Shadows of the Damned Hands-On Preview

Goat heads, brain-eating baby faces, and a blood- and bandaged-covered behemoth with a harmonica stuck in its throat await us in our first trip to hell in this action horror game.

Violence, gore, style, and a morbid sense of humour permeate Shadows of the Damned, which is exactly what you'd expect from a game boasting the talents of famed Japanese developers Suda51 (No More Heroes, Killer 7) and Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, Vanquish). This action horror title is part punk attitude, part grind-house action film, and part tragic romance, and we finally managed to get some hands-on time with the game at a recent EA GDC event.

The word "grind house" wasn't thrown in haphazardly in the previous sentence. Both Mikami and Suda51 cite the films of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez as key influences on Shadows of the Damned and in particular cite the double feature Grindhouse as an inspiration. Therefore, the hallmarks of the genre--violence, bizarre characters and situations, and more profanity than you can shake a meat cleaver at--were all present in our first play-through of the game, which encompassed just over a level and a half of gameplay in Shadows of the Damned's second act.

Shadows of the Damned's main character is the intriguingly named Garcia Hotspur, who travels to the depths of hell itself in an attempt to retrieve kidnapped girlfriend Paula from the demon Fleming. You'll play the game from a third-person perspective, with the game featuring a light/dark dynamic in an attempt to distinguish itself from run-of-the-mill third-person shooters. Darkness is death for Garcia in Shadows of the Damned, with any extended forays into unlit areas of the game causing Garcia's health bar to slowly diminish. On the flip side, darkness is a boon for the various hellacious beasties in Shadows of the Damned, meaning that Garcia will have to manipulate the environment and use appropriate weapons to level the playing field.

Enemies in dark environments or those "coated" with darkness are invulnerable to damage, move faster, and are generally meaner all around in this game. Luckily, Garcia is equipped with a light gun, which you'll need to use initially to shoot off the darkness coating enemies before attacking them with other projectile weapons. The weapons we used during our hands-on were typical pistol, shotgun, and assault rifle variants, but what set them apart was that the weapons were actually a living demon named Johnson, who can morph into the various guns on demand. Johnson will be Garcia's constant companion in Shadows of the Damned, much like Navi was to Link in The Ocarina of Time, except much more foul-mouthed (and able to transform into deadly, flesh-tearing weapons).

Our hands-on time took place in levels that looked like the streets of a quaint European village, albeit filled with monsters and hell spawn instead of baguettes and berets. At the start of the level, Garcia found himself in a large courtyard, which was soon enveloped in a thick, gloopy cloud of darkness. A gigantic hand then appeared from the ground, dropping off several zombie-like enemies. To even stand a chance against these zombies, Garcia first needed to dispel the darkness, which you can do by finding goat head statues somewhere in the environment. Shooting these goat heads will repel the dark from the surrounding area, and while the head in this level was easy to spot, EA reps showing off the game said that goats in later levels will be well hidden in order to ramp up the tension as players desperately try to find them.

Dispelling the surrounding darkness wasn’t quite enough to make the zombies vulnerable, however. We first needed to shoot off their own personal darkness cloak with the light gun using the right shoulder button, before finishing the job with shotgun blasts fired using the right trigger (aiming is done via the left trigger). The zombies themselves exhibited quite different behaviour without the darkness--with the darkness, they were very aggressive, but without it, they were slow and shambling.

After navigating some tight alleyways and battling through some more enemies, we found ourselves in another enclosed courtyard where the game's light puzzle elements came into play. The courtyard was once again engulfed in thick darkness, and it was clear the source this time was a gigantic hand spewing forth dark matter from a large gash on its palm. The problem was that access to the balcony the hand was on was blocked by a gate, the gatekeeper of which was a small, cherubic baby's head, who asked for a snack--a human brain, in this case--before the gate would open. The brain itself was located behind another gate, one that was held closed by a barrier that appeared only when completely engulfed in the spreading darkness. The challenge was to wait for the darkness to surround the second gate, whilst avoiding the invincible enemies swarming Garcia. Once we shot the lock off the second gate, we clambered up a small incline, grabbed a brain, and fed it to the first gate's baby head. It was then a simple matter of climbing up to the hand and stabbing it to stop the spreading dark.

