Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shadows of the Damned

 Shadows of the Damned Review

Kid Safe: Very Low (0.5  / 10)                             Game Quality: Very High (9.0 / 10)

Genre: Third Person Horror Shooter
-          This game is characterized by its style of gameplay and the environment where play takes place. As a third person shooter, players will be taking a control of a character in which they can see, essentially, over their shoulder. This gameplay aspect also features a heavy focus on the use of a wide variety of firearms and weaponry to attack, disable, and kill one's opponent. Likewise, as a horror game, the environments are often dark with frightening themes such monsters, creatures, and things of nightmares.

Internet Requirements: None
-          Shadows of the Damned, to the best of our knowledge, does not feature any internet requirements. The game is entirely single-player with no multiplayer functionality to speak of. Likewise, it does not appear to feature any kind of "score tracking" or "leaderboard" system for players to compete with. Finally, we have not heard any information concerning the possibility of downloadable content to extend the game's value.

Story Summary: In Shadows of the Damned, you take the role of Garcia Hotspur, a demon-hunting,
tequila drinking, motorcycle riding man who is on a mission to save his girlfriend from the clutches of Fleming, the Lord of the Demons. Diving straight into the Underworld itself, Garcia travels with his wise-cracking friend and firearm, Johnson, a former demon that has the ability to change into anything useful you think of including torches, guns, and even artillery cannons. Taking a note from cult-classic, gore-intensive films like KillBill, Machete, DeathProof, and more, Shadows of the Damned throws the player into their very own Grindhouse movie as the shoot their way through everything in their path in an effort to save Garcia's girlfriend, Paula, from an eternity of endless torture in the Underworld.

Kid Safe: Very Low (0.5 / 10)
-          Foul Language: Very High - Not Recommended for Children
o   Shadows of the Damned features an incredibly high amount of foul language in both English and Spanish. The English curse words are as follows: "d*mn", "s*it", "h*ll", "c*nt", "d*ck", "f*ck", "motherf*cker", "a*shole", "b*tch", and "b*stard". Spanish curse words include the following: "c*bron", "p*ndejo", and "p*ta". These words are heard at a near constant in both combat as well as cut scenes, most often from the main character Garcia. Likewise, the words "c*bron", "p*ta", and "f*ck" are almost staple words in his vocabulary; literally saying them just about everytime he speaks to someone or heals himself. The game even goes so far as to comment on how many times the f-word is dropped; one character was quoted as saying "Someone was dropping enough F bombs to start World War III". Curses are used constantly without emotional provocation.

-          Violence and Gore: Very High - Not Recommended for Children
o   Shadows of the Damned, keeping with its Grindhouse inspirations, is both incredibly violent and gory; almost to a comedic level at some points. Players will be fighting monstrous and demonic creatures of a wide variety. Likewise, as a third-person shooter, players will be using a number of different weapons that include torches, pistols, machine-guns, shotguns, and explosives. Players must kill their enemies to proceed.

o   Engaging in combat is a very gory situation. Enemies will spray bits of flesh and blood when they are shot; as well, bullet wounds will leave large searing holes in an enemy's flesh. Players, depending on what weapon they use, are able to blow the limbs and head off of their enemy, sending the severed appendage splattering in bits of gore and causing blood to spray almost comically, acting more like it was being sprayed from a fire hose than a real body. If players score a headshot, the camera will often slow down to focus on the player's kill: moving into a slow motion shot of the bullet hitting the enemy and watching the enemy's head explode into small gooey bits. Once an enemy is downed, their body turns bright orange and burns away into ash.

