For all the noise, Shadows of the Damned is actually quite a simple game by the looks of it – a third-person shooter with a bit of melee action every now and then.

Demonic enemies stalk you over neglected, overgrown cobbles, among piles of severed limbs and blood smears. You carefully shoot them with your pistol, machinegun or shotgun, or whack them if they get too close. You can target individual limbs to slow their advance, and their heads explode merrily if you get that red-dot sight into the right position.

The pace and style of combat is close to Resident Evil 4 or 5 rather than a typical Western cover-based shooter. The same goes for the enemy design – the larger demon you end up fighting in the courtyard, for example, needs to be spun round to expose the bloody weak spot on his back.

Plus you can shoot barrels, there are boxes of loot lying around, and you need to stock up on health packs (although, this being a Mikami/Suda production, health is restored by downing Tequila and so forth rather than bandaging yourself).

At the conclusion of the playable demo, Paula appears to Garcia in a cut-scene draped in lacy negligee and disappears around a corner. Garcia follows and discovers her body, head severed, lying on a workbench.

He picks up her head sorrowfully and cradles it, and in best Evil Dead tradition it opens its eyes and cackles at him. He drops it and Paula's body collects it from the ground, lifts it up and reattaches it. "Well, that killed my stiffy," says Johnson, rather unhelpfully.

This guy's not on your side.

"Paula" then starts shaking violently, and splits head to foot down the middle, revealing a scabrous, blood-soaked demon with blades on his arms who proceeds to run past Garcia and start feasting on a pile of dismembered arms. As the camera collects Garcia again, the demon is busy sucking on a stump in the foreground.

Then it turns around and advances, and Garcia has to shoot nearby barrels and generally panic-fire to halt its approach. Fade to black.

Our 10-minute snapshot of Shadows of the Damned gameplay isn't enough to really decipher the game, but you also sense that unlike some of Mikami and Suda's more complex previous work – No More Heroes was basically somewhat divisive satire – this isn't a game that wants you to waste time deciphering it.

It's certainly a feeling you get listening to the developers discuss it on stage during an initial presentation, as they namecheck Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, mention Grindhouse cinema and salute the audience by downing shots of whiskey.

They have great chemistry on stage, infectious despite the usually impenetrable membrane of in-line translation that their words first have to cross, and judging by the demo they have great chemistry in development. Shadows of the Damned is great fun – familiar yet enterprising and characterful.

We should get to play it again at least once more between now and the planned 7th June release, and for fans of interesting games masquerading as silly ones, that's a date that can't come soon enough.

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Tom Bramwell

Tom Bramwell


Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.

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