Shadowrun Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: FASA Studio
Release Date: Out Now
Shadowrun states on the box that it's been optimized for online multiplayer and right at the top of this review it's worth pointing out that if you're not interested in playing online, then Shadowrun is going to feel incredibly shallow. If you are looking for a Counter-Strike style game, with some fantasy elements thrown in for good measure, to play online then Shadowrun is going to appeal. The game also offers some cross-platform opposition too as you'll be able to compete against those PC gamers who have bought the game for their Windows Vista based PC.
Just in case you are not aware of what Shadowrun is (and I wasn't), it's a popular cyberpunk, urban fantasy pen and paper RPG that's set during the years 2050-2070. The races involved included humans, orks, trolls, elves and dwarves as well as certain subspecies such as gnomes, giants and Minotaur. Such is Shadowrun's popularity; there have been books, movies and games based on the franchise. In essence there's a lot of material to work with here but Shadowrun (the game) only takes elements from the franchise and combines them with a quite formulaic, team-based first-person shooter.
Shadowrun offers gamers the chance to either fight, in teams consisting of up to 8 players (i.e. games support up to 16 players), for RNA Global or the Lineage playing as either a Human, Elf, Troll or Dwarf. There are three game variations. Extraction is where both teams have to try and secure the Artefact and transport it to their extraction point. Raid is a game where one team attempts to secure the Artefact and escape with it whilst the defenders have to kill all of the attackers. Finally Attrition requires you to neutralize all hostiles; essentially it's a team deathmatch mode. There are nine maps in the game, which usually cater for two different game types, and in addition there are smaller versions of three of those nine.
Regardless of which game type you play it all feels like Counter-Strike. Each game begins with you being able to purchase weapons, magic abilities and tech. You can purchase three different magic and tech abilities and assign them to the LB, LT and RB buttons for quick access. In addition to this each race has their unique abilities that will slightly change the way you play the game. Trolls can sustain more damage for instance and have the ability to harden their skin. Dwarves are able to absorb Essence (required for magic) from their surroundings (and other players) and have the ability to summon minions. They have the most Essence of any race but it regenerates slowly so being able to take it from others is essential. The Elves are the quickest race but they are also the weakest and cannot take too much damage. They are very agile and well suited to hit-and-run attacks. Humans don't have the advantages or disadvantages of the others but they do have more money with which to purchase equipment. On the whole the four races all balance out quite nicely. Thanks to being able to purchase abilities (magic or tech) it's also possible to tailor a race to suit your style of play which is a nice touch.
For the most part Shadowrun is actually quite enjoyable. Playing against PC gamers feels quite balanced. The game doesn't appear to give PC gamers any kind of advantage as you might expect it would have, given the accuracy of PC mice. There's support for party play here too. Those looking for the game to do something with the Shadowrun licence will be disappointed. There's no story here and no worthwhile content for those looking to simply play the game as a single-player experience. Nine maps are far too little and the game types are only slight variations on a theme. There is also no real difference from playing on the side of the RNA Global or the Lineage which is both disappointing and surprising. These disappointments do mean that some might not find enough here to make it worth their while and that's a shame because on the whole it can be quite enjoyable.
Graphically Shadowrun is quite pleasing. The character levels and the game's nine maps all look good, especially when playing the game on a HD display. Some aspects of the game look a little rough. You'll notice that characters appear to float up a ladder rather than climb it, which would have looked OK if the game was made during the late 1990s but it's quite shocking to see in a game that was completed in 2007. There is a fair bit of magic usage in the game and the magic spell effects all look quite good. The frame rate holds up quite nicely too and remains smooth throughout.
Shadowrun is OK for deaf gamers but there are some disappointments. The games tutorials are not subtitled so you're going to miss out on various pieces of information that are actually quite important. There are some pieces of information shown in text but whilst they are useful it would have been better if deaf gamers had been given full access to all the information. During battles things are a little better as all of the information given by the announcer is shown in text. Of course playing online may prove awkward as voice communications are supported so playing the game with hearing gamers might prove to be problematic.
If you like the idea of a Counter-Strike type game with fantasy elements thrown in then Shadowrun could well be a game that will appeal to you. I daresay there might be added appeal if you fancy playing against PC users too and there doesn't appear to be any advantage for PC users from what we've seen, although it's difficult to comment not having played the PC version of the game. The game does what it does quite nicely but there are too few maps and too few game types on offer. As we said at the top of the review the single-player game is incredibly shallow as you're simply stuck with a handful of tutorials and a Solo Match mode that allows you to play against AI bots. Still if you're after a Counter-Strike style game to play over Xbox Live, and don't mind the fantasy elements that are on offer, then Shadowrun is definitely worth a look.
Shadowrun is an enjoyable game but it doesn't make a good use of the Shadowrun licence and the single-player content is practically none existent. More maps and more game modes wouldn't have gone amiss either.