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Shadows Of The Damned Review

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A twisted terror tale

★★★★

Although the history of videogaming is splattered with bloodthirsty horror games, few fright fests have a pedigree as impressive as Shadows Of The Damned.

Brought to life by cult Japanese developers Suda51 – who unleashed the weird-ass No More Heroes and Killer 7 – under the auspices of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, and with an incredible soundtrack from Silent Hill maestro Akira Yamaoka, Shadows has ‘horror hit’ indelibly stamped all over it. And as the twisted tale plays like a love letter to Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse – with plenty of references to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series thrown in for gore measure – it’s like a horror fan’s biggest, messiest wet dream come true. And for the most part, Shadows delivers on its promises.

Taking players on a rock’n’roll road trip through the bowels of hell – and starring a tattooed demon hunter who’s obsessed with penis jokes and talking trash with his chatty devil gun, Johnson – what makes Shadows a joy to play is its deeply addictive gunplay.

While shooting demons is fun from the get-go, the constant addition of new pistol powers such as mines and missiles will keep you hanging on for just one more skirmish, while the clever boss battles that require a subtle balance of brains and brawn help to punctuate the balls-out blasting. The clever light and shadow dynamic – reminiscent of classic Legend Of Zelda games – also brings gentle puzzle-solving to the carnage as you try to keep the deadly darkness at bay or exploit it for your own ends, while the outrageous story, sumptuous soundtrack and occasional scenes that break from the traditional third-person shooting will keep you hooked until the final demon has been torn to shreds.

On the downside, the linear levels that give players few opportunities to explore hell for themselves give the action a distinctly old-fashioned feel, while the stiff, jerky animation undermines the brooding hero as it makes it look as if he’s shit his pants. But aside from these minor niggles, Shadows Of The Damned is a confident, hysterical and downright brutal horror debut, and a supernatural story Suda51 are sure to return to for more bloodletting in 2012.

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