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Shadows of the Damned’s Big Boner goes limp

So I’m playing Shadows of the Damned, the new “supergroup” game from Suda 51, Shinji Mikami, and Akira Yamaoka for a review at Gameshark.com, that I should have ready before the weekend. I won’t spoil it here, but I will say that it’s disappointing. I’ve been totally powergaming it, I’m nearly through the fourth chapter and there’s only five so it’ll probably go into the mammoth Codex of Games I’ve Beaten by the end of the night. I was steaming right along until I hit one of the most poorly conceived action sequences in a game since that damned asteroid shooting thing in the first Dead Space. It took me over an hour to get through it, so I’ve got to vent a little rage here today.

In the sequence, which takes place in sort of a hot-pink neon red light district with an extremely cool synth soundtrack, Garcia Hotspur and Johnson have to fend off waves of these giant, Kaiju-sized “hellmonkeys” from a stationary position on top of a building. Johnson calls a phone sex line and becomes the “Big Boner” rifle (complete with a “scha-wing!”). The left and right bumpers pivot Garcia while these giant monsters converge on the building, and he says more puerile and inane one-liners related to male genitals while firing.

Crude, unfunny humor aside, the segment brings the game to a screaming halt because it’s so mechanically screwed up. The aiming throughout the game is crap, but in this section it’s particularly bad with questionable hit detection and the strange need for pinpoint accuracy. And when you turn from facing one street, you can’t see what’s coming down the others, so one of the monsters might be right up on you- and out of the firing radius of the Big Boner. So you die over and over again because you either can’t hit anything with the slow-firing gun or you’re taken by surprise. Then, you’ve got to watch a stupid death animation where Garcia gets thrown into a billboard, followed by the phone sex call again. You can’t skip any of it.

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I finally got through the excruciating “Big Boner” sequence and felt relieved that I would never, ever have to do it again. Until the game made me go through two more subsequent- and more difficult- segments of the same horrendous gameplay. Seriously, It’s like a bad practical joke and the player is the mark. I’m really kind of shocked that none of the major (and favorable) reviews I’ve read have mentioned this terrible, terrible portion of the game. It’s one of those things where you find yourself asking, “am I just really bad at this, or is it badly designed?”. With my extensive experience with this section, I’m afraid it’s clearly the latter.

It’s such a terribly conceived, unfun, and annoying section of the game. The rest of the title has hardly been great, but the fact that this part of the game made it through any kind of playtesting or QA is rather shocking. The sequence looks great and sounds great, but playing through was literally a trip through hell. I’m all for difficult games that put up a good fight, but when the challenge is in overcoming s#!tty design, I’ll pass.

I’ve got plenty more to say about the game, which is at this point cruisin’ for a bruisin’. It isn’t nearly as maverick or exciting as anything these guys have done in the past, and if you’re a fan of horror or surrealism then its “weirdness” comes across as trite and silly. If you’ve played No More Heroes, Killer 7, Vanquish or even Bayonetta, this game looks and feels awfully tepid once you get past the death metal record cover style and the occasional bit of cockeyed inspiration. This might turn out to be a 5,000 word review.

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Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

26 thoughts to “Shadows of the Damned’s Big Boner goes limp”

  1. See, this is why I don’t trust any major gaming sites with reviews anymore. Nobody mentions anything about something as frustrating and game-breaking as this. It’s like the Hades blades in the first God of War, except worse apparently. Nobody is harsh enough in reviews these days. I vow never to buy a game on release day (or week) again, until I see some actual, honest gameplay impressions like this. This is why I come to this site. 🙂

  2. Does the Bulls#*t Meter of a serious gamer fill up over time? I remember, for example, playing the NES Ninja Gaiden stages approximately 10 million times, only to be killed by the SAME DAMN FLYING THING…or a monster you kill, only to have him respawn behind you. I put up with it then, and loved it. But now? Screw that constant retry crap. I’m old, and I got s#*t to do.

    But at the same time, overcoming challenges like that may be what other people consider to be The Point of Gaming.

    So I wonder if we all have this perfect game in our mind, and we put up with things that aren’t part of that ideal less and less over time. And maybe the other reviewers, who make light of a problem like this, just don’t mind it as much, or their BS Meters aren’t maxed, so they don’t launch a 27-hit Hate-ality Combo over it.

    But in this case, it sounds like I’d do the same thing Mister Barnes did. So that’s another game I don’t need to play.

  3. This is a total bummer because I was actually enjoying this game up to the big boner segment. The shooting is pretty tight, and the game really is about the shooting, everything just packs this sort of oomph. Then the big boner section comes up and I’m just what the fuck is this? I beat the first stage, and felt like it was ok… then I leave and it happens again!? I know neither Suda nor Mikami are above making frustrating out-of-place gameplay, but it’s not like they can’t tell that these are the parts that people hate? When suda did no more heroes and put those bullshit money earning minigames and pointless open world travel, people called him on it and he fixed it in NMH2. But it’s like it’s back again.

