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This week, Zero Punctuation finds out if the Shadows of the Damned developer dream teams pays off or not.

Transcript Edit

I tell you what, Shadows of the Damned has a damned good pedigree behind it; it'd fetch a high price at a Japanese sperm bank. It's produced by Shinji Mikami, who made Resident Evil, but don't let that discourage you because he also made Resident Evil 4- yes, the only good one. The music's by Akira Yamaoka - (who?) - the guy who did the music for Silent Hill - (what's that?) - a series with really good music! (oh.). And, lest we forget, it's written and directed by Suda51, the quirky auteur behind No More Heroes and Killer7. That's the kind of superstar line-up you'd introduce with something like the opening titles of Captain Planet.

Now, Suda, bless his heart, tends to have what you might call a long-distance relationship with normalcy, but his tag team seems to be holding his leash pretty tightly on this one. Getting past the rather alarmingly generic title, Shadows of the Damned tells the story of a demon hunter named, brace yourself, Garcia Fucking Hotspur - and I think his middle name actually is Fucking, because in the subtitle it's got a capital F like a proper noun - who must battle through Hell to rescue his girlfriend from the demon lord. It's probably the closest to a "standard" plot Suda's ever done; it's probably what he'd come up with if they asked him to make a Mario game. Akira Yamaoka's soundtrack is unmistakable, and one can certainly feel Shinji Mikami's strong, masculine hand on the reins, but for a while it was difficult to detect Suda's influence.

The game I was most reminded of at first was God Hand, the game Mikami made when he was with Clover Studios that also sailed out of Port Sensible on the HMS Quirky. The over-the-shoulder shooting is reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, but with the ability to move while aiming and dodge at any time, so approximately ten billion times easier. Attention, hardcore gamers: stop chewing on that piece of wood and listen. If you play this game, start out on the hardest difficulty setting, because otherwise you'll feel less challenged than the world's greatest handjob artist playing ring toss. If a standard demon actually manages to hit you because you're blind and deaf and having a stroke, then they can do big chunks of damage very fast, but healing items practically come out of the fucking plumbing.

So for a while I didn't really feel like I was playing a Suda51 game, but then something happened that I think deserves to be recounted in full. Garcia has an amusing buddy movie partnership with Johnson, a sort of well-spoken lost soul from Doom who can turn into a motorbike which thrumbs mightily between Garcia's thighs or a handgun called "The Boner". At one point in the game, you require some heavier artillery, so Johnson calls a phone sex line, which causes his barrel to extend by about five feet and turns him into "The Big Boner", which Garcia holds right in front his crotch and fires by thrusting his hips forward and yelling "Taste my big boner!" Oh, there you are, Suda, you randy old bastard. And there was me thinking Travis Touchdown jerking off his lightsaber was about as overt as symbolism could get. Did I mention that in-between Big Boner shooting segments you have to run across the buttocks of a giant stripper? It's all right, girls, it's ironic! I guess if you are embracing the masculine power fantasy thing, it's advisable to have your tongue in your cheek so you don't have to taste all the dicks in your mouth.

There's something terribly retro about all this, besides the fact that you're saving your kidnapped girlfriend, which as game stories go is only slightly newer than "you have to shoot the thing." The game's divided into numbered levels, the pickups are the size of novelty inflatables, and there are key-hunting puzzles, which I'd thought action games had long since packed away into the attic trunk alongside its graduation photos and its roomy trousers that hold more than three weapons. There are even entire levels taking place in a 2D shooter, apropos of nothing, in which you actually have the boss fight with one of the major villains.

One could put this down to the "directors being Captain Quirk sailing the HMS Quirk of the Bermuda Quirkangle", like that one 2D shooter section in No More Heroes that came out of nowhere, but as anything other than a whimsical aside, it smacks more of a production whose budget no longer felt as reassuringly weighty in the trousers as it had done at the start. Shadows of the Damned bears the tell-tale scissor marks of a game that has been cut down. It's disappointing short and doesn't quite have the wealth of imagination one would expect from its heritage. Ooh, listen to me. I think I'm the Antiques Roadshow now.

Weapons upgrade systems are presumably shagging someone in authority in the games industry, so Shadows of the Damned has to have one, like every game and their dog. The trouble is, what with the difficulty level being right up there with trimming your toenails, I never felt like upgrades were necessary. I was either insta-killing enemies with a single headshot from the starting pistol or blowing off a leg with the starting shotgun and jumping up and down on their prone form until the carpets were far beyond the power of any shampooing service. And I didn't feel adding miserable little buffs to the damage, capacity, and reload speed would improve that process. What I needed was either better aim or some heavier shoes.

The only really significant weapon upgrades occur at fixed moments in the plot, generally after a boss fight, and once you get the homing bullets for the machine gun then a game that was a walk in the park suddenly becomes a prolonged snooze on a park bench while an Arabian slave boy puts grapes in your mouth. I think I only died once in my entire first playthrough, and that was when I was experimenting to see if I could play games while eating a toffee apple.

I'm not saying I didn't have fun. Almost every level has at least one new idea, the demon world has a definite richness about it, and Garcia and Johnson make for an appealing double act. But for a game that seems to have set out with the plan to bring three big names together and wait for the explosion, none of the three amigos brought their A game. Akira Yamaoka randomly smashing at his banjo strings suited the disquieting surreality of Silent Hill but not so much a quirky action-horror game that seems to be mouthing along to a squealy heavy metal soundtrack that it doesn't have. On the gameplay side, where was the Shinji Mikami who once made a game where dozing off for one second led to you getting your head chainsawed off by a mad Spaniard? And while enough of the disposable income of the alternative crowd glimmered invitingly in the eyes of the publishers for the game to be marketed with the tagline "A Suda51 trip," for all Shadows of the Damned 's demon skull knobstitutions, this is probably the most grounded Suda51's ever been. Killer7 was a "trip"; this is more like a bank holiday day out to watch someone throw horse giblets at a lingerie shop.

AddendaEdit

His favourite adjective is "throbbing": Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Until the Big Boner section I didn't get the 'Johnson' thing, I thought they might have been going with some kind of presidential naming system

Damn! A shadow


ScreenshotsEdit

Shadows of the Damned 1

Superstar line-up

Shadows of the Damned 2

"Taste my big boner!"

Shadows of the Damned 3

Homing bullets

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells

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