My name is Garcia Fucking Hotspur, hunter of demons, and before you die I will carve my name into your flesh!
Garcia is a badass. Nobody can deny that. The leather coated latino with a talking skull sidekick, a hot babe and a fucking awful potty mouth makes one hell of an impression on the casual observer, but what can be said of his gaming debut? Well, a lot, and most of it favourable too, you see Shadows of the Damned may mark Suda51ís first proper break into the mainstream market, and it has gone really well. But itís not quite perfect, and signs of compromise can be seen all over this piece of fantastic gaming. This is one road trip you'll want to call shotgun on, because it's a hell of a bumpy ride.
Shadows of the Damned takes the form of 3rd person shooter in the ilk of Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space, but unlike both of those games Garcia doesnít feel static and slow, he feels fast and alive. Diving and flipping around an area feels easy and responsive, he aims at an agile speed and his ability to instantly turn round and smash a demon in the face stops you from feeling powerless. Garcia is not in hell against his will, he is not a victim in a much larger scheme, Garcia dived into hell to rescue his girl, and heís ready to take on the demon hordes one headshot at a time.
This is why Shadows of the Damned feels unlike every other 3rd person shooter of its kind. You are powerful. Ammo is usually in abundance, your weapons pack a powerful punch, Garcia will gladly stomp all over the bodies of his enemies and make them bleed gems. Garcia is not afraid of anything, least of all some punk-ass hell monkeys. It takes what would otherwise be a fairly horrific sprint through a re-imagined hell and instead turns it into a cackling ghost train through the craziest funfair ever. Lines of witty, if crude, dialogue are thrown about with gleeful abandon; moments of horror are met with innuendos that would make even the most good humoured of people cringe. This isnít a survival horror title, itís a badass comedy.
It works too. Every level is some new joke, some new room of delights and horrors for our dear Garcia to unveil. No level feels like filler, no room feels too repetitive, although a fun side game does outstay its welcome in the 4th act. The game has something many other games fail to have at all, boatloads of variety. And not just cheating variety where you change the gameplay mechanics, proper variety, level design, enemy design, boss design. These are the lost art of western game development, every level screams a new aesthetic, every enemy has its own fun way to be annihilated and every boss will cause you to clench your teeth in triumph as they topple. Rarely does any note hit a dud.
But that might be because it plays it safe with brevity. At 8 hours Shadows of the Damned hits a modest average running time, but with no new game plus, no other modes and not even a chapter select the incentive to play to get all your achievements is fairly low. Put in the fact that I finished the game once and have 41/50 achievements and the incentive to replay plummets drastically. The time it takes to beat Shadows of the damned is filled with undeniable charm, wit, delight and excitement, but the need to own it is not quite up there.
Technical issues do harm the game here and there, with texture load ins, sudden (non-permanent) freezing between gameplay and cutscene and the odd if context specific sound glitch. It doesn't ruin the experiences by any stretch, and on my 360 disc I never encountered a game killing glitch, but graphical issues and engine problems can pull you out the experience a little.
Fans of Sudaís work will find his most playable game to date, but also his shallowest. Shadows of the Damned is not like No More Heroes, which used its juvenile presentation to hide away a rather dark little tale of nihilism. Shadows of the Damned uses its juvenile exterior to present more juvenility, and then adds some more dick jokes for good measure. That said, hidden in the game are story books that present the back stories of each boss, and fair play to them, theyíre enjoyably dark tales that add a sense of sadness to each encounter, but no deep message lies within.
Dead Space. Much faster and focused more on comedy than horror, if you liked Dead Space but wanted it to be funnier and more agile youíll love this.
You dislike the humour or are looking for a genuine scare. This game is fast action, not slow survival.
Best rented, Shadows is unique and memorable, but the playtime is too conservative. Those who know what theyíre getting will not have too much issue laying down full RRP.
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