Videogame Review: Shadows of the Damned

Shadows of the Damned – 360/PS3

Buy on Amazon

My ultimate goal in writing a review is to deliver enough of my personality and enough information that whether you agree with my tastes or not you can still determine whether you’ll like the game or not.  Shadows of the Damned is difficult to write about for this very reason.  Shadows of the Damned is good but lacks a lot of polish.  There are a lot of sections of the game where I imagine most players will simply quit playing out of frustration.

Shadows of the Damned, as the player will quickly find out from the introduction, was made by Suda 51 (Killer 7, No More Heroes), Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil 4), and Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill).  Personally I was expecting more crazy than was delivered.  The setting seems fairly typical, the guns are pretty plain for the first third of the game, and you can make sense of the story.  The music while fantastic doesn’t depart much from most of the Yamaoka’s previous works on Silent Hill.  Mary Elizabeth McGlynn even returns for a track or two.  That’s not to say its not good.  Its just nothing we haven’t heard before.  Well except for the track Yamaoka did with goth punk legends The Damned.

Most of the time the game is a third person shooter without any cover mechanics.  Occasionally the game will throw out relatively easy puzzles or even become a schmup.  The schmup levels are pretty funny the first few times but get old quick.  And the schmup’s, like most of the game, aren’t very hard.  The puzzles can be hard at first, but once you figure out the scheme of the game (look for and shoot the red gem) there really isn’t any challenge to them.  The gunplay in the game is fun but doesn’t actually get fun until Johnson gets upgraded a time or two.

Where the game shines is the story and characters.  Garcia (the Spanish demon hunter) and Johnson (his demon skull weapon) make for a wonderfully comedic and well delivered pair.  I often found myself reminded of Agent G and Detective Issac Washington from House of the Dead Overkill.  While it takes about 1.5 hours for this 9 hour romp to get going, when it does its really something special.  Each boss has a giant story book Garcia or Johnson reads aloud that is hilarious, depressing, and harrowing all at the same time.  There are even plot points that the story lets the player figure out on their own!  After sitting through the after credits scene of LA Noire, an alleged mystery game, this was much appreciated.  And while the lines aren’t that hard to draw, for a modern videogame it was done superbly.

Where the game fails is in the lack of polish.  Garcia will occasionally get stuck behind boxes or will be slightly off from where he is supposed to be interacting with someone.  Loading screens are around 10-15 seconds and highly entertaining the first time or two encountered.  The problem comes from the rampant amount of instant deaths and bad check pointing.  The worse part about the instant death sections of the game is that what to do isn’t always readily apparent.  I probably spent an hour or two on the several of the same instant death parts because of this.

I haven’t mentioned much of the humor in the game.  This is because I don’t want to ruin it for anybody that wants to play the game.  Again as long as you like perverse humor (ie dick jokes), the game is pretty hilarious at times.  Unfortunately because of the bad check point system and instant deaths a lot of the jokes will go from funny to stabbing you in the eye.  There’s no faster way to take the fun out of a game than make the player hear multiple lines of dialogue every time they die.

Overall, Shadows of the Damned is a good game but unfortunately not a great one.  The frustrating parts bring down the great parts.  That Evil Dead reference would have been a lot funnier if it wasn’t overshadowed by the instant death sequence that followed it.  And its really not a game for everyone nor was it ever meant to be.  I don’t see myself replaying this game but I’m glad it exists and I’m glad I played it.


About MusiM
Musician, writer, Gundam model hobbyist, video game lover, host of The Carousel Podcast, and all with a day job.

One Response to Videogame Review: Shadows of the Damned

  1. Pingback: News: Video Game Releases « The Carousel Podcast

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