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Eric Bowman 06-22-2011 07:20 PM

Please Rate This Review: Shadows of the Damned
 
**6/26: Addressed Richard's criticisms.

*Addressed frogofdeath's criticisms.

Shadows of the Damned Review

Magnifico, Indeed.


HIGH: Killing six demons with a single Hot Boner.

LOW: The boring switch puzzles right before the final boss.

WTF: If I had to pick one, it'd be the discovery that strawberries are made of ground up tongues. Really, the entire game is a giant WTF.


If Shinji Mikami were to release a game about watching a tree grow, I'd be ready to buy it at launch. In addition to having tight controls and an abundance of new ideas, his games tend to have a great sense of humor. Resident Evil 4 and last year's Vanquish are both in my top ten games of all time, and exude all of those properties extremely well. I could go on about all of Mikami's work, from the stylish side-scroller Viewtiful Joe to the misunderstood gem God Hand, but I'll hold back. Instead, I'll just say what needs to be said: Mikami's brilliant blend of slick, well-balanced gameplay and intentionally cheesy comedy is in full force in Shadows of the Damned, and it's just as awesome as I'd hoped.

Like all good love stories, Shadows of the Damned begins with a beautiful woman being taken to Hell by a demon. With his girlfriend taken from him, demon-hunting extraordinaire Garcia Hotspur must descend into the depths of the Underworld to bring her back. He's joined by his floating skull companion Johnson, who can transform into several powerful (and phallic) weapons, such as the explosive Hot Boner or the rapid-fire Teether.

Anyone familiar with the gameplay of Resident Evil 4 will feel instantly at home here. Weapon upgrading, limb-specific damage, and special finishing moves on stunned or wounded enemies all show up here, albeit with a little more crazy sprinkled on. What helps separate the control scheme of Shadows of the Damned is the more acrobatic feel of it. Not only can Garcia move and shoot simultaneously, he also has an infinitely useful dodge maneuver similar to the one in Vanquish. This gives the game a much faster pace without sacrificing the flow between set-piece moments that Resident Evil 4 did so perfectly.

Sticking with the Resident Evil 4 comparisons, Shadows of the Damned also has its progression based largely around opening locked gates. I would enter a room, see a sealed door, go down a secondary path, shoot a switch, and then proceed through the unsealed door. Even though this formula sticks around for most of the game, there's enough variety to keep it from being tedious. One of the best examples is a bowling mini-game where Garcia must roll a skull down an alley and have it kill ten demons to progress. It was certainly an unexpected change-up, and I would like to have seen more of it.

Garcia and Johnson maintain an entertaining back-and-forth banter throughout the game, making them far more likeable than any of the characters in most horror-style games. The humor of the game does detract from much of the fear the game tries to envoke, but at the same time made me actually worry about the well-being of Paula, since I could actually relate to Garcia as a human being. This level of humanity is central to why this game is such a brilliant experience, and I think more serious horror titles could learn from this. If bad things are happening to characters I don't know or care about, there's nothing to put me in their shoes, and the sense of horror is thrown out the window.

The Hell found here is very different from the typical portrayal of Hell. Rather than make everything red, black, or on fire, Hell in Shadows is more of a discolored version of the real world, just with light replaced by shadows and vice-versa. There's also quite an emphasis on harsh neon lights and metal, spiky monsters that help enforce the punk rock vibe the game is going for. This is also helped by the game's soundtrack, composed by videogame music veteran Akira Yamaoka. (Who also worked on the Silent Hill series.) Combined with the general weirdness expected from a Suda 51 game, the vision of Hell found here makes Hell in Dante's Inferno look like the Mushroom Kingdom.

