Review: Shadows of the Damned

What do you get when you combine the creative stylings of SUDA51, known for his work on No More Heroes, Killer7 and the upcoming Lollipop Chainsaw, with Shinji Mikami, the acclaimed designer behind the Resident Evil franchise? And if that doesn’t completely satisfy your survival horror sweet tooth, then how about a dash of Akira Yamaoka, best known composer of the psychological horror franchise Silent Hill? You get the quirky, psychological action horror videogame, Shadows of the Damned. With a tight group of individuals behind this game’s development, you’re bound to have a stellar title, right?

Well you’re absolutely correct. Shadows of the Damned is developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Electronic Arts. It is indeed a fun and unique game with a whole lot of fresh elements, interesting and memorable characters, as well as a chilling underworld setting that can only be the work of great designers at the helm of this project. But enough sugar-coating it, let’s get down to the game’s story.

Shadows of the Damned puts you in control of Mexican demon hunter Gabriel Hotspur, or Gabriel “Fucking” Hotspur as he puts it so many times, whom with the help of a floating-fiery-skeleton-head-on-a-stick-turns-makeshift-gun, motorcycle and regular sidekick Johnson, are on the hunt to take down the Lord of Demons, named Fleming, whom has kidnapped your woman and love interest Paula. Johnson acts as your guide throughout the game as you travel to the Underworld, filled with all its demonic and twisted areas that will leave you cringing as you progress farther and farther into the darkness. The game uses the Unreal Engine 3, so a lot of the controls are already very familiar, and Gabriel moves in a similar fashion to many characters created under the Unreal Engine, which doesn’t leave much to its individuality. The game is played in a third-person over-the-shoulder shooter, and plays out in acts and chapters similar to the newer console Resident Evil titles.

Gabriel “Fucking” Hotspur and his partner-in-crime, Johnson (on left)

Johnson not only acts as your sidekick, but also your arsenal, because without Johnson, you have no means of defense in the Underworld. Johnson can transform into three different guns: namely a pistol which uses bones for ammo (red glow), an assault rifle which uses teeth for ammo (blue glow), and a shotgun/grenade launcher which uses skull ammo (green glow). Each weapon can be upgraded through the collection of blue gems after defeating bosses or larger enemies, and there are also white gems that act as currency to purchase liquor for health, and red gems for leveling up individual traits, including your gun’s reload speed, your light shot, and your health bar to name a few. The “light shot” is a key component in the game, as it allows you to stun enemies and also get you out of situations where you struggle to survive when clouded in darkness, in which you must shoot glowing goat head candles to bring forth the light.

I found a lot of the features in this game to be very unique and quite fitting for the environment in which Gabriel was fighting through. The game consists not only of a lot of psychological horror moments, but a lot of clever and witty humor in character dialogue, as well as weapon names, and certain locales. I definitely felt it borrowed a lot of crude humor from the No More Heroes franchise, a series I didn’t play personally but only viewed from the sidelines as my brother played them both. I really enjoyed how unique each character was, and I definitely felt immersed in this world, at least for the course of the story. The game’s boss fights were also really fun, as well as the unique combat system, weaponry and puzzle challenges.

The game’s antagonist, Fleming

Where the game lacks however is in both its length and difficulty. I played the game on normal, and found this wasn’t exactly the toughest game to beat. There were a few difficult moments, but nothing that made me put the game down for months on end like Dante’s Inferno, Dark Void or even American Chopper has done to me.

On average, I think the game lasted on-and-off about 4 or 5 hours total for me, which doesn’t feel like that long of an experience, but of the experience I gained, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. I was also very glad that there wasn’t a clusterfuck of weaponry to choose from, but I was surprised at how easy it was to find both healing items and ammunition, as both would respawn in the same locations every few seconds. So during the final battle with Fleming, I stayed perched next to the pistol bullets, and I was set for the rest of the match.

In the end, I recommend this game to fans of the developers behind this game, and the psychological horror game genre. And for those who are looking for a new experience, Shadows of the Damned definitely offers you a unique experience that will more than likely keep you wanting more when you’re finished. Sufficed to say, you will probably not see as colorful and memorable of a team behind this creation anywhere else, unless they decide this game is worthy of a sequel, which it doesn’t need.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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