Shadows of the Damned Hands-On Preview -- Act 1 and 2 and the Hell ThereinBy Nikole Zivalich - Posted May 13, 2011
Shadows of the Damned is the brain child of Suda51, Shinji Mikami, and Akira Yamaoka under the umbrella of Groasshopper Manufacture. It stars Garcia Hotspur as our hero, a misunderstood, tattooed demon-hunter. The main antagonist is Flemming, The Lord of Demons. Flemming is perhaps rightfully upset that Garcia has slayed his legion of demons. In attempt to get an apology and revenge, Flemming kidnaps Garcia's girlfriend Paula.
Garcia won't be storming the gates of hell on his own. He's got his trusty sidekick, Johnson. A former demon himself, Johnson has the ability to transform himself into anything Garcia needs. He's "the right tool for every job."
What We Already Know:
I last saw Shadows of the Damned at GDC at EA's preview event. There, Suda51 explained the game as a grindhouse-style horror game, and I was able to play through parts of Act 2 with Garcia already in hell. As the player I didn't know why I was there or how I got there. In this playthrough, I had three weapons to choose from: the Monocussioner, the Teether, and the Boner. Yes, there's a gun called the Boner and before you ask, it's phallic shaped. In fact, there are numerous things in the game that resemble a penis: guns, life-meters, buildings. I didn't know a lot Shadow of the Damned, but I knew I wanted to know more.
Back when I saw SotD in March, I didn't know much more than Paula was in hell and Garcia wasn't happy about it. In the latest build EA and Grasshopper Manfucture sent over, I got to start from the beginning.
What We're Seeing Now:
The game opens like a grindhouse movie. The developers' names flash across a graveyard followed by "Shadows of the Damned starring Garcia Hotspur." Garcia, an unassumingly Hispanic (he often speaks Spanish, usually bad words) demon hunter that spells an ample amount of time at the gym. His muscles have muscles, and they have tattoos. Sans shirt, Garcia is first seen talking to something he calls a "hellmonkey" but that resemble some type of demonic, bleeding reindeer. Garcia is grilling him (or it) for details about Paula's whereabouts. Rather than answer, the demon warns Garcia that if he strikes him down now, he will become more powerful than he can possibly imagine, or something like that. Unphased by the warning, Garcia shoots the demon in the head.
The credits end and now the player is in control of Garcia, still shirtless. We navigate through Garcia's swanky apartment: wood floors, zebra skin rug, guitars on the walls, and a huge portrait of Paula. Upon opening the bedroom door, I discover Paula, hanging from the ceiling fan, dead. Well, as dead as you can be in this game. Paula momentarily regains life, only to have a humanoid demon rip itself out of her back. Several of these demons burst through the walls and windows. The only way to take them down is via headshot, which will be your choice way to take down enemies throughout the game. Not only do they take down demons in one perfectly executed shot, but they also often come with an over-the-top gory, slow-motion, action scene.
The sequence escalates as an even bigger, more grotesque, eight-eyed demon appears. His name is Flemming, and he's the Lord of the Demons. He's the one who has a problem with Garcia's occupation. He opens a portal and plunges into hell, with a once again living Paula screaming for help. Garcia runs back inside, grabs his purple leather jackets, and jumps in after them.
Understanding light and dark is key to playing through Shadows of the Damned. The darkness, which is actually dark blue and sparkly, is detrimental to your health bar. Once a demon walks through the veil of darkness, they become covered in it, shielding them from attacks. If a demon is blue, punch them in order to shoot them in the face. If darkness is overtaking an area, which it will often try to do, find a goat. Turns out mounted goat heads littered through hell provide light when you shoot them with light bullets. "Everybody knows goats are a source of light." In areas where light is absent, you'll only be able to survive by finding human hearts.
The first few areas involve Johnson, a former demon turned shape-shifting weapon, explaining the ins and outs of the game. Alcohol "un-kills" you and is the source health. Sake is cheaper, but Absinthe gives more HP. Gems are the game's currency. White gems buy drinks from vending machines. Eventually you'll meet Christopher, who claims to be half human and half demon, but there's nothing human about him. He's a friendly though and will act as the store where you will buy ammo, health and red gems. Red gems are used for upgrades and are "performance enhancers; very shady, very illegal," and can be accessed from the select menu to upgrade you guns, you health, your speed, etc. It's an interesting RPG-style addition. Blue gems are the rarest and in the two acts I played, only appeared after a boss battle. If you give a blue gem to Johnson, he'll unlock a new weapon to morph into. The two weapons I unlocked were the teether, which shoots teeth, and the skullcossioner, which shoots skulls.
Next was Act 2. The first few chapters I saw already at GDC involved Garcia looking for Paula through a rundown carnival type area. The demo I saw in March ended right as I was about to face-off with a meaty, decaying, harmonica playing demon named George. In this build, I got to kick his ass, and by kick his ass, I mean manipulate light to disable him and repeatedly shoot him in the head. After I beat his "human form," I learned about his back story in the form of a rated M for Mature storybook. I'm trying to avoid spoilers here so you'll have to play to learn his origin story.
Several rooms, alleyways, and veils of darkness later Garcia is in a graveyard. After all the bizarre things I had seen in this game up to this point, I didn't question why there were graves in hell. Garcia had a few questions though; one of the graves had his name on it. Just as we began to query the situation, darkness poured over the level revealing a mini-boss. The boss was a giant-skull looking demon that was...well, just a head. I panicked, because I didn't know how to beat him, but Johnson gave me the instruction "aim for the head." I laughed.
Every mini-boss and boss (and even some switches) I encountered had an obvious weak point. A red sack appears on the enemies, usually on their backs or bellies. This is their life support. If an enemy has a blue sack, it means you need to be inside the darkness for it to appear red, thus making it vulnerable to bullets/bone/teeth/skulls and whatever bodypart you unlock in the game. Enemies with these sacks have an obvious weakness but figuring out how to access these weakness wasn't always easy.
Finally, understanding how to manipulate light and dark helped for the boss in Chapter 2, George in beast form. I don't want to spoil the boss fight but I will say a few things: 1) The darkness is spread through defecation. 2) There are multiple boss forms, which means multiple ways to defecate. 3) If penis jokes weren't enough for you, now you have poop jokes too. Something for the whole family!
Based on what we've seen so far, Shadows of the Damned walks the line of grindhouse-inspired horror and silly, perverted humor, and it walks it in a purple leather jacket. I'm sure we'll see a bit more from Shadows of the Damned at E3 next month. The game launches on June 21 for the Xbox 360 and PS3.