Shadowrun ReviewCain Dornan
According to the Mayan calendar, magic is cyclical, leaving the world and returning every 5,000 years. Magic enters the world, grows, peaks and eventually retreats. This cycle has turned, and on December 24, 2011, magic began its big comeback tour.
A promotional poster for Shadowrun which prettey much sums it up.
This is the premise for the new tactical, team-based, first person shooter developed by Fasa Studio: Shadowrun.
The game is set in an alternate future, where the rise of mega-corporations has resulted in almost everything becoming privatized, with the corps themselves now regarded as autonomous states; each responsible for enforcing the law as they see fit on company premises. With magic returning, these corporations have, of course, moved to take control of it in the name of profit, resulting in armed conflict with various interest groups. The game focuses on just one of these conflicts, between RNA Global and the Lineage in the city of Santos, Brazil which is the site of a hotspot in magic thanks to a large ziggurat which until recently was buried in a mountain but became exposed after a terrible explosion which wiped out half the city. The explosion was caused by bumbling RNA researchers but, thanks to propaganda, was blamed on the Lineage. From here you can pretty much fill in the gaps: RNA wants to make profit from anything in there and the Lineage wants to stop them.
The full back story is incredibly lengthy, especially for a game seemingly as simple as this, but its understandable when you consider that the game is based off a popular pen and paper role playing game of the same title, although the game is set some forty years prior to when the original was set. This, as one fan of the original rpg told me, means they can do whatever the hell they want.
Shadow run is a team-based, first person shooter which bears more than a passing resemblance to Counter Strike, however once you start playing you quickly realize the differences that set it apart from anything else currently released.
For a start, with each match you have the choice of four races to play as, each possessing its own advantages and disadvantages and each having a role its best suited for. Trolls, for instance, are not slowed by heavy weapons such as the minigun or rocket launcher and their skin that automatically hardens as it takes damage, providing it has Essence, making them walking tanks. Dwarves have the highest essence reserve but recover it slowest, however they make up for it by being able to drain essence from other players and magical objects. So: Dwarf + Troll = Defenceless Troll
Its using strategies like this that allows teams to gain the advantage over their opponents.
Like Counter Strike, each round begins with a short time where you can purchase weapons. In Shadowrun, however, you can also buy Magic and Tech which, unlike weapons, will remain with your character for the rest of the match. Magic items are basically your spells, ranging from the Tree of Life which heals nearby players to Summon which, as the name suggests, will summon a minion to fight for you. All of these cost Essence which is basically the game equivalent to mana. This is very important because equipping some Tech items locks part of your essence away, preventing use, unless, of course, you are Human (Humans arent penalised for using tech). Tech items range from your standard grenade all the way to Smartlink which adds a zoom level to all guns, improves accuracy and prevents friendly fire.
Its these two things, combined with your choice of race, which make Shadowrun both faster and yet more tactical than its current counterparts. Matches are quick and furious with players teleporting, gliding or simply just turning into smoke as the two sides fight for control of the Artefact.
Players will find themselves duking it out in maps set in one of the three locations; the ziggurat itself, the slums of Santos and finally the RNA Head Quarters itself. Each map is large and requiring different strategies to prevail. The maps look good, each one detailed and well designed to make use of all the games weapons, Magic and Tech. The maps in the RNA HQ are neat and symmetrical as you would expect of a company building. The Slums are a maze of small and large passages, with ladders and platforms spread throughout. Finally, the Ziggurat features some of the more memorable levels such as Temple Grounds where players must fight up, down and around the outside steps of the Temple; or Maelstrom which is a relatively hollow map where a great beam of light dominates as it shines upwards to the heavens creating layers of smoke which obscure your view, effectively dividing the level.
Unfortunately every match revolves around players choosing a side (either RNA or the Lineage) and then proceeding to fight over the Artifact, which is basically a big stick with a flaming skull on top. Shadowrun is also multiplayer ONLY, with the only thing close to a single player game being a sad lonely bot match all by your self.
However, one of the things most talked about for Shadowrun is the fact that this game is the FIRST to allow cross platform gaming between Windows Vista and Xbox 360 users. Whats more, they have managed to pull this off seamlessly thanks to a few aiming tweaks and movement limiters on the PC version which means Xbox 360 players are on equal footing with their PC counterparts. Hopefully this will finally put an end to all those arguments with people who say If we had of been playing on PC I would have kicked your ass, well now you can settle this easily. When I say seamlessly I mean it, in the matches Ive played so far it was impossible to distinguish between those playing on a PC and those on Xbox 360, indeed I only found out Id played cross platform when the achievement appeared.
Although there are a few different game types on offer, there is little real difference, with the only major one I can think of being Attrition, where players bodies cannot be destroyed after theyve been killed (in other game types destroying the corpse prevents resurrection for the rest of the round). Either way, matches often descend into little more than simple deathmatches, since there are no respawns you can win any round by simply killing all members of the opposing team. This isnt the only problem and neither is it the worst. Numerous small glitches and problems stink of a game rushed to release. Add to this the fact the wait time for a public match on Xbox Live usually reaches into the 10s of minutes (longest I waited was a whopping 20 minutes!) and Private matches are often laggy with no way to tell who the offending connection belongs too; and when lag hits, it hits like a Mack track usually leaving you with no option but to leave the game and hit the public match queue for a wait time thatll make you whince.
An elf with a Katana. Get used it a lot of players seem to think being an elf grants them mystical samurai powers. Use a shotgun to show them otherwise.
However it does have its moments. Graphically the game is superb, with characters and environments highly detailed. All the items and races have been well balanced and well designed. Theres something awe inspiring about seeing two Trolls back-pedalling into the hallway you are running along, Miniguns blazing away at the enemy or an Elf turning into smoke to avoid bullets as he gets close enough to use his Katana.
The game itself is well done and smooth. I found it a great pleasure to play as it was just the little (and not so little) roughness around the edges that detract from the overall greatness of the game. However, its retailing at $70 in Australia, and at that price theres worse things you could spend your money on.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.