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Shadows of the Damned

ShadowsOfTheDamned.jpg
Shadows of the Damned cover art
Shadows of the Damned, officially abbreviated as Damned or DMD, is a 2011 survival horror video game developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Electronic Arts for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 video game consoles. The game follows the story of Garcia Hotspur, a Mexican demon hunter who goes to Hell to battle its evils in order to save his true love. The game is the result of collaboration between Goichi Suda and Shinji Mikami, and will combine the styles of the two designers, namely the "punk rock" edge of the former and the "psychological action thriller" of the latter.

 
Developer(s) Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Director(s) Massimo Guarini
Producer(s) Goichi Suda (Executive director)
Shinji Mikami (Creative producer)
Composer(s) Akira Yamaoka
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
Platform(s) PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date(s)
  • NA June 21, 2011
  • EU June 24, 2011
Genre(s) Survival horror
Rating(s)

  • Uniformly outstanding sound design  
  • Challenging and terrifying boss fights  
  • Good array of different gameplay activities, all of them fun  
  • Clever use of darkness mechanics  
  • Morphing guns are a pleasure to shoot.
If you had to choose a prime candidate for hell's most-wanted list, a demon slayer would be a fine guess. Garcia Hotspur kills corrupt souls for giggles, so it's not surprising when his lovely girlfriend Paula is kidnapped by the vindictive lord of darkness. Unfortunately for the bad guys, there isn't anyone better equipped to win her back. Plot details don't get much deeper than a basic setup, but story is still a large part of this stygian adventure. Garcia pals around with a floating skull named Johnson that serves as your tour guide and moral compass, and which transforms into a gun or torch when the situation warrants. The demonic-hunting duo is unrelentingly crass, fixated on the male reproductive organ and its many useful functions. It's immature, to be sure, but it also comes across as genuine. There's a natural rapport between these characters that gives their raunchy dialogue a whiff of believability. There are times when Shadows is tiresome and there are times when it's laugh-out-loud funny, but it's usually amusing enough to add to the experience.
On the most rudimentary level, Shadows of the Damned is a third-person shooter. Victorian houses, farming villages, and other gloomy abodes confine you in mostly linear levels, and you dispatch pain to unruly demons with your trusty guns. Garcia moves with the troubling grace of an injured ballerina. Jerky animations and a zoomed-in camera combine to make navigation clunky, and there are times when enemies trap you in a corner, which obstructs your view. But, for the most part, the controls function admirably. When Sister Grim lashes out with her razor-sharp scythe, you can dive away like a frightened rabbit. Or when demons get too close, you can run, perform a quick turn, and fire to end their pathetic lives in one sure blast. Movement inconsistencies are a looming presence, but Garcia can still overcome this liability with practice.



Plot

Demon hunter Garcia Hotspur and his demon gun Johnson are hunting a reindeer-like demon in an alleyway and the demons asks if Garcia's girlfriend Paula is still "hanging in there." Garcia kills the creature and heads quickly to his apartment, where he finds that Paula has hanged herself. At that moment, her eyes flash open and undead demons begin to spring from her back. Garcia kills the demons just in time for Fleming, the lord of demons, to take Paula for himself. Garcia shoots a magical round at Fleming which sends him crashing through the window and into a portal to Hell. Garcia quickly grabs his jacket and jumps into the portal just as it closes. Once in the underworld, Johnson advises Garcia not to go, to which Garcia replies that Johnson either stay with him or get out of the way; Johnson heeds and transforms into a motorcycle with which Garcia rides to the underworld on a quest to save Paula.

Gameplay

In contrast to many of Mikami’s earlier games, Shadows of the Damned uses a third-person shooter over-the-shoulder control scheme in which Garcia can move while aiming and shooting. Garcia has a sidekick named Johnson, a skull-headed demon that can transform into weapons including revolvers, machine guns, and shotguns, as well as items like a torch and a motorcycle.



Combat is a lot more involved than just shooting any fool who wanders your way. Darkness is the creeping threat that lingers around you, and if you get caught in the gloomy veil, your health slowly depletes. To lift this fog, you must seek out a goat head positioned somewhere on a wall. It's a basic concept that is used in fascinating ways during the course of your heroic rescue mission. You may need to run through a hall of shadows, cognizant of your slowly draining health, to reach safety on the other side. Or a monster may confront you that fears the darkness above all else, and you have to figure out a way to quench flames without succumbing to death yourself. Puzzles force you to step in a darkened room to find the solution, and certain bosses require you to make the same sacrifice. How can you so readily kill if you're afraid to dance with death when the time arises? There's a constant balance to tempt fate without dying that makes these scenarios intoxicating.


