Shadows of the Damned Xbox 360 Review

July 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Features, Reviews, Xbox 360

Publisher – EA – Developer – Grasshopper Manufacture – Genre – Action/Horror – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3

Horror games are usually dour affairs, though over the last few years we’ve seen the arrival of the Dead Rising series, of which, with its many amusing methods of offing the zombie population, has brought some uncommon brightness to the genre.

Shadows of the Damned is a Grasshopper Manufacture game, so it’s hardly a surprise that there’s also an element of humour prevalent throughout.

The story is your typical damsel in distress affair, which sees Garcia’s girlfriend Paula trapped in hell and documents his attempts to rescue her. It isn’t terribly interesting, though the humour will surely spice things up for some.

It’s humour of the most puerile variety. The Hispanic protagonist Garcia Hotspur and his skull partner Johnson are like a couple of children, with the level of sex and genital jokes that they use. Humour is entirely subjective, some will find it cringe worthy, whilst others will snigger like a child, but no one will be able to deny that it brings a unique brand of humour to the genre.

Shadows of the Damned is a collaboration between Grasshopper Manufacture, Shinji Mikami and Akira Yamaoka. There’s a definite Resident Evil 4 vibe in the game’s mechanics, as well as the aforementioned humour and unhinged nature that Grasshopper never fails to bring. The soundtrack, on the other hand, will be a delight to many that enjoyed Yamaoka’s work in Silent Hill.

There’s an emphasis on action, and it’s by and large ordinary. There’s an over the shoulder perspective (though you’re able to move and shoot), a quick turn manoveoure can get you out of some tight spots, and gallons of blood is spilled during the course of the game.

Keeping things interesting is the introduction of new enemies, each of which calls for a change in your tactics. Some have armour of which you must remove before you’re able to inflict damage, whilst others will darken the area, resulting in a tougher time for you.

Light plays a role in combat. Darkness will sometimes shroud the area, making the enemies more powerful and eventually draining your health. By shooting, goat heads, of all things, or setting off fireworks, light can be restored. It’s used all throughout the game and, on occasion, you’re forced to race through darkness to get to light, or bring about the darkness to reveal a switch.

By defeating bosses you’ll also get blue gems, of which will upgrade Johnson, in turn granting you new weapons. Whilst your armoury is quite ordinary to begin with, later on more outlandish guns show up however, so you’ll have access to the Teether, of which shoots demon teeth, and the Scullcrusher, which sees lead replaced by skulls. By finding or buying red gems, you’re also able to upgrade your equipment: improving the usual aspects of health, damage, capacity and reload speed.

Whilst there’s undoubtedly a focus on spilling demon blood, there’s still some genuine variety on occasion. Puzzles, whilst always simple and never inventive, are a welcome change of pace. There’s the odd 2D shooter section, which aren’t as interesting as the core action, but are serviceable enough.

A less welcome break from the central mechanics are the chase sequences, which see you being chased by Paula. You must leg it as quickly as possible, destroying obstacles in your path. One simple mistake and it’s usually over though, resulting in a kiss of death from Paula. They’re nearly always infuriating segments, though mercifully they’re rarely used throughout.

The game is a reasonable length, lasting to around the ten hour mark, though upon completion there’s no new game plus to lure you back to find the red gems that you missed, which will be disappointing to many. Some will also bemoan the total lack of a multiplayer component, though others will find the focus on the single player aspect to be delightfully refreshing.

Shadows of the Damned perhaps isn’t the revelation you’d expect from such a partnership, but it’s nonetheless an enjoyable game, and its emphasis on horrifying and making you laugh, both at the same time grants the game an air of distinctiveness, that the otherwise rock solid mechanics rarely do.

8/10

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