For: PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
When? 24 June 2011
What’s it all about? It’s an action horror designed by the all-star pairing of Suda51 (No More Heroes, Killer7) and Mikami Shinji (Resident Evil) set in hell of all places. I wouldn’t call it survival horror per se though, for the simple reason that the games protagonist, Garcia Hotspur, is just too badass to every feel particularly vulnerable, even when facing the most hideous denizen of hell – it would be like being scared while watching Hellboy by way of quick comparison.
SotD opens with Hotspur standing tall over a massive horned demon in its deathrows, before he delivers the coup de grace the demon just has times to mutter some threats about the fate of Paula, Hotspur’s predictably blonde and svelte girlfriend. Quick as a flash he hot-foots it back to his apartment only to find a demon hatching out of the hanging corpse of his dearly beloved.
This being a game in which death means little however, it transpires she lives on within the very body of Flemming, lord of the underworld and so, as you might expect, Hotspur is soon on a mission to hell. Let’s face it, if I hadn’t already told you that Suda51 was involved you wouldn’t have had much trouble guessing at it would you?
By Hotspur’s side is a good demon (if that isn’t an oxymoron) going by the name of Johnson, and a fine gentleman he is too, speaking with a quintessentially posh accent. Johnson is a shape-shifter, morphing to form Hotspur’s weapon (a badass gun), mode of transport (a badass motorcycle) and even a torch (not that badass, though you can swing it like a club). As the bigger enemies fall he’ll also gain extra transformations through the collection of blue gems, each adding an extra weapon to Hotspur’s available roster.
A good job really as the denizens of hell are after all legion, and each only too happy to take a bite out of our hero. Going bump in the night are the standard ghoul who comes sometime armoured, the ghoul covered in a dark sheath which must be shattered with a special ‘light’ shot and the always out of reach energy ball thrower. Then there’s, and a whole lot of huge demons; of note from what was on show at the preview event was a scantily clad beauty able to create tremors by singing, and a blade-packing juggernaut not too dissimilar from Resident Evil’s Nemesis.
One thing each enemy does have in common is the amount of blood it leaks while you kill it. Score a headshot and you might even trigger a slow motion bullet-eyed-view of your kill as it rips through your hapless foes head – nice. Aim for legs and arms instead and they too will be ripped off, leaving said ghoul dragging itself towards you with whatever extremities it has left.
There’s no getting away from it, this is one violent game. Blood, bodies, bits of bodies and human-eating ghouls lurk around just about every corner – imagine the place Hellraiser’s Cenobites might call home and you won’t be far off the mark. The only difference being that at times it resembles a Victorian-era London too, in a strange clashing of styles which – given the weirdness of everything else going on – just about works.
The other noteworthy aspect is the Darkness, an encroaching force which can only be expelled by shooting lamb lamps (yes, you read that right) which then light up the environment. If trapped in the darkness for too long your health will dwindle but sometimes you’ll need to be in Darkness to solve traditional “shoot switch, open gate” puzzles. Some of the bosses also play on this quality, extinguishing the lamb lamps for example to make your besting of them all the trickier.
Worth the wait? For sure. Who it’s designed by alone is reason to give it chance, while it’s humour – if not quite laugh out loud – is quirky enough to appeal, a mix of Evil Dead 2 meets anime. There’s an atmosphere to it too, the visuals are decent – if a little over the top when it comes to the old ultra violence – and more than anything else it’s put together to simply be entertaining and isn’t that what we pays our money for?