Jeremy Jastrzab
05 Jul, 2007

Shadowrun Review

360 Review | Remaining in the shadows.
For those who were playing games back in the early 90’s and for those who had been playing pen-and-paper RPG’s, before then chances were they would have know of the Shadowrun franchise. Many of these people expressed their grievances when it was announced that Microsoft were turning their beloved series into a first-person shooter. Since Microsoft acquired the license in 2005, Fasa Studios had been commissioned to bring out Microsoft’s first game that would cover multiplayer over both the Xbox 360 and home PC.

We had a chance to check out the game’s progess a couple of months ago in a hands-on preview. Amazingly, there really hasn’t been that much progress to the game as a whole since we played that build. Now that we’ve gone through the final game, we’ve found that the concept of combining the FPS with tech and magic is a good one and that playing across Xbox and Vista Live works fine. However, it is an experience in need of much more meat.

While you can jump in the public multiplayer straight away, the game suggests for you to check out the training mode. We suggest this as well, as it does a pretty good job of getting the player acquainted with the new additions. Despite the fact the mode is really a tutorial, most of the "story" is siphoned through here. Basically, while the level loads, you’ll be treated to a few background details as to why there are two factions against one another. The game is meant to be set years before the main Shadowrun cannon, but still in the somewhat further future – 2030 to be exact. Still, despite the presence trolls, dwarves, elves and a mix of technology and magic, the license is woefully underused.

You won't see this anywhere else.

You won't see this anywhere else.
So Shadowrun is now a multiplayer shooter, as opposed to a top-down RPG. The general layout of the game is pretty much identical to the perennial Counter-Strike, where you start off each round by buying weapons – though now you can also buy tech and magic – and set off the deal with the opposing team. These additions to the standard FPS formula allow Shadowrun to stand on its own, though if there were a few more of the standard additions, the game would’ve been much better. When you first jump in, you’ve got four races to pick from: Humans, Elves, Trolls and Dwarves. Each of these has strengths and weakness, which may cater to different tastes. For example, Trolls can take a lot more damage but are slower and Dwarves have a lot of essence but take a long time to regenerate. Elves and Humans seemed to be the most popular for use online.

Each match is based on a number of rounds and at the beginning of each round you can buy weapons, magic and/or technology. The magic in the game looks to assist players both in terms of defense and attack. Spells such as Tree of Life can be used to heal players and also as a form of cover. Then you’ve got Gust, Smoke, Strangle and Summon, all of which have defensive and offensive uses. For example, Strangle sets up a crystalised barrier that can be used to block entries or to trap your opponent. In particular, each can be used to suit the player’s choice of actions. They can lead to some rather tricky situations and other deviations from the traditional FPS formula.

Probably the greatest deviant from the FPS formula is the Resurrect spell. If you are killed in action and one of your teammates has the Resurrect spell, they can bring you back to life. However, if the resurrector dies, you will “bleed out” and eventually lose your life as well, though if you find someone else to resurrect you again, you’ll continue to live. It’s quite relieving when someone walks by and brings you back to life, so you can get on with the game. In one of the game modes, your body can be destroyed; hence you’ll have to wait for the round to end to start again. If you hold the resurrect spell, indicators on the screen will tell you where fallen comrades are lying.

That's one way to invade.

That's one way to invade.
Techs aren’t as pervasive as the spells but still potentially useful. A popular one is the Glider, particularly in the more open levels and it can be combined with the teleport spell to get across great distances. However, the other techs are more for assistance, such as SmartLink allowing players to shoot more accurately and avoid friendly fire while Wired Reflexes allows players to move faster and those with katanas to block some bullets. SmartLink will feel a bit weird for PC users, as the auto-aim can drag the mouse. For all players, they have an “essence” bar at the bottom of the screen. Using and equipping magic and techs will depend on how much essence you have. Generally, techs will permanently take up essence slots while magic will use essence but it will regenerate over time. Up to three spells and/or techs can be equipped at one time.

At its core, Shadowrun is still a shooter and the main way to win is to shoot and shoot straight. Disappointingly, this aspect of the game is rather weak. There are seven weapons in the game: pistol, SMG, rifle, shotgun, katana, sniper rifle and rocket launcher. For the six standard weapons, you expect some sort of power behind such a small selection. Instead, most of the weapons are actually quite weak and the game tries to take the weapon recoil a little too strenuously. It was a serious indictment on the weapons that it was very easy to barge your way to victory with the “flag”, even under heavy fire. However, at least everyone has weak weapons, so its something that players who persevere will get used to it. The Katana has some fascinating ideas, such as Mortal Wound but overall, feels like it could’ve been more precise.

