RELEASED: June 21, 2011 (PS3)
AVAILABLE ON: PS3, Xbox 360
DEVELOPER(S): Grasshopper Manufacture
We're halfway through the Bond marathon and I've skewered through six games, so let's do something different, an intermission - I know just the game for that. Shinji Mikami is the man you want to thank for Resident Evil. Deeply disappointed with Capcom's decision to publish his masterpiece Resident Evil 4 on the PlayStation 2 against his desire to keep it a GameCube exclusive, he left his pet franchise in mid-2005. Akira Yamaoka is the man responsible for the critically acclaimed, multi-influenced music of most of the Silent Hill series. In 2009, he moved on from Konami and signed a contract with Grasshopper Manufacture, a studio famous for cult games such as killer7 and No More Heroes, due to his adoration of their work, especially that of Goichi Suda, a.k.a. Suda51. It was around that time that a previously announced, mysterious game named Shadows of the Damned was confirmed to be a collaboration between survival horror legends Mikami and Yamaoka, and Suda51, who was known for artful, rough-edged games that were never made to please everyone. In 2011, this future cult horror comedy hit the shelves, pleased the hell out of a lot of folks, but there's no way around the facts that it certainly won't please everyone - least of all women - and that it was a few years late.
Hell ain't a bad place to be
Steve Blum : Garcia Hotspur
Greg Ellis : Johnson
Julianne Buescher : Paula
Paul Mercier : Fleming
Cam Clarke : Christopher
Tara Strong : Justine
Yuri Lowenthal : Elliot
James Mathis III : X
Jeff Salter : George
Susanne Blakeslee : Kauline Grim
Garcia Hotspur is a Mexican demon slayer with a flaming Latino temper and streetwise attitude. Fleming, the head demon and lone tyrant of the underworld, grows tired of Garcia running through his ranks on the surface, and kidnaps his girlfriend Paula to lure him into his abode and let his troops have the home advantage for a change. Armed with a very brief knowledge of the dangers of the underworld, but luckily also with a weaponized former demon named Johnson, Garcia sets out on a journey through hell to save his one true love.
|Pure Resident Evil 4, the way we've appreciated |
it for years.
When it comes to influences, we're talking Evil Dead - we're MOST CERTAINLY talking Evil Dead - From Dusk Till Dawn, Constantine, Zombieland... silly "horror" movies packed to the brim and beyond with action. There are truly frightening moments in this game, but each passing spook is compensated with a dirty joke or a dozen of them. It plays out like Resident Evil, but sounds like a Rockstar game - a lot worse than any of their works, though. Shadows of the Damned is one mold-breaking game in the field of simply being foul. It's foul, dirty, sexist, sometimes plain gross, always hilarious, and very often surreal. You might find yourself hanging onto and depending on the humour a lot more than you would originally expect, since as a gameplay experience, Shadows of the Damned is not bad, of course it isn't, since it's like Resident Evil. But, it's like Resident Evil 4, and Resident Evil 4 was six years old when Shadows of the Damned came out. Resident Evil 4 remains a timeless classic, but a whole new carving from the exact same tree in 2011 wasn't such a great idea. Reflecting on the greatest bits of this chauvinist hellride makes me want to state otherwise, but there's no way around it; Shadows of the Damned feels a little old. It's fun - most definitely - it lives up to the most basic standards as a game, it has great music that puts the most recent Silent Hill soundtracks to shame, but it's completely devoid of free exploration, advanced tactics, unlockable extras and any sort of New Game+ option. If the graphics were stripped down a little, the Achievements/Trophies removed and the bad language/imagery cleaned up from a casual "motherfucking cunt" to the point of a well-placed "holy shit!" or two, I'd make a guess this game was made in 2005. Or even earlier.
|I'd go to hell for her.|
In Shadows of the Damned, you play as Garcia "Fuckin'" Hotspur, who's like a cross between Dante from Devil May Cry and Ash from Evil Dead - a tough guy with a temper that leads him into a lot of trouble, and not the brightest light bulb in general. To balance him out and to guide him through a strange world is a former demon named (and shaped like) Johnson, who usually presents himself in the form of a very phallic torch, but can transform into a pistol (Boner), shotgun (Skullcussioner), machinegun (Teether), and other stuff which Garcia might need in a pinch, but usually this is scripted cutscene stuff. In a very familiar way, Johnson - as well as your maximum health - can be upgraded with red gems, which are hidden all across the otherwise extremely linear path to Fleming's keep. Johnson's different forms can be permanently upgraded with blue gems, which are dropped by the underworld's V.I.P.'s, in other words bosses. In the upgrading process, the weapons' names are changed into something more intimidating (or funnier), like Hot Boner and Teethgrinder. The names of the weapons come from the type of ammo they use, in case you're wondering - bones, teeth and skulls. Yep, nothin' foul about the Boner. Nothin'. All the weapons pack quite a punch once upgraded, and killing demons gets more and more satisfactory on the go. Gruesome murder of demons is the best part of the game - it's something that never gets old. Of course, there are melee attacks as well, from "brutal kills" to vicious stomp attacks, and a Light Shot, which takes a little more explaining, as it is very crucial to your success.
|When in trouble, you need a Big Boner.|
All of this seems very familiar. The game is exceptional in terms of humour, but as a game, it would seem Shadows of the Damned brings nothing new to the table - and pulls most of its stunts straight off games that were released years ago. I guess Suda and Mikami predicted that they'd be accused of repeating both Resident Evil 4 and Alan Wake, in particular, so they decided to create a real WTF moment and place it smack in the middle of the game, to shuffle things up. One of the five acts in the game is half standard gameplay, and half retro shoot 'em up. You read absolutely right - retro shoot 'em up. Prominent features such as a truckload of demons and the darkness are featured in these three levels as well, but it plays out very differently, and looks very different. People will love these levels, I certainly did. Nothing more to say about them - they are something you have to see and/or experience for yourselves. There are a few more minigames, but there's nothing quite as surreal, prominent or complex. It seems that these levels partly inspired the latest Grasshopper game, Black Knight Sword, so if you've played that one, you know what to expect.
|Meet Christopher. He's a demon, ugly as hell, yet |
kind at heart.
It's flawed, for certain, but it's a fun game. A fun game with an one-eyed bird with increased bowel movement for a save point, demons lusting strawberries for doorknobs, alcohol for medicine, and one extremely witty, extremely British, extremely dick-shaped gun for a tutor and your most important tool. It's Shadows of the Damned, and it was out to break taboos left unbroken by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in 2004, but sadly, it seems that it's stuck in the very same year as far as gameplay is concerned.
+ It's COOKY
+ I love killing demons
+ The dialogue is awesome - foul as hell
+ The music is even more awesome - Akira Yamaoka is very near his very best
+ The Demon World shoot 'em up levels are a fun change of pace
- It feels really old, and old-fashioned, from every angle
- The voice acting isn't always on the mark
- The controls are quirky, sprinting is a particular pain
- The game is a little too easy for a shooter vet
- No unlockables at all; without the red gems to distract, it would be a tube run
< 7.6 >