Shadows of the Damned review
damn it's inconsistent
Shadows Of The Damned... hmm, you know what it reminds me of? A supergroup's debut record, often their only record because most of these supergroups fail. Whether it's because they don't get any money or because their album was shit, one thing is for certain - supergroups suck. Yeah yeah, the individuals are damn good, but putting them together is just asking for trouble. Even if it's something as harmless as the creator of Resident Evil, the soundtrack composer of Silent Hill and that guy that made Killer 7 and No More Heroes... I mean, their creation, Shadows Of The Damned, is at least a competent game, with its moments of kicking ass, but then it has its moments of sucking ass.
The set up for the game... basically, you're Garcia Hotspur, a Mexican guy who hunts demons for a living. Your skills are put to the test when the lord of the underworld, Fleming, snatches your girlfriend, Paula, away so that he can pleasure himself with her. Oh, and your gun is actually a former demon named Johnson, who can transform into three different guns, and he's your tourguide through the underworld. Not to mention, he's a horny bastard and will make *bleep* jokes whenever the moment calls for it. Read that last bit again - will make *bleep* jokes WHENEVER THE MOMENT CALLS FOR IT, not just slap them all over the place to make up think the writer has a thing for *bleep*... sorry, it's just that Bulletstorm rubbed me the wrong way (that's what she said) when it decided to make a zillion *bleep* jokes for no reason while not really telling a story.
Having said that, Shadows Of The Damned doesn't exactly tell a complex story, either. It starts off with the aforementioned abduction, and for most of the game, you just go through the underworld, getting head*bleep*ed every now and again while Johnson makes a *bleep* joke. Surprisingly, there's not an issue to be had, and it's for two reasons - 1) The jokes are funny, and 2) What little storytelling you do get throughout the game is at least entertaining enough... okay, I do have an issue, and it's the fact that you can't skip cutscenes. Yes, the jokes are hilarious... the first time, but let me assure you that they lose their impact the second time around. Plus, most games let you skip their cutscenes; why not this? Big mistake, guys. Don't let it happen again.
If there's one thing that really pisses me off in terms of storytelling, it's when a portion of the game makes no sense unless you interact with a significant amount of shit around the game world. If you didn't read this multi part storybook throughout the game or just look it up on the internet, the scene that begins the final level and the ending will come across as contrived beyond all belief, making you go "what's going on and why is this going on, and am I getting mind*bleep*ed, like tripping on Japanese LSD or something because this is some crazy shit".
Having said all of that, this plays like Resident Evil 4, except for the fact that you can move and shoot (so pretty much Dead Space). What you have to do is go through each level and fight through the undead by blowing their *bleep*en heads off! Yep, you heard me right – you can shoot them in the head, and they explode! You can definitely tell that this game indulges in some good old ultraviolence as when you shoot the undead anywhere (let alone their heads), blood spews out. Granted, this isn't on the No More Heroes level where whenever you slash an enemy, at least 45385340 liters of blood just SQUIRTS everywhere.
There's really not a whole lot to it when you think about it... enemies will charge at you and you have to shoot them down. It's a case of style > substance, but you know what, the style is what keeps you around. Sometimes, it gets the substance right, like most of the bosses. The bosses are simple enough; just get their basic patterns down and shoot the red spot enough times to break it/them. But even though they're pretty basic, it's still a lot of fun to kick their asses, and so satisfying once you've destroyed them.
But honestly, I think all they got right was the combat... goddamn, the puzzles sucks something fierce! Oh wow, go in extreme darkness (which chips away at your health if you're in there too long) and either shoot some red gem looking things to open some violent vines (or “demon pubes”) or shoot goat heads to light it back up! Find strawberries/eyeballs/brains and then feed it to a baby face on a door! Whoa man so much fun! What are we going to do next? Pachinko!? Shit dude, that's just bloody swell! Nah, but seriously, these puzzles feel like they're there for the sake of being there, like every puzzle in the God Of War series where they just shove blocks in your face and expect you to push them around. Lame.
Okay, seriously, did Shinji Mikami forget how to put together a decent puzzle? I remember playing Resident Evil and being like “yeah it's cool”. This? I was like “yeah this sucks”. Then again, he hasn't made a good Resident Evil game since 2005. Not really surprising, to be quite honest with you guys.