Even when backed by spot-on controls, a cool setting, and a script bursting at the seams with dick jokes, no game is perfect. One issue that became more and more clear as time went on was that the developers seemed to have been running out of ideas toward the end. For example, there's a Geometry Wars-ish sequence halfway through the game where a paper version of Garcia floats through a storybook environment, shooting demons and collecting gems. It's a nice little one-off, but the sequence gets brought back two more times with barely any changes made in a fairly blatant bit of recycling. I understand that people don't want games to end too quickly, but if length is added at the sacrifice of pacing, it's not a good trade-off. I would've preferred the approach of Vanquish or Portal, where the game is short, but leaves the player yearning for more.

There are other gripes that could be made, such as the lack of a New Game Plus mode or the overuse of switch puzzles late in the game. Doing so, however, would be meaningless. Like all great games, the flaws in Shadows of the Damned washed over me just as life-restoring tequila washed down Garcia's throat. Like most of Mikami's great works, the game has a lot of heart beneath it's wacky exterior, something further exemplified by the game's twisted ending. It's an unforgettable journey through Hell that is certainly worth taking. Just remember to bring your Johnson.


9.0 out of 10


Disclosures: This game was purchased for the Xbox 360. Approximately 9 hours were devoted to the single-player, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game is rated M for Mature by the ESRB. It contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, and Strong Language. Certainly not a game for children, although the game could be educational when it comes to the origin of strawberries. (But seriously, keep this away from children.)

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: You should be fine. Subtitles are available for pretty much everything, and do a great job of representing nonsensical ramblings of pissed off demons.

frogofdeath 06-22-2011 10:33 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Shadows of the Damned
 
Good review! Just some minor suggestions, but overall, very well done.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Decabo (Post 197281)
[size=3]
WTF: If I had to pick one, it'd be the discovery that strawberries are made of ground up tongues. Really, the entire game is a giant WTF.

I would get rid of the first part. Don't pick one, just state the entire game is. I would also keep the "Really", it fits your writing style.

Quote:

I could go on about all of Mikami's work and why pretty much all of it is worth playing, from the stylish side-scroller Viewtiful Joe to the misunderstood gem God Hand, but all that really needs to be said is this: Mikami's brilliant blend of slick, well-balanced gameplay and intentionally cheesy comedy is in full force in Shadows of the Damned, and it's just as awesome as I'd hoped.
While I appreciate a writer who utilizes the colon, this is one long run-on sentence. Try rephrasing the beginning (where you mention his other games) and I would break it up into at least two (maybe three) sentences.

Quote:

The humor of the game does detract from the sense of horror, but at the same time made me actually worry about the well-being of Paula, since I could actually relate to Garcia as a human being, not some humorless robot I was moving from room to room.
Something about the beginning of the sentence seems awkward to me. The alliteration of "humor" and "horror" made me go back and read the phrase three or four times to make sure I had it correct. Maybe use an antonym for one of the words? (this is a big maybe...) Also, it's another run-on sentence.

Quote:

I never found Dead Space even remotely scary because I simply did not care about anyone in the story, least of all that plank of wood Isaac Clarke.
This sentence seems out of place in your review. It could fit, but I really think it needs reworking to better compliment the paragraph it is part of.

Quote:

The Hell found here is very different from the typical portrayal of Hell. Rather than make everything red, black, or on fire, the Hell in Shadows is more of a discolored version of the real world, just with light replaced by shadows and vice-versa. There's also quite an emphasis on harsh neon lights and metal, spiky monsters that help enforce the punk rock vibe the game is going for. This is also helped by the game's soundtrack, composed by videogame music veteran Akira Yamaoka. (Who also worked on the Silent Hill series.) Combined with the general weirdness expected from a Suda 51 game, the vision of Hell found here makes the Hell in Dante's Inferno look like the Mushroom Kingdom.
In this paragraph you use "Hell" and "the Hell". I would stick to one throughout the paragraph ("Hell") with the exception of your topic sentence. "The Hell" works for that part.

Quote:

(Trying to describe this game is incredibly awkward.)
Get rid of this sentence.

Quote:

(The lack of a New Game+ mode, the overuse of switch puzzles)
This one too!

