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Shadows of the Damned

Shadows of the Damned has goat statues, a headless babe in a thong and a villainous opera singer armed to the teeth with weaponry. Another enemy has a harmonica lodged in his throat. Babies that need to be force-fed specific items guard locked doors.

Leave it to the Japanese to make something as ridiculous as Shadows of the Damned. This is even more incomprehensible than the games that are too bizarre to be released internationally, and it definitely isn’t a bad thing. Style and quirkiness is one thing, but this violent title brings some intriguing gameplay to the table.

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Grasshopper Manufacture, the developers behind Killer 7 and No More Heroes, teamed with Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami, but this isn’t survival horror. It’s over-the-top action starring a tattooed and potty-mouthed demon hunter named Garcia Hotspur. Following in the tradition of classic gaming storylines, Garcia’s girlfriend has been kidnapped. Now, he has to go to the depths of hell to get her back.

Shadows of the Damned requires a bit more finesse than just shooting, as many enemies are shrouded in darkness and invincible, much like Alan Wake. Some sections are full of darkness, which damages Garcia and renders most of his weaponry useless. But there are a couple ways to get around this.

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Garcia’s torch, which also happens to be a demon named Johnson, can be used to take down the enemy’s defenses, as can some ammo. In the areas steeped in darkness, a goat statue needs to be shot in order to bring the light back. Apparently this is because goats eat everything, demonic darkness included.

Sometimes the darkness that washes across the stages needs to be embraced. Certain doors can only be unlocked in darkness, and one cool moment has Garcia facing a wall of darkness moving in his direction. He has to hop in, shoot a certain object, and then hop out. Of course, the core of the game is shooting things. Legs can be blown off and canned melee ‘fatalities’ are particularly brutal. The demo was hands off, so how intuitive it all feels remains to be experienced. Refreshingly, this is a third-person shooter where crouching and cover isn’t the main feature.

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Two stages were on display. The first was a scenic Europe-inspired city. If it wasn’t for the flames in the background and the fugly demons then it’d be hard to know it was hell. The second stage was a carnival, which is always a horror staple. Both stages were grounded in the familiar, but the hellish touches and hyper-stylized action were otherworldly.

When it comes to style, Grasshopper Manufacture is unparalleled. The same cannot be said about substance. Shadows of the Damned could change that perception with its over-the-top gameplay, a killer sense of style and a cheeky storyline. It ships this summer for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @akarge.

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