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June 29, 2011

'Shadows of the Damned' Goes To Hell


Ah, well. We were having such a good year for video games. It was bound to come to a crashing halt, wasn't it? Previously, I told you "Duke Nukem" stinks. Now: "Shadows of the Damned."

In "Shadows of the Damned," you portray a tattooed rebel named Garcia who travels the underworld to slay demons. Your ultimate quest is to exterminate the lord of the underworld, because he kidnapped your girlfriend, whom you met at a Dumpster.

For much of "Shadows," you merely shoot or beat up human-size demons in a Hell that looks like Victorian London.

Most demon battles are barely entertaining. And the constant puzzles are merely passable, such as finding strawberries to feed/bribe baby demons guarding the gates of Hell.

I do really like that this third-person shooting adventure gives you a constant sidekick, a talking, floating skull. The dialogue between you and this British skull break up the monotony of running-and-gunning.

But every critically flawed game has at least one section that is so awful, it makes you want to stop playing. "Shadows of the Damned" has several of those levels.

The first heinous section comes at about the three-hour mark when you go up against a level boss named George. He's a giant demon, riding horseback around a town square.

To kill George, you must shoot his sole weak spot — a platter-sized oval on his back — one zillion times.

Have you ever tried chasing a horse to shoot a shoulder blade on the horseman's back, a zillion times? In real life, that would be tedious. In this game: ridiculous.

I didn't even get hurt much by George. He's a terrible warrior. But I spent one hour — do you hear me? — an hour of mind-numbing, repetitive nonsense chasing this stupid horseman.

It doesn't help that the sprint button is sluggish, gun reticules are vague, and the automatic-reload is a shambles.

The horseman is the worst-designed level boss I've come across in 17 months, since the "Verse 5" cougar-angels from "Bayonetta."

A while later comes an even duller boss — Death, bearing a scythe.

You must shoot Death one zillion times — but every time you hit him with one bullet, he disappears as a ghost would, reappears behind your back, and scythes you.

Yet, Death can't kill me either. He's a moron. And he's annoying.

I really wanted to like this game for its comic narrative. But the regular demons are insipidly easy prey. And the unacceptable level bosses require only one thing to get rid of them: hours of dreary patience.

So I turned off the game with Death, and I'm awarding zero stars to what I played.

Feel free to ask, "How can you review this game without finishing it?" I'd respond, "If the first five hours are the worst game play in a major release of 2011, what do think the odds are that it will suddenly spring to glory in the next five hours?"

("Shadows of the Damned" by EA retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3 — Plays terrible. Looks OK. Moderately challenging. Rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual themes, strong language. Zero out of four stars.)

Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at http://www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html.

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