Quote:

Like all great games, the flaws in Shadows of the Damned washed over me just as tequila washed down Garcia's throat. (That's how health is regained, by the way.)
I would rephrase this. I'm glad you informed me where the tequila is coming from, but the part in parentheses seems tacked on.

Also, I noticed you used past tense ("washed" should be "washes"). Just like a book, the game itself is something that should be written in present tense. Not sure if this was an issue in other parts of the review, but go back and look for these instances. I tend to do the same thing, I flip back and forth between the tenses.

Quote:

Parents: This game is rated M for Mature by the ESRB. It contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, and Strong Language. Certainly not a game for children, although the game could be educational when it comes to the origin of strawberries. (But seriously, keep this away from children.)
I would get rid of the parentheses, but keep the text. It fits your writing style better that way. However, I just noticed I told you to clip the strawberry comment in the WTF section. Now I'm not sure you should, because then you lose this reference.

Eric Bowman 06-22-2011 11:04 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Shadows of the Damned
 
Hey frog, thanks for the feedback!

Quote:

Originally Posted by frogofdeath (Post 197286)


I would get rid of the first part. Don't pick one, just state the entire game is. I would also keep the "Really", it fits your writing style.

That's actually what I wanted to do in the first place, but I was afraid that that'd seem like an uncreative cop out. I'll dwell on this some more.


Quote:

While I appreciate a writer who utilizes the colon, this is one long run-on sentence. Try rephrasing the beginning (where you mention his other games) and I would break it up into at least two (maybe three) sentences.
Good call. I'll split that into two sentences, while still maintaining the colon. Best of both worlds, mate. :)


Quote:

Something about the beginning of the sentence seems awkward to me. The alliteration of "humor" and "horror" made me go back and read the phrase three or four times to make sure I had it correct. Maybe use an antonym for one of the words? (this is a big maybe...) Also, it's another run-on sentence.
I'll be sure to switch up the wording so it flows a bit better.


Quote:

This sentence seems out of place in your review. It could fit, but I really think it needs reworking to better compliment the paragraph it is part of.
I'll try to work it in better. I'd like to have it in there somewhere, since it works to help my point about the important of having likeable characters in horror, at least to me.


Quote:

In this paragraph you use "Hell" and "the Hell". I would stick to one throughout the paragraph ("Hell") with the exception of your topic sentence. "The Hell" works for that part.
Haha, now that you mention it, that looks really glaring. I'll make that consistent as well.


Quote:

Get rid of this sentence.
Sure.


Quote:

This one too!
I'm not going to get rid of it, but I'll tie it in better.


Quote:

I would rephrase this. I'm glad you informed me where the tequila is coming from, but the part in parentheses seems tacked on.
I'll do just that.

Quote:

Also, I noticed you used past tense ("washed" should be "washes"). Just like a book, the game itself is something that should be written in present tense. Not sure if this was an issue in other parts of the review, but go back and look for these instances. I tend to do the same thing, I flip back and forth between the tenses.
In most contexts, I'd agree, but in this particular instance, I'm talking exclusively about my experience when I played the game and how the issues affected me, not just the issues in general. As I played the game, the issues washed over me. If I were to say "As I play the game, the issues wash over me", that would imply I was still playing the game, which I'm not. In most cases, present tense would be correct, but at that point, I was only talking about how I reacted when I played the game beforehand. I could be wrong, but that's my interpretation.


Quote:

I would get rid of the parentheses, but keep the text. It fits your writing style better that way. However, I just noticed I told you to clip the strawberry comment in the WTF section. Now I'm not sure you should, because then you lose this reference.
I think I'm gonna keep the strawberry line. I'll probably keep the line in parentheses too, just on the off chance a parent doesn't catch my sarcasm. I don't think it hurts the text too much.


Huge thanks for the thorough critique, frog. I'm implementing a lot of what you said. :)

Li-Ion 06-23-2011 06:57 AM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Shadows of the Damned
 
Good review, I have nothing to add or really complain about. Except that I found some of the sentences a bit long ;)

Since Vanquish is my favorite manshoot of all time and my main complaint about RE4 was the inability to run & gun I'm actually quite intrigued by this game...

