While EA wears the badge for sponsoring and publishing this game but the credit for making it goes squarely to Suda51, makers of such wacky and intricate games such as Killer 7 and No More Heroes. Suda51’s games are kind of like Jimmy Hendrix’s music; you know they’re special but you get the feeling you should be taking drugs to truly get them.
So, teaming up with EA and receiving a bigger budget, Suda51 has released Shadows of the Damned . . . a game about a sassy Latino man armed with a demon whose name is synonymous to “penis” attempting to rescue is crazy girlfriend from the clutches of hell. Does this latest adventure hold up to Suda51’s normally stellar standards?
Almost . . . but not quite.
You see that brief plot description that I gave you in the beginning. That’s pretty much it . . . except every aspect of it is exaggerated to mammoth proportions. Garcia Hotspur is Latino in the same way that Andy Dick is annoying. He wears fashionable clothing, is ruggedly handsome despite being perpetually covered in blood and grime, and he has an accent that should be reserved for Antonio Banderas action flicks.
You know how there’s different types of crazy? There’s “Oh haha Dave makes dead baby jokes” crazy, the “dude Dave does so much acid” crazy, and then there’s “Dave just stapled his eyelids to his forehead so that he could stay awake and study” crazy. Paula is the 3rd kind; her thoughts and actions only bare a passing resemblance to a sane human being.
This “Demon” is affectionately referred to as Garcia’s “Johnson”. This is exacerbated by the fact that the demon is normally a staff which Garcia grips a little too tightly and who spouts most of the game’s sexual humor.
So Garcia basically romps around hell, blasting demons with his “Johnson” which can transform into different types of weapons as the devil tries to bone his girlfriend. Now many of you may be wondering:
“But Siri! That sounds like marvelous fun and hilarity. Plus the fact that a pretty blonde is being lusted after by a demon fulfills my odd sexual fetishes. It’s perfect!”
Okay, my oddly specific fans.
A) Go see a therapist
B) After the story, plot, and dialogue, the game really falls flat.
Shadows of the Damned has attempted to jump on two different bandwagons; the realistic super-gritty graphics of the Unreal Engine and the over-the-shoulder shooter style of Resident Evil 4. The problem is that when attempted to ride two wagons simultaneously is that it’s very hard to balance, and you may end up falling on your face and getting dragged across the road on your nose.
Resident Evil 4’s over the shoulder view only worked because the controls were so smooth; Leon’s movement and aiming combined meant that even though Leon couldn’t move and aim at the same time . . . the game mechanics flowed. In Shadows of the Damned . . . the action never quite seems to flow.
I know this is a personal opinion more than anything, but as a guy whose played almost every type of game under the sun . . . I believe I know a good action game when I see one. There were always a lot of niggling things that bothered me, preventing me from enjoying the atmosphere and humor that Suda51 is so well known for. More often than not, the aiming and movement were unbalanced so that I would often sweep the reticule clear over the target as I tried to line up the shot. When I finally did get the hang of the shooting, the enemies weren’t challenging enough; they displayed their weak spots in the manner that Pamela Anderson displays her breasts and often ran straight at me.
The boss battles are definitely a toss-up as well. Suda51’s artistic genius shows through, as all the bosses are visually stunning. The bosses, however, suffer from an entirely different problem than the enemies. While some bosses were a real treat to fight, others were made difficult with cheap tricks; attacks that constantly knocked you down, almost impossible to dodge, etc. To be honest, I half expected my Xbox to open up and demand I insert more quarters, because this is the type of boss battle I hoped we weeded out in the arcade days.
The true crime with these problems, however, is that it really detracts from the atmosphere Suda51 is so good at. The adolescent yet charming humor and intentionally exaggerated characters were hard to enjoy when I was swearing at my controller after yet another frustrating gimmick of the game made me die against Boss X for the 3rd time.
Now understand that this isn’t a bad game; all of my complaints are that Shadow of the Damned fails to live up to Suda51’s other creations. If you haven’t played Killer 7 or No more Heroes, you will LOVE this game as EA intended you to. If you have an Xbox 360 and/or PS3, goofy and humorous games are very hard to come by and I would recommend Shadows of the Damned if you’re look for a fun, well written romp.
If you own a Gamecube or Wii however, I strongly suggest digging up Killer 7 and/or No More Heroes out of a used game bin and experiencing Suda51 untainted.