Fighting is impressively slick, and a lot less clunky than its third-person inspiration. There's a quick-turn available, but you don't have to use it often as Garcia's turning speed isn't as glacial as Chris Redfield's. Generous aim assist makes it pretty easy to hit the mark, but the sheer numbers of the damned, as well as their aggression, keeps the challenge high. Often, you're dodging and dashing around trying to avoid them in search of a goat-head or light source rather than being backed into a corner trying to mow them all down.
The music is completely bizarre, flitting between mouth-organ solos, jazz, metal, creepy swing and twangy country riffs in wildly unpredictable patterns. In combination with the game's nauseatingly weird cut-scenes, it's enough to make you feel a bit wrong in the head. At one juncture, Garcia finds the disembodied head of what appears to be Paula, before it reattaches itself to its lingerie-adorned body. A massive cleaver-wielding demon then explodes from within her, before picking up her individual limbs and snacking on her bisected lower half. "Well, that killed my stiffy," comments Johnson. I think it killed a little bit of my sanity.
Shadows of the Damned is pretty successful at being disturbing, but I'm not sure it's as successful at being funny. It does manage to avoid coming across as try-hard, somehow, which is more than can be said for most games' unwise attempts at comedy. It can also be genuinely scary at times there's a boss fight in the middle of the second act against the aforementioned meat cleaver demon in a series of narrow corridors that bears an extremely strong resemblance to a boss fight in Resident Evil 5, but it's tense and frightening nonetheless.
Possibly the most appealing thing so far about Shadows of the Damned is that it doesn't even pretend to make sense. It doesn't even try to. But it's so full on that there's a distinct danger it'll all be too much by the time you're into the third act. It helps that it's so slick, which means that it's enjoyable for reasons beyond its messed-up script and setting.
It reads like a Suda game and plays like a Mikami one, which for some of Grasshopper's fans will be a mild disappointment it's the slightly broken nature of Grasshopper's games that makes some of the studio's weirdest output so compelling. This, meanwhile, is an action game with a budget and one of the genre's most famous minds behind it. If Shadows of the Damned is as subversive as some of Suda 51's other work, though, there could be a lot more under the surface of this punk-horror road-trip than it first appears.