Demons With Shotguns has to be one of the great game titles of all time. I mean, it does exactly what it says on the tin, right? There are demons, and they have shotguns. Coming from developers Mindshaft Games, Demons with Shotguns is a couch based combat game with a very retro look indeed. Released first on Steam way back in 2016, is the world of Xbox One ready for this game, or should it have stayed in the past?
First off, the way Demons With Shotguns looks on Xbox One is immediately going to put some off. It puts me in mind of #IDARB, with the characters being a small pile of pixels with shotguns. They have names like The Priest, The Angel and The Nun, and despite the fact that the Bible is light on mentions of weaponry, it appears the religious personnel have adopted ultra violence with a will. The enemies are similarly styled, and despite the limitations of the game engine the characters manage to express quite a lot of emotional range, exuding menace, especially regarding the Hellhound styled guys.
Sound-wise and as you would expect to hear the game is heavy on shotgun blasts and organ music, along with shrieks and growls from the enemies. And of course, with the focus on couch based multiplayer action, the taunting of the those who had previously been thought of as your friends is also included in abundance.
Demons With Shotguns has two sides; some multiplayer competitive couch based mayhem, and the single player/co-op mode called End of Times. Starting off with the former and there are a plethora of game modes to go at. Deathmatch, either with a team or solo is one with the usual “kill most to win” mechanic. Soul Reaping is another where you fight to increase your pool of souls by draining other players of theirs, and again can either be played with a team or as every man for himself. Capture the Soul is a take on Capture the Flag, where players have to fight for control of a single soul, and Last Soul Standing is a mode where everyone has only one life, and must battle until only one stands. The last game type – King of the Soul – is where there is a single soul to capture, and a point is earned for every five seconds you manage to hold on to it. Obviously, given the size of the arenas, this is a lot easier said than done. Again, this game mode can be played in a team or solo, and is probably the hardest mode to actually win.
The single player or cooperative End of Times is a lot simpler, mainly because you don’t have to worry about other real life people shooting you in the face. This is where Demons With Shotguns plays out as a Horde type event, where waves of enemies spawn in and have to be disposed of. As the waves go on, they obviously get harder, with more enemies spawning in at once, ranging from zombies with shotguns, through those previously mentioned Hellhounds and right up to demonic flying harpy type things. Each enemy has their own attack pattern to learn, and with practice its possible to learn what they are going to do, making your life a little bit easier. And it is only a little bit, as the enemies are nothing if not determined to ruin your entire day.
The gameplay in both modes is pretty much the same; challenging in the extreme. Each character has a shield that with a well timed button press can deflect bullets back to where they came from. Now this is very useful in the co-op mode, as I’m sure you can imagine, but killing your friends with their own reflected bullets? That is absolutely priceless. With a double jump built in, a dash move and the ability to shotgun jump (like rocket jumping in Quake, but with shotguns), the movement mechanic is pretty much nailed, and very soon after first picking this game up you’ll be found buzzing about the place, shooting, blocking, dying, swearing and punching your friend sat next to you.
There are also Tarot cards to pick up, which bring in a range of game altering events. These can be things like Super Speed, which usually ends up hurting more than it helps as the gameplay is fast enough already, to Sands of Time, which slows the whole game down with slow motion. Again, this Tarot card is a bit of a double edged sword, as the whole game slows down, including your character, so it doesn’t actually infer any benefit on the person who picks it up. Other Tarot cards see you become Possessed, constantly firing in whichever direction you happen to be facing, or spawning Angelic Wings on your character, allowing you to fly by pressing the jump button. These Tarot cards can turn the tide of a battle, for good or ill, and picking them up soon becomes second nature.
If I’m being totally honest, there aren’t many niggles with Demons With Shotguns on Xbox One. There is finite ammunition that you can carry, and if it runs out you won’t be able to shoot until you get some more, and this is probably where the real main problem arises; the ammo counter is tiny, so suddenly finding out that your weapon is empty often comes as a nasty surprise. Trying to get to the ammo box, in the middle of the screen, when all your friends or the AI are trying to kill you is usually ridiculously hard, and quite often kills your flow too. But that’s pretty much it – the rest of the game plays very well, with a decent speed and movement that is remarkable.
With 4 environments to fight it out in, and 10 arenas to each one, there’s a good variety of battlegrounds to discover as well so if you feel the need to have a religious themed couch co-op/competitive shooting game, then you’ve come to the right place. And if you have three like-minded friends then times are going to get even better. That said, as a solo player it’s not quite as much fun, but it’s still enjoyable and decent enough for a short while.