Eric Bowman 06-23-2011 07:51 AM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Shadows of the Damned
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Li-Ion (Post 197291)
Good review, I have nothing to add or really complain about. Except that I found some of the sentences a bit long ;)

Since Vanquish is my favorite manshoot of all time and my main complaint about RE4 was the inability to run & gun I'm actually quite intrigued by this game...

Thanks, Li-Ion, I appreciate the kind words.

Richard Naik 06-24-2011 12:05 AM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Shadows of the Damned
 
Hey Decabo,

The beginning is kind of wobbly but you finish up strong, especially the last paragraph. See if you can clean up the first three paragraphs a bit and see what you come up with.

Some specific notes:

Bust up that long paragraph near the end-it's a little hard on the eyes right now.

The second paragraph feels really out of whack. For example, the sentence "The woman's name is Paula, and she's the girlfriend of demon-hunting and purple jacket-wearing extraordinaire, Garcia Hotspur." feels more like a robot wrote it, which the sense I'm getting from the whole paragraph. Try rewriting it and see if you can make it sound less awkward.

You can contrast it with Dead Space if you like, but this sentence has to go: "The reason it was so scare-free to me was that I simply did not care about anyone in the story, least of all that plank of wood Isaac Clarke." You don't want to get off topic like that.

You're at a little under 900 words, and while it certainly doesn't need to be longer, I could stand to hear a little more about what kind of game this is. I know it's survival horror, but that's a pretty vague term. You've got some word space left over, so elaborate on that a bit.

Thanks!

Eric Bowman 06-24-2011 05:27 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Shadows of the Damned
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Naik (Post 197319)
Hey Decabo,

The beginning is kind of wobbly but you finish up strong, especially the last paragraph. See if you can clean up the first three paragraphs a bit and see what you come up with.

Some specific notes:

Bust up that long paragraph near the end-it's a little hard on the eyes right now.

The second paragraph feels really out of whack. For example, the sentence "The woman's name is Paula, and she's the girlfriend of demon-hunting and purple jacket-wearing extraordinaire, Garcia Hotspur." feels more like a robot wrote it, which the sense I'm getting from the whole paragraph. Try rewriting it and see if you can make it sound less awkward.

You can contrast it with Dead Space if you like, but this sentence has to go: "The reason it was so scare-free to me was that I simply did not care about anyone in the story, least of all that plank of wood Isaac Clarke." You don't want to get off topic like that.

You're at a little under 900 words, and while it certainly doesn't need to be longer, I could stand to hear a little more about what kind of game this is. I know it's survival horror, but that's a pretty vague term. You've got some word space left over, so elaborate on that a bit.

Thanks!

Hey Richard, I appreciate the feedback. I made several changes based on what you said, let me list them for you:
  • Just about every paragraph has been cleaned up to an extent, especially the first three. They were greatly trimmed and reworded to improve flow.
  • I added a new paragraph elaborating on the gameplay to address your point about what kind of game it is.
  • I added another paragraph about progression in the game, to further clarify how the game plays.
  • I completely removed the Dead Space comparison. Instead, I just have a line about how horror games in general should learn the importance of having likeable characters.
  • I greatly reduced that long paragraph you mentioned to make it easier to read.

The review is still about the same length because all my cleaning up was balanced out by my new paragraphs.

Thanks for the feedback!

Richard Naik 06-28-2011 03:18 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Shadows of the Damned
 
Good job. Green light. That's 4, right?

Eric Bowman 06-28-2011 04:34 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Shadows of the Damned
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Naik (Post 197369)
Good job. Green light. That's 4, right?

Thanks Richard! Yes, this is my fourth review you've green lighted. (Green lit?)

SparkyClarkson 07-09-2011 03:24 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Shadows of the Damned
 
Green light from me.


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