Roundtable round-up: Shadows of the Damned

by: Peter Skeritt -
More On: Shadows of the Damned
Shadows of the Damned, which hits retail next week, marks the second collaboration between Goichi Suda (better known as Suda 51) and Shinji Mikami. The duo first worked together on Killer7, which was a cult hit for the Gamecube in 2005 and was later ported to the PlayStation 2. Shadows of the Damned is markedly different, as the game takes players to Hell as protagonist Garcia. Garcia is in pursuit of his love, Paula, who has been kidnapped by Fleming, the game's antagonist. There's action, puzzle-solving, humor, and a definite "grindhouse" theme to this title, and we were fortunate enough to sit in on a conference call roundtable with two of the game's production team members: Senior Producer Steve Matulac and Executive Producer Joel Wade. 

Here are some highlights of the conversation, which definitely shed some light on and generated excitement for the release of Shadows of the Damned:

A couple of early questions during the call revolved around the game's "over the top" content and the possibility of backlash from the media regarding what Shadows of the Damned is going to show players. Both producers were emphatic that Electronic Arts did not wish to censor the vision and content created by Suda and Mikami. The hope is that consumers are going to know what they're getting into before buying the game. It's not for everyone, but fans of the work from both collaborators will likely appreciate what the game offers. 

There were also questions about expanding Shadows of the Damned outside of video games into other media. At this point, there are no plans to do so, unlike what EA did with Dead Space and Dante's Inferno. As for a possible sequel, Suda has ideas for expanding the Shadows of the Damned universe, but it's going to depend on how well the game sells and the overall reception. Given the this is a new IP, it certainly makes sense to keep sequel ideas on hold until sales and reaction can be gauged. The fact that Suda is interested in expansion is certainly a good sign. 

When asked about the vision of Hell that was being used for Shadows of the Damned, it was made clear that the interpretation within this game will differ considerably from the vision seen in Dante's Inferno. According to the producers, Suda brought some interesting elements and a combination of Eastern and Western ideas. For example, unlike in Dante's Inferno, Hell can be visited and departed from in Shadows of the Damned. Hell takes on multiple forms, as well, including a metropolis, a forest, and a European-influenced village. Baby demons will guard gates between areas, and gems collected during combat will be needed to pass through. Fans of Devil May Cry will probably recognize this mechanic. 

Shadows of the Damned will be an action game, with the weapon actually being Garcia's sidekick, Johnson. Johnson has the ability to transform into different weapons. Depending on the ammo used, each weapon form has familiar characteristics. The bone form feels like a slower but more accurate weapon, like a revolver or rifle. The teeth form resembles a machine gun. The skull form feels like a shotgun. These weapons can be upgraded using gems collected while encountering enemies or solving puzzles. 

Speaking of puzzle-solving, it's also an important gameplay mechanic in Shadows of the Damned. One puzzle that the producers mentioned involved an Escher-like maze. Taking the correct path rewards players with extra items and gems, while incorrect choices can lead to enemy encounters that can hinder Garcia's progress. The use of light and darkness will also be required for certain puzzles and even for combat at times. Identifying which element to use at the proper time will play an major role in certain boss battles. 

The producers promised a generous checkpoint system and multiple save slots for Shadows of the Damned. While it's expected that you'll need the help to complete Garcia's adventure if he falls short on health, alcoholic beverages will give him the extra stamina that he'll need to persevere. There will also be upgrades available for Garcia's health and defense, which will definitely come in handy as long as enough gems have been collected. 

For the Achievement and Trophy hunters out there, you can expect to unlock plenty as you progress through Shadows of the Damned. There will be other achievements to pursue, however. One involves finding and using all of the game's killing moves. Another is based on accumulating a certain number of items. There's even a headshot-based Achievement for those of you with impressive accuracy. 

Shadows of the Damned draws a lot of influence from films by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Army of Darkness, according to the producers, was also a heavy influence for both Suda and Mikami. In that vein, while players should expect a lot of violence and gunplay overtones, there's going to be an element of humor in the game. As for the characters, Garcia is ego-driven and anxious to kill whatever stands in his way, but Paula is his one weakness and Fleming uses this to gain an advantage on Garcia in their battle. Johnson, Garcia's companion and weapon, is a former demon himself and serves as a balance to Garcia's aggressiveness. 

From all indications, EA has really allowed Shadows of the Damned to proceed at its own pace and hasn't impeded on the collaboration between Suda and Mikami. It's going to be a litmus test for both EA and Grasshopper to see whether a unique game like this can succeed given solid distribution channels. The premise is interesting, the content is edgy, the relationships between the characters look to be fascinating, and the screens look fantastic. Shadows of the Damned isn't going to be the "same old thing", and looks to appeal to the core gaming crowd who has been clamoring for something this original and this different. We're looking forward to getting our hands on the game and experiencing it for ourselves soon.  
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