Shadowrun (360) – Initial Impressions

Short answer: this isn’t worth the $50/$60 out of the box, but it begs for more downloadable content that could make it worth that.  However, I’ve yet to hear of any, so in the short term…

The game takes a tabletop RPG and makes it into an FPS.  For something like Shadowrun, this is actually ok, because a lot of the tabletop RPG’s emphasis was the mix of magic and technology.  But unfortunately, there is no single player missions here: the game is all about the multiplayer combat.  I think that’s a big mistake: there’s nothing in how they’ve set up the game that would prevent even a mediocre single player FPS to be in place, granting the player powers over time like a typical FPS; some of the magic and tech like Gliders and Teleport would allow for interesting puzzles as well.    While you can play against bots in single player mode, this isn’t the same as a full-fledged campaign.

As for the multiplayer mode, the game itself is interesting.  You select one of 4 races with various advantages and disadvantages, and then at the start of each round, enter a Counterstrike-like menu to buy tech, magic, and weapons.  While in a match, you keep all tech and magic, but you have to buy weapons should you die.  Because of the mix of races and the magic and tech, this game then gets some elements of a Team Fortress classes, though well less defined: there’s obvious counterparts: teleporting elves as your scouts and minigun-wielding trolls for your heavy guns gun, but then there’s enough choices that you can create a class that works best for you.  In the current game modes (1-flag and 2-flag CTF), you don’t respawn after dying, though a teammate can revive you with Resurrection; however, this makes for an interesting gameplay mechanic that if that teammate should die, you’ll start bleeding out and either must find a healing Tree of Life to keep your health up, or make a quick sacrificial move before you die.  I played about 3 matches last night (and through the tutorial screens, natch), and there’s already a lot of different strategies that I can see.

Where the game is aching is the fact that it feels like there could be so much more added to the MP experience.  Two gameplay modes is not enough, and there’s no reason for very similar modes like from Halo to work here such as Territories or even simple team deathmatch broken out into rounds.  I think I also would have liked to seen a few more magic and tech powers; I found it very easy to gain all of those available by the end of a 9-round match, where instead I would still like to have options to pick from.  The menus are set up to suggest the possibility of additional modes and content down the road, but I think for a $50/$60 pricetag, this game needed those in here from the start.  I’ve a sneaking feeling that when these modes are released, we’ll be having to put some points to them (though how this works with Vista users is unclear yet).

I will say that, without knowing the development history, it feels like Shadowrun and Crackdown were conjoined twins separated at birth.  A lot of the elements of both games have similarities even though they were developed by different studios but that the combination of the two games (the MP elements of Shadowrun, and the SP elements of Crackdown) would have made for a top notch game all together.  However, that’s just my impression, I may be way off base with that.