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Critical Reception: Grasshopper Manufacture's Shadows of the Damned

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Grasshopper Manufacture's Shadows of the Damned, which reviewers describe as "Resident Evil 4 rewritten by a 12-year-old obsessed with dick jokes."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Grasshopper Manufacture's third-person shooter Shadows of the Damned, which reviewers describe as "Resident Evil 4 rewritten by a 12-year-old obsessed with dick jokes." Shadows of the Damned currently earns a score of 77 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Game Informer's Phil Kollar scores Shadows of the Damned at 9.25 out of 10. "Like the grindhouse films that it pays homage to, Shadows of the Damned is vulgar, violent, over-the-top, and way more fun than it should be," he says. "This is Resident Evil 4 rewritten by a 12-year-old obsessed with dick jokes. As it turns out, that's a good thing." The humor element works to the game's advantage. "Plenty of games with dumb writing use self-awareness as an excuse," Kollar admits, "but Shadows of the Damned isn't just aware of its stupidity, it embraces immaturity with an abandon that I can't help but respect." The gameplay is similarly inspired. "Grasshopper Manufacture scored a major victory by getting help from Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami," Kollar praises. "Unlike previous Suda51-developed games, polished, rarely frustrating gameplay backs up the off-the-wall insanity. "Mikami's classic, over-the-shoulder third-person shooter style is present, but now you can move at the same time. Whether you're fighting a giant Frankenstein creature with a huge spotlight on its head or a tiny demon wearing spike-covered armor that rolls toward you as a ball, Garcia has enough grace and speed to survive any situation." "Shadows of the Damned is unapologetically adolescent, but instead of trying to be cutely ironic and wink at players, the humor comes off as genuine, playful, and fun," Kollar continues. "Even if you don't find the idea of a sniper rifle called 'the Big Boner' funny, you should still enjoy the solidly designed shooting and bit of thought required to play the game. Grasshopper has finally come into its own, and I hope it carries this momentum (and Mikami) forward to whatever project is next." Alex Navarro at Giant Bomb gives Shadows of the Damned 4 out of 5 stars. "When it was announced that Japanese game development luminaries Shinji Mikami, Suda51, and Akira Yamaoka were teaming up for a secret project, hands began to wring in anticipatory glee at the possibilities of what this embarrassment of creative talent might concoct," he begins. "The end result? Shadows of the Damned, a third-person action-horror game in the vein of... well, most other third-person action games." Navarro notes that Grasshopper fans should keep expectations in check. "As a shooter, Shadows of the Damned is largely serviceable, though it periodically flirts with brilliance," he writes. "The guns aren't overly thrilling, but the damage they cause is nice and disgusting. Blood, guts, and other, inexplicable grossness fly in great quantities, and the demons, while not the most creatively designed hellspawn you've ever seen, at least do you the service of suffering pleasurably." "There just isn't much need for brainpower in Shadows of the Damned," Navarro continues. "Mostly it's all run-and-gun demon-splattering, which for many will be just fine. What you might be less fine with is some of the game's rougher edges. "Some of these are technical, including a few irritating glitches that forced me to restart a couple of checkpoints, and some long-ish loading times that periodically pop up and cause initial choppiness with cutscenes. Other issues are atmospheric in nature. While Hell should certainly be an ugly place, a lot of Shadows of the Damned's environments are drawn up in strangely bland fashion." However: "For a game about Hell and damnation, it's remarkably fluffy and light of spirit, to the point where you just can't help but laugh at the wanton stupidity of it all. That it sometimes stumbles in its execution is a testament to how entertaining its tale really is. Even at its worst moments, you'll be compelled to keep playing." Edge Magazine rates Shadows of the Damned at 5 out of 10, describing it as "A patchwork, not a hybrid." "Shadows of the Damned is an awkward mixture of elements from the oeuvres of its high-profile creators," Edge's reviewer continues. "As executive director and writer, Suda 51 brings along many of the motifs that have typified his quirky, outlandish productions. From wisecracking protagonist Garcia Hotspur to blood-spurting finishers and a fetish for strawberries, it's easy to mistake Shadows of the Damned for his latest solo effort rather than his first major collaboration." Enemy AI proves to be a major issue. "The work of Suda and Mikami has never demanded competitive AI, but the nature of the game's demonic foes calls for something more advanced and, sadly, it doesn't deliver," Edge notes. "The creatures roaming this underworld are athletic and aggressive, but their pathfinding and attacks are haphazard and embarrassing." The game also lacks structure. "It feels slapdash rather than premeditated, as if the creative minds behind it were unchained beyond reason, allowed to throw in idea after idea without regard for the resultant experience," Edge suggests. "A gung-ho marine with 30 seconds of screen time? Sure! A turret section in which your weapon calls a sex line to enlarge itself? Go for it!" "When two industry heavyweights put their heads together, the hope is that they'll deliver something that plays to the strengths of both individuals' expertise," Edge concludes. "Shadows of the Damned actually does the opposite, accentuating Suda's often over-indulgent scriptwriting and accelerating Mikami's brand of horror into a hyper-gothic, shock-free world of bright lights. "With a little more restraint and focus on the core experience, Shadows of the Damned could have been the action thrill ride Garcia Hotspur thinks it is. Instead the game – like Hotspur himself – is all talk."

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