I’m Garcia F**king Hotspur!
When I first read about Shadows of the Damned, it was hidden deep within the rumors section of a gaming magazine. That was way back in 2006 when all we knew was Goichi Suda, better known by his Suda51 moniker (No More Heroes), and Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil) were supposedly working together on a secret action/horror title that would be published by EA. This excited me for a number of reasons. The biggest of which was my love of horror, a genre I’ve loved since watching Candyman at the age of six. I’ve also always had an undying affection for the Resident Evil series that Shinji Mikami created, and when Akira Yamaoka left Konami to compose the game’s soundtrack, I knew this was something that was being created with people like me in mind. So is Shadows of the Damned the game I’d hoped it would be for the last half decade?
Despite being advertised as an action/horror game, the game is incredibly light on the horror aspect. Scarce ammo and other such staples of the horror genre are largely absent here, replaced by Garcia F**king Hotspur and his Big Boner—yes, that’s the name of one of his guns. Shadows is a very raunchy game. Everything, from the dialogue to several more memorable moments—like when you have to walk along a giant, and mostly naked, version of the girlfriend you’re trying to save—is a little naughty.
Even the hints you’re given by your flaming sidekick, a torch named Johnson (who goes limp if you stay in the darkness for too long) are hilarious. One of his better lines came when my Boner weapon was upgraded, giving me the ability to fire mines that I could then shoot from afar. When I walked up to a rock wall covered in glowing cracks I was tasked with firing a line of mines and setting them off so they’d destroy the wall. Instead of using the approach most games would take and simply telling me what to do through a dialogue screen, I was instead told by Johnson to “fill those cracks with my explosive hot boner!”
The banter between Garcia and Johnson is almost always amusing. There are several large tombs scattered about the game that you can read to learn more about the back-stories of certain bosses. Usually Johnson reads them, adding the occasional witty comment here and there, but there was one tomb in particular that Garcia read. Those five minutes might be my favorite in the game. I won’t ruin any surprises; just know that should you come across a large book during your adventure, it’s in your best interest to check it out.
It’s tough to call this a horror game, mostly because you’ll spend more time laughing than you will sitting on the edge of your seat in fright. Shadows has a fantastic sense of humor—similar in style to Bulletstorm—that extends to almost every facet of the game. Most of it is sexual jokes and innuendo, and the rest is admittedly a little bizarre. One example of the latter is the game’s merchant, a very welcoming demon with a thick southern accent. The merchant is interesting because he reminds me of the masked man in Resident Evil 4, who you know is close by when you see the strategically placed blue torches. In Shadows, you’ll know the merchant is nearby when you start seeing glowing blue flowers. With Resident Evil 4’s creator working on this game, this is a fun little thing that fans of the Resident Evil series will notice.
I may have been a little worried when Yamaoka left Konami to join Grasshopper Manufacture, but I can’t imagine hearing anything but his trademark industrial music in this game. Silent Hill fans will recognize some of the instruments and specific sounds that are prevalent in Akira’s previous scores, but it still sounds very different from his past work. The ominous industrial score and haunting melodies provide the perfect backdrop for the tale of a man on a mission to save the woman he loves.
Even though Shadows is less like a horror game and more like a raunchy punk-rock action thriller, there’s still enough blood and guts to please gorehounds, no matter how deep your appetite for all things red and squishy might be. In fact, there are several levels where you can’t even see the floor because it’s covered in human body parts. During the course of the game, you’ll come across piles of dismembered bodies and what look like fire pits where demons had been feeding on a human (or two). The enemy designs are also fairly terrifying, and several of the bosses are nasty abominations in their own right.
Obviously, the game has no shortage of strengths, but it also has some issues that keep it from being a perfect game. There are small problems—like Garcia’s inability to run for more than a few seconds before having to stop to catch his breath, a certain swamp near the midpoint of the game where I could kill waves of enemies for an endless supply of gems, or the lack of checkpoints in a few key areas of the game—but those will rarely frustrate. Then there are the bigger issues, like the many things in this game that can slay you in one hit. Two areas in particular got frustrating when they were repeated: when Garcia has to run from his enraged girlfriend who will kill him if she manages to catch up with him, and the gentleman’s club areas where you have to snipe large oncoming enemies before they reach you (thus killing you instantly). Having one or two areas where you can die instantly is acceptable, but there’s more than that here.
There were also a few strange technical flaws, like achievements that don’t stack (you’ll have to beat it on each difficulty for every achievement), the startling lack of a New Game Plus option, and a few graphical glitches that had me feeding diamonds to the air rather than the merchant demon’s mouth. More than three weapons would’ve been welcome, but that problem’s mostly remedied by the upgrades. Instead of simply increasing damage, firing speed, etc. (you can do that too), as you progress throughout the game, the functionality of your arsenal will change enough to make it feel like you’ve actually gone through nine weapons (each one has three upgrades, adding new features and a different look to each).
In case I haven’t pounded it in yet, this is a very bizarre game. I say this in the best way possible, because its originality makes it unpredictable. I guarantee you won’t know what’s going to happen until it has, and more often than not the results are hilarious. If you want to experience a game that’s different from everything that’s come before it, Shadows of the Damned is for you. It’s a tasty concoction of horror, humor, gore, and naughty bits that’s guaranteed to make you laugh, scream, and beg for more. Oh, and stay after the credits for a musical treat; you won’t regret it.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
For a horror game set in a demon-infested Hell, Shadows of the Damned is surprisingly vibrant and colorful. Of course, there’s plenty of gore to satisfy the gorehounds. 4.3 Control
The run animation looks a little strange and backing up is excruciatingly slow, but for the most part, controlling Garcia and his weapons is rarely frustrating. 4.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Unsurprisingly, the soundtrack is incredible (Silent Hill’s Akira Yamaoka did the scoring), but the voice work is solid and the squishy sound effects caused by flailing limbs and other assorted giblets are also aurally pleasing. 4.3 Play Value
The campaign will take roughly 8-10 hours. There are a few reasons to return for round two, like to collect hidden gems and get achievements, but the absence of a New Game Plus is disappointing. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best