If there ever was a game that had the odds stacked against it before it was even launched, it would have to be Shadowrun. From the moment it was announced that it would be a first-person shooter and not a role-playing game, fans of the franchise had already written off the game. Then there were rumours that FASA Studios would be closing its doors after the game was finished. Then came the announcement that the game would be multiplayer-only, and somewhat lacking in content: nine maps, three gameplay modes. Then the real kicker: the game would be released at full price.
However, this only applies to the good ol’ US of A. Indeed, while many American reviews pan the game, they comment that it’s really only because it’s US$60 instead of US$30. Fortunately, for those of us in New Zealand, the game is going to be released at a budget price: $70. Consequently, it’s hard not to see Shadowrun as the great game that it is.
Does it look good? It looks okay, but it’s nothing amazing. There are even some pretty lazily cut corners, like a lack of climbing animation. Does it sound good? The voice acting is pretty good in the tutorials, and the sound effects are pretty meaty, but it’s nothing special.
What about the much hyped cross-platform compatibility? To be honest, I didn’t even really notice unless I got an achievement for doing something to a PC player – and having only played the Xbox 360 version, I can’t really comment on the PC version.
Does it play well? Is it fun to play? Absolutely!
Shadowrun, for lack of a better way to explain it, is Jedi Outcast meets Counter-Strike. The Counter-Strike elements are obvious: players will either take control of a member of the RNA (“counter-terrorists”) or the Lineage (“terrorists”) and engage in a variety of objective-focused, team-ba—In fact, let’s not beat around the bush; at times you could almost con people into believing that Shadowrun is a well-executed mod for Counter-Strike.
You’ll start each round purchasing weapons, magic, and tech. You’ll either attempt to wipe out the other team – when you’re dead, you’re dead (unless you can be resurrected) – or plant the bom—I mean capture the artefact. You’ll work as part of a team, rather than as an individual, and communication and tactics are essential. Honestly, if you’ve played Counter-Strike then you already get part of what Shadowrun is all about.
However, where Shadowrun sets itself apart from Counter-Strike is the use of magic. Here is where the game reminds you of Jedi Outcast. Well, that and running around with the katana feels an awful lot like running around with a lightsaber – you can even deflect bullets with it!
At the start of each game you will pick from one of four races. Humans are your run of the mill average guys who have lots of cash, few weaknesses, but few special abilities. Elves and trolls fit their cliched moulds, with elves being nimble but weak and trolls being ridiculously strong but slow. Dwarfs are perhaps the most interesting race, as they have an increased amount of magical energy to spend on magic, as well as being able to draw it from surrounding players and the environment.
You can have up to three magical abilities or pieces of technology equipped at any time, although you can swap between your accumulated magic and tech you have purchased at the start of each round. The key is to find the perfect combination of magic and tech, a combination that suits not only your chosen race but also your playing style.
Are you the type of person who will play a katana-wielding elf with wired reflexes and the ability to teleport: an artefact-capturing machine? Or are you the type of person who will pick a chaingun-holding troll with Smart Link, Tree of Life, and Resurrect: the foundation of your team’s defence?
The true beauty of Shadowrun is not that it has more content than you can shake a stick at, because it doesn’t. No, the true beauty is that you will spend so much time trying to perfect your playing style until you are unstoppable in your chosen field. Simply finding the right combinations of race, magic, tech and, of course, the right strategy for each map can provide hours upon hours of entertainment.
It also helps that there is a large focus on being a member of a team. For example, when resurrected, you share life force with the person who resurrected you, meaning that you won't just bail on him and leave him to die. When so many multiplayer experiences are about being the center of attention, it's nice to see a game that tries to bring that clan mentality to Xbox Live. It really works in the game's favour, especially as it is a multiplayer-only experience (unless you like playing bots).
Yes, it really is Counter-Strike meets Jedi Outcast with a Shadowrun license, but given that those two games are of the highest calibre – all these years later and people are still playing Counter-Strike – it is hardly a bad thing. Also in Shadowrun’s favour is that there isn’t really anything quite like it on the Xbox 360.
Since the Halo 3 Beta has now expired – yes, yes, I know; “DO NOT WANT!” – Xbox 360 owners might be looking for something to whet their multiplayer appetites until the final game is released. Shadowrun is exactly that game. No, it doesn’t have a lot of content, but it has enough, especially with its great, addictive gameplay, to keep you entertained until Halo 3 comes out. A system seller? No – but Xbox 360 owners should definitely look into getting Shadowrun, especially as it’s only 70 bucks.