Shadows of the Damned is a weird game. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it will get you thinking, and this is ultimately where the game succeeds the most. There is something distinctively inviting about the many combat situations you’ll come across in the game, and while the gameplay can be a little stiff at times, the experience is saved by clever mechanics and a great arsenal of inventive weapons that distance the game from similar experiences like Alone in the Dark and Alan Wake.
Darkness Mechanics Implemented Well
The use of light and dark is implemented superbly in Shadows of the Damned, with a number of inventive ways to counter the affect darkness has on Garcia throughout the game.
Stepping into the light will see Garcia’s healthy slowly deteriorate, and thanks to a number of well-designed puzzles and boss battles, the way in which you interact with the darkness adds a level of tension that really helps drive the experience.
You’ll often have to lead Garcia into the darkness in order to reach an objective, and sometimes you might even be forced into using the darkness as a weapon against enemies that fear it just as much as Garcia does.
The way in which darkness is implemented into the experience is actually the driving force behind finishing the game. Shadows of the Damned isn’t perfect by any means, but it offers a number of creative and thought-provoking experiences that persuade you to push through.
Probably the best thing about this experience is that it continuously changes and evolves the way in which you interact with enemies and the darkness. Even if you’ve made your way through a majority of the campaign, you should expect to see a number of new mechanics and techniques required to progress.
Great Boss Battles
The boss battles in Shadows of the Damned are, simply put, absolutely insane. These incredible beasts of destruction that Garcia will come up against will pound down on you relentlessly, all in their own unique way.
Beating them is no walk in the park either. Your collection of weapons won’t be enough to progress past these evil monsters, and so you’ll need to figure out ways to use the environments and darkness in order to take them down.
Shadows of the Damned does a fantastic job of evolving the experience during the big battles, encouraging you to use mechanics different to the ones you use during the preceding areas.
Any animation shortcomings (detailed below) are countered by a fantastic array of weaponry, which help blanket any issues the core gameplay mechanics may have throughout the experience.
Each weapon has a unique name but also an affiliation to a real-life weapon: the “skullblaster”, for example, is Garcia’s answer to the shotgun.
Each weapon can be upgraded to improve damage, reload speed, capacity and all that jazz, but it’s the special moments throughout the story that allow you to unlock exclusive abilities that add an entire new level of engagement to the combat.
Each weapon gains enhanced power and versatility during these moments, making for some thoroughly enjoyable gunplay. Blowing limbs off of demons in Shadows of the Damned is as fun as it’s ever going to get.
Although sometimes a little too vulgar and forced, the humour in Shadows of the Damned is executed genuinely, thanks to a weird rapport between main character Garcia and his floating skull pal, Johnson.
The banter between the two is often obnoxious although not completely out of touch with what most gamers would probably find funny these days.
For the most part, Shadows of the Damned is an entertaining and funny story, but its overall narrative lacks the punch to stick with you.
Shadows of the Damned’s soundtrack is superbly effective in intensifying the experience. It’s a masterpiece of a score, complimenting the experience perfectly.
The sound effects bounce off walls and ring out through the speakers, creating a sense of tension that helps drive the experience in some parts more than the gameplay does. That’s saying something.
Weirdly enough, the soundtrack does a better job of telling the story than the actual characters do, which isn’t actually a bad thing: this is an outstanding soundtrack that heightens the tension and creates a level of fear that is at home in the game.
Shadows of the Damned follows Garcia Hotspur, a demon slayer high on the Most Wanted list down in hell. On a mission to save his girlfriend Paula from the mitts of the lord of darkness, he works alongside a floating skull called Johnson.
The story plays an integral part in the progression of the experience, and although executed well for what it is, it’s rather crass and shallow, perhaps a little too much to drive affection towards the characters. That said, Garcia and Johnson share a very weird and fascinating bond.
To say navigation can be clunky is an understatement. Garcia moves around like he’s been batted in the kneecaps with a steel rod.
The camera placement doesn’t help the situation either – the animations can often lead you into a vulnerable position you didn’t intend on being in, which leads to camera issues that can compromise your ability to effectively attack approaching enemies.
The bright side is that many of the other mechanics aside from simple movement work well when needed, such as dodging enemy attacks and a quick-turn that is always an important mechanic in Japanese-developed third-person shooters.
These positives help balance out the experience, although the at-times clunky animations do hinder the experience. There is an inconsistency that is always present.
The Final Verdict
The things that will keep you coming back to Shadows of the Damned – the soundtrack, boss battles, weapons and at-times well-executed humour – are all implemented rather unconventionally. This may have contributed to certain mechanics not functioning as well as they could, as well as animations that can frustrate at challenging moments. It’s weird, action-packed and enjoyable, all enough reason to play through Shadows of the Damned in its entirety.