Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Review: Shadowrun

After working my way through the long “Shadowrun” tutorial, I could hardly contain my excitement. I had just finished learning how to use some new weapons and gadgets, had an informed decision on which race I thought best fit my gaming style and learned how to manipulate the coolest magic tricks this side of Las Vegas. I was pumped! Then I jumped into a multi-player match and proceeded to get hit harder than Bobby Bacala in a Hobby Lobby, it was not pretty. Where had the differences between the races gone? How come this gadget I thought was cool turned out to be lame? How come there only seems to be one game type? Why is there no single-player to hone my skills? When a video game leaves you with more questions than fun, it’s a bad sign.
Welcome to “Shadowrun” a game loosely based on a pen and paper RPG from the late 80’s and the first title ever that allows Xbox 360 and PC gamers with Windows Vista to play against/with each other. In the game there are two rival factions, the RNA (a large corporation) and the Lineage (a rebel group), fighting for the control of magic – that’s right, magic. The big bad corporation wants to control magic (How? I have no idea) and the underdog Lineage wants everyone to have access to it. David Blaine couldn’t be prouder!
Game play consists of two teams of eight playing each other in one of three games. Capture the Flag, Defend the Flag, or Attrition (wipeout the other team). Since you can win any of the flag games by wiping out the other team, there really isn’t any variety. There are also a limited number of maps so after a few rounds the game starts to feel old. Unlike “Halo” where you play a game and then move to another match, the online games in “Shadowrun” are played in rounds, with the first team that gets to 7 wins being declared the wiener. In between rounds players can buy new weapons, tech or magic powers. This is the time to specialize your abilities and weapons, which is certainly a unique feature among online games.
But before you can even begin to start choosing sides on the ever important magic debate, you need to go through the tease that is the “Shadowrun” tutorial. Here you will learn about the different races (troll, dwarf, elf and human) and their strengths and weaknesses. You will also learn how to operate the different weapons (katana, minigun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, rail gun, grenades) and some interesting tech toys (glider, enhanced vision, antimagic generator, super reflexes). In theory this sounds great, but in practice needs some fine tuning. Once online, the difference between the races is minimal but most gamers have already figured out the one race that has a slight advantage (elves because they’re fast healers and slightly quicker) and play as them. The weapons are standard shoot’em up fare and the tech weapons, with the exception of the Batman-like glider, aren’t very useful. Limited game play types, nondescript weapons and gadgets on a multi-player only game? Feel the excitement!
The one area where “Shadowrun” does shine is in the use of magic. There are a wide range of abilities and not only are they cool to pull off, they look great. Resurrect allows you to revive dead teammates (as long as their body hasn’t been vaporized). Tree of Life is just what it sounds like, a tree that replenishes health. Strangle is a spell that shoots out magical crystals that are great to block enemies. Gust allows you to force push enemies and grenades out of your way. Smoke temporarily turns you into a ghost so you don’t take damage. Teleport allows you to do a great Nightcrawler impression and Summon gives you the ability to create a monster that fights to the death for you.
These powers are fantastic to use and almost saves the game, almost. But besides the issues already mentioned, “Shadowrun” has too many other flaws (long load times, frequent lag, expensive for a multi-player only title, no way to differentiate between PC and 360 gamers for any kind of rub it in factor) for this to be a must-own game. I'm excited as anyone to see PC and console gamers go at it, but this just isn't the title for it.
Cost: $49.99 - $59.99
Players: One (16 Online)
Formats: Xbox 360, PC (w/ Windows Vista)
Category: First Person Shooter (FPS)
Rating: Mature (17+)
You take the good: Cool magic powers, Solid graphics
You take the bad: Not much variety, laggy, long load times, pricey for online only
And then you have – The Grade: C


Eli the Mad Man said...

Bingo. Hit the nail on the head. I gave it a 6/10, and our console king (who happens to live up in Denver by the way) gave the console version a 6/10.

This game wouldn't be getting ANY attention if not for the "gimmick" of PC vs. Console for platform supremacy.

Sad since it HAD so much potential, which REALLY gets me. I detest wasted potential, and since Microsoft owns FASA now, given all the time and inside knowledge of Vista and LIVE... this game should have been the one online shooter to rule them all.

Instead, all it's going to rule is the bargain bin.

Anonymous said...

Eli the Mad Man said...

He starts out the review with a page of "if's" and then gives it an 8?

Oy. That's why 1up, along with the horde of other gaming sites/mags that Ziff Davis owns, is a joke.

Sorry, those "if's" are in fact what kill it.

GameSpot gave it a 6.9/10. Check out MetaCritic to see what other sites gave it:

Eli the Mad Man said...

