-to-the-wall insane it looks.

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