- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2011

Take a journey to hell in Shadows of the Damned (Electronic Arts and Grasshopper Manufacture, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated: Mature, $59.99). This third-person, survival horror shooter celebrates the bloodiest of Grindhouse-style cinema.

Gamers have already heard this tale before. A hero must rescue his true love from a devil by visiting the Dark Lord’s home field.

In this case, players control Garcia Hotspur, a heavily tattooed, leather-clad demon hunter who is assisted in his adventures by a flaming skull with a British accent named Johnson.

Being a veteran of Dead Space, Bulletstorm, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse, most of the onscreen gore was not startling and, actually, pretty uninspired.

Head shots causing noggins to explode while torso’s bleed out, razor-bladed talons cutting through skin, appendages being blown off as the demons continue to crawl at the warrior, etc. Yes, “adults only” is the mantra.

It’s basically a Dante’s Inferno’s worth of demented imagery as a variety of hostile, rotting demons (reference a corpse spawner that spews demons until destroyed) greet the player.

As entrails pile up in hell and bodies hang around (literally), Hotspur explores villages ripped from the “Van Helsing” movie sets and runs into a lot of evil blackness that blankets the screen.

He’ll need to light up areas (just look for the goat’s head) and blast the black out of the demons to have a fighting chance of surviving.

However, I expected a bit more poetic macabre mayhem from Japanese game designers Shinji Mikami and Giochi Suda, known for their work on such titles as Resident Evil and the ultra-stylish No More Heroes.

Alas, the clever meter only really spiked for me when using Hotspur’s comrade’s many talents.

The little fellow transforms into a myriad of weapons as players unlock them. He can quickly turn from a simple torch into a sawed-off shotgun, a skull launcher and machine gun that spits out demon teeth.

I’ll also mention the maniacal level of dark humor and lame double entendre throughout.

For example, baby heads are doorknockers and must be fed strawberries or organs to open up. Or the player ponies up some cash in a vending machine to buy bottles of liquor to get tipsy and restore health.

Also, the developer offers a steady diet of sexually themed puns often tied to our pal Johnson (Beavis laugh to follow).

Shadows of the Damned does not disappoint, or dazzle, but maintains a bloody consistency as the player occasionally hits his sophomoric funny bone while getting lost in the ludicrous action.

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