Shadows of the Damned is out to mess with your head. "The bullet train is here, hell monkey!" announces Garcia Hotspur, our topless, heavily tattooed hero as he presses a gun to a demon's head at the beginning of the game. After dispatching his monstrous foe, he returns home to witness his girlfriend Paula hanging from a ceiling fan, with demons crawling out of her body, before she gets dragged into the underworld to go die some more. In terms of introductions, it certainly grabs you, and as Hotspur jumps headlong into the underworld to save Paula, you're more than ready to join him for the ride.
Hotspur's sidekick through this supernatural adventure is Johnson, a floating skull that can transform into a motorcycle, a torch, and a variety of kick-ass weapons. Johnson's a former demon, so he's an indispensable tour guide, proffering invaluable knowledge such as "demons are buttholes." As you'll be able to tell if you watch our video preview, Johnson's a witty English gent, not a million miles away from Wheatley in Portal 2, making such lines as, "Well, I just lost my stiffy," all the more hilarious.
Before Hotspur can succeed in the underworld, he needs to learn certain rules that apply only in the abyss. Light and dark are important elements, and as in Alan Wake, you need to remove the darkness from certain enemies before they become vulnerable to attack. Unlike Alan Wake, though, you do this by firing a "light shot" bullet at goat heads that hang on the wall, which provide light to the surrounding area and extinguish the darkness. There are other weird and wonderful rules of the underworld, such as doors that are unlocked by stuffing strawberries into a baby's mouth, doors that are chained by a demon's pubes, and health that is replenished by drinking tequila and hot sake.
Hotspur and Johnson have to face off against an army of small demons that, like zombies, are best destroyed by aiming for the heads. They also meet larger boss characters, such as George, who charges straight at you, that have red weak points on the rear--human blood supplies, according to Johnson. There are also basic puzzles that play on the theme of light and dark; sometimes, you need to enter the darkness so you can shoot certain switches to open doors or shoot a goat's head to restore the light.
Shadows of the Damned plays a lot like a survival horror game; you need to hold two buttons to perform a 180-degree turn, for example, but the level of action means it's closer to Resident Evil 4 and 5 than earlier games in the series. The extreme nature of the violence, language, and imagery means that it feels a lot like an exploitation movie similar to low-budget films from the 1970s or the recent Grindhouse flicks.
Our preview code allowed us to play through the first couple of chapters of the game, which took approximately two hours in total. A chunk of this has been covered by our earlier preview, so for more detail, be sure to check out our earlier coverage. Whereas our last demo ended with a boss called George emerging out of Paula's lingerie-clad body, we got to carry on a little further. Beating George was a case of shooting exploding barrels (a gaming cliche that the game knowingly recognizes) of light to knock him over and then shooting his exposed red-blood supplies. The defeated enemy left us with an upgrade that unlocked Johnson's teether weapon, which was basically a machine gun that was good for keeping large swarms of demons at bay.
One of the most demented sections of our hands-on occurred when we came across a large fairytale book called "The Man Who Never Had His Fill." Johnson read the tale of a man called George, a harmonica player who had the ability to eat food without getting fat. It detailed George's insatiable appetite, including an intimate sexual encounter, until poor George became so thin he died. It was an amusing diversion from all of the action that still admirably maintained the game's vulgar tone.
Other incredibly bizarre moments included using fireworks launchers to temporarily illuminate dark areas and the character Christopher, who was a huge demon/human that barfed up ammunition, drinks, and other goodies if we fed him gems. There was also one great action set piece where we had to jump onto a huge swinging candelabra and then swing around to illuminate spots of darkness.
Chapter Two ended with another demented boss battle against George, who this time ripped out his own heart, ate it, and then transformed into a minotaur riding a horse. Attacking him was a case of running into the darkness to attack his weak spot and then unloading bullets into the horse's stomach when he was on the ground. Once the horse was killed, George ripped out his heart, ate that, and then grew to become 10 times his original size. This time, we had to fire at his many red weak spots and avoid his excretions of darkness, which, of course, emanated from his behind.
Once we'd dealt enough damage, giant minotaur George stopped, started to urinate darkness, and a scythe-wielding superdemon descended and lopped his head clean off, producing a blue gem that we could plug into Johnson's head to give him the skullcussioner shotgun weapon. All things considered, it was a fairly memorable boss battle.
Our preview build also contained the third chapter of the game, but at this stage, we're sadly unable to talk about it. For a look at more reasons why Shadows of the Damned is so insane, be sure to watch our brand new video preview at the top of this article. We're keeping a close eye on the game, so come back to GameSpot for more info ahead of its release. And for those of you in the UK, be sure to check out the GameSpot UK booth at the MCM Expo in London to play the game for yourself.