Probably the two biggest issues with Shadowrun is its lack of content and lack of refinement. Really, there are only two game modes and nine maps (not including three smaller maps that are just variants on existing maps). The story tells us that each side is fighting over “artifacts”, so you’ve got a mode that is essentially deathmatch (attrition) and one that is capture the flag (Raid/Extraction). A couple of maps are specifically for defense or attack. The maps have a natural feel to them, but it won’t be long before you’ve seen the ins-and-outs of each one. There is no real difference between the two sides, apart from the fact that one is blue and the other is red. Again, the game is multiplayer only, so unless you’re going to play online, there is absolutely no way to recommend this game. Even so, the game is unlikely to hold-up once this year’s beefier multiplayer experiences hit.

Big ugly things face off.

Big ugly things face off.
Booting up the game will bring up a bare bones set of options, as the game seems to be taking the Counter-Strike template a little to far, despite the fact that its a slower paced game. It would have been really handy if some of the more intricate details of the game were properly explained and if some of the in-game statistics were kept as a guide for how you’re going. While the network code is reasonably solid, it did take a while for us to connect into a game and drops outs weren’t an anomaly. Again, it worked reasonably well but could’ve used a bit more refinement. It was refreshing to hear a decent amount of Aussie voices, mind you. Overall, the game gave the impression that it was either an experiment or was pushed out the door. Thankfully, the game is not at full price. However, even at the reduced price tag, there isn’t really enough to justify the lack of content. It doesn’t have the depth of Battlefield and it’s not really an add-on to a core game like Counter-Strike. Still, there is room for some fun in Shadowrun, particularly if you’d like to play something that isn’t exactly run-of-the-mill.

The graphical and sound presentation of the game only back-up the suggestion that the game was pushed out the door. While the game is certainly shiny enough to warrant next-gen status and the environments are reasonably well built, overall it is rather average to look at. In particular, the character animations are horrendously stiff and unvaried. It’s particularly silly to watch characters “float” when walking up a ladder or when some character models just seem like they don’t know how to react. A lot of the effects tend to be primitive. In terms of the sound, it is solid for the most part, with some decent voicing in the tutorial and a few bits of music that are fairly interesting. Again though, things such as not hearing grenades explode or delayed sound effects bring things down.

So pretty much, if you’re after a single player experience, look elsewhere. In terms of the multiplayer, its solid fun with an interesting twist. In the future, we’d dearly love to see this idea to be even more fleshed out. As it stands, Shadowrun really does look like it was either rushed or designed as an experiment. We’re guessing that there will be some downloadable content in the future and there is a reasonably sized community at the moment. As the game currently stands, on the one hand you have this great idea and on the other, you have a template that hasn’t been fleshed out for nearly ten years. Not to mention, some aspects really could have used more work and there is a rich license that has been grossly underused. Shadowrun is a decent multiplayer romp at a better than retail price but really could have used a bit more work to make it a real winner.
The Score
Shadowrun is a decent multiplayer with a great idea that needed some more time to be fully utilised. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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6 years ago
*sigh* another "average" overly negative Shadowrun review.

I don't like the term "more refinement" and "needs more work" without going into specific detail. The game is polished and does not feel rushed. Everything works well and the only glitch is the occasional drop out, which is a part of any online game as you cannot control little billy running bitorrents in the background. And unlike a lot of online games, the voice never stuffs up.

This game reeks of polish. Teleporting/gliding/tech all works very very well. The teleporting alone is a credit to the level of polish the game delivers. It's so balance and the weapons are designed around how you play with magic and tech. And the graphics/level look rock solid oozing with detail. Certainly not going to take Gears crown, but certainly many jumps above the awful PDZ.

The lack of maps is a GOOD thing. 9 is well more then enough. Would having 20 less crafted maps have been better? I don't think so. I certainly like a small number we I can concrete on the game instead of getting lost. That and the maps play completely different from each other. Some maps are complex multi-layered forcing you to play completely different from another. No map is alike and all require a different stadegry.