o   Aside from combat, this game is VERY gruesome. As players are exploring the Underworld, they will run into a large amount of gory and grotesque scenes. Several examples include the following: While walking through the streets of the Underworld, there are multiple occasions where human bodies and flesh are in gargantuan piles; so big in fact that they have broken through the side of buildings and windows and are just spilling into hallways and into rooms. There is a forest where children and/or child-like creatures have been hung by nooses from the tree branches. There is a scene in which your "girlfriend" picks up her own dismembered head and puts it back on. There are multiple situations where a character will either explode in a gory fountain or have their flesh fall off to reveal one or more creatures that had been hiding underneath. There is a scene where a creature tears out the still beating heart from his chest and eats it. There are also allusions in fairy-tale to characters who have been dismembered, committed suicide, and even choked to death on their own musical instruments. These are but a few of the examples...I will be honest in saying that there a whole lot more.
-          Sexually-Related Content: Very High - Not Recommended for Children
o   Shadows of the Damned features a very high amount of sexually-related content, especially near the middle of the game. This sexually-related content takes place primarily in sexual reference as well as partial and half-nudity. Beginning with sexual reference, the game makes a massive number of allusions to our jokes concerning sexual activity or commonly accepted sexual terms. One of your weapons is, quite literally, named the Boner. Later in the game, when the character Johnson is aroused by a telephone sex-line, the Boner transforms into the "Big Boner" where the weapon suddenly extends to three times its length and is held at waist level. Other references include scenes referencing the act of cunnilingus, fellatio, other sexual acts. Players will also see a number of signs perpetuating the sexual industry including billboards of half-naked women in compromised poses as well as signs that read "XXX Girls", "Strippers", "Sex", "Erotic Cabaret", and more.

o   As for the nudity, most of the women are scantily clad. Paula, the main character's girlfriend, is most often seen wearing nothing but lingerie. Likewise, other female characters are often depicted wearing exceptionally revealing attire that shows off a fair amount of both cleavage and buttocks. There are also scenes of topless women gyrating and dancing in an erotic fashion; their breasts are fully visible. One of the most interesting situations with nudity are two scenes where a giant stripper is dancing topless while the player runs along a long stretch of road. As the player approaches a gap in the road, the stripper either arches or bends of the gap so that the player can run across her half-nude body; allowing them to run across the top of her breasts/nipples or into the cleavage of her butt.

-          Use of Drugs and Alcohol: High
o   Shadows of the Damned features a high amount of drugs and alcohol, most specifically alcohol. Starting off, there are scenes where characters are smoking cigarettes, however these are generally uncommon. On the contrary, the usage of alcohol is highly encouraged in this title as it is actually used to heal the main character. Players will pick up either "Hot Sake", "Tequila", or "Absinthe" and will use it to heal themselves of any damage they have taken. When consuming the alcohol, the screen will momentarily blur, however these are the only repercussions of imbibing it. Players will also be able to find vending machines and merchants that sell alcoholic beverages.

Game Quality: Very High (9.0 / 10)
-          Graphics / Visuals: High
o   Shadows of the Damned does the best with what it has. Using what is called the "Unreal 3 Engine", a slightly older program used to build game visuals, the developers Suda 51 have made one of the best looking games to date using this engine. The title has three major strengths: incredible environments, solid characters, and interesting enemies.

o   Starting off with the environments, you can tell that a lot of thought went into the creation of the Underworld. As you play through the game, players will progressively experience a fully-realized world made up of areas very different from one another. Moving through a haunted, demon town, players will walk through a twisted representation of the human world filled with houses, shops, and taverns that has been populated by monstrous creatures of the night. They will move from it into a forest of twisted horrors, gravestones, and monsters until they reach the catacombs and eventually, Fleming's castle, a twisted spire of torture, death and pain. Don't take this the wrong way, not everything is dark and forboding: heck...there are several levels that suddenly change pace: reverting to a classical "2D Arcade" style where Garcia is flying from left to right as a paper-cutout fighting off cartoony versions of the Underworld's denizens.

