A Suda51 (read our Suda51 interview!)/Shinji Mikami collaboration some years in the making, Shadows of the Damned follows in much the same vein as your typically gory survival horror game, except the monsters du jour are demons instead of the ubiquitous zombies or vampires.
Our hero is Garcia Hotspur, a cocky demon hunter who takes his job very seriously. With his battle-scarred visage and lean, tattooed torso, he sure looks the biz, too. Señor Hotspur arrives home from a hard day at the office, in time to see his girlfriend Paula attacked by some filthy demons. After dispatching them, he is confronted by an arch demon, who makes some rather pointed comments about Garcia’s sexual inadequacies before dragging his terrified bit o’ fluff into the underworld. Pausing only to grab a leather jacket, Hotspur dives headfirst into hell to save her… what a guy!
As befits any decent splatter fest, the script is awash with trashy one-liners and dark humour – much of it below the belt. Garcia sets the tone of the game with: “Let’s start this road movie with some road KILL!” There’s a steady flow of in-game banter between him and the smart-mouthed Johnson, a former demon who is now his companion, tour guide, multi-weapon arsenal and occasional means of transportation. He’s the ultimate sidekick, really.
The underworld setting is… disturbing. Streets and buildings of the underworld are littered with bodies and entrails, through which Paula is occasionally sighted, like a scantily clad will-o-the-wisp, enticing Garcia deeper and deeper into hell. Lighting (or lack of it) is used to great effect, and there are many areas of life-sapping ‘darkness’ which can only be dispelled by nailing goat’s head lanterns with Johnson’s ‘lightshot’ ability, flooding the area with light. There’s a palpable sense of relief when this happens, especially when episodes of darkness happen with little warning. Some of the demons are also covered in a mantle of darkness, and are impervious to damage until it is removed.
The combat action is quite intense, with wave upon wave of demons to deal with – messily and with extreme prejudice. Blowing limbs and various appendages off results in fountains of blood, and you can also get stuck into melee with a flaming torch. Sometimes it pays to know when to fight and when to flee, however; maybe find a drinking establishment, where you can buy booze to replenish Garcia’s health.
Some areas are blocked by creepy, baby-faced door guardians, which require you to find specific objects before they will allow you to pass. A scattering of red and white gems ensures you’ll be able to buy stuff and upgrade your weapons… or as the trailer so eloquently proclaims: “Enlarge your Johnson!”
Musically, it’s hard to pin down a genre. We heard strains of flamenco guitar and death metal – and everything in between. A real mixed bag, but nonetheless it’s a good fit. Guttural demon noises & other tortured sounds added to the hellish ambiance, and kept us on edge the whole time. Paired with some freaky cut scenes and stomach churning (but in a good way) visuals, and you have the makings of an excellent game.
Shadows of the Damned is due for release on 24th June on PS3 and Xbox 360. We like what we’ve seen so far, and during our hands-on noticed no bugs or issues that would impact negatively on your demon slaying fun. Be warned though, it’s not for the squeamish or those easily offended by profanity and vulgar humour, around which much of the game’s appeal revolves.