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Shadows of the Damned

Shadows of the Damned

Hell hath no fury like a man on a one-way revenge trip through the gates of hell and beyond. Saddle up for Japan's own Grindhouse tale of guts and gore, from the minds of Resident Evil and No More Heroes.

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"This is bat-shit crazy."

A brief snort and a half-smile from the man beside me suggests an agreement of the statement, if not with the language used. Truth be told, there are better, more eloquent ways to describe Shadows of the Damned, but its the first phrase that springs to mind.

The phrase might invoke the image of Johnny Depp in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. There's no denying the drug-fuelled bizarreness fits the bill of what's being demoed here today.

The game's third-person adventure, a potent brew mixing Stranglehold tequila-drinking and Resident Evil action horror.

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Note the roll call on the credits, and you'd only be half-surprised through. Goichi Suda and Shinji Mikami are on director and producer duties, while composer Akira Yamaoka is working the audio. The vision from three of Japan's most respected names is, to be expected, a little quirky.

We witness a recurring boss character that's covered in gore and has a taste for human flesh. An opera soprano with rocket launchers strapped to legs and arms. A hulking demon item seller whose tentacles double as lamp lights as he conducts his business. Gates with the face of babes, that need to be fed brains before they open.

All this, and I haven't even got to the lead character and his faithful companion yet.

Shadows of the Damned
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The game follows the excellently named Garcia Hotspur - think Antonio Banderas with more tattoos and attitude - on a quest into the very depths of hell to rescue his lady love. A hell that looks every inch like a quaint European town that just happens to be in perpetual darkness and populated by the oddest demons you'll see this side of Bayonetta.

Garcia's aided on his travels by Johnson, a demon who could give Portal 2's Wheatley a run for plummy Brit accents, and who's flaming skull is carried atop a wooden stick by Hotspur, doubling as tourist guide and torch through the darkened city's streets.

The interplay between dark and light forms one of the title's central gameplay mechanics. At any point a black haze will suddenly appear, less mist, more slimy black goop, swallowing you and the surrounding area whole. It's within this darkness that the game's main minions dwell, and within which you constantly take damage.

Its a race against the clock then, either to escape its trappings or destroy it totally. Try the latter and the demons will follow out of the black soup and attack, so its best policy to try and rid the area of the haze first. The solution is usually hidden within the infected area, so its best to run in and quickly look for the trigger to dispel the mist - a shining hold goat's head, mounted on a wall.

Weapons-wise you're limited to your jester-on-a-stick. However, while you can swing Johnson as a club, he's also possessed with the ability to transform, at the press of a button, into a gun. Three variations are unlocked for this demo; standard pistol (dubbed "the Boner"), shotgun and machine gun. Each has an alternate fire, which needs to be used first to 'cleanse' the darkness of demons to make them vulnerable to normal bullets.

Shadows of the Damned

There's a nice gameplay addition to the shooting. The gun's got a red-line tracer emitting from its barrel. Trace it to a goon's head and a small circle will pop up. Pull the trigger and you'll be greeted with a slow-mo shot as the camera pulls away to follow the bullet's trajectory and the explosive results as it meets a head.

Its definitely worth perfecting these one shot kills, as demons usually come in packs, and the speed of them makes avoiding attacks tricky. Though the option is there to blow off their legs and stomp the rest to death with your size nines.

Making it as simple as locating the goat would be too easy. Most times the goat's head is hidden, or not there at all; in those instances a small fireworks canister is located nearby, and can be ignited to sent up a short-term light display to hold back the darkness. Time is of the essence, and you need to make a run for it between safe zones.

The demo stretches across a few sections of the game, mostly narrow streets and a few wider circular areas. In that time I a) get to grips with the fighting system (a couple of gears faster than Resident Evil's own) and b) tackle the action-puzzle elements (a frenzied rush to clear areas of the clinging pestilence, at which point I return to a) once more).

Shadows of the Damned

I get to see a few quirks that extent those two mechanics. The flapping demons that drop flaming turds in their wake and help light my way. Casks brimming with light that serve as this world's red barrels. Trippy land-fish that serve as mobile lanterns when punched into obedience. A cracking boss fight that I can't talk about, as I accidentally stumbled upon while EA's handlers were looking the other way (hint: we're back with Johnny Depp. This time, think 'Sleepy Hollow').

As long as the developer keeps dropping in surprise additional elements to the established setups then this is looking to be one hell of a rock 'n roll adventure. Sadly the busy show floor keep my ears from picking up Yamaoka's work with the score.

But given the name, and the past projects attached to it, there's a trust here that this he'll give me exactly what I'm expecting from this action horror. The same applies to both Suda51 and Mikami-san.

Read into that as you will.

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Shadows of the DamnedScore

Shadows of the Damned

REVIEW. Written by Sebastian R. Sørensen

"It's a meeting of minds every bit as intriguing as the Tarantino and Rodriguez Grindhouse double-bill, yet with one key difference: it delivers."



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