o   As for the characters and the enemies, Suda 51 have done an incredible job. Human characters look and feel pretty believable, the exception being some minor problems with facial expressions and muscle movement; sadly this is more a restriction of the Unreal Engine than a fault of the team. Likewise, the monsters and demons are all well-thought out and developed. Not only will players run into your basic bi-pedal demon spawn, they will run into a re-imagining of the Grim Reaper (better known as the three Sisters Grim), twisted and caged enemies covered in spikes and ready to run you down, electrical monsters covered in power generators and armed to the teeth with TEETH. I would hate to spoil every creature, therefore I will only commend the team for having developed an entire list of interesting and creepy monsters.
-          Audio: Very High
o   I can't tell you what is better here, the music or the voice acting; either way, the audio for Shadows of the Damned is an absolute treat. Starting with the voice acting, every is actor is absolutely top notch. Not to mention that they hit your average expectation of a dramatic voice-role through a proper delivery of emotion, feeling, and really conveying the soul of their character; they do so much more. Little things do so much to make this so good. There is always a light and occasional banter between Johnson and Garcia; it's almost always funny, and yet, not overplayed to the point that I got tired of hearing them talk to each other. Likewise, another example that really stands out has to do with a side-feature in the game where players can find and read fairy-tale books about the different monsters and creatures they are fighting. While Johnson is by all means vocal and rather well-read, what I found a great deal more fascinating was the one fairy-tale read by the main character, Garcia. The voice actor not only captured the emotion of the scene, but he also captured another much more subtle thing about the character: Garcia has problems reading English. It was faint, but apparent, and gave a whole new level of understanding about this character SOLELY through how he read a storybook; not many can claim they have done that.

o   Right up there with the voice acting is the music. Overflowing with a host of Spanish Guitar, the music really sets the tone for just about everything that happens in the game. A soft, subtle, neutral tune carries players smoothly through a loading scene. This will occasionally move up to a solid strum that keeps the pacing of the game. Hard and fast rock guitar really builds the mood and sets a gamer's heart racing when action has them fighting and running for their lives from the legions of the Underworld. This is one of the only soundtracks that I think I would truly want to own for my own personal enjoyment: it's just that good.

-          Gameplay / Playability: Very High
o   With solid, varied, and interesting gameplay along with a catering towards both new and experienced players, Shadows of the Damned checks every box. Starting with playability, Shadows of the Damned features a tried and true control scheme that is highly familiar to other titles of a similar nature such as Resident Evil 5, Dead Space, and Gears of War. However, the game does not skimp on its explanation of controls. Fully introducing every concept from looking around and walking to the usage of a massive artillery cannon, there was not a single thing that I felt was left out. Controls are introduced with big, visible demonstrations of everyone button you need to push and how you need to push it. Even then, let's say you weren't paying attention and missed an explanation of one thing or another, the controls are a quick two-button click away; allowing a player to pull up ANY previously viewed control introduction at any time with a full breakdown of functionality and buttons required.

o   Well, players will certainly know how to control the game, but how is the gameplay? The answer: Excellent. There was never a single point where I found myself wanting nor did I ever feel that the gameplay was getting stale or boring. There was always some new enemy, some new weapon, or some new boss-creature to keep me guessing and keep me trying new things. Heck, occasionally there was even brand-new GAMEPLAY. There was several scenes, as we mentioned previously, where the game suddenly changes from a third person shooter to a 2D Arcade shooter reminiscent of Gradius; you even fight a major boss this way! Other examples include interesting uses of the established game and weapons; like one scene where you have to go bowling for demons using a massive skull bomb that you can launch from one of your firearms. Shadows of the Damned always keeps the player entertained and the gameplay fresh and interesting.
-          Dollar-Value: High
o   Overall, Shadows of the Damned has a pretty high dollar-value. So long as you can get around the intensely adult-rated content, you will have a blast. While the game is only about 9 to 11 hours total, every minute is a visceral and exciting experience that will leave you wanting more. I can only hope that they might release some downloadable content that might build upon the game or perhaps add something extra that players might be able to follow. If you or your gamer are a fan of Grindhouse or violent-action films, this is the title for them.

-          Being a shooter and a horror title, there really aren't any kid-friendly titles that we can recommend in the genre. Just about anything of a similar nature features a high amount of adult rated content. However, if adult-rated gameplay is alright for you, I would recommend either the Resident Evil series, specifically number 4 and 5, and the Dead Space franchise. Likewise, if you enjoy the "entering the Underworld to save your girlfriend" storyline, we would also like to recommend Dante's Inferno.

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