Shadows of the Damned review
Damn, these bosses blow
When you hear that Goichi Suda or "Suda 51" is working on a game alongside the likes of Shinji Mikami (mr Resident Evil himself) and Akira Yamaoka (the guy who did all the Silent Hill soundtracks), you'd probably get a huge *bleep* if you like their stuff. Me? I liked Killer7, No More Heroes, Resident Evil 2 and pretty much all of the Silent Hill games, so I was pretty pumped for this. I was first in line, buying this the day it came out, playing it... and walking away pretty disappointed after beating the first few bosses. That summed up the entire experience as I painstakingly beat all the bosses in this game. I was ready to give this a glowingly positive review with a warning that the bosses are terrible, but then I started thinking about how most action games' highlights are the bosses, and with that in mind, I have to say that this is just a game that needs a serious remake.
Damn, I'm Mexican.
Garcia Hotspur is a demon hunter whose world is turned upside down when Flemming, the lord of the underworld, kidnaps his girlfriend, Paula. Accompanying him through the underworld is a torch/pistol/shotgun/machine gun/former demon known as Johnson. There actually isn't any story up until the end, so each cutscene either tells you about the underworld (including its citizens, Flemming and some miscellaneous trivia) or just has a bunch of dick jokes. It does an adequate of the former as you do learn a fair bit about it, though it's nothing that'll make you fall in love with the world. The latter, it does a fairly good job with... I laughed at the jokes more often than not, but I can understand if they aren't for you - in which case, I'm afraid you'll have to deal with it, for the cutscenes are unskippable. Jerkoff assholes. I do, however, wish that it actually had more story, like it told you about Garcia, about how Johnson came into his life, and... just a lot of things, really. Maybe in place of the jokes that sucked? I'd say so.
BLOWING OFF THEIR HEADS RESULTS IN A BLOOD FOUNTAIN!
Honestly, the way that this game operates is how I wanted Resident Evil 4 to operate. Now, if you don't know how Resident Evil 4 plays, basically, it was a third person shooter - probably the first to utilize the now commonly used over the shoulder view - where you constantly had to shoot zombies. The problem was that you couldn't move while shooting, but Shadows Of The Damned allows you to walk while aiming, which... IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED RESIDENT EVIL 4 TO LET ME DO! But yeah, you spend a lot of this game shooting down legions of the dead. You can either blow their heads off or blow their other limbs off... you might bemoan the lack of enemy variety (only like 3 exist) and lack of gun variety (you only use 3 guns), but I didn't care, because I was too busy blowing their heads off. Besides, the guns upgrade as you defeat bosses, going from a mere machine gun to a machine gun that fires four lock on bullets per shot, or a shotgun that can eventually fire a big, explosive skull, or a pistol that... can fire mines! But yeah, the gunplay is as tight as you'd expect if you've been paying attention to this paragraph - it works out well enough to allow you to have fun, the aiming is tight and precise, and GODDAMN IT'S JUST FUN BLOWING ALL THEIR HEADS OFF!
That boy ain't right.
But I bet you've been wondering why the bosses are so bad. Well... let's put it this way - some of the most tedious bosses ever put into a video game can be found in this game. They all have like one or two attacks, all of which are telegraphed well in advance, and are all easy to dodge. They literally just feel like bigger enemies, but the thing that sucks is that they take forever to kill. I mean, if you're playing this on easy, it's no big deal because they take heaps more damage, but if you're playing on like hard mode, then it's less of a test of skill and more of a test of how much patience you have, dodging simple patterns for like 10 minutes. That's not good boss design. That's just *bleep*ed and it really ruins the pacing, because I'm here to have fun, not feel like I was watching every filler episode of Naruto.
It's not just that - a few bosses have some really annoying tactics that are done not to make it harder, but to just draw the fight on for longer. One boss sends their cronies onto you while it bides its time for the attack... and you're in extreme darkness at this time, so trying to shoot the weak point is a pain in the ass when you have two enemies attacking you. One boss has an attack where it attacks you with its feathers, which sends you into extreme darkness, and to get out of it in order to attack the bird, you have to destroy them... and some of them are IMPOSSIBLE to destroy as they tend to be placed - I shit you not - out of your reach. THAT was the breaking point for me because I was about to *bleep*ing lose it, but nope, we can't just have two outstandingly shit bosses. Nope, enter the third and final boss that made me want to take this game and shove it up Goichi Suda's ass - this guy requires you to constantly dodge like three really easily dodged attacks, but then he put up a shield and you have to get through a hole... and half the time, it doesn't bloody work! It's like you have to do a specific amount of damage, or just fire twenty trillion bullets before he uses a certain attack. After I beat him, the final boss was like a sigh of relief, and technically, it was a pretty crap final boss, but after the boss before, it's like "MAN THIS IS SUCH AN AWESOME BOSS". Terrible bosses, will not fight again.
