Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: FASA Studio
N Amer - 05/29/2007
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The original Xbox was known as the shooter console with several high-profile first-person shooters being released for the console. The 360 is shaping up to be the same with even more impressive first-person shooters. One game that came out of left field was Shadowrun. The entire Sci-Fi/Fantasy Role-playing setting of the series was being shoved into a first-person shooter. Some fans cried outrage while I thought it was bold idea to try something completely different for a well-known title. What we ended up with was a great playing game brought down by the now standard next-generation price point.
The main premise of Shadowrun is taking an FPS and combining it with magic. The “story” centers upon magic reappearing in the year 2021 with corporations around the world battling against forces representing the magic: RNA and Lineage. The RNA side represents the corporations while the Lineage side wants the rediscovered magic to be available to anyone in the world. What this breaks down to is simply a two-team based capture-the-flag game with a large assortment of customization for your character's abilities.
The customization of the characters in the game fall into two categories: Magic and Tech. The Tech elements of the game have five different abilities that can used by your characters. Glider allows you fly across the game map and reach elevated areas on the map. Enhanced Vision lets you see other characters through objects and walls. AntiMagic Generator absorbs magic from other characters and destroys magic items placed on the map. Wired Reflexes boost your skills by speeding up your weapon reloading time, speed and jumping. Smartlink adds a laser targeting system to your weapons and prevents you from shooting your other teammates. Yes, Friendly Fire is always active!
The Magic abilities are even more diverse from the Tech abilities. Resurrect, as the name implies, lets you resurrect fallen team members but with a catch. If you die, any team mates you resurrect will start to die at an accelerated pace, called bleed out. Another catch for resurrect is that you have to leave a body on the map. This means that once you “die” your body will remain on the map until someone can resurrect you. But if someone destroys your body then you cannot be resurrected, you have to wait until the next match starts to play again. There is no re-spawning in Shadowrun, if you’re not resurrected or your body is destroyed your game is over and you can only watch the rest of the match.
The remaining Magic abilities are just as diverse as Resurrect. The Tree of Life is healing tree that when comes into play can heal anyone in play, regardless if they are RNA or Lineage. The trees will only remain in play for a limited amount of time before disappearing. Strangle can be described as the tire spikes of Shadowrun. When someone casts Strangle it can be used to block off parts of the map and used to trap players from the other team, draining their health and magic. Gust allows you to send out a gust of wind to knock back approaching enemies or send them flying off a ledge.
Gust can also be used to damage players that are using Smoke, which makes you temporarily invisible. However if Smoke is depleted then you are momentarily unable to use any weapons, tech or magic abilities. Teleport allows you to move eight meters in the direction you are moving. Teleport lets you move between floors, ceilings and other solid objects. Teleport is particular useful in getting you away from heavy gun fire in an instant. The last Magic ability, Summon, will cast a summoned creature who will fight to the death either defending a location on the map or engaging a hostile. But if another summon creature is nearby it will automatically attack the other monster.
As expected there are casting costs associated with using either a Tech or Magic Ability. Magic requires an Essence cost which are the magic points for your character. Each character class in the game has certain number of Essence points assigned to them and each class has a different recovery rate for their Essence points. For example, while a Dwarf has the most Essence points of any character class it regenerates Essence slower than any other class in the game. The Tech abilities in the game do not require an Essence cost but assigning a Tech ability does take away from a portion of your Essence.
There is one more casting cost for using a Tech or Magic ability: the buy cost. At the beginning of each match you start off with a small amount of cash that you can spend on weapons, magic and tech abilities. The more successful you are during combat (the more kills you get) the more money you will earn to spend on additional weapons, magic and tech abilities. While you might start off a match with only one magic or tech ability, you could end the match with all of these abilities in your character’s arsenal. For the hardcore FPS fan, yes this is the Counter Strike setup all over again.
Each ability you’ve purchased can be assigned to three different slots for your character to use. These slots are assigned to the Left Trigger, Left Button and Right Button on the 360 controller. At anytime during the game you can change the ability that is assigned to each slot by pressing the B button to bring up the ability radial. Once the radial is up you select from either Tech or Magic and then selected from the available abilities you’ve purchased. You can also quick cast an ability that is not currently assigned to a slot by bringing up the radial menu, selecting ability and then pressing the Right Trigger button.
