Shadows of the Damned review
Everything wrong with gaming today can be found here.


The Introduction:
No kidding, back when this first came out, I've found myself trading this game in right after completing the first two levels because they were so offensively terrible! Neither level had an ounce of a worthwhile substance, instead relying on being overly stylish with an overabundance of toilet humor. Now, I don't normally have an issue with the latter, but the former is something I do tend to find rather annoying when it comes right down to it. I questioned how anybody could find this enjoyable. Well, about 11 months later, I went to my local game shop and bought a copy of this game, just so I could see what was so appealing...

...I painstakingly went through every level of this game. My sanity disintegrated into many tiny pieces, as did the disc because it was such a terrible game that I didn't want to trade it in and let some sucker experience a 12 gauge lobotomy. I'm fine with games being stylish, but please have some substance to go with it instead of just pissing about with elements that clearly don't work.

The Story:
Garcia Hotspur has to rescue his girlfriend, Paula, from the clutches of the evil overlord of the underworld, Flemming... I'm not kidding when I say that that's the full extent of the story. Once you enter the real first level, expect to hear shoehorned facts and history of the underworld, little if anything that resembles plot and character development, and a whole metric ton of sex jokes. I would be lying if I said that I didn't find some of them funny, but I think that has more to do with the delivery of them than how they're written - oh yeah, I almost forgot about the comic relief character, Johnson. He is a former demon who serves as Garcia's torch, pistol, shotgun, machine gun, and guide through the underworld. At times, he does tell a funny joke, but most of the time, he's just really annoying. In fact, that's all the story really becomes - a vehicle for jokes! I may as well be watching Two And A Half Men! Hey, at least Charlie Sheen can act, unlike any of these jokers!

The Graphics:
If my introductory paragraph didn't hint you towards my feelings on the graphics, perhaps this should - the game does look terrific. The denizens of the underworld actually look rather fearsome, like as if you really, really don't want to run into any of these guys in a dark alleyway. In particular, the three Grim Reapers you'll meet are exactly what you'd imagine a Grim Reaper would look like - cloaked skeletons, surrounded by a blue aura with a rusty scythe. The humans (of which consist of Garcia and Paula) aren't too bad either, but you'll have to forgive me if I don't really care for their designs in the presence of the other designs. Add on some excellently laid out textures and some fine lighting effects, and honestly, this game does have style going for it. Bit of a shame the loading takes forever, but one flaw amongst three strong pluses is quite impressive for a game such as this.

The Sound:
With somebody like Akira Yamaoka composing the soundtrack, you'd expect something pretty good. Instead, you get a soundtrack that doesn't really do anything. Nothing really stands out as scary, ambient, engrossing, or anything except... nothingness. I get more substance out of an AC/DC album. Perhaps Akira got too comfortable working with games with far more deliberate pacing than a game where you essentially do nothing but shoot enemies in the head. Ah well. The voice acting, however, is just annoying. I get that they were going for something more along the lines of a B movie, but I find that this is more enjoyable when it's done by complete accident, as opposed to being done on purpose. When done on purpose, it just never feels right, like these people have the capacity to pull off strong performances, but instead, they feel the need to purposely overact, and as a result, it's just terrible. Perhaps it goes with the bad writing, but I like it better when both are good. Striving to be shit is just really silly, not to mention when you have to justify it, makes you *bleep*ing arrogant. I feel no need to actually go into what you should expect from individual characters - this is just embarrassing!

The Gameplay:
To put it simply, there is minimal effort put into the gameplay. You spend the majority of it walking through ultra linear levels, waiting for the next scripted event to occur so you can fight off a series of monsters. While you have an arsenal of three guns that eventually get upgrades as you progress, don't be surprised if all you use is the shotgun 90% of the time, because the other guns either have specific uses, or little to no use period. For instance, I used the machine gun on the last two bosses, and only the last two bosses. Beyond that, the shotgun is the only really good weapon. It makes blowing enemies heads off easier, deals more damage in general, and its final upgrade is quite useful for explosive results. There are a few different enemy types, but beyond armored enemies that require a mine to the cracked armor (this is where the pistol is useful, as it shoots out mines), taking them down is as simple as aiming the shotgun to their heads and pulling the trigger. It controls like Alan Wake and Dead Space, in which you can walk while aiming... which is always a plus in my book, especially since Resident Evils 4 and 5 didn't allow for you to do that.