There are other elements, but they're either a one level thing, not enough of a common occurrence for me to care, or it was just... bad. I'll go over the stuff that lasts more than a level. The puzzles are very hit and miss. A lot of them require you to go into extreme darkness to find things to shoot, or just getting out of extreme darkness by finding a goat head that you'd mount on your wall as a trophy. At first, it could be seen as cool - Garcia can't survive in extreme darkness, and his health will lower gradually as he stays in it. Unfortunately, it lowers way too fast, which means you need to haul ass to find a goat head or a fireworks machine (which is temporary, and requires you to mash a button rather than just shooting it) to get rid of the extreme darkness, lest ye want yer soul resting here for all eternity. But yeah, the nail in the coffin is that these objects tend to be close by and in sight, so it's never really tense. Moments like these ought to be tense, but in this particular instance, all I felt was "ooh there it is". No good for potentially tense moments. As mediocre and underwhelming as Metroid Prime 2 was, at least it did this better.
But yeah, when you're not dealing with shooting switches in extreme darkness, you're either doing a level specific puzzle (like making a path from one point to another, one way or another) or fetching items to feed to baby human heads that guard the door... umm, some crazy world this turned out to be. Honestly, I find the level specific puzzles to be much better as they feel more like puzzles and less like useless padding. Hell, delivering the items isn't even a puzzle - it's just unneccesary busywork because this game would've been like 5 hours long otherwise! Nope, it's now 6 hours! Congratulations! But yeah, the level specific puzzles are just better. Some are complete noodle scratchers, while some... well, at least they tried and at least it beats some switch shooting and item fetching bullshit "puzzle". I appreciate the attempt at variety, but all it makes me want to do is blow more heads off... and the less said about the three crap shoot em up levels, the better. Seriously.
It's unreal how cool the underworld can look.
Ahh, the Unreal Engine - one of those engines that can either make your game look really good (Gears Of War) or give you a host of technical problems (The Last Remnant)... you'd be lucky if all you ran into is lag and texture loading. There are rare spells of the former when there's a lot of shit going on, and there's a decent amount of the latter. I'm not sure if it's any better on the 360 (probably is), but on the PS3, it has those tendencies. It's a shame, because the game looks pretty good. The textures - when they load up - are fairly detailed and the monsters do at least look somewhat fearsome, if not just plain bizarre. I love these designs. Even Garcia himself looks pretty cool, with all those tattoos and whatnot. The underworld itself may seem like a typical city with some dark buildings, but then you'll get hit by some bizarre designs every now and again, and the extreme darkness can be very effective at times, making things look a lot scarier than they actually are with some mind*bleep*ing moments. But what stands out is the lighting - not the best in the world, but it stands out as quite outstanding with very appropriate dosages here and there. Really, all that lets it down are some problems you'd probably come to expect from the Unreal Engine - that, and long load times, but beyond that, you've got some top notch graphics here.
Not quite at his best.
Akira Yamaoka is usually known for composing haunting melodies that can always find a way to send chills down your spine (at least when that's his intention - otherwise, he still composes excellent songs). In this game, he didn't quite do anything outstanding. The soundtrack is fairly ambient, but it doesn't really give a great sense of atmosphere or anything. It's just there... oh, except for that obnoxious extreme darkness theme. Oh my god, if I hear those chants again, I'll rip off my ears and serve them to Akira for dinner. But on the flipside, the song that plays after the prologue stage is pretty sweet. Punk rocky stuff with a riff that just seems to stick in your brain. Beyond that, the soundtrack was pretty weak. As for the voice acting, it's pretty damn cheesy and easy to love when put in conjunction with the dialogue... this isn't exactly a serious game or anything.
Damned or salvageable?
Shadows Of The Damned... I'm sorry, but I can't bring myself to call this a good game by any stretch of the imagination. You can have all the cool designs in the world, but it'll never get rid of the bad taste in my mouth. It's bad enough that there's a lot of padding, but for half the padding to come from the bosses is enough to make you want to give Goichi Suda and Shinji Mikami what for. An action game lives and dies by its action, and usually, the bosses are the best in that department, so for these bosses to feel like a test of patience is to really destroy the game. The action itself is fine and it's awesome blowing heads off, seeing them gush with blood everywhere, but it's not enough to make up for the terrible bosses. Definitely a skip here folks.
The dialogue is surprisingly well written and can be quite funny more often than not, but there could be a bit more story.
Some of the worst bosses in gaming can be found here. Plus a few things here and there just feel like they're there for the sake of being there. Shooting is all there really is.
As much as I could make a joke about Resident Evil here, the controls, while they can take a bit of getting used to (unless your last game was Dead Space), are tight and responsive.
Long load times, some texture loading and lag is nothing in the face of bizarre designs and excellent looks.
Pretty weak soundtrack, especially the extreme darkness theme. But on the plus side, the voice acting really goes well with the dialogue.
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