Shadowrun Review

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Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 8.0
Multiplayer : 8.5
Overall : 8.2
Review by Andy Levine
The gaming industry has seen hundreds of first person shooters including tactical favorites like Counter-Strike and bed-wetting thrillers like Doom 3, but Shadowrun shows us that there’s still plenty of room left for innovation. While it seems like your standard first person shooter at a first glimpse, Shadowrun is a unique game that combines teamwork and raw shooting with RPG-like elements to create an experience like never before. With a variety of races and abilities to choose from, as well as being one of the first titles to support cross-platform gaming between Xbox 360 and Vista, Shadowrun is definitely worth checking out.

By now, most gamers should be familiar with the concept of the first person shooter. You run around with your little reticule and pull the trigger whenever something crosses your path. At heart, Shadowrun doesn’t stray too far from this stereotype, but once you’re trained to play the game you’ll see it in a whole new light. The training here takes at least a solid hour, if not more, but it’s worth the wait. The six missions will introduce you to the different races, strengths and weaknesses of each class, and all of the abilities to choose from. Training for combat is just the beginning; online play isn’t as forgiving as bots to say the least.

There isn’t a single player campaign in Shadowrun, but rather the game consists of arena-type battles, both offline and over Xbox Live. There are different game modes, and each map supports just two. The artifact, which is a key item in any game mode, is the main focus regardless of the game type. Attrition, which is selectable on all levels, is essentially a deathmatch, but possessing the artifact grants you information to the whereabouts of all of your enemies. In Extraction, both teams attempt to secure the artifact and return it to their base, while in Raid one team is designated to defend while the other must do whatever it takes to capture the artifact. Most levels support for up to sixteen players both offline and online, and there are smaller maps available as well.

The difference from other first person shooters kicks in even before the match begins with race selection. The four races are Humans, Trolls, Dwarves, and Elves. Humans are the generic class; they have average attributes and no real strengths or weaknesses. Trolls are the “tank” characters that are extra song and can carry heavy weaponry without it affecting their speed. Not only do they have more health than others, but when shot at their skin hardens, creating a protective coat of armor. Dwarves, as little as they may be, are the only race that can survive a single shot to the head. They specialize in anti-magic spells and can even suck the magic power, called essence, right out of other players and objects. Lastly, Elves are known for their agility and are the perfect candidates if you live hit-and-run tactics.

In addition to race, gamers have the options of choosing abilities during a match. Cash, which is earned by success on the battlefield, can be used to purchase not only weapons, but Magic and Tech abilities as well. Magic abilities, such as Resurrect and Tree of Life, are essential for healers to protect the living and revive the fallen. Other spells, such as casting strangle crystals or a summoned minion, are great for protecting the Artifact or passageways. Tech abilities can be extremely helpful when mastered, such as Enhanced Vision which allows you to see the location of your enemies through walls. Smartlink attaches an enhanced scope to every weapon and prevents you from attacking allies, and the Glider lets you fly around and reach areas that most others will have a hard time finding.

Essence is the key to all of your abilities. Each race has a set essence meter before the round starts, and how you assign your abilities impacts the meter. Only three abilities can be assigned to buttons at any given time. Assigning a Tech ability will lock-out part of your essence meter, while casting a Magic ability will drain from your remaining essence. As such, it’s necessary to manage your abilities; otherwise you might not be able to cast them when needed.

With all of this variety, it’s easy to see how this shooter is far more complex than others. Choosing the right race with the perfect combination of abilities can give you the upper hand, so it’s fun to try out all sorts of combinations. For instance, combining the Glider ability with the Teleport ability will give you an unprecedented amount of movement, while using Smartlink and Enhanced Vision will allow you to seek and destroy even the sneakiest enemies.

Aside from choosing your best setup, though, you also have to make sure that you’re on the same page as your teammates. It’s difficult to work with just bots on solo missions, but online a disorganized team will get crushed in no time. For example, if your team doesn’t have anybody with the Resurrect ability, you’re already at an extreme disadvantage. If everybody decides to be a Troll with a minigun, one quick Elf could wipe out the entire squad before they knew what happened.

It’s amazing how much depth and complexity the developers were able to put into a first person shooter, and it carries both its pros and cons. It’s very easy to become frustrated with this game when you’re first learning because experienced players don’t just kill you by outgunning. Shadowrun isn’t just about sharp reflexes, but instead there’s a heavy emphasis on teamwork, strategy, and coordination. As such, it’s fairly easy to become frustrated if you’re on the same team as a bunch of knuckleheads. Luckily, there is a feature that lets you create parties ahead of time with your friends, but if your buddies aren’t up for a match you’re on your own.

As mentioned, online play is supported for up to sixteen players on Xbox 360, Vista, or any combination of the two. On the PC end, it requires a pretty hefty system to play on high settings without a hitch because there is so much processing to do. One second you could be gliding over the map and within moments you could teleport your way into a building, so of course it’s going to be taxing for any computer to play. On the 360, beautifully detailed environments and sharp special effects are all delivered at smooth framerates, even with sixteen players, which is an achievement in itself. The level designs are just as imaginative as the game design itself, and there are plenty of maps too.

Overall, Shadowrun successfully put an inspiring twist on the popular FPS genre, but this game isn’t meant for everyone. If you prefer strictly run-and-gun shooting without having to plan at your attacks or work up a strategy, then you’ll most likely become frustrated very early on. Also, it does take a few hours to learn how to play comfortably, and you’ll be at a serious disadvantage if you just try to jump right in to the action. Nonetheless, gamers willing to learn the ins and outs of Shadowrun will undoubtedly have a great time.
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