Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Developer: FASA Studio


Category: Action

Release Dates

N Amer - 05/29/2007

Official Game Website

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    Also available on:
  • 360

Shadowrun Review

I was totally stoked to get this title, and admittedly, I would have preferred it on my 360, I only a have a couple of games for my new "Duo core processor" PC under the "Games for Windows" banner the mighty Microsoft is flying oh so high lately. So with an eagerly shaking hand, I tore into the box, popped it in my computer and .... nothing. OK, so re-boot, and try it again. I only say this because there has been an awful lot of performance issues with the new Vista OS and this game is a Vista required title. Alright, second time is a charm, game boots up and off I go. Now in Shadowrun, things are set up a bit more different then you would think. Most notably (and disappointingly) there is no single player adventure to be had here. Which quite frankly, really stinks. The developers (Havok/Microsoft Studios) have elected to take a really cool idea and completely miss the boat on what could have been a kick butt single player game.
In the game, you play as a member of either the Lineage order (see religious zealots) or the Uber corporation RNA Global (see nefarious world dominating group). Now older folks may recognize the license of Shadowrun as it was a semi-known pen and paper RPG played almost 20 years ago. Think about it like Dungeons and Dragons, only with a techno/wizard feel to it. In the game, players assume the role of one of four races present in the game; the humans, the elves, the dwarves or the trolls. Well these two power house forces each wish to dominate the newly awakened magic that has somehow miraculously reappeared. Except the game doesn't take place in the dark ages, it's a dirty Blade Runner like future where weapons and technology have been the dominant force for too long. Players must learn to adapt to their new magical abilities while maintaining their more technological aspects of the game. In other words, you must attempt to make a well rounded player that possesses decent firepower, strong magic and the ability to move around quickly. In fact, the game's strongest selling point is the fact that you can get up to 12 different abilities but only carry three into battle. This makes things interesting because players may wish to use magic to heal themselves or in a more offensive way. Same thing goes for either bouncing around maps by teleporting or using the glide wings to move.

"Time to take a little trip."

What happens though, is that while the combinations of technology and magic seem to be near endless, the game does not provide an adequate amount of maps to force players to really utilize the differences in abilities. Out of the box, there are nine maps with three variances, one could argue that there are 27 maps, but that isn't really quite right. I was hoping for more maps with large open areas, combined with tight, claustrophobic maps. Forcing you to augment your character radically. Sadly, this is not the case. I'm sure there will be more maps on the way, but c'mon, nine maps for a game that doesn't even feature a single player storyline?
These maps by the way, do a decent job of showing off what can be an entertaining hodge podge of magic and mayhem, but the character models in my opinion looked a bit out of sorts. Lighting effects were crisp but I noticed some slight shading problems in the darker corners of some maps. The biggest hiccup was the strain to even get logged on in order to play online, and when I did, there was lag, there was some skitchy movements and there was me getting frustrated.  
Add to this that there is no sort of ranking system as of yet on the board, telling players who is top dog and who is nipping at their heels. Ranking and leaderboards are completely non-existent in the world of Shadowrun which is just completely alien to me in this era of highly competitive online play. In fact, if Microsoft studios is hoping to mimic the success of it's Xbox Live with the PC version of Live, it is going to need to get on track and fast.  

 "Don't move, there is a big ugly dude right behind you."

The game has a fairly decent accompaniment of sound effects, magical whiz-bangs and gunfire. There seems to be no sort of in-game music to help you get pumped up when the chips are down. In fact the only music that can be found is when you are putting your character together in the menus. Otherwise, the game merely gets points for having decent sound effects.
Now I've been pretty forthcoming with how the game isn't a single player game, and that is true for the most part. You can play by yourself against bots and completely skip the abysmal experience of trying to play online. The A.I. is pretty flaky though. It seemed to me as if it was an afterthought more then anything. One time the bots will be playing you pretty tough, another time they are running around in the open begging to be killed. It's always one extreme or the other, never a happy medium.
Now the weirdo magic and weapons are something to talk about. Grenades that steal another players magic, and machine guns that are strangely ineffective at close range are all part of the mystery that seems to surround this game. Melee weapons, demonic incantations are all par for the course when you run and zip around the maps in whatever sort of playing mode you are in. And the game does feature a couple. One is the team deathmatch called attrition where everyone fights until one side is all dead. One is called extraction where each team must collect a magical artifact and return it to it's base. This one is closest to a capture the flag style game. Lastly there is a mode where one team assaults the other's base in order to claim a magical artifact, and the other team must defend. 

"I'm shooting a $1800 gun while wearing $7.00 shoes."

There is an awful lot of little things in Shadowrun that quite frankly make me wish the developers took another six months to glean over the game. The ability to resurrect fallen teammates, slick glider wings that fly you above everyone. Each race having particular abilities to tweak with. Mind powers that push people off the edges of cliffs, the complex way the mingling and managing of powers can consume you. Just when you think you have the perfect combination, you get your face turned into a hat by someone who has put things together a bit more effectively then you. It all makes me so mad, because the frustration in playing the game really is a turnoff to what I thought was a modern rehash of counter strike.

Review Scoring Details for Shadowrun

Gameplay: 6.4

It is a strictly multiplayer game (whether bots or real people) and the fact that playing online is so infuriating almost makes me want to cry, but then you stumble into a match where everything flows perfectly. And for one fleeting game, the stars line up and the action is so much fun, that you constantly try and mimic that experience by playing 20 buggy and cruddy matches.
Graphics: 7.0
Seems a little dated, I thought the characters looked a little weak and where's the customization ability? Hello, 2007 here, if we can customize our poker players down to their eyebrows, then certainly something needs to be done here. Fog effects look particularly great on one level, five of the nine maps are forgettable.
Sound: 6.8
It's clear enough, and you know your being shot at. But the frantic pacing of any in-game music is sorely lacking.
Difficulty: Medium
This is a hard one, since it's pretty much you vs. the other online players. The game features this supposed ability to match you against like skilled player, but there is no rhyme or reason as to how this happens. And if that is the case, then why am I getting my butt kicked all over the place sometimes. Is it because of the online experience? Or is it something else entirely. I don't know, and it's frustrating.
Concept: 7.5
I really love the whole, technology meets magic and then all hell breaks loose premise, but I still wish an 8-10 hour single player game existed. Still, the game is answering a call from people who wanted to step it up a notch from counter strike, with it's all online action.
Multiplayer: 6.1
When a game that is 90% online play has as many problems as this one does, it makes me wonder who's making the call to put this thing out when it clearly needed more time and love put in. But every once in a while everything plays perfect and for one fleeting moment, gaming nirvana is achieved. Too bad it is so far in between blissful experiences like that.
Overall: 6.9
Argghhh, the frustration of playing this game wouldn't be so bad if the rest of it stunk. But to have a game with cool devices, an interesting war over who should get magic and some really clever gameplay and then have stinky online play only makes the cut go that much deeper.

GamingPolo Reviews


GP Rating


Mired by some annoyances, Shadowrun is a good first effort to combine online competition between PCs and Xbox 360 users using an action FPS as the setting.

Reviewer: Mike David

Review Date: 06/14/2007

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