Six Things About Shadows of the Damned: A review, sort of

I haven’t been playing too many games to completion lately, but Shadows of the Damned hooked me for some reason. Doug’s already shared some thoughts about it if you’re interested in another viewpoint. But now that I’ve finished it and had a couple weeks to mull it over, here are a few things that deserve to be shared.

  1. The theme song is performed by The Damned. You know, The Damned. I’m not sure how Grasshopper Manufacture managed to tap one of the progenitors of punk rock to record an original song for this game, but it happened, and that’s just fascinating. Never mind the fact that the song is, to be frank, wholly unremarkable.
  2. It was developed by the Japanese equivalent of the Wu-Tang Clan. Self-obsessed commitment to a unique style of presentation is the lifeblood of developer Grasshopper Manufacture and its CEO, Goichi Suda. With a pedigree that includes outlandish cult classics like Killer7 and No More Heroes, the fact that Shadows delivers a largely coherent experience is almost a disappointment. Composer Akira Yamaoka, famous for creating the score that spanned the fog-drenched Silent Hill horror series, delivers another trademark gloomy trip-hop score here. Rounding out the posse is Resident Evil 4 director Shinji Mikami, which explains Shadows’ copy-pasted combat and exploration gameplay mechanics. Or does it?
  3. Hold on. This game plays pretty much exactly like Resident Evil 4. Our hero, Garcia Hotspur, moves like a tank. There’s a 180-degree turn button to aid in his mobility. Aiming takes place in an over-the-shoulder, laser-guided perspective, and careful reloading and navigation through hordes of slow-moving, drone-like enemies is critical for success. When ammo’s running low, crates and barrels can be shot to gather additional supplies. And there’s a shady merchant who follows you throughout the game and is just thrilled to sell his wares to you, including upgrades and healing items. I could keep going.
  4. So I’ll keep going. Gameplay takes place over a series of chapters and sub-chapters. There’s the occasional “protect the defenseless AI partner” sequence. Boss fights consist of easily-recognized patterns and careful positioning and timed, controlled bursts of firepower.
  5. In summation, I’m convinced Shadows of the Damned is some weird, Freudian, bizarro-world reimagining of Resident Evil 4, basically. Seriously.
  6. Fortunately, it’s also hilarious. Brimming with outlandish violence and puerile references to the male reproductive system, Shadows of the Damned captures the Tarantino/Rodriguez zeitgeist and runs it through the ringer. What emerges is a strangely rote game starring two hyper-stereotyped assholes. And yet — somehow — I really liked it.

Recommended for:

  • The kind of person whose ears perk up at a phrase like “weird, Freudian, bizarro-world reimagining of Resident Evil 4”
  • Anyone who giggles at the word “boner”

Not Recommended for:

  • Kids
  • Grown-ups

Shadows of the Damned was developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by EA. I picked up a copy for, like, twelve whole dollars from GameFly and played through it on normal difficulty on Xbox 360.