    I have this theory that japanese developers hate gamers. They make games designed to frustrate people that play them. I think you know what I’m talking about: They’ll have an overall decent game, but in it they will put some feature that’s so … evil, and you can’t get around it it’s in the game everywhere. It’s not the focus, but it’s like the zit on your back that’s kinda painful and you can’t quite reach and you wish that the rest of the game wasn’t good at all so you can write it off and forget about it like the whole thing never happened to begin with.

    I don’t know how else to explain JRPGs or stupid quick-time events or sections like this Big Boner thing.

  4. I think the most telling thing about the reviews thus far as is that the actual shooting is kind of wonky throughout most of the game. Not so bad that you cannot play the game, but bad enough that it becomes a pain in the rear at times. Not to mention that all the jokes and vulgarity feel more at home with the same reviewer’s descriptions of Duke Nukem Forever that it makes me wonder why this content is bad in Duke, but charming in this game.

  5. You think the rest of the shooting in the game is tight? Man, I don’t at all. I think it’s really sloppy. The collision detection is weird, and it’s like the hit boxes are teeny tiny or something. I’ve sat there and shot at things dead certain I was hitting them but I wasn’t. The angle of Garcia in relation to the screen feels off or something.

    But yeah, this sequence is HORRIBLE, and I’m actually going to lower my obligatory letter grade based on it alone because it affected my enjoyment that much. The shitty 2D shooter scenes sucked too, but at least those were easy to get through. Is anyone that played any of Suda’s previous games still surprised when he mixes in a low-fi 2D arcade bit?

    I do dig the Ghouls n’ Ghosts maps, I gotta admit.

    But yeah, Japanese developers get hooked into these really crappy, clunky mechanics…I don’t get it. It’s like Japanese development came to its conclusion with the PS2 and it’s gone no further. This game could have been a PS2 title with scaled back graphics, easily. And I can’t say that I’m all that nostalgic for PS2-era games yet.

    I frown every time I’m asked in a game to repeatedly press X to open a door or perform a function…even in Arkham Asylum. This game has that too. Enough with that shit, developers.

  6. Oh man, you are right on the money with the Duke Nukem comment.

    In Bulletstorm, I was totally OK with the crude jokes because they sort of worked as a meta-satire of the ultra-macho video games it was sending up…and really, they were nearly as bad as reviewers made them out to be.

    But with Shadows…let me preface it by stating that I’m a HUGE fan of classic horror, supernatural and gothic horror in particular. I can’t think of a single example of classic horror- including horror comedies like Evil Dead 2- where there’s dick, butt, piss, and shit jokes. It’s completely out of place, which makes them even more childish and embarassing. I seriously think a 12 year old boy that still laughs at seeing the word “penis” would be the ideal audience for some of the writing in this title.

    It does not work. It isn’t funny, charming, or endearing. It’s just crass and it feels totally forced given the setting and tone.

    I don’t want to hear the “Grindhouse” argument in defense of it either…there isn’t anything “Grindhouse” about this. That’s a term batted around these days by people who’ve never actually seen 1960s/1970s/1980s exploitation movies and have this false nostalgia for a kind of movie that really doesn’t exist. Newsflash- most grindhouse movies are really shitty and boring, with only a couple standing out as something transcendent of that assessment.

  7. The hitboxes on the charged torch swing ARE weird(i’ve clipped through enough dudes with it) but the actual shooting, and bullets hitting things just feels good to me. It might *feel* floaty sometimes but that’s because there’s no aim-assist. But something about that shotgun feels right! Like I belong! There are a couple of control issues that seem bizarre though: there are 2 buttons for healing that do basically the same thing(one gives you a radial choice menu, the other just uses whatever you have…. why not have just the latter?) and the dodge roll and 180 turn mapped to the same button, so I can’t quickspin while running (mildly annoying).

    Have you noticed how you can move while shooting, though? Rather than a testament to Mikami’s competence, this is actually very telling how shitty Capcom’s RE developers were. For every hour that I’ve played this game I just hated RE5 even more than I previously thought possible.

  8. I’m halfway through act three and I happen to like the stupid humor juxtaposed over the death metal cover meets Alan Moore art style.

    But the controls are unforgivable. Shoot and run are the same fucking button? Same for 180 degree turn and dodge?

    Also I almost gave up the game after the sequence that took me over an hour to finish in act three. The controls are not set up to let you run and gun. Yet you make me play a prolonged running sequence where a ghost is chasing me full speed and if she touches me once I die, yet I have to also gun down demons? It wasn’t challenging as much as it was the biggest “throw the controller” moment I’ve experience in years of mature game design.