Characters

Garcia Hotspur
A Mexican demon hunter who chases the demon Fleming into the underworld to rescue his girlfriend Paula. He has extensive tatoos all over his torso, arms, and back. He wears a leather jacket which changes color slightly depending on which weapon he uses. Voiced by Steven Blum.
Johnson
A former demon that assists Garcia. Johnson can transform into a variety of skeletally-themed objects to assist Garcia, including projectile weapons, a torch, and a motorcycle. Voiced by Greg Ellis.
Paula
Garcia's mysterious girlfriend who is later revealed to be the tortured demon mistress of Fleming. Garcia found her lying peacefully in a dumpster behind a supermarket. She commits suicide by hanging herself, however is somehow still alive. She is then kidnapped by Fleming at the beginning of the game. Voiced by Julianne Buescher.
Fleming
The lord of demons in charge of the underworld. He is extremely strong, large, and boasts of his apparent invincibility. He enjoys opera. Voiced by Paul Mercier.
Christopher
A half-demon redneck. He likes eating white gems and will trade them with Garcia for helpful items. Voiced by Cam Clarke.

Development

The game's history can be traced back to 2005, when Suda51 and Shinji Mikami (creator of the Resident Evil series) became good friends while working together on Killer7. Suda wanted to make a survival horror game exclusively for the PlayStation 3. With his first horror title Michigan: Report From Hell receiving decent sales in Japan by 2006, Suda immediately began working on Kurayami (Japanese for 'Darkness') in his spare time. It was at one time thought to be called "Closer". However, EA later confirmed that name had been abandoned for another title.[2] By the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 2006, a publisher for Kurayami had not yet been established.[3] In 2008, Suda presented the game's concept to EA Games, who agreed to license the Unreal Engine 3 and to publish the game to a worldwide audience. Shinji Mikami was then invited to executive-produce the project. Suda wanted to announce the game at E3 2009, but was not allowed to do so, due to a media silence agreement between Grasshopper Manufacture and EA Games. That December, Akira Yamaoka (sound designer for the Silent Hill series) left Konami after finishing his work on Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and joined Grasshopper Manufacture because he enjoyed the latter's game No More Heroes. Yamaoka began work as the sound designer for the game. The newly titled Shadows of the Damned was finally unveiled at the Tokyo Game Show in 2010 All of the incredible moments in Shadows of the Damned are intensified by the excellent sound design. The score is an absolute masterpiece. Every track does a fantastic job of setting the mood, and the sheer wealth of different styles is staggering. One persistent character serenades you with an operatic aria that even Garcia remarks upon its catchiness. During other moments, you may be treated to a guitar-heavy rock song or a quiet piano medley. The music is good enough to listen to on its own, but in the context of the game, it heightens your senses even further. What's just as impressive is how well the sound effects are implemented. You're in hell and you feel like you're trapped there. Sound walls you in during fights, crawling up your spine and smacking you in the face. You can't escape. A demon growls in the distance. Is it nearby? Is it hunting you? The rattle of your machine gun echoes off the walls while a goat cries overhead. You can hear the darkness closing in on you. It has swallowed you whole--a soft siren counting the beats until your death. It gets in your head and pounds on your eardrums as it screams and berates you. Where is that crying baby? Shut it up! Cram a strawberry in its mouth! The story is partly told through the music and effects, and it's amazing how much this adds to the adventure. Shadows of the Damned explores different types of gameplay to keep things fresh, but the best diversions are the boss fights. Every one of these terrible beasts is incredible in some way. In the first battle, you find yourself in a market confronted by a crazed man with a harmonica and a machete. Garcia is a big man, but he looks like a skinny runt compared to this undead freak. Your normal shots are ineffective, so you're left turning away from this growing threat and running as fast as you can. The market is a maze of overturned tables, evacuated stalls, and barren aisles as far as you can see. The breath of the mad man is in your ear, so you run, hurdle tables, and run some more as you look for safety of any kind. You round a corner, strain your ears, and only hear the dulcet tones of silence. Have you lost him? Are you free? You stand still for a moment, straining every sense to figure out where he has gone. And then, with a crash, he bursts through the wall beside you and the chase is on again. The madman can die, as you find out through experimentation, but your heart will race before you slay him. Every fight forces you to use your brains along with your fingers, and these fights make up some of the most amazing moments in the entire game.  Shadows of the Damned takes 10 or so hours your first time through, and not one second of that time is wasted on boring activities. This is a tightly crafted adventure with a relentless sense of pace that continually pushes you forward. Every boss fight and diversion serves to enhance the experience, and the combat sequences are so beautifully realized that they continually surprise and entertain. When the ending credits roll, you'll just want to plow through the game all over again, but that's where one of the few problems surface. There's no New Game+ option, so you don't have the chance to take your upgraded guns with you from the beginning. It's a big disappointment because there's really no incentive to play through again, other than getting to take this crazy trip one more time. But you won't have to worry about that your first time through Shadows of the Damned's amazing journey into the bowels of hell.  Watch Shadows of the Damned game trailer.  

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