posted 7/2/2007 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: 360
In this era of me-too first-person shooters that use the same weapons, the same modes and the same basic structure, Shadowrun strives to be a breath of fresh air.  With its unique character classes, cool tech and game-changing magic, Shadowrun is an enjoyable game that has a lot of cool ideas.  Unfortunately it's also a rather limited experience that is full of small problems that keep it from being the stellar multiplayer game that it could have been.

The problem with reviewing a game like Shadowrun is that for every step forward there seems to be an equal step back.  There's no denying that the game is filled with great ideas (a few of which will hopefully be stolen from future first-person shooter games), but practically every advancement comes with some of negative design decision.  This review, more so than any other I have written, is difficult to write because I want to love this game, however I just feel like there's too many missed opportunities to call this one of the best games of the year.

Loosely based on the popular pen and paper role-playing game, Shadowrun is a first-person shooter full of magic and technology.  With its heavy emphasis on small scale battles, character leveling and mastery of magic/technology, Shadowrun would seem like the perfect fit for an ambitious 3D role-playing game, something of a spiritual successor to the 1994 Genesis game.  But that's not what you're going to get with this newest game from FASA (the company that brought you MechWarrior and Crimson Skies); instead this battle between elves and trolls (and dwarves and humans) has been turned into a fast-paced first-person shooter.  While some role-playing gamers who have been waiting for years for this game will no doubt be disappointing, I'm willing to give Shadowrun the benefit of the doubt and accept that this game works as a twitched-based first-person shooter.

Shadowrun plays more like Counter-Strike then Halo, which goes a long way to help differentiate this game from most of the other first-person shooters currently available for the Xbox 360.  Each round is a battle between the two warring sides, the RNA Global (a politically correct new world order-type outfit) and the rebellious Lineage, who is described as being "a curiously resourceful terrorist group."  The instruction manual gives a brief overview of both of these groups, but don't expect much of a story outside of a few sentences here and there.

You start out each round with a small amount of money and the ability to buy the weapons, magic and technology you want for that round (and hopefully the rest of the game).  As the rounds progress you will be given more money to spend, which will ultimately turn you into a force to be reckoned with by the end of the game.  Forget about having to find the best weapons laying around on the battlefield, Shadowrun is all about customizing your character with the abilities you feel will enhance your gaming experience.

It's the magic and technology that sets this game apart from any other first-person shooter.  When you first start playing Shadowrun it's easy to be overwhelmed by all of the new things you can do, you'll see people flying around the level, teleporting through walls, and even turning into clouds of smoke.  Thankfully there's a six-part training mode that explains all of the basics of playing this innovative action game.  Before long you'll be casting spells, equipping technology and buying new weapons with the best of them ... and hopefully you learn soon, because not using this stuff to your advantage will be the difference between winning the game and only lasting a few minutes in each round.

The magic is definitely the start of the show, depending on what spells you buy you will be able to resurrect your fallen teammates, teleport all over the place, and even create a bunch of large spike crystals that make it extremely difficult for your enemies to get to you.  There are actually some ingenious magic spells that you can buy in Shadowrun, many of which can change the way you play a first-person shooter.  For example, instead of searching around for health packets, all you need to do is conjure up a Tree of Life, a large glowing tree that not only replenishes your life bar, but also gives you some much needed cover.  You can also teleport through walls, the ground and even the ceiling.  This is great because it will allow you to get to specific parts of the map quickly, and best of all, if you're under fire from the enemies you can warp out of the situation and live to fight another day.  Another cool magic attack is the Summon spell, which will create this gigantic monster that will do whatever it can to kill your target.
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