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Shadows of the Damned Initial Impressions

Nick provides his initial impressions of the just released third person shooter from Suda51, Shinji Mikami, and Akira Yamaoka.

Yesterday, we had our first chance to play the long-awaited title from Grasshopper Manufacture and EA. Of course, the game is also known as the super project between fan-favorite, Suda51, and Resident Evil creator, Shinji Mikami. As a fan of both developers involved, Shadows of the Damned has long been on my must-have list, so I’m excited to report that the game thus far is living up to my expectations.

Directly after booting up the game, the influence of both involved parties is immediately evident. The game is presented in a stylish manner, complete with camera filter that gives it that grindhouse movie look. The action and characters are completely over the top, even from the get-go. Forgoing the menu, players are tossed right into the game with a short introduction video depicting the main character, Garcia Hotspur, talking to a demon on the verge of death. As he coughs up blood, he explains that even if he is killed, more demons will simply take his place. He also notions that Garcia’s beloved, Paula, is being dealt with at the moment.

Evoking rage in Garcia, he kills the demon and rushes to his apartment to find Paula hanged from the ceiling. Then the weird begins. Paula’s back splits open, birthing a basic demon. At this point, players are given control and the gameplay begins.

Unquestionably, the game controls extremely well. It’s always been clear that the game draws influence from Resident Evil 4, but when you actually start playing, you quickly realize how much smoother the control is. Like most shooters, movement is handled on the left stick and aiming is done completely on the right. In order to shoot, you must draw your weapon with the left trigger, wherein the camera shifts, giving you an over the shoulder look, like RE4. The exception here is that you can still move after drawing your weapon, just slowly.

While never explicitly stated, head shots are near necessary to properly dispatch foes. This makes it a bit more challenging, but more exhilarating, especially when a number of demons are swarming about. Hitting the shot is satisfying and the resulting cinematic does a great job of making it look pretty cool as well. Given how short it is and how they move the camera to show it, it never jars you out of the experience, a common problem with such cinematic displays.

After defeating all of the demons in the scene with Paula, she is shown, reanimated, in the arms of what appears to be the main enemy in the game, Fleming. According to the cutscene, he’s the king of the demons, which I suppose makes him the ruler of the underworld. He also has six eyes with a vertically elongated skull that looks like a full head with two half skulls stacked on top. It’s weird and totally awesome looking.

He explains what horrible things he has in store for Paula, which pisses Garcia off and causes him to shoot Fleming with a light bullet, sending him flying out the window down into a portal to the underworld. Garcia grabs his coat and follows him down, thus beginning the game at large.

What’s most encouraging about the experience thus far is that in just the one short hour Chessa and I played the game, we encountered three enemies all of which required different strategies to defeat. Demons covered in darkness required a shot from the light bullet to dispel the protective coating and others with masks forced use of the shotgun weapon to break the mask and allow for further attacks from the basic weapon.

Other gameplay elements included lighting up areas to make them safe for traversal and escaping or illuminating areas when darkness consumes an area you are in. There's also some light exploration to pick health upgrades and other materials, some of which will allow you to level up a variety of parameters. It’s clear that the game is much more than just a Resident Evil clone with demons, which was something of a concern for me going into it.

Like Suda51’s other work, the characters are all interesting and memorable, the dialog is laden with penis and other sexually inspired jokes (none of which ever get old for me), and everything has a certain visual flair and style to it that’s unmatched.

At this point, I’m excited to play more. From what I've seen, it’s going to be a charming experience that's well-polished and thought out (something that Grasshopper hasn't traditionally been great with). Be sure to check back here over the course of the week. As we play the game I'll be lending more comments, and by the weekend we'll likely have our review of the game posted!


 

Comments

Joaquim Mira Media Manager

06/22/2011 at 11:10 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I'm going to have to put this game on my wishlist.

Our Take

Nick DiMola Director

06/24/2011 at 08:13 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Another update for you guys. We've been making our way through the game and the enemy variety doesn't let up. Not only that, but the basic enemies don't have a simple identifiable pattern (like in the Resident Evil games), so they can be pretty tough to defeat if there are a lot of them on screen at once.

We've encountered some light puzzle solving, wherein we need to complete a number of objectives in a certain order to properly clear an area. Encountered a few boss fights as well and they were massive in size and a real blast to complete.

Oh, and you encounter this half human-half demon guy who's absolutely hilarious looking. He sells you stuff for the white gems that you collect. We've exclusively bought red gems with the white gems in order to level up our health and gear. Speaking of gems, you get blue gems for beating bosses, which both unlocks new weapons or improves functionality of existing ones. All the leveling up makes for a simple hook that keeps you coming back for more.

The only downside we've encountered so far are the constant points of no return. Often you'll find yourself in an area to explore with multiple paths, and it's never quite clear if the path you are on is the progression path or an exploration path. Once you progress to the next area, it locks access to the old one, so if you choose the wrong path, you'll miss a chance to explore and potential pick up important stuff like white gems, ammo, health, and in some cases, red gems, which really suck to miss.

Other than that, it's a really great game so far, that I am looking forward to playing some more of tonight.

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