    There’s so much in my opinion going for this game but the controls are just simply off the charts awful.

  9. I found the light shots really off too. There are too many times the sights are dead on what I am aiming at and the light shot didn’t register. As the light shot has a recharge penalty that has led to a few cheap deaths.

    I just finished the extremely elegant inFamous 2 right before this game so I think it is making the Shadows of the Damned action all the more frustrating.

  10. Oh god, that part sucked. There’s ANOTHER one coming up in act four…two more, actually. One is worse than that first time. Plenty of one-touch deaths and lengthy reloads. The controls are such crap…it’s really kind of amazing how clunky they are compared to, say, Dead Space 2. A game where there isn’t any of this janky aiming crap, much cleaner and clearer inventory/upgrade systems, smoother combat…oh wait, maybe they MEANT for the game to be this crude and unpolished? I don’t know anymore.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that sees the influence of death metal cover art in this…this shit is totally pulling from the Morbid Angel/Cannibal Corpse/Death school of art and design, that’s for sure…in fact, my notes for the review already contain the line “art style= Castlevania meets Cannibal Corpse”.

  11. Yikes. I’ve been so good about finishing games lately but I’m one or two awful sequences from calling it in.

    I definitely see a lot of 90s Death Metal influence. Cannibal Corpse is a great touchstone. Also if you look at the art of Dan Seagrave, he did a lot of the iconic album covers for Sepultura and other bands, there is a definite influence. Also there is the scene in the swampland area where there are dead babies hanging from trees and clothes line writhing. It reminded me a lot of Megadeth’s Youthanasia cove

    THAT is the part of the game keeping me. Akira Yamaoka also did great soundtrack work. It’s just the actual game part that is killing me!

  12. Yikes. I’ve been so good about finishing games lately but I’m one or two awful sequences from calling it in.

    I definitely see a lot of 90s Death Metal influence. Cannibal Corpse is a great touchstone. Also if you look at the art of Dan Seagrave, he did a lot of the iconic album covers for Sepultura and other bands, there is a definite influence. Also there is the scene in the swampland area where there are dead babies hanging from trees and clothes line writhing. It reminded me a lot of Megadeth’s Youthanasia album cover.

    That is the part of the game keeping me. Akira Yamaoka also did great soundtrack work. It’s just the actual game part that is killing me!

  13. I got to the end of chapter 3 on Shadows last night, and so far the game’s been a hoot. The humor hits just as much as it misses, and the controls are right on-par with RE:4 or RE:5. I’ve yet to have a single instance where I felt the controls let me down. The game is atmospheric, fun, and ultimately enjoyable.

    I can understand where the “Big Boner” section might be a bit of a hassle, but I highly doubt it’s bad enough to skew the entire review so negatively.

    I’m starting to get real tired of these pretentious “high-horse” reviews of honestly decent fun games. You see complaints about games that don’t boast blockbuster-level production budgets, complaints about games with slightly esoteric mechanics, complaints about games that don’t hand hold you through every damn thing, and then the same people complain that every game is the same “shoot terrorist bad guy” snore-fest as the last one.

    To me, it all smells of one of two things: A) the reviewer wants to make games but can’t, so he shits on everything out of subconscious spite (the normal critic trope) or more realistically B) the reviewer has played so many games on such a regular basis for so long that games don’t (and can’t) excite the fun centers of his brain any more. And you know, at that point, he’s no longer really a gamer. He’s burnt out, and probably shouldn’t be reviewing games.

  14. Or it could just be that the game genuinely fucking sucks (IMHO, of course) due to its crude mechanics as much as its crude humor. I love horror. I hate dick jokes. What am I supposed to do with this?

    I’m all about small-budget, quirky, esoteric, experimental games that are tough as nails, have no hand-holding whatsoever and nothing to do with terrorists or shooting at all. I’ve loved almost everything Mikami and Suda have done and would rank Killer 7 and Vanquish easily among a list of favorites, not to mention RE4 and No More Heroes. I also enjoy games that are just stupid fun with no artistic pretension or meaningful innovation whatsoever. As it stands today, I’d probably slate Mortal Kombat as my game of the year so far. So before you start slagging me along this “pretentious game critic line”, you’d better do a little more investigation before jumping to conclusions.

    I agree that the game is atmospheric, because it has a great visual style and an absolutely killer soundtrack. But none of the atmosphere comes from story, dialogue, or gameplay. Controls are definitely a step down from RE:4 but yes, above RE:5. The aiming is atrocious, and the combat still feels clunky even though you can move and shoot. This game is a dated, uninteresting third person shooter that looks and feels different on the surface but its differentiators are purely skin deep.

