Let me first start off by saying, before this game came out I only had vaguely heard of Shadowrun, but knew nothing about it. I have never played the pen and paper RPG or the SNES and Genesis counterparts, but when I actually sat down and started paying attention to this game I was as giddy as a school girl.
Shadowrun is a first person shooter from FASA studios and Microsoft Game Studios. Set within the pen and paper Shadowrun universe, this game only borrows a little bit of its repertoire from the pen and paper version. Other than the magic, and races, this is a completely new game. Taking its roots from the award winning game Counter-Strike anyone could see how this game should be a sure fire hit.
Aside from six brief training sessions and the ability to play against bots, Shadowrun is played online. Up to 16 players can get into one eight-on-eight game, pitting Lineage forces against the RNA Global, who are apparently fighting each other in an attempt to control magic, which has recently returned to an already-high-tech world. But that’s about as much story as you’re going to get here, as the rest of the game is all about buying skills and controlling artifacts.
As I stated above, Shadowrun is round based multiplayer, first-person shooter that is in the same vein as Counter-Strike. At the start of each map you have to choose a race. Each race has its plusses and minus depending on your play style. For instance the Elf’s can heal themselves, for those of you that like to fight and run. The Trolls on the other hand can harden their skin after being attacked which is good for those that like to stay in the thick of the fights. Another thing to consider when picking your race is how much essences each race has. Essence is your magic pool, the dwarfs have the most pips, as they are called but the dwarfs can refill really slow so they must leech off of the other players in the game. The trolls have the least, and that is because when you can tank like they can you more than likely won’t be running around the map casting summon spells.
After choosing your race it is then time to pick your weapon of choice. The game has standard fare, as far as rifles, shotguns, machine guns, and rocket launchers. There are also some different weapons to play with, like a Katana, and a chain gun. If you’re like me though, this game is all about the magic. So if you don’t want to spend your money on guns, then you can buy magic and Tech. There is quite a few useful spells that you can purchase, like Teleport which allows you to go through walls, and floors, and ceilings. There is also a resurrect spell which is very useful if you find you are the last guy alive. Another favorite is Smoke, which makes you invisible for a while; the best thing about this spell is that you are also invincible!! If you prefer technology this game doesn’t disappoint. You can choose from a glider, which allows you to glide (duh!) there is also something called smart link, which allows you to zoom in with any weapon, and helps your aim out. Another feature is when activated it won’t allow you to shoot your teammates.
Once you’ve spent a little money on some guns and spells, it’s off to do battle. There are three team-based game types, though there isn’t a huge difference between them. Two of them focus on an artifact, which is Shadowrun’s version of a flag. In one mode, each team attempts to capture the artifact by grabbing it and delivering it to a team-specific capture point. Another gametype puts one team on full-time defense, and they must prevent the attacking team from capturing the artifact. The attrition gametype is the only one that doesn’t center on the artifact, and instead you just need to wipe out the other team, but since you can win that way in any of the other game types, it doesn’t feel especially different.
Every map can handle an attrition game, but only the larger maps can run raid or extraction games. The three smaller, attrition-only maps are for eight-player games, and they’re actually smaller versions of some of the existing maps. The problem with the maps is that there are not enough of them. The game has nine new maps, which you can realistically play all of them in about an hour or two. Though since all the other games are coming out with new maps, I am sure it is just a matter of time till FASA Studios delivers the goods for Shadowrun.
Visually, Shadowrun looks great in some areas and unfinished in others. The environments and textures look good, and the spell effects and other particle-oriented elements look great. But then there are stupid things like the way that they didn’t bother to include any kind of climbing animation–so when characters go up ladders, they appear in there standing position and look as though they are using some kind of force power to ascend the ladder. Also, the different player models look pretty good, but there’s absolutely no variety. All Lineage elves look identical; all RNA humans look the same, and so on. If there had been away to make a custom character like in Halo multiplayer, I think that would have really livened things up a bit. This of course could be something that they could make an update for.
It should also be noted that this is the first game that uses the Windows Live! Feature. You won’t even be able to notice the difference when playing with or against people on Vista, until you receive the achievement. Then you will be following them around so you can get the rest of the cross-platform achievements. At least that’s what I did. The only real problem I have with this game is that it takes quite a while for the matchmaking service to get you into a game. Again, I would think a patch could fix this right up.
Shadowrun is not going to be for everyone. Especially fans of the pen and paper RPG. The makers of the RPG even stated that this game is loosely based on Shadowrun. Even still some people may not want it just because there is no single player, others may be turned off by the price. For those of you that can looks past these things will find a really solid multiplayer game. I have found myself playing this a lot more than the Halo 3 beta, which a lot of my friends are angry about but Shadowrun is very addictive. Once you start rezing dead allies, and teleporting through walls only to viciously cut down the unsuspecting enemy on the other side you just won’t be able to stop. Speaking of which, I am off to play right now!