It's sad when the only good thing I can point out is that it at least controls alright. Everything else was either mediocre or horrible, mostly horrible. For instance, the bosses... these are some of the worst bosses I've ever encountered. They're not hard - in fact, technically, they're easy bosses. They have maybe one or two attacks that are telegraphed well ahead of time. The only difficulty you'll have with the bosses is staying awake long enough to kill them, because it seems as if they've graduated from the Fester's Quest Academy Of Bosses... oh, you haven't played Fester's Quest? Well, first off, don't, because it's not worth playing, and secondly, those bosses have a whole hell of a lot of health, meaning that it'll take forever to kill them. Finally, if you play on the hard difficulty mode, then just clear your schedule for the day... the bosses tend to be the most persistent there, and again, that's all that gives them some semblance of difficulty, because their attacks are minimal in number, and telegraphed well ahead of time! I was bored to tears while fighting these bosses and I bet you would be, too! Dear oh *bleep*ing dear!

This game also succumbs to the "variety for the sake of variety" disease - that is, it adds in other gameplay elements not because they want to, but because they're afraid people will complain about the supposed "repetition". Puzzles are a series of things that seems to be shoehorned just to extend the length of this game. From going into extreme darkness (which saps your health away the longer you're in there) to shoot switches, to finding items to deliver to the guardians of certain doors (which are baby heads mounted onto the door), nothing feels like it was designed particularly well, especially delivery "puzzles"... which just consist of you delivering an item to the next door, really. The level designs are so unbelievably linear, that this kind of thing just falls flat on its face. So you run into a guardian and don't have the item it wants? Oh dear, it seems as if you missed that one fork in the road that the level has - MY BAD! I think only two puzzles are any good... of course, I'm saying "good" in the loosest sense as it just requires trial and error with minimum brain input. Oh joy!

The only other element worth mentioning is the shoot em up element... as in, you're being autoscrolled to the right and you have to shoot enemies. I can see why they would want to do this, but the execution was horrible! Basically, you have to tilt the right analogue stick to aim your gun towards what you want to shoot. Sounds simple, right? Well, there are some moments that require you to shoot light shots (which, outside of these segments, strips enemies of extreme darkness, stuns enemies and expels extreme darkness if you shoot a goat head) at goat heads to proceed. It's never exciting, so much as it is just cheap. Enemies jump out of nowhere and you're left with no recovery time when you inevitably get hit. Other shoot em ups have patterns of sorts for you to logically predict and strategize; this just does whatever it wants to the extent where you'll either get it right the first time or you'll need copious amounts of trial and error to beat. Quite frankly, these are the worst levels I've ever played in a video game, period, and I've played all 51 games on the Action 51 cart... or at least, the ones that worked, anyway.

The Stats:
Story: With nary a story in sight and only constant dick jokes to keep you around for the cutscenes, it's... pretty bad. 1/5
Graphics: Wicked designs and neat lighting. Shame about the long loading. 4.5/5
Sound: The soundtrack has barely any presence and the voice acting is bad. I don't care if it's on purpose, it's still terrible. 2/5
Gameplay: There isn't a lick of substance to be found, and once you look past the style, you'll see a game that gets awfully boring and tedious after the first hour. 1/10

The Conclusion:
God, what an awful game. Maybe it had some promise at one point, but then the creators wanted to rush this out because they knew they couldn't stand a chance against the October/November line up. Damn right it couldn't! You see, a game only works if it has substance, as in, something that gives it a foot to stand on. Something more than a pretty exterior. Something like good, fun gameplay. Something like story and character development. Something like... anything more than just bodies spraying blood like a fountain whenever you blow their heads off! I should've trusted my initial reaction and not have purchased a second copy, because initially, I found this game to be an insult. Now? I find it to be plain horrible with a side ordering of irritation and rage. I have not been so annoyed by a game in years, simply because there were no redeeming qualities, save for the graphics. This is everything wrong with gaming today and I really, really do not recommend this unless you enjoy games with no substance.

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