Having played Shadowrun on the SNES and having read some of the Shadowrun lore in the roleplaying books, I was cautiously optimistic when Shadowrun for the PC and the Xbox360 was announced. It was refreshing to hear that FASA were the developers behind this game with the staunch backing of Microsoft dollars. Also, this game would be one of the two links, until more games are released with this capability, that would allow PC gamers to whoop up on Xbox360 owners (or Vice Versa). So, a few questions are brought up: By pushing PC gamers to use Live and Vista, will gamers overlook this game? Also, how does it live up to the legacy that the Shadowrun genre has created? Just read on and uncover the secrets inside this review.
A review isn’t complete without some background information on the game though, so lets delve into some story flavor text of what to expect in Shadowrun. The story involves the player taking either the side the RNA, that desires to control the influx of magic to keep it from sinking into chaos and to line their pockets with money along the way, or the Lineage, who want to keep magic free for everyone and untethered. Both sides have unique looks but the actual character classes, weapons, and abilities remain the same. So, whose side are you going to choose?
My PC consists of an E6300 Core2Duo (1.86), an 8800GTX, a Soundblaster Xifi Pro Gamer, 4 gigs of Ram, and Vista Ultimate.The PC version definitely shows its roots as a game that was designed for a console first and the PC second. The graphics for this game definitely are not primitive, but some of the visuals are a tad bit washed out and the movement of the characters’ movement is very rigid. One of the biggest flaws I was able to experience in the graphical department was how characters just slid up and down ladders without any animation. Anything would have been better than nothing and I am not sure why occurred as this causes a rising suspicion that the game was rushed.
Now that the negative portion of the graphics has been pushed aside, covering the positive effects inside the game will be a much more appreciative endeavor. Small touches like the armor that rises out of the troll bodies when hit, to the tattoos that cover the Lineage Character’s bodies are just amazing looking. When I saw my first troll get hit by an assault rifle and armor sprang out of his body, I had to perform a double take before he mowed me down with his chaingun. Even the glider technology that allows the player to grow wings and glide down from dangerous heights or gain a little boost jump just functions naturally. This makes me question why they couldn’t fix some of the other small nagging details that I mentioned before.
Overall, the graphics are pleasing, though, and my review sounds more harsh than it should be. On my system I have no slowdown and and everything runs smoothly so, but due to other system specs, you might not have such a carefree time as me. Also, don’t forget, this game only runs properly on Vista, even though a group of programmers have already worked around this obstacle.
The musical score at the beginning of the game was a symphony to my ears and I thoroughly enjoyed the intro just because of the music. Other than that, the abilities sound as pretty as they look and the weaponry sounds like the weaponry it represents. The voice overs for the trolls are great, I just had to put that out. On the other hand, the robotic voice overs for the bots started to annoy me after a while. Anything is better than listening to a whiney little kid over Live though.The controls for Shadowrun can be remapped to whatever the player desires, and everything seems to fall into place once the tutorials are completed. I attempted to jump into the game head first and I did not even know how to change my skills or purchase new ones. This left me running around like a chicken, sans head, and a rifle underneath its wing. One interesting feature is how the three skills that you choose can be assigned to up to three mouse buttons. I loved being able to control my skills through the push of one button on the mouse versus having to fight or remember which button the keyboard does what. This design decision was more than likely chosen to make the 360 controls more intuitive.
Other than that, everything gels together nicely without any issues that I can perceive. The controls are responsive and the ability to remap them to your whim screams of the customizability of the PC platform. To keep the game in balance though, PC users who attempt to turn around quickly are greeted by the aiming reticule losing accuracy. Only standing still or not moving erratically will cause this affliction to cease.The core gameplay of Shadowrun is very reminiscent of the Counterstrike genre with magical and technological abilities rolled into a successful formula. Now the player has to worry about a third dimension, legalized noclip abilities (teleportation), and the ability of other players to see through walls (enhanced vision) all the while attempting to dodge conventional sniper rifle rounds or death by katana. In this aspect, the game succeeds and keeps myself coming back for more. The question is how the parts combine to create the whole.
The four races that the player will be able to choose from are: The quintessential human being, the elf, the troll, and the dwarf. Humans are the jack of all trades and do not receive any penalties no matter what technology or magic they use. Elves, on the other hand, are very non receptive to technological implants and lose their essence prowess if too much technology is present on their bodies. They begin with a lower life total but replenish their health once out of combat and are very agile. Trolls, as mentioned previously, lose essence when hit but grow armor plating over their bodies. This allows them suffer immense amounts of damage before they are fragged. Dwarves drain magic from magical items and characters that are close by but replenish their magic power on a much slower scale. Every character you pick is unique due to the nice mix of skills and innate abilities they have.
Definitely DO NOT purchase this game for a single player experience. This game is considered one of the flagship titles for Live and the single player game was seemingly tacked on as an afterthought. The training scenarios do serve their purpose and allow the player to get accustomed to the game; I would definitely recommend one run through before you jump online to give the yourself some experience and not run around blindly. The game definitely rewards proper teamplay and being crippled for being a n00b isn’t fun. Once the tutorials are finished, the player has the option to jump into bot matches and test their mettle. The bots aren’t of Unreal Tournament quality, but they will give you a run for your money and help you build up your skills.
The multiplayer portion is where the life of the game is at. This definitely isn’t a game where you can run around randomly acting like Rambo as the opposing force can tailor their group tactics rampage through your ranks. Having issues with elf katana wielding warriors? Gust will push them back while you mow them down with a rifle or submachine gun. The multiplayer aspect definitely is enhanced through the addition of Live, and finding games/communicating with your teammates has never been easier. It was definitely nice having a standard method of finding games and then speaking among the teammates. Other than that, having the human intelligence element (or sometimes the lack thereof) adds a chaos variable that will keep you on your toes. Sealing off choke points with a spell, rezzing each other, dropping healing trees that benefit the team allows the group to synch together like an orchestra. The only issue I can see with the multiplayer and singleplayer portion of the game has to be the fact that the max amount of players on a server is 16. Sadly, this seems to be more of a way to keep the game manageable for the console but feels like a slap in the face for PC gamers who are used to having more players than that fighting alongside them.
One last item I want to touch upon (I guess the word should be elaborate) would be the Live system that plays a big role in this game. Personally, I have only taken advantage of the free one month trial so far and I am on the fence if I will subscribe. I did love the ability to find a game based on my own skill level, the voice communication, and the ability to play against my 360 brethren (Thanks USMC Kato, Dreamshadow, and PapaSmurf). If more games come out that take advantage of this standard, I will definitely subscribe. I think I will subscribe anyways as long as I continue to enjoy Shadowrun.
Paying almost fifty dollars for the game and then having to pay for the Live Membership, even though there aren’t many games taking advantage of this service, certainly puts a damper on the value. The Live Gold ability to tap into 360 vs. PC gaming and the ability to access the automated matchmaking system is nice, but without a larger game library to take advantage of the features, I am personally less inclined to begin my subscription once the trial is over. Other than that, as of right now, I am still enjoying the game and the Live system, so I might bite the bullet and subscribe.
Both Dreamshadow and I agree that the game does need more than three gametypes and a couple more weapons and upgrades. As of right now, everything is balanced to the utmost level and I cannot see any builds that do not have a trump card that can be created. Adding other skills would definitely upset this level of balance without proper testing. More maps would be welcome though, and if the developers allow for some free content upgrades, it would definitely push my way to subscribe to Live.