"It's rare to experience a truly funny video game these days. It seems most games stumble over themselves trying to create life-like experiences and gritty, scintillating gameplay; humor is a mere afterthought. "
It's rare to experience a truly funny video game these days. It seems most games stumble over themselves trying to create life-like experiences and gritty, scintillating gameplay; humor is a mere afterthought.
I slid my Shadows of the Damned disk into my Xbox 360 tray without any premonitions of what I was about to experience; Suda 51's involvement in the development was not known to me. The ensuing craziness shouted his name off of rooftops, though--and his stamp on the title was immediately noticeable. While most games that boast solid mechanics and genuinely inventive worlds tend to lean on those very things as their meat and potatoes, Shadows of the Damned eschews this tradition. This game is friggin' hilarious. Yeah, the gunplay is supremely satisfying, utilizing a Resident Evil style behind-the-back approach--and the enemies are large in number. However, it seems the game literally set out to be as lightheartedly witty as possible, even poking fun at video games themselves. The raunchy, over-the-top humor will elicit laughs in abundance, even from the most stoic of individuals. I couldn't help but think the development team was consciously putting forth the most absurd one liners they could think of, and while a lot of the content may seem infantile in nature, I've never seen a game take its own ridiculousness so seriously. Anyone playing this game will have a riot.
The framework of the story is simple enough, yet effective: Garcia Hotspur's girlfriend is taken into the dark, seedy underworld of Hell by a demon who is intent on making her the perpetual mistress of the inferno. Garcia, devastated and desperate, runs in after her. He'll battle visions of her being so close yet so far, and be met with an endless deluge of demonic scum in the process.
This type of setting provides ample fodder for a veritable bloodfest. The environments seen throughout the game are dark and murky, but varied in nature--you'll be traversing a sinuous hallway full of zombies first, then find yourself battling a dark force that sucks away your life next. Often there are certain things you can only see while in the dark force, and manipulating them while there has helpful effects in the lighter hallways of Hell. This dynamic is pervasive throughout the campaign, but it rarely gets tiresome. One of the elements that seem to make everything spicier, though, is the weaponry. Garcia is accompanied in his tragic quest by a friendly skull named Johnson. This guy provides witticisms in abundance--and did I mention he transforms into some badass guns? Yes, Garcia's arsenal is purely riotous to use, and the ensuing carnage is nothing short of splendid. With creative equivalents of a pistol, shotgun, and machine gun (but subsequent upgrades heighten the badassery), the manner in which Garcia dispatches enemies is purely up to choice a lot of the time--all of the weapons are a lot of fun to use. I never once thought about the control scheme or the controller in my hand; it was seamless and simple. Think Resident 4 with the ability to strafe. Blood flies everywhere, guts spill liberally, and the itch in my trigger finger only intensified the further I got into the upgrade process for the guns.
It would be easy enough for the developers to rest on the nifty gunplay, and forgo a high level of polish, but even the musical soundtrack in Shadows of the Damned is fantastic. There were multiple times throughout the game that I consciously thought to myself how engrossing the music was--its utterly catchy tunes set the perfect mood in the appropriate places. This level of detail lends even more credibility to the demon romp. It is this type of action that every game should strive to replicate--raw, visceral environments combined with persistent baddies ripe for the killing.
While there were few moments that I found flawed in the game, there are some sequences that irked me quite a bit. A few chase scenes where Garcia is the one being chased proved to be very annoying, and resulted in a lot of pointless deaths and load screens. Outside of this, however, I found very little wrong with Shadows of the Damned. There seemed to be a smile on my face throughout most of my time with the game, and for good reason--this is what video games are all about.
Yes, the dick jokes are elementary, but poignantly used to soften the devilish discomforts. Yes, conceptually, this game has been done before, and very well at that. But there is a sly charm to be found in Shadows of the Damned; its combination of sound development and cheeky humor is strangely refreshing and utterly amusing in every way.
Community review by Linkamoto (July 31, 2011)
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