STAFF REVIEW of Shadowrun (Xbox 360)

Thursday, June 7, 2007.
by Aceattorney

Shadowrun Box art Shadowrun is the latest first-person shooter to make its way to the 360 platform. Blending elements from the role-playing games of the same name, Counter-Strike, and Halo, this title, developed by FASA Studios is one of the most engaging games you will ever play.

From its inception, Shadowrun was surrounded by controversy. With its roots stemming from its days as a pen and paper role-playing game and eventually as a Super Nintendo RPG, no one expected the franchise to be reborn as a first person shooter.

And since the time it was unveiled and a playable demo was showcased at E3 in 2006, FASA and Shadowrun have been the targets of a sea of criticism and spectacle. Even the announcement of this game being the first PC to Xbox 360 cross-platform title received skepticism and spurred widespread discussion. And now, with the pricepoint of the game being the subject of tremendous amount of discourse, professional reviewers have had to take into account these various issues in determining the value and quality of the game.

Yes, Shadowrun is a multiplayer only title; there is no single-player campaign. It is also priced at $60. And no, Shadowrun does not track your personal statistics, nor does it feature a leaderboard. Indeed, there are only nine maps, and only three game modes. But keep reading to find out why Shadowrun is worth every penny, and why reader reviews all across the internet rate this game overwhelmingly higher than the average "professional" reviewer.

There are more than a handful of great shooters available on the 360. Some are done very well, and incorporate some incredible elements of team-based play. But in the end, generally speaking, they are all played the same way: Run, spot the enemy, shoot, die, and re-spawn. Shadowrun can be played exactly the same way?or you can run, teleport, look through walls, turn into a puff of smoke (letting the bullets shoot right through you), resurrect a fallen ally, heal yourself, create chokepoints, teleport behind an unsuspecting enemy and slash him with a katana. Of course, this is just one variation of what one can do in Shadowrun.

Each round starts out in Counter-Strike fashion, with a buy menu. You can purchase weapons (the standard fare, except for the Katana, which puts the player in third-person mode when equipped), magic (which are defensive in nature), and technological upgrades (such as a glider, or enhanced vision, which allows you to see enemies through walls).

The seven magic spells and five tech items available in the game allows a player to experience a level of freedom and creativity that is unmatched in any other shooter on the market. Here are the different magic and tech featured in the game:

Magic: teleport, resurrection, tree of life, smoke, summon, and gust.

Tech: glider, enhanced vision, wired reflexes, smartlink, and anti-magic generators.

In addition, here are four different types of races you can play as: human, elf, troll, or dwarf. Each race has different characteristics with respect to their magic and health, such as the level of magic ability, rate of healing, and toughness (i.e., the troll is tougher to kill than an elf).

The variety of magic, tech, and races creates a game that frees a gamer to be extraordinarily creative in the way he or she plays the game. Even the maps, having been designed meticulously to take advantage of the magic and tech are not what you?re used to ? they are vertical as much as they are horizontal! Now, being a life-support player, a tank, or an assassin isn?t so much as being locked by a traditional class-based system, but rather, it?s determined by the way a gamer chooses to play.

The graphics have been overhauled since its infamous debut at E3 2006, but don't expect Gears of War type of graphics. The graphics in Shadowrun look great, but aren't the best we've seen on the 360. One thing you will notice is a great frames per second rate.

Being able to hear things in this game is tremendously important to the gameplay, just as it was important during the days when Quake multiplayer reigned supreme on the PC.

In time, you will learn to identify sounds such as a tree of life springing nearby, letting you know that you can seek it out to be healed.

You will also soon recognize the crack of a teleporter, warning you that someone might be trying to get the drop on you, or the sound of a minion being cast nearby, waiting to tear apart anything that comes near it.

Your character also has a voice, and with the press of the d-pad, will call out locations of spotted enemies, or call for backup.

In sum, don?t let the pricepoint keep you away from this game. This is one of those rare games you encounter where the gameplay is addicting, refreshing, refined, and innovative - making this highly recommended as a purchase. It really is worth the cost.

But don?t take our word for it ? download the demo from Xbox Live Marketplace and check it out for yourself! Before you do, here are a few tips:

? Communicating with your teammates is critical to not just winning, but to having fun!
? During the race selection screen, check out what the other team has chosen, and choose accordingly to counter or match their selections.
? Be sure to ?clear? the bodies of the enemy, otherwise they can be resurrected, turning the tide against your team.
? Do your best to get to know the maps inside and out. Get used to traveling vertically throughout the maps.

FASA knocked it out of the park with Shadowrun, and it is clear that gamers all over the internet agree. It would be great to see some free downloadable content in the future to help justify the pricepoint of the game, and additional tweaking of the party and matchmaking systems would definitely be appreciated.

Overall: 9.4 / 10
Gameplay: 9.4 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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