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Trevor Wagner

Shadow Complex Review

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Nowadays, everywhere you look there are sequels of sequels of shooters, retreads of sports games, and music games galore; none of those are particularly bad things, but it's created a lot more of the "usual." Now, enter Shadow Complex, a $15 downloadable XBLA title from Chair Entertainment. Shadow Complex is a game in the same vein as Metroid, with a large map to explore, a handful of upgrades to help you get around the map, and over a hundred items hidden around the map to collect.

Shadow Complex looks great as far as gaming in general goes, and is mind-blowingly good looking for an XBLA game. The games sports a look that isn't hyper-realistic, but it works incredibly well with the game. The effects are equally impressive; flashlights illuminate , fires, bullet trails underwater and the foam gun (trust me, it's a great effect) all look like they came from a full-size $60 retail game. From lake houses, to caves, to factories and clean-room labs, graphically, SC never fails to impress. In the audio department, Shadow Complex shines through again, with some impressive music, and Nolan North's voice acting of the main character is a nice touch, showing the production value and effort that's been put into the game.

Mechanically, the game, as previously mentioned, is very reminiscent to Metroid, and that's a good thing. You explore a large map, shooting enemies, collecting power-ups, and fighting bosses; it all seems very familiar, but very fresh and new. Shadow Complex runs on the Unreal engine, and it shows the physics and lighting are stellar, showing that the Unreal engine still has a place in gaming. The biggest difference is that Shadow Complex plays in 2.5 dimensions; you run and jump in two dimensions but some enemies are in the fore/background. The game makes them simple to deal with, by auto aiming towards them when they're present, but it's still a nice touch. It's nice to see a 2D game, but still taking a step towards three dimensions without seeming forced.

The story is probably Shadow Complex's weakest point, because, to be honest, there isn't much of one. The story is based on the Empire series from Orson Scott Card, but you'd never really know it from just playing the game. There is some minor story that gives you some reason to be where you are, but it's fairly weak. The lack of story is disappointing, as the framework is there for a great story, but it just never seems to come through. Luckily, the game is still great to play through without a story.

The controls are spot on, so there's not a whole lot to say about them. Jumping (which you'll be doing a lot of) feels natural and responsive, as does all of the gunplay. Once you get the grappling hook, managing jumping, shooting, using the hook, and then using other attachments can be a bit overwhelming at first, but after a few tries, it because second nature. The only other thing worth mentioning is that the right stick is how you aim your weapon, which is fine, but at first it's a little unwieldy to aim at someone that's in the background, but it starts to feel normal after a little while, once you get the hang of it.

In short, Shadow Complex is a great game, and a perfect example of what an XBLA game should be it's well made, fun, and satisfying to play through (at the time of this writing I've beaten it 3 times, and still enjoy playing it). It's got If you've got the $15 to spend, pick it up.

Trevor Wagner Writer

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