Review: Shadow Complex
Gunpei Yokoi grave spinning simulator.
Shadow Complex has had a tough journey to release with it’s debut at this summers E3 being overshadowed by the sudden mic failure of the presenters and a game breaking bug during the live demo that went unnoticed by many thanks to said mic failure.Then their was the now fixed glitch that let players trying the trial version play the full game if they knew what to do and when and then a storm in a tea cup over the views held by someone involved with the game’s â€œstoryâ€ (I’ll explain why story is in quotations later) Well it’s time to put all that bollocks aside and look at the game on it’s own merits and see if it’s worth the now frankly shocking standard price of 1200 M$P.
Well if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery Chair must be willing to perform all manor of sexual acts upon the corpse of Gunpei Yokoi as this game is a flat out rip-off of the original Metroid series right down to the mix of action, exploration and even grid based map system. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing as many (myself included) would class Super Metroid as a strong contender as best 2D action game ever or at the least best on the SNES.
Just be prepared to fell an overwhelming sense of deja-vu when you’re blasting open green doors and using your dash attack to run through cracked walls and over water. The gameplay isn’t all taken from Metroid though Castlevania and even Metal Gear Solid have been used as inspiration making a slightly wonky three headed chimera of a game that while decidedly unoriginal plays like a dream.
Once you’ve finished the game’s prologue and had a brief taste of things to come like double jumps, missile launchers and helicopter flying enemies you’re placed in charge of Nathan Drake *ahem* Sorryâ€¦ Jason Fleming who’s girlfriend is kidnapped while they’re on a spelunking trip in the Pacific Northwest. Armed only with a torch that along with functioning as a light can also highlight properties of objects like vulnerabilities to certain weapons he must infiltrate the mysterious Shadow Complex hidden within the caves to rescue his girlfriend and unravel why there’s an army of soldiers there all looking like they’ve been getting their uniforms from the Cobra Commander discount store.
Then things quickly get even more clichÃ©d fast as soon you’ll be expected to stop a planned coup d’etat against the US government by a secret cabal and rescue your girl while having the odd nostalgic flashback to talks with your father about responsibility and fighting for what you believe in. Thankfully such â€œstoryâ€ interludes are infrequent in appearance and brief in duration leaving you to get on with just playing the game.
Before long you’ll have found your first weapon, a simple pistol that you can use to shoot open vents (that show up as orange with your torch) this then opens up new avenues of travel along with better self defence. You can aim your weapon with the left stick that’ll activate a handy laser sight for aiming that’ll get more accurate as you gain experience from defeating soldiers and finding new locations and equipment. Your standard weapon follows a simple pistol to SMG to rifle to rail-gun progression but more important to you is the different gadget like items of equipment you’ll scavenge.
There are grenades that you can lob over scenery to blast enemies and more importantly green doors, missiles that’ll breach red doors and the foam gun that can incapacitate enemies in a cocoon of gunk for a short time along with opening purple doors and even creating temporary platforms for you to use. You can also combine weapons by shooting foam at a hard to reach green door then sticking a grenade to it and later clinging onto a walls with your grapnel gun then shooting off missiles at the unaware soldiers. Everything you collect helps you progress further into the Shadow Complex and the progression over the game’s six hour or so game time is handled in stages so that by the end of the game you’ll be triple jumping around huge factory style rooms while using the grapnel Bionic Commando style to hang from ceilings and making foam bridges to collect that extra health tank or hidden gold bar.
Along with playing really well everything looks nice and shiny thanks to the game’s use of the Unreal graphics engine that renders everything in a sort of 2.5D viewpoint so that despite playing like a traditional 2D game has a field of depth in 3D that’ll occasionally have you using turrets or your own weapons to shoot into the background to get hiding soldiers or advancing combat mechs. Sure at times the game’s strict adherence to what’s ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the background will have you shooting at thin air when there’s a solder two feet from you will grate but when critical aiming is important for say a boss fight or switch hitting the game will auto-aim your sight to where it needs to be without breaking the games flow. The game will also zoom in close to the action when required be it melee takedowns or if you’re sneaking through a cramped air vent but ninety-nine percent of the time you’ll be able to see where you are and what your doing, although be prepared for the odd off-screen enemy blatting you with ease.
So it looks good and it sure plays good (if unoriginally) it’s a shoe in for a solid 9/10 right? Well as much as I’ve loved playing this to death over the last week there’s something stopping me from declaring it a must buy title even for a download only game. Now I understand that in being a download only game means I can’t expect the longevity of a normal disc based released but if you take out the backtracking, obsessive item collecting and blah-blah cut scenes there’s a very short game here trying to puff out it’s chest to look bigger.
Secondary ReviewTwo 1200M$P Arcade titles in two weeks? Ordinarily my total expenditure would have been ZERO but after striking gold with Trials HD the week previous, M$ have done it again with Shadow Complex.
Echoing the likes of Flashback, the mix of runny, jumpy, shooty action makes for some decent retro-flavoured larks. The additional layer of polish helps to give it a modern feel at the same time.
Game length and replayability are dubious at best though and so I’d recommend giving the demo a good go before you shell out but there’s just about enough bang for your buck and Chair have restored their reputation after the risible Undertow.
Secondary Score: 7/10
Sure you could clock the game in a few hours for an achievement but when you can cane it from beginning to end without dying in less that four hours on your first play through it does fell like gorging on a packet of marshmallow sweets, it’ll be sweet while you do but don’t expect it to leave you felling full afterwards. Obsessive players can hunt down every gold bar and key card but by the time you do find the final gadget it’s totally pointless as the ability it grants you means nothing when by the time you get it means you can happily gun down legions of soldiers without having to even slow down from running. I don’t know maybe it’s just me being picky but things like that will stick in the memory longer than a good boss fight or stunning looking underwater sequence in a flooded office.
â€œShadow Complex – From the creators of Undertowâ€ Is how this game is being advertised on Xbox Live but don’t let that put you off getting or at least trying this game as despite being developed by Chair Entertainment it’s a trillion miles away quality wise from that sub aqua disaster. The value you get for your 1200 M$P might be questionable but the amount of fun you’ll have playing it won’t leave you felling burnt.