Hey... anyone else having problems getting the link to Terry's podcast to work? I am at work, and the IT department did something the other day to lock down certain permissions, so it might be that.

Eli the Mad Man said...

OK, it's just at work apparently. I can listen to it just fine here at home. (sigh) Bastich IT department!

Terry "coloradojoe" Terrones said...

Gotta say I'm diggin the back and forth on these posts. Good stuff.

Thanks for props on the review Eli, I'm looking foward to seeing your take. What did I miss about the 1up review? I've been in Denver the last two days (and will be again tomorrow and Monday) and feel out of the loop.

By the way Eli, I plan on having you as my first podcast interview within the next couple of weeks so get your singing voice ready. Gargle some salt water or something.

Ub3rn00b said...

Hmmm. I must be the only person on the planet who thinks this game is decent. Teleporting through walls? Or how about having someone shooting at you from behind, then you teleport behind them and get a kill? I think that's pretty sweet. Then again, i've only played the demo and have no money to be buying full versions of games. I also have no intention of ever using Windows Vista so I won't be playing the PC version of it.

FrostyMelon said...

It is a decent game. And, don't know anyone that bought it because of the 'gimmick'(?) going PC vs. Console.

...and, any review is nothing but 'ifs', Eli...anytime something is based solely on a single persons becomes an excersize in 'ifs'.

Eli the Mad Man said...

Here's the deal. It is fun... for about 30 minutes. It LITEARLLY took me 7 HOURS to get hooked up to LIVE. Seven. This from someone who can build PCs. Console folks have had LIVE (in it's proper form) for years. This hokey ass ripoff that makes you pay $50 for something we've had FREE for over a decade is absurd. You can not play online unless you're hooked into LIVE, which is another bogus move.

As far as teleporting... big whoop. Again, PC gamers have had what are called game mods for nearly 20 years. Virtually ever game that has 'em has teleportation.

Oh, and Shadowrun does NOT come with a map editor either mind you. Thus me thinks that MS is going to try and sell them on Live Marketplace, which will NOT fly since we've been getting mods for games for free for years. Combined with the paltry 9 maps, the bogus LIVE service... ya got yourself something that ain't worth $50. $100 if you toss in the GOLD LIVE membership.

Here's my review over on GameDaily:

BTW, that 1Up review of Shadowrun has been discussed around the GameDaily virtual office. Joke. Believe it or not, writing reviews ain't easy, and there is a right way/wrong way to do it (ask Terry). That is not how you write a review.

Eli the Mad Man said...

...and, any review is nothing but 'ifs', Eli...anytime something is based solely on a single persons becomes an excersize in 'ifs'.<

"If's" are not opinions. Reread his opening paragraph. If this game were this, and IF this game were that... those are not opinions, those are qualitative requirements.

"If's" and opinions are two VERY different things.

That's why I said it's a lot harder to write a review then the average Joe Gamer might think.

FrostyMelon said...

How do you keep all that to just a couple of pages? Whew...chatty.

I know how to write a review...I started reviewing computer hardware/software back in '98, ran a site, now freelance when needed. So...yeah. And, regardless, we're just monkeys providing our opinion of whatever product or game...not much else to it.

Eli the Mad Man said...

Well, that's true. ;)

I meant no offense (to anyone) with the Average Joe Gamer comment either by the way. Just, writing reviews isn't as simple as banging away on a keyboard in a locked room. ;)

Ub3rn00b said...

Not that I've ever done it successfully, but I think I can write a decent game review. What alot of people do is play a game that they really have no interest in. For example, if someone were to play Oblivion and have no interested in it, they might say it was junk. Or any of the Lord of the Rings games or pretty much anything with Dragons, Wizards, or anything fantasy or any RPG, etc. First person shooters and racing games are my speciality and thus I would provide an accurate and more representative review of those types of games. However, I can tell when something is good or bad even when it's not my thing. For example, there are plenty of beautiful white chicks that I find extremely attractive that I would never try and get with because it's not my thing. I could do a thorough review of them as well though if they let me have a free trial.

Eli the Mad Man said...


But that's one of the hardest parts of being a reviewer. A game reviewer has to be able to play a game they have zero personal interest in and be completely unbiased in their review. You can have personal preferences, but if you allow them to cloud your judgment, and thus your reviews... you shouldn't be writing 'em.

That's why dissecting a game takes a bit more work then most people think. You have to look at it like a judge... weigh ALL the evidence as a whole, and render a verdict. Then you need to be able to WRITE that verdict that's acceptable to the X number of editors upstream. ;)