After this puzzle, we found ourselves in a large open area surrounded by balconies. A mini boss fight took place here: a large, mean-looking demon with circular blades attached to his forearms attacked Garcia. This boss's weak spot was a large glass container on his back--apparently larger demons in the world of Shadows of the Damned need a constant source of human blood and will usually carry this on a vessel somewhere on their body. The boss was a quick mover, but stunning him with a light gun before shooting his exposed back with normal weapons proved to be extremely effective.

With the boss dealt with, we moved on to the next level, which was essentially a cinematic sequence leading up to a boss fight. Garcia was wandering about a market looking for Paula and soon found the poor lady's dismembered head lying on a table. Garcia forlornly picked it up, but the head's eyes quickly flew open, causing Garcia to drop it. Paula's headless corpse slowly moved, grabbing the head and reattaching it. She then moved to Garcia, stroking his hair gently. Garcia's demon sidekick Johnson screamed that it was a trap, and of course, it was. The demon Paula convulsed and then literally split apart in the middle, revealing a huge, blood-soaked demon armed with large metal bars strapped to his arms. Every time this monster moved, a harmonica could be heard, and an EA rep stated that this particular boss had swallowed the small instrument (apparently all bosses in the game will have unique backstories, and we're particularly interested to hear about this one's). The gameplay demo then ended with the large boss charging his way to Garcia.

Shadows of the Damned certainly looks like it will have more than its share of gore and fun, but we also liked the wicked sense of humour that seemed to permeate the game. Johnson was quite a funny sidekick, and some of the incidental details that we learned about hell (such as the fact that strawberries are, apparently, actually made from blood and are a practical joke the demon world plays on humans) were a nice touch. We'll have more on this promising action horror title in the lead up to its release on June 7 this year.

Discussion

51 comments
throwback8
throwback8

Actually, the joke is that strawberries are in fact ground up tongues. Not blood. That said I'm sure some blood seeps in there.

Dragonballz290
Dragonballz290

I don't know what this is but it has Suda51 and Mikami. I've never played their games but I did play the Vanquish demo. That demo was awesome (kept the challenge demo) and I admire the decision to not include multiplayer. I'm still waiting for a No More Heroes port (stopped using Wii). So because of those two names (one is enough for me), I am going to buy this. But this year has a lot of games coming out. I'll probably wait until July or August for this one unless it is GotY contender.

robtion
robtion

I think this could be a great game from the limited amount of information that has been released about it but WHY is it releasing on the same day as infamous 2? Noooooooo... it's Vanquish releasing with Fallout: New Vegas all over again.

robert219
robert219

I understand when people hate dislike games r clone because it should give us gamers idea that we should know now the game companys r going to end up lose ideas then once ideas a lost it will game companys going to end up making remakes

mooseifer69
mooseifer69

@Gelugon: Name one excellent game that doesn't follow the path of some kind of predecessor. Mikami was the head of Vanquish, so wouldn't it make sense that this game, which uses the RE4 camera that HE spear-headed and the morphing Vanquish gun that HE also spear-headed? And not only that, but he didn't do RE5, and it is the consensus that 4 was way better than 5. And isn't Mikami + Suda51 ENOUGH to be interested in this?

torrne667
torrne667

I think that when a game takes a lot of things/ideas from GOOD games, it just furthers the evolution of the quest for the perfect game. I DO hate clones of other games though, just shows a lack of ideas. I think we need to actually experience the demo before we judge it.

WeskerTeam
WeskerTeam

Wow I love how people can blindly decide it is an instant fail. Yes it does sound like it carries many ideas from previous games... the most obvious being Alan Wake, but it remains to be seen whether or not it can be done well.

loonypalooza
loonypalooza

@torrne667 Good man, these three guys working together should not have any issues making interesting gameplay; though I will be honest, the whole concept of shooting the darkness away with the light gun is very reminiscent of Alan Wake, which I enjoyed, but I felt that it became stale quite quickly. Hopefully the maniacs at Grasshopper can pull through.

torrne667
torrne667

@loonypalooza no worries for me mate :) I did say if the gameplay was good then i would give it a go. I'm not that shallow that i would totally swerve to avoid it just for the graphics, just that i enjoy a game with good visuals.

gashoe13
gashoe13

Intriguing... though the idea of shutting off the darkness is pretty much straight from Alan Wake. Also, it could potentially get infuriating if overused.

ash162
ash162

I count inspirations from Alan Wake, Vanquish, RE 5 and Dante's Inferno. Anybody got more......

quagmireisgod
quagmireisgod

this will be in the bargain bucket in no time... epic fail

totto210
totto210

another worst game of 2011 , wait for silent hill . nothing morrrr bye

ebrown1828
ebrown1828

*yawn* Looks like a Painkiller clone.

