While a high difficulty level is all well and good, though, often times Shadows of the Damned
is punishing in all the wrong ways. The decision has been made that as soon as you take aim with one of your weapons you lose some mobility, so you won't be able to leg it around the levels and still take pot-shots. That's fine. That's a legitimate (and believable) design choice that's not surprising from Shinji Mikami. At times, though, it's just overly gruelling.
When you're being rushed by multiple enemies, for example, it feels a little unfair that you're taking hits as you reload. It's not like you could have paced your ammo-use better any differently ? you're being rushed
. I ran out of ammo at so many inopportune moments I started to feel like the game was conspiring against me. If I could have played the game in such a way that that didn't happen: fine. But in many situations that's simply not possible.
Similarly, the relative speed (or numbers) of your enemies compared to your own speed just feels unbalanced sometimes. Having the option to use [A] to do a quick 180 degree spin is fine, but when your enemy's moving so quickly that even a rapidly executed spin can leave you staring into empty space, it begins to feel like you're just flailing around in the vain hope of getting lucky. Being on the edge of your seat is one thing. Wanting to use the expensive array of electronic equipment in front of you to damage someone's skull is another.
The use of darkness works well, though. At certain points in the game demons will bring down a cloak of darkness that, after a few seconds, starts to bring you pain. It also makes hurting your enemies impossible. You can deal with this by using shots of light from your gun-cum-demon-buddy to spark up various sources of illumination, but in some instances you'll need the darkness to enable you to target certain puzzle elements. This results in tense sections of play that make interesting use of the darkness mechanic to break things up. That's not the only thing done to break things up, but I'm going to avoid spoilers here and leave that for you to discover yourself.
While steps have been taken to stop things plodding along at too even a keel, however, Shadows of the Damned
can get repetitive. Levels are very linear, which can lead to a pace that's very constant and a little relentless.
Similarly, the boss battles tend to drag on. They're repetitive, and thanks to the aforementioned speed at which you can make a shot, hitting the appropriate weak point on your enemy is frequently a matter of luck rather than skill. So, while you can stay alive through these encounters if you go in with enough health-restoring booze, they just drag on and on and on and on and...
Also, I would like to add that invisible walls should not
be a feature of games from top-flight developers any more. That's all I have to say about that.
Shadows of the Damned scores big points for its presentation and style before losing a bunch of them for sluggish controls and some old-fashioned gaming tropes that shouldn't and needn't be in there. There are definitely things to recommend it, but ultimately frustrating mechanics stop it well short of 'great'.
SPOnG Score: 74%