Anthony Coote goes to Hell and back with the most phallic gun you’ll ever fire in the 2011 grindhouse extravaganza Shadows of the Damned.
‘Shadows of the Damned’ is a game produced by Suda 51, Grasshopper studios and EA for the PS3 and Xbox 360. The game centres round Garcia ‘fucking’ Hotspur as he refers to himself, who travels into the underworld to save his suicidal girlfriend Paula from Fleming ‘Lord of Demons’ who wishes to make her his mistress. He is aided by his gun and demon sidekick Johnson. In case you hadn’t guessed by now this game is full of sexual innuendo and jokes probably more at home in a B-list movie than a video game, however this turns out to be one of the games charms rather than a short coming as it contrasts and compliments the hellish surroundings Garcia finds himself in.
The game aspires to pay homage to the grindhouse genre of cinema, characterised by excessive violence and sexual content, and it does this exceptionally well. This particular choice of art direction actually suits the video game medium very well making for an immersive and alternative picture of Hell that seems almost credible. The world is exceptionally well imagined with great characters and a solid storyline. The game takes a five act structure split in to levels. Of course, at the end of each Act there is a boss fight and here is where the gameplay sometimes falls flat.
While some bosses are great such as the operatic steam-punk singer, others seem very lazy. They also vary wildly in the level of challenge they present. Even with the sisters grim getting progressively harder and other bosses ranging from easy to fairly hard to defeat none of them present much of a challenge leading to a slight anti-climax.
This leads us to one of the key issues of the game. Yes the method of character control is dated and the camera follows you too eagerly, but for the experienced among us it may be too easy. Once I’d finished on the demon hunter (normal) difficulty I replayed it on hard but the level of difficulty didn’t increase that much. You get many guns throughout the game and these all have their unique strengths and faults, but the largest weapon upgrades are Automatic. You can still upgrade via Red Gems and later buy these and Health from Charlie the Daemon using the lesser White Gems which all adds up to make the weapon system more a decoration than intrinsic element, but when your gun is a wise cracking skull with penis envy this shouldn’t matter. This game is more of a fun experience than an actual challenge and this is okay. There’s enough story and humour to carry it through and make it a thoroughly enjoyable 11 and a half hours.
Even though the game was made in 2011 it does look slightly dated and texture pop-in is a constant presence. The art direction here is very creative, with the game as a whole pleasing to the eye, even if Garcia does run like a Jerry Anderson Puppet. This almost makes up for the shortfalls in textures and animation, but with the standard of graphics in the current generation so high you can’t help but feel a little let down.
The Sound design on the whole is also commendable despite occasional lip-sync issues, and the music while not as metal as I would have liked for hell suits the environment well and all the effects make the game extremely immersive.
Despite all it’s faults I can’t help but recommend the game. If you like the gratuitous gross out horrors of the 70s and 80s then this game is for you. It is also the most normal by far of Suda 51’s games (though that doesn’t take much) and it would be a shame to overlook it.