The comment about 'hearing Australia voices' is a credit to the matchmaking system. It puts connection above anything else. You normally have 8/10 games lag free games. To me, this game is a great example of how a matchmaking system can work in Australia. It works so much better then Halo 2 IMO. Halo 2 focused on your 'level' as opposed to the connection. I hope Halo 3 takes a leaf from this game and biases more on connection, especially for Australians. Certainly better then the completely broken Gear of War system where we 'dodge' the ranking system to order to find a game.

The ladder thing is a design choice (check out the Shadowrun forums). To have complex multi-level maps they had to go with 'jumps' ala Halo or ladders. Ladders are suppose to put you at a disadvantage. I think it works well. Same goes for stats (with great achievements) being a design choice, did you notice how there is a lack of cheating in the games? The achievements are also well designed encouraging the player to use a race and combination. You won't see anybody de-leveling or genede tagging here. Trueskill also works a treat (if will often rebalance 1/2 through as players join/drop out), without a high percentage of games always finishing 6-4 or closer.

Seriously don't know how it got it 5.5 for lifespan. It's an online game. Tomb Raider (just as an example) got 9.0 for lifespan and that's a remake, coming in as a "13 hour quest". *cough* As you said the community online for this game is large and if it is 'your cup of tea', it has unbelievable replay value. And no doubt a good chunk of maps, abilities and modes to come down the track.

There is plenty of "meat" here, which could be skipped over if you go in expecting a Halo clone, the only question is where this game is for each person. Sure if you have no desire to play online, this could be a 6/10 game. If love playing online games (which a hell of a lot of people do) this is the freshness thing is a long time. Certainly gets rock solid 8/10 in my books, and worth a look at $70 for anybody.

PS - Humans aren't really popular online at all. In fact they are the least used race by far.

PSS - Best sniper rifle sound in any game. Period. And what delayed sounds?

PSSS - The menu/party system is easy, clean and functional. I'm not sure why it's getting written off?
6 years ago
Wow, defensive much?(Nah J/K) But nice rebuttal none the less, though I probably won't try it one of the mishaps of still owning a Radeon 9550 so I can't make up my mind about it but from the majority of reviews it's an alright game but nothing worthy of a dead right purchase.
6 years ago
Wow everyone i've seen that has played it on my friends list says it is one of the best multiplayer games they have ever played. I think it looks great, ill probably pick it up in a month or two when i see it cheap on the trading forums here.
6 years ago
Heh, how did I know you were going to have a cry about this Leon icon_eek.gif

To be honest, I actually enjoyed playing this game, though as I've mentioned, it has made very, very little progress since the build that I played back in April.

As I mentioned in the review, the magic and techs work well. They are what sets the game apart. The maps and environments are quite decent as well. However, what Shadowrun doesn't get right is the basics of the shooter - which is why it feels unrefined. The weapons are weak and there is virtually no substance to the game. There is no distinction between the RNA and the Lineage. One is Red and one is Blue. Sometimes one defends, sometimes one attacks. There is no feeling of attachment to either side. Its this level of detachment that will eventually ward players off.

The weaponry is particularly weak in the game, though, as I've no doubt that you found, those who are skillful enough will overcome these weaknesses and the really skillful snipers will still get you when you least expect it. Though I find it really weak that players are able to barge their way with the artifact while taking mass amounts of damage.

As you've said yourself, for the most part the game is clean of bugs and clean of any major glitches. However, the drop outs that I experienced were more than occasional - even a couple robbed me of achievements. You said that credit needs to be given to the matchmaking system - but why did new players almost ALWAYS get placed into the team that's winning? Still, the competition is relatively even across the board.

While I can't comment on Tomb Raider (because I haven't played it), the reason for the lifespan score on Shadowrun is a two way thing. Some people will pick up this game once and never want to touch it again. Others, will get a lot more bang for their buck.

I was really disappointed by the audio/visual presentation. The animations are horrendous and basic and while the environments are decent, they're actually quite basic at their core. There were even time where Strangle would just disappear, or couldn't be seen from a certain distance. In terms of the sound, you won't hear a grenade if its too far from you and often sounds of gun fire were delayed. I never said the menu system was bad, I just said it was empty.

Really, the main issue of the game boils down to this. The game as much as one's opinion may say that the game has meat or its refined, the fact is, a game like Battlefield trumps it in terms of depth and games like Counter Strike have been around much longer, yet are faster paced and feel almost identical otherwise.

Frankly, if I paid $70 for this game and this is all I got, I'd be disappointed. I saw everything that the game had to offer in a very short amount of time. There are packs on XBL and PC expansions that have just as much and even more content than Shadowrun.

