THE GIST: FASA Studios gives you a full-blown, online-only FPS based off the cult-classic Shadowrun that came out in the 16-bit era and is the first 360 title to allow 360 owners and Windows Vista users to sync up online. Players can choose from 4 races (each unique in their own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses) and do a pre-round stock up on various weapons, tech abilities, and magic a’la Counterstrike. Combatants engage in various derivatives of capture the flag (called the artifact) as well as deathmatch (called attrition) in a first-to-six-wins battle. Matches can be public or private and players can also add bots with several levels of difficulty to the mix. (This game has no offline campaign mode but does come with a tutorial which I strongly recommend going through.)
THE GAMEPLAY: In an overly saturated FPS genre Shadowrun delivers a breath of fresh air that has been sorely needed by FPS aficionados. The various types of race, magic and tech abilities can yield some creative and devastating combinations.
For instance, Elves are weak, but with a katana, tech upgrade to their speed, and magic ability to teleport they easily become the game’s best assassin. Conversely Trolls are lumbering behemoths, but can handle heavy-weapons with ease. Add to that a Glider and Strangle magic and you have a virtual airborne tank that can rain down blockades.
Of course, with great privileges comes great sacrifice. My friend from Rated Gamer Gear was betatesting it, and as he says, magic and tech abilities use essence, Shadowrun’s version of a magic meter. Every use blast of magic sucks away from a set amount of essence (different per character) that regenerates over time or by siphoning it from other sources with the right character.
As far as controls are concerned if you can’t pick-up-and-play you obviously never played an FPS. The only adjustment is remembering which trigger or bumper you assigned which magic/ability to, aside from that the controls are bliss.
Strategy comes in droves with Shadowrun as every player that dies can be resurrected one time provided a teammate equips the magic to do so. In certain game modes dead bodies can be eliminated from the playing field to prevent resurrection and in others they can not. The genius part is if the person who brought you back dies, you begin to bleed out and have to scurry to find a Tree of Life (which refills health) or have another person cast resurrect on you before you die. Even more brilliant is that the developers made the clearing of bodies more difficult for the team with the lead, allowing for comebacks by the team getting creamed The larger the lead, the harder is is for the team with the upper hand to get rid of the fallen.
If that isn’t obvious that FASA knows FPS’s how about the fact that they specifically designed the game so that neither the PC-gamer or 360-gamer has a distinct advantage. Gone is the argument that mouse and keyboard players rule the rounds. Have these guys though of everything or what?
THE GRAPHICS: FASA Studios did not let up on the appearance the Shadowrun. Take one look at the bulldoggish face of a Troll or look up at the swirling sky on the Temple map for evidence of this. Each character is easily definable and with he exception of some weak animations (which FASA has reported will be fixed in an upcoming patch) the presentation is flawless.
THE AMBIANCE: Everything about Shadowrun is AAA quality; Each map is beautifully crafted and refreshingly diverse, the crackling of guns and blasts of magic all fit perfectly to the action on screen, the title never lets up on giving the sense that you are a part of some post-war future.
THE VERDICT: If you have tried the demo, which is severely limited in what the game offers, don’t let that deter you from what will likely be one of the best 360 titles out this year. With unconfirmed free D/L content around the corner I encourage every FPS fan to buy this game, you will not be disappointed.