July 29, 2007
What do you get when you mix RPG elements into an FPS? If you guessed trolls wielding miniguns, you'd be exactly right. Fasa Studio set out to put a new spin on the FPS genre, and they did just that. The combination of mythical races, magic powers, and modern weaponry is what sets Shadowrun apart from it's competitors.
Although Shadowrun doesn't have a single player campaign, it does have a storyline. Every 5,000 years, magic is reborn in the world. In the year 2011, magic starts to reappear in Santos, Brazil. Years later, RNA Global, one of the largest corporations in the world, sent a research team to uncover the truth of what was happening. Using an ancient artifact, they searched the mountains of Brazil. When they discovered magical energy emitting from the side of one particular mountain, they tried to control it with the artifact. The result was an explosion that destroyed half the city of Santos. After a time, RNA returned to Santos to finish their mission. They took complete control of the city and resumed their studies of the magical energy. The citizens of Santos eventually started to revolt, and formed a group known as the Lineage. The revolt turned into a war, and raged on for years over the control of the ancient artifact.
In Shadowrun, you play as either RNA or Lineage. Both sides have the same races, weapons, and magic. The only difference between the two is color (RNA is blue, Lineage is red). Each side has 4 races: Human, Troll, Elf, and Dwarf. These races are each different in their own way, with advantages and disadvantages to balance gameplay. The human starts the game with $500 more than the other races, and doesn't suffer an essence penalty when equiping techs. They have an average health and speed. The troll has the most health and runs the same speed no matter what weapon it is carrying. It is also the slowest race. The dwarf has the most essence and can take a single headshot without going down. It also has the slowest essence regeneration, but can steal essence from magical objects or other races. And last but not least, there's the elf. The elf is the fastest of all the races and can regenerate it's own health. This is a good thing, because elves have the lowest health of all the races. Elves also move slower when carrying large weapons.
The gameplay in Shadowrun has a very deep learning curve. You have to learn what combinations work best with each race. Playing some local games against bots is a great way to learn the game before jumping into the online experience. Games are played in rounds until one team wins six rounds. In the first round, you are given $2,000 to work with (humans get $2,500). The amount of money you receive in each additional round depends on your performance in previous rounds. Kills, resurrecting fallen teammates, etc. will gain you extra money, whereas wounding or killing teammates will penalize you. You have the option of purchasing weapons, magic, and tech. You can also donate money to other teammates when they're in need. Basic weapons such as the $500 SMG are relatively cheap, compared to the $5,000 rocket launcher. Magic and tech are around the $2,000 - $3000 range for the most part. Your job is to find out which combinations work best for you, and for your team.
Shadowrun has a total of nine maps and three game modes. A lot of people feel that this is not enough for a game that has no single player campaign experience. The game modes consist of Attrition, Extraction, and Raid. Attrition is your basic deathmatch. The object of Attrition is to eliminate the other team. The only way to dispose of dead bodies in Attrition is to hit them numerous times with the artifact. The artifact can also be used to point out enemies to your teammates. In Extraction, both teams fight to get the artifact to the extraction point. It's basically capture the flag. You can win by either capturing the artifact, or killing all members of the other team. In extraction, you can get rid of dead bodies by shooting them, slicing them with the sword, or hitting them with the artifact. Raid is like Extraction, except that only one team tries to capture the artifact while the other team defends their territory. You win by either capturing the artifact on offense, defending for the alloted time on defense, or completely eliminating the other team.
A party system is utilized in Shadowrun, allowing you to enter games with your friends. Games consist of four on four, six on six, or eight on eight. When you enter your first game, your party will usually be split up due to balance issues, but will be reunited in the second game. A patch was recently released that makes this process more dependable. Also, when the server would leave the game, the game would end for everyone. Now, thanks to the patch, the game attempts to find a new server for the game. Also included in the patch are a reduction in wait times, improved sync times, exploit removal, and numerous other little fixes. And speaking of exploits, I have only ever seen one abusive glitch in the game, and it's not even that useful. Shadowrun is virtually free of cheaters which makes it a much nicer experience than other games in the genre.
Shadowrun is also available on Windows LIVE and both platforms can play in the same game. While there aren't anywhere near as many Vista gamers as there are 360 gamers, it's still nice that the option is open. This also opens the doors for cross platform gaming in the future. For the most part, the Vista version is the same as the 360. There's a few minor differences, such as aim assist for PC players, but nothing that would significantly change gameplay. The achievements are identical as well.
Speaking of achievements, Shadowrun has fifty achievements worth a total of 1,000 points. They range from extremely easy to extremely difficult and/or time consuming. There are achievements that require pure skill, and achievements that require patience, such as playing 100 games as each of the four races. They can be achieved in private matches as well, as long as there are eight different gamertags in the room. That's a nice feature for achievements if you don't want to deal with random people in player matches. Most of these achievements will come over the course of a month or so if you play the game often.
Overall, Shadowrun is a great game if you can get past the few flaws. No ranking system, no single player campaign, and a steep learning curve make it hard to justify the $60 price tag. Although, once you learn the ins and outs of the game, Shadowrun can be an extremely fun and addicting experience if you're a fan of FPS. This is a game of cooperation, and is very difficult to master. Once you think you have the best combination of weapons, magic and tech, someone comes up with something better. This is the way of Shadowrun.
There's no music in the background while in game. I personally like this non feature, but some may find it disappointing. Gunfire and magic sound effects are well portrayed. I had no problem knowing when someone was revving up a minigun behind me.
For the most part the graphics are superb, especially in 1080P. Some of the animations are very lacking though. For example, when you climb up a ladder, you appear to float up it instead.
Like I said before, there is a learning curve involved. It takes a few days to get used to the different combinations and how to control them. Once you get the hang of it though, it becomes second nature.
The online play is exceptional, but the lack of a single player campaign is daunting. With a few more maps, races, gametypes, etc., Shadowrun would have gotten a higher score in this category. But if you're going to make a game strictly online, you need to have more content than that. Hopefully we'll see some free DLC in the future.
The range of achievements will keep you playing for quite some time. Most people could play Shadowrun for months on end before getting 1,000. The biggest complaint I have is the cross platform achievements. There aren't that many Shadowrun Vista players out there, making those 3 achievements harder to attain (unless you're playing on Vista, then it's the other way around).
If you're a big FPS fan, and don't mind the lack of a campaign, then Shadowrun will be right up your alley. The rpg elements work surprisingly well and are very refreshing. Even after getting the full 1,000, I find myself going back again and again.