Something like that should be written on the box of Shadows of the Damned. It at once grasps hold of the fact that the game treads some fairly well-worn territory while serving it up with a dash of something fun and a little bit cool.
Shadows of the Damned
spewed forth from the brains of (among others) Suda 51 (director of No More Heroes
) and Shinji Mikami (director of Resident Evil 4
). The blurb describes it as 'A psychological action thriller', which is fair enough. However, it skews more towards survival horror than it does towards the more Western approach to 'action' games that you see in the likes of Uncharted
. That said, the above sounds like a reasonable recipe for success, right?
As I mentioned earlier, you're Garcia Fucking Hotspur. You've killed one demon too many and now the Lord of the Underworld wants your ass. To go about acquiring it, he's had away with your missus; the sexy, crazy, awfully-named Paula. Because you're Garcia Fucking Hotspur, you're not about to take that from a horizontal position, so you venture down into hell with your faithful English demon sidekick who transmogrifies into assorted weapons and other useful devices. There's Hell to Pay.
Being Garcia Fucking Hotspur and journeying into Garcia Fucking Hotspur's world is certainly the finest element of Shadows of the Damned
, and it's for this that the game deserves to be remembered.
Clad in nothing but leather pants and a purple (studded) leather jacket, he's a tattooed cartoon character sweated forth from the dreams of Robert Rodriguez after a night shagging goth girls with the spectre of Antonio Banderas looming over him. He's all attitude and ass-kicking and wise-cracking, with the occasional whine about his lost love. He's thoroughly two-dimensional, but he's damn good fun with it.
Likewise, the world he inhabits is a fair old laugh, in its own cracked, neon-bathed sort of way. The hell we see here is a far cry from the Inferno that Dante took us through in EA's hack 'n' slash offering last year
. This is a hell of hard drinking and strip clubs mixed in with the usual Eastern European tropes.
Indeed, Shadows of the Damned
has a tone and a feel that's largely its own, and you know you're in for something a little different from the moment Spanish guitar starts twanging its way over the opening credits. That, I would imagine, is what Suda 51's brought to the table.
As you get over the initial pop of the characters and the environments, however, things start to fall down a little.
Shadows of the Damned
relies on old-school pressure cooker gameplay and tension to drive you forwards rather than the run-and-gun, more fluid style that characterises many modern shooters and action games.
You spend the bulk of the game playing about 10 metres beyond the edge of your comfort zone, enemies constantly bearing down on you, health levels an ever-present concern, nerves fraying, fraying, fraying...
This, for some gamers, is absolutely fine. Many begrudge the level of 'accessibility' that's the norm for today's games. Many will enjoy the challenge. (If you don't enjoy this style of game, you're free to stop reading this review now. Shadows of the Damned
ain't for you.)