BFKZ
BFKZ

lookin forward to it. shape up the graphics a bit though, coz it kinda looks like splatterhouse :/

loonypalooza
loonypalooza

Looks awesome, I am a huge fan of the three creators works. @torrne667 shame about the whole graphics whore syndrome you got going on. It really limits you when it comes to gaming. No More Heroes and its sequel on the Wii were two of the most amazing and entertaining games I have ever played. Liking games because they look pretty is like limiting yourself to only watching Michael Bay films; sure the explosions are cool, but they're crappy movies. Furthermore, the graphics really don't look terrible, just stylized, but I guess if things don't have realism to them they suck.

JSGuitar4Life
JSGuitar4Life

Seems like the gameplay could become tedious after about ten minutes... Hopefully there will be some variation in the finished product.

Crash_WL
Crash_WL

Nice, guys it's action/horror after all, so don't expect many scares. It's bound to be quality though, Shinji Migami and EA backed release, and a trailer that makes it look promising. :D

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Why do developers feel the need to give 'scary' creatures fluorescent glow in the dark eyes? Straight away it just kills the slightest bit of terror. Look at Nazi Zombies on COD, another prime example of a game which could actually be scary if you didn't have 2 lightbulbs staring at you. It's weird.. I don't get it.

FIXMANFOXMAN
FIXMANFOXMAN

he said the game will come out june 7 and gamespot says 2Q of 2011

torrne667
torrne667

@bigmacandcoke LMFAO i thought something similar :) Sorry but this really looks awful from what they have shown us, i AM a bit of a graphics whore but this really looks awful. Unless the gameplay is astonishing i might have to give it a miss.

MC_Bally_Who
MC_Bally_Who

I'm more surprised at the amount of people likening this to dante's inferno over something like Devil May Cry. It will also probably be very different from both when you actually consider who's making the game! I have pretty high hopes for this one :)

bigmacandcoke
bigmacandcoke

All that time he could actually speak English! ;)

adit942
adit942

dante's inferno meets alan wake

Newager
Newager

@ChromeGrill212 Ok... well I'm not anti satan believer's or anything it's just another thing of freedom to believe in whatever you want... but i think this game is about killing satan's minion and garcia trying to get his GF back from the grasp of the enemies' (satan?) doesn't that mean satan n his minions gonna get their ass kicked?

Spartan-1775
Spartan-1775

@devrindare more like it comes from Suda51, Shinji Mikami, and Akira Yomoka (Silent Hill Composer). Or as they are calling in this game the "NIGHTMARE TEAM."

devrindare
devrindare

it comes from the makers of Resident Evil, thats the reson I am hoping for it

zeifel
zeifel

a talking, morphing weapon who is foul-mouthed? I almost thought this is Nier 2 :P

Krinnium
Krinnium

this might be a really good, really underrated game kinda like vanquish was. ha that was the best game nobody bought

theace43
theace43

I didn't know 'Dante's Inferno' got a sequel ?! Sweet!

ChromeGrill212
ChromeGrill212

i have to get this game because im a devil worshipper. Hail Satan. My fascination for demons should be fullfilled when i play this awesome game.

SchmeeboDaBear
SchmeeboDaBear

I dont get it, is this supposed to be horror or comedy/horror? After all there is a gun called the "boner"

EliOli
EliOli

The trailer looked pretty stupid to me. I think it's going to be a stinker.

no1gamefan
no1gamefan

Looks like a promising prospect. Can't wait to hear more.

Zyclobonzaron
Zyclobonzaron

The screenshots look really awesome. I hope it plays as sweet as it looks!

Dragdar
Dragdar

there is little chance that this will suck, it will probably be sweet, stylish and short.

dubel_07
dubel_07

Anything Suda51 is amazing.

einstein_13
einstein_13

is this really going to be released on wii?

mattg90520
mattg90520

The game looks like an awesome game from awesome people. I just hope it has some scares in it. It keeps looking more and more... or maybe I should say less and less like horror, and more and more like a Suda51-styled action shooter.

Altaireed
Altaireed

He did not mention PC so what gives?