Typically, I don't like to talk about the second half of most games in these reviews... but this is one hell of an exception. I say that because once you begin Act 4, shit will hit the fan. One level has you firing Johnson, who is really long (hur hur big boner), and you have to shoot big demons... in this sort of shooting gallery scenario. Lame. THREE LEVELS in Act 4 play out like a shoot em up... a bad shoot em up that would've been considered dog shit on the Atari 2600, let alone the PS3. You basically shoot enemies while you fly through the air, but it's easy to die in some parts because enemies will gang *bleep* you and since you have no recovery time and can't move through them, you be stuck and you'll die, which is just annoying...
I'll say it again... THREE LEVELS! I'm surprised the big boner only gets one level! Only a couple of levels in Act 4 are any good, and one level gets ruined by a mediocre boss (it starts off alright, but once you're purged in darkness, it does nothing while its minions do all the work... weak). Speaking of bosses, the most anticipated boss in the game is fought in that shitty shoot em up style, and ends up being a pretty poor boss because instead of using her levitation and vocal skills to give you a hell of a boss fight, she just... I don't even want to talk about it. Act 5 is alright, but the two final bosses are horrible, and 2 of the 3 actual levels are "meh" at best... so yeah, while the first half is consistently good, the second half is all over the place!
Much like the game, the graphics seem like they could be pretty good. The designs for the legions of the underworld certainly look the part – from fearsome boss creatures to not so fearsome.. I guess you could say lackeys, and then when you get sucked into extreme darkness... aww yeah, darkness is what it's all about! Of course, there are some light bits where it's appropriate (or at least so you can see!), so it's not all dark! That's good, because the actual graphics suck. The textures are flat to the point of looking like a PS2 game and that's when they pop up, it has framerate issues, and IT TAKES FOREVER TO LOAD! Oh man, I bet the 360 version is better in this department than this version...
Now, with somebody like Akira Yamaoka behind the compositions, you'd expect the soundtrack to kick some serious ass... which it does, thank god. There's an astounding amount of eerieness in the songs during the quieter or “scarier” moments, and the group “ohhhhhhhh” on top of a horn playing just fits so well with being stuck in extreme darkness. Hell, the more action packed songs have a good amount of ZING to them so you can be like “yeah man I'm this sick action hero dude”... yeah, this guy rules.
Then you have the voice acting, which is mixed as hell. On one end, you have Johnson's voice actor, who makes him sound like a funny British guy (not overbearingly so, but it's there) and it manages to go well with the *bleep* jokes, and there's Garcia's voice actor, whose Mexican accent makes all of his one liners sound badass... but once he puts in some emotion, it's pretty painful, and honestly, aside from Flemming (who sounds diabolical), everyone just sounds... bad, like they either put in no effort, just can't do it or they put in the wrong take. Either way, the voice acting is about half and half.
Shadows Of The Damned... can't really recommend it on the grounds that the second half isn't nearly as strong as the first half, and admittedly, the first half is merely good at best. I suppose you could rent it or look for it when it cheapens in price (though I've heard that copies have stopped being produced - yeah, you're kind of screwed there unless stores don't care and just sell it cheap anyway). Otherwise, to be honest, you're better off purchasing Dead Space. Almost the same game... yeah, it's not funny, but it's better made and a hell of a lot more consistent.
Story: 3/5. Although the premise is pretty standard and not much happens, it's still an entertaining romp, with some funny jokes and a hell of a twist at the end, if a bit... contrived in a sense.
Gameplay: 2.5/5. It starts off fun, but then the bosses get more tedious, with the last one being just baaaaad. Oh, and worst shoot em up levels ever. Variety for the sake of variety = poor game design. Shame, because there are some great ideas and fun combat situations in the mix, too.
Graphics: 1.5/5. It may have some neat designs, but between loading textures and freezing on occasion, the graphics suck, and the Unreal Engine sucks on the PS3!
Sound: 3.5/5. The music definitely has that ambient edge, though some of the tunes are damn memorable. The voice acting is hit and miss; some good, some cringeworthy.
Overall: 2.6/5. Shadows Of The Damned is a game that tries very hard to impress. For the first half of the game, it gets the job done. For the second half, it just feels really confused, like they're out of ideas and decided to throw in some crap because you know what, you'll buy it because it has a few big names on it and you play as a Mexican guy with a horny gun.
About the author