    As for the Big Boner bit, It’s a great example of a poorly designed segment intended to change the pace of gameplay but that falls completely flat due to incredibly poor execution. There’s a couple of retro homage bits that I won’t spoil for you coming up, but they’re intentionally crude and they’re just utterly stupid. But there again, they _look_ different, so if you’re going for style over substance they might register better with you.

    Neither of these diversions were fun- they were irritating and sloppy. Which is fine if the concept is good, but in these cases they just weren’t. I’d like to hear what you think when you finish the game, and I’d like to hear what you have to say about my full review when it goes live sometime over the next couple of days.

    But friend, I gotta tell you- there’s nothing more “pretentious” and “high horse” when a fan assumes that there’s something wrong with the critic instead of the subject of criticism.

  15. Yes, Dan Seagrave, that’s his name…I couldn’t remember it. Over the course of the game it gets pretty old though, because there isnt’ much variation. There is near the end, where there’s kind of a jarring shift that’s momentarily exciting.

    This was a tough game for me to finish…the last boss fight was grueling, it was one of those things where you shoot something for 30 minutes, die, and have to do it all over again because you didn’t do something just right. Sorry, but I’m over that kind of gameplay.

    You’re right about the soundtrack- it’s _amazing_. Ironically, one of the best pieces is during the Big Boner sequence…it’s this dark synth track that sounds great and gives the neon an appropriately seedy tone.

  16. I also agree somewhat. I don’t mind the jokes. But I do mind cheesy game play that requires you to know in advance every thing that you have to do.

    The comparison to the turret sequence in the original Dead Space is spot on.

    I’ve been enjoying the game. But the sequences where you are running from your girlfriend who can strangely kill you with a kiss, and the annoying big boner sequences, really should have been made easier.

    Who the hell wants to play an overly hard turret game for an hour (or three hours for three turret mini games), when they could’ve just sent you straight to some strip club where you could’ve had a cool boss sequence or something.

    The comment that Japanese developers love punishing gamers is pretty hilarious. I don’t think that is the case. I’ve studied Japanese culture and hard work is prized in Japanese culture. So it could be that for a Japanese gamer, some stupid cheesy mini game like the big boner section is actually a valid trial of one’s skills.

    Either way I hate it, and these sequences are enough to make me return the game and get Dead Space 2 or something else that may or may not have cheesy instant death sequences (which are so annoying for my American self).

    The rest of the game has been fun and I wouldn’t mind keeping it. But if I can’t get past the first of these big boner sequences I’m going back to Gamestop and getting a different game.

    Also I hate your guys spam filter.

  17. I don’t know man. Bayonetta and Vanquish showed more love for gamers and understanding of the gaming medium then any games of 2010 that I played and I’m most pumped for Anarchy Reigns right now. I also thought that Resonance of Fate showed incredible love for gamers who wanted something different in their combat systems. This year the best downloadable title I played so far was Bangai-O HD missile fury which also shows an incredible understanding of the medium. If any nationality has the ability to save video games from the pretentious gosh can’t I be a bad movie plague that they’ve been suffereing from recently it’s the Japanese developers.

  18. Did it never occur to you that you should be checking the streets at all times during the Big Boner part? I can’t believe it took you an hour, I only died once. And that’s because I wasn’t checking all the roads and saw one of the demons a little too late. As long as you constantly check the roads and get headshots that section should be stupidly easy.

    And as for the chase scenes, you DO know you can hit Paula with a light shot to stun her right? Sounds like you were just trying to run and gun which is a very stupid thing to do. The chase sections were just as easy as everything else, you’ve just gotta play smart.

    Giving bad reviews because you’re too bad at the game really reflects poorly on you dude. Just sayin’.

  19. Another “it’s the reviewer’s fault for doing it wrong” comment attempting to excuse poor design.

    Sorry, the game sucked at being a game. I didn’t suck at playing it. There’s plenty of games I love that I completely suck at- most fighting games and Ikaruga, for example.

  20. If the design was so bad, how did so many other people have such an easy time with thje Big Boner and chase parts? Surely they would’ve done just as poorly as you did.

  21. We do too.

    The best way to handle this, if you get caught in the spam wash, just email me or Brandon and we can approve the post. Takes only a sec for us to approve it.

  22. Why couldn’t it be different expectations, critical standards, or personal preferences? Or folks simply not considering it as a negative mark on the game?

    It’s my opinion on it, end of line.

  23. 100% agree with Ouroboros. Died 3 times myself, but overcoming challenges is the best part of gaming.. (also, when you concentrate, head-shots on those guys are a peace of cake). Haha .. you would fail at Dark Souls.

  24. The big boner segment of the game totally ruined it for me, the aiming is off, the hell-monkeys come flying out of everywere its totally frustrating,i agree with your review it was well wrote,thks.

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