Shadows of the Damned Xbox 360 Review
That’s not to say that Shadows of the Damned's core gameplay is bad, however – merely that it’s not strong enough to carry or justify the kooky twists and immaturities that have been dumped into the plotline. It is, at its heart, nothing but a basic third-person shooting game with no cover mechanic and little in the way of stand-out features.
There are, really, only two real concepts that are worth singling out from Shadows of the Damned's morass of gory action; the role of darkness and the supporting character of Johnson, who functions as both Garcia’s advisor and weapons. Upgraded throughout the game, Johnson’s default form is as a floating skull of the type we’ve seen in other games before, but with the twist that he can turn himself into weapons and tools. Over the course of Shadows’ singleplayer game he takes the guise of shotguns, pistols, machine guns and motorbikes to name a few. He’s quite a helpful chap, in other words.
Darkness, however, is one of the main threats Garcia faces in his rampage through Hell. Continued exposure to concentrated darkness not only empowers enemies so that they need to be exposed to light – either from exploding barrels or Johnson’s alt-attacks – to be killed, but it also damages you directly. Consuming human hearts is the only way to stave off the infection, creating a few tense moments as you rush from one heart to another in search of the exit.
Ghost Rider eat your heart out. Please
Elsewhere, you’re able to banish the shade utterly by shooting goat heads with glowing bullets – another example of Shadows’ idiosyncrasies in action.
The linking of darkness and human hearts becomes another recurring motif for Shadows of the Damned, with most puzzles involving looking for the blood-wells that power locked doors and which are only visible when you’re standing in darkness. Bosses too are killed by shooting the bright red wells that fuel their powers, which again often require exposing yourself to damage.
However, aside from these two concepts there’s precious little to distinguish Shadows of the Damned from most other third-person shooters. It admittedly has a more arcade feel than its contemporaries, but this is manifested more in the aesthetics than the actual design – i.e. enemies which drop collectible jewels, rather than any real scoring system.
As you would expect, these jewels can then be used to buy items from an in-game merchant, or to upgrade your character or weapons. It all depends on the colour of gem and, like most of Shadows’ mechanics, is a lot more by-the-numbers than all the swearing and gore would have you believe.
Thankfully, the basic action is competently assembled, and Shadows of the Damned doesn’t couple its insensibility with any control or interface flaws. It’s just a shame that the action itself isn’t innovative in the slightest, as that’s what Shadows really needs to be the game it wants to be. As it is, it’s just not fast or bombastic enough to feel like anything more than a corridor shooter that’s trying to gloss over its blandness with some swearing and gore.
Functional, but unexciting, Shadows’ will fill the rainy Sunday mornings of ardent Suda 51 fans, but doesn’t have any specific grounds upon which to recommend it. This game really is just painfully average in every way, and you shouldn't let Garcia’s accent and tattoos deceive you into thinking otherwise.