Also the license is horribly underused. I know that Leon mentioned somewhere that he has never had any contact with it but the reality is, there could have been so much more done with it, particularly in differentiating the two side and even coming up with different game modes. This is all punctuated by the fact that this game was in development for around two years and this is all that they could come up with? You can't tell me that there wasn't some involvement from higher up, in order to get the game out there, possibly ahead of Halo and maybe even Bioshock, which is due next month.

Thing is, we've all been at a point where we've been upset at a game that we've liked that has been critically shafted. Still, if you've enjoyed the game and managed to get your bang for the buck, what does it matter that the someone hasn't score it as you would've expected? Personally, I could have rated the game higher, but as a reviewer, I've had to try and see it from a broader perspective. The fact that the game has no single player didn't come into my consideration on the final score.

I'm not going to say anymore on this. Feel free to PM me if you wish to take this discussion any further.
6 years ago
Would have been better if it didn't use the shadowrun licence at all. I hate that they've taken such a good licence and taken a dump on it, fed it to a dog and give you what little is left.
6 years ago
I played the demo, its definitely fun and original but I for me its of little value because I really don't get into playing these CS style multiplayer shooters a lot. I just haven't the time to make it particularly rewarding.
6 years ago
Skiller wrote
Would have been better if it didn't use the shadowrun licence at all. I hate that they've taken such a good licence and taken a dump on it, fed it to a dog and give you what little is left.
In a way, the license is just deadweight. The game could've been - Counter-Strike: Elves, Dwarves and Trolls Edition, and it would've probably been identical.
6 years ago
Jeremy wrote
Heh, how did I know you were going to have a cry about this Leon
I'm only crying due to the unjust review scores the game is getting. Seriously, while some of your points are valid, there is a lot more positives in this game then negatives.

I would disagree with Battlefield/Coutnerstrike comparisons. BF is just too big (while fun yes, is a totally different experience) and while Shadowrun does take a lot of the elements from CS, it evolves it using magic/tech and very unquie character classes.

I'm not saying this game should get 9.5/10, but it is very solid, fun and easy to play game. But your opinion is your opinoin and it's never easy to review a controversal game.

Your review was miles ahead of the IGN one however. At least you appeared to have played the game and didn't focus on matchmaking/Vista.
6 years ago
i'm not sure if i said it here, or another forum, but i think a game like Shadowrun, in the capacity that it was released, was always going to garner a fairly bad review.


the license.

i know it's a generalisation, but gamers are, for the most part, geeks (or nerds, whichever you prefer), and people who review games have to have an element of super-geekiness about them, and more than likely, this would mean that they are going to know of the license behind this game.

the license has so much more potential than what was released. it certainly deserves a single-player campaign to go with the multiplayer aspect.

it's a shame they didn't take a leaf from the book of Dark Messiah Might and Magic, and combine the two elements. DMM&M has a compelling single player mode, as well as a good, team-based multiplayer mode that could've quite easily have been extended to the Shadowrun license.

the game could be the BEST multiplayer game ever, but i think it would only ever get average reviews because the potential of the license was wasted.
6 years ago
^ Yeah you could be right.

Do you think they have harmed the license but making this game?

For me, I would not of cared if they called it Folkrun and had the same everything. Still cool having magic and tech stuff.
6 years ago
I have to agree with the review tbh. Although the game is a bit of a fresh take and such, it gets old, very very fast. I haven't touched it in 2 weeks. It's an enjoyable game but the potential that it had was enormous.
6 years ago
LeonJ wrote
Do you think they have harmed the license but making this game?

For me, I would not of cared if they called it Folkrun and had the same everything. Still cool having magic and tech stuff.
i don't know about harming the license - the Shadowrun license has had it's fair share of ups and downs - but i do think the license harmed the reception of the game that was delivered, especially the butchering of the lore.

perhaps i'm wrong, i don't know, but i'm really basing it on my own tracking of the game. i was really excited to hear about a new SR game, i was willing to look past the changes that were made to the lore, but as soon as i heard it was MP only, i lost all interest - it's an RPG license, it should've had an RPG treatment.
6 years ago
As a player of pen & paper Shadowrun back in the 1st/2nd edition days (I believe they're up to 4th now), I will probably get this game just for the name.
When the price comes down.
6 years ago
I think of it like the old quake 3 days... but with magic and tech, Shadowrun lan parties would be awesome.
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Australian Release Date:
  14/06/2007 (Confirmed)
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