Shadows of the Damned is a violent and hilarious descent into the bowels of hell.

User Rating: 8 | Shadows of the Damned PS3
Shadows of the Damned, at face value, seems like the blockbuster movies where many A-list stars come together like Ocean's 11. You've got the directing skills of Suda 51 combined with the producing credit of Shinji Mikami and composing skills of Akira Yamaoka to create a bizarre, but highly interesting game. Is it good? Well, keep reading.

The game's premise is fairly simple: Garcia Hotspur, a Mexican demon hunter, must rescue his girlfriend Paula from the clutches of Fleming, Lord of Hell. Sound familiar? Well, that's because it's a nearly identical set-up as the 2010 hack and slash style game Dante's Inferno. Where it differs, aside from gameplay style, is how it approaches the subject matter. Dante's Inferno is dark, serious, and very epic while Shadows of the Damned contains lots of tongue-in-cheek humor, vulgarity, and outright silliness. However, SotD is still a very dark game, almost more so than Dante's Inferno.

The gameplay is similar to Resident Evil 4 with the over-the-shoulder perspective shooting. Garcia has a faithful former demon friend named Johnson who can transform into a variety of things from a torch, to guns, to even a motorcycle. Johnson has a unique power called the Light Shot that you'll use to stun demons and keep the "darkness" away. The darkness in the game is a supernatural aspect of hell that can damage and even kill a mortal like Garcia.

As you play through the 5 chapters, each with their own sub-chapters, Garcia will acquire new weapons and upgrades to those weapons. This is important because some of these upgrades are integral to continuing on in the game. Some demons require specific weapons to defeat them and the strategies you employ are varied. On top of that, you'll be constantly fighting the darkness which can lead to some tense and satisfying combat.

Every 2 or three sub-chapters, you'll be drawn into a boss fights. Much like the regular demons, each of these requires its own strategy. To assist you in this, you'll be able to upgrade the strength of your guns and health with red gems that are either purchased or found throughout the game. Overall, aside from a little sluggishness on the part of Garcia, the game plays very well without any real problems.

Visually, Shadows of the Damned isn't of the highest caliber, but that doesn't mean it looks bad. It just means that the game isn't pushing things to the extreme. Demons and environments look dark and menacing. Unreal Engine 3 is used on the few human characters in the game makes them suitably realistic. Otherwise, the overall darkness and ambiance of the game create a tense nightmarish realm contrasted with its humorous running commentary by the two heroes of the game.

The sound is a treat in multiple ways. First off, Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame provides the score here. The music can vary greatly from a mild guitar playing to cues that sound like they were ripped directly from Silent Hill. Aside from the score, the other draw is the vocal work. Garcia and Johnson's banter, though thoroughly vulgar, drives the story forward and provides clever insights into what's going on at any moment.

However, the game's greatest weakness is a lack of value. I finished the game on Medium the first time in about 7 hours. After that, well, there's really nothing more. There's no new game plus, so trophies have to be done in one go around. Also, unlike most games, beating the game on the hardest difficulty only grants that difficulty level trophy. So in order to platinum the game, you'll need at least three playthroughs. More saddening is the fact there's nothing really afterwards. There are no leaderboards, multiplayer, or add-on content.

Shadows of the Damned is a really fun game while it lasts. It's both terrifying and silly at the same time. The banter between Garcia and Johnson is a blast to listen. The game is also filled with some interesting variety. One part of the game is similar to R-Type as you float around as a 2D paper figure version of yourself shooting enemies to get to the end of the level. Another has you facing off against giant demons with an equally giant Johnson. These surreal moments create a truly unique game.

Unfortunately, the game's value is terribly weak, so look for it in your local bargain bin or used store.

The Good: Satisfying and diverse combat, excellent score, hilarious dialogue, uniquely designed throughout.

The Bad: Very short, lacking any additional content or new game plus.