Each team in the game can be composed of four different races: Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Trolls. Humans are the most well-rounded characters since they do not suffer from an Essence penalty when using techs and have more money to spend than the other classes. Elves are the fastest race in the game, can regenerate when not under fire but cannot withstand considerable damage. Trolls are the tanks of the races since they have the highest defense but the slowest and have the smallest amount of Essence. Dwarves are the smallest characters in the game but have the largest Essence total and can absorb Essence from Minions, Strangle crystals and other characters in the game regardless if they are RNA or Lineage. Dwarves can also survive a single headshot and keep playing but regenerate Essence slower than the other classes.
As you have read the game has stacked the deck in terms of offering a ton of variety when in comes to your characters and the abilities of your characters. You’re no longer limited to characters being different based upon the weapon they are using, of which there are nine in the game. Instead it’s up to you to find that sweet spot of how you want to play the game based on customizing the abilities of your character. Did you find success in being a healer, by regenerating teammates and using the Tree of Life? Or did you rack up the kills by selecting a Troll, buying a mini-gun and using the Smartlink ability? There is an almost limitless variety in how you can play every match since you have four different character classes, five different tech abilities, seven different magic abilities and nine different weapons. Just reading it might not sound that impressive but once you get into the game all of these choices can be a little daunting at first. But once you see the AI and other gamers using these abilities it can provoke you to start trying all of the choices to find the one that works for you or the match you’re in.
With all of the variety for the characters the biggest downfall of the game are the gameplay modes. The game is really one big multiplayer experience with two modes. Extraction is where each team attempts to obtain the magic Artifact and take it back to their extraction point. Raid centers on the Linage team escaping with the Artifact. The RNA team can only eliminate all of the members of the Lineage team. Attrition is another option that focuses on eliminating all hostiles and possessing the Artifact allows you to view all of the enemy locations. The single-player game is really just a training session on how to use Magic and Tech abilities and compete against Bots (computer controlled characters) in all of the maps.
It’s very disappointing to see such a finely tuned FPS game limited to just three gameplay modes. The character customization when using the Tech and Magic abilities is impressive. The way you can play the game, using these abilities, can make for some amazing games. But it’s very hard to recommend to anyone except for the most dedicated hardcore FPS gamer to invest the full price for this game. I must say that I think Shadowrun would have made a great Xbox Live Arcade title or if it was released for a discounted price of $29.99. With next generation gaming costing as much as it does now you’re hard earned dollars might be better spent elsewhere. Try the demo out first and see what you think. If you’re a nut for this type of game then Shadowrun might be a no-brainer regardless of the price. But if the powers that be decide to release a slew of free downloaded content or drop the price down then make sure to check out Shadowrun.
|Review Scoring Details for Shadowrun|
Regardless of the Counter Striker comparisons this is still a finely tuned FPS game. All of the characters in the game feel completely different from each other and the Abilities help create a different type of FPS. The controls are top notch even with the 360 controller with spot on accuracy and hardly any camera angle problems.
Visually speaking this is not a shining example of what the 360 can do but the game still delivered a solid framerate and nice particle effects when using magic. Most of the game maps were finely detailed with large areas to explore and hideout. Some of the animation in the game did look very choppy, especially when the game switched to the third-person view when using the Katana.
The voiceover work during the single-player tutorials was well done with the “I’m the arrogant sergeant” routine by the actor. The rest of the sound and music fit the game well but nothing that will make you really take notice.
The whole saying of easy to learn but a life time to master really applies to Shadowrun. It can be a little intimidating getting used to all of the Abilities in the game and how they can interact with a FPS.
There are several factors holding back Shadowrun. One is the gameplay trying to be different but still playing almost exactly like Counter Strike, a game released years ago. Another factor is the amount of gameplay modes, since you really only get two modes. The third is the price point of the game. We’ve seen new titles get released under a Greatest Hits collection so why couldn’t Shadowrun get the same release with a discounted price?
This is the saving grace for the game since Shadowrun is essentially a multiplayer-only experience. You can have up to 16 players competing in a game with eight players per team. You can play via Xbox Live, System Link or a Local Connection with Bots available for System Link or Local Connection. I had one minor issue of waiting several minutes to find the first game when I played on Xbox Live. It took several minutes to finally find a game.
If there was ever an example of a new game that should have been released as a downloadable game, Shadowrun is a top candidate. The gameplay has top-notch controls and close to limitless options when using Magic and Tech abilities. The limited gameplay modes are a big disappointment, especially considering the price point. It’s hard to recommend this game to everyone during the initial release but with a better price point this could be a timeless game that will attract gamers for years.
Shadowrun is a great premise diminished by a lofty price point
Review Date: 06/11/2007