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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
It's clear enough, and you know your being shot
at. But the frantic pacing of any in-game music is sorely lacking.
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.
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
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
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