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Shadowrun

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: FASA Studio

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Xbox 360/PC Preview - 'Shadowrun'

by Thomas Wilde on May 5, 2007 @ 5:55 a.m. PDT

Shadowrun is a team-based FPS set in a world where ancient magic blends with modern weapons and advanced technology to form a revolution in multiplayer FPS gaming, allowing PC and Xbox 360 gamers to play against each other. Purchase new weapons and abilities each round in an extraordinary arms race to increase your options and open up new tactics for your team. Gather your team from four different magical races, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. And fight for control of a magical artifact that can shape the course of the world.

Genre : Online FPS
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: FASA Studios
Release Date: June 20, 2007

Shadowrun has been inciting nerd rage from jump street, and frankly, they were really asking for it.

The game is based upon one of the older tabletop role-playing games out there. Shadowrun the RPG is a fusion of fantasy and cyberpunk, with elves and trolls working for megacorporations, using both cybernetic augmentations and magical spells. It's one of the deepest and most interesting campaign worlds in RPG history, and it's really kind of surprising that more video games haven't been set in it.

Two Shadowrun video games have been made before now. One was on the Genesis, and the other, on the SNES, and both were console RPGs. Both have ascended to the status of cult classics, and a lot of people have been hoping for a sequel or a reimagining since then.

The new Shadowrun is a multiplayer-based first-person shooter, set years before the setting depicted in the RPG.

Thus, in a single, elegant masterstroke, Microsoft managed to enrage retro gamers, tabletop roleplaying gamers, console roleplaying gamers, and 2D snobs. The only way they could've angered more nerds at once is if Bill Gates had punched Leonard Nimoy.

It's a given that none of those people are going to be happy with this game. The 360/PC Shadowrun could beam orgasms directly into the player's animal forebrain, and these people still wouldn't be happy with it. Such is life in fandom. All that said, Shadowrun on the 360 and PC is by the same studio that gave the world Crimson Skies and Mechassault, so there's a tradition of multiplayer excellence here ... and it's not actually bad at all, to boot.

The 360 Shadowrun is set, as noted above, a few decades before the Shadowrun campaign setting, just as magic is beginning to make its way back into the world. The RNA Corporation wants to leverage magic to improve its position in this new world, while the ancient secret society the Lineage wants to protect magic.

What this means for you is that trolls, elves, dwarves, and humans are about to start shooting and stabbing each other over possession of certain mystical artifacts, in eight to 10 maps across three different game types. Shadowrun doesn't have a single-player mode, as such, unless you set up a bunch of bots; it's all fast-paced online multiplayer, augmented with magic, cyberware, and Live Anywhere.

When you begin a round of Shadowrun, you can select one of four races for your character. Humans are, as is their wont, well-balanced characters; elves are fragile, but very fast, and when augmented with the Wired Reflexes cyberware, become fast enough to stop bullets with a katana. Trolls are big and slow, but take no speed penalty for carrying heavy weapons, and their skin hardens as they take damage. The closer to dead a troll is, the harder he is to kill.

Finally, dwarves are sort of like magical vampires. Every character starts with an Essence pool, which is what allows you to cast spells, but dwarves' Essence doesn't recharge very quickly on its own. They have to absorb Essence from their spells, other players' spells, and other characters' abilities, such as a troll's hardened skin; simply being close to a dwarf is enough to make spells collapse and abilities go away. This makes a dwarf dangerous in several ways, but can also get you or your teammates killed. Way to dispel that tree of life, genius. We were using that.

As you kill enemy targets, collect artifacts, and accomplish other goals, you earn cash. At the start of a new round or as you're waiting to respawn, you can use that cash to buy new weapons, cyberware, or magical spells. The cyberware and spells don't mesh well with one another, either, as the more cyberware you have, the less Essence you have. Some of the available cyberware includes wired reflexes, which dramatically speed you up, and smartlink, which hooks you directly up to your gun. With smartlink active, you cannot teamkill and you don't lose as much accuracy for firing when moving.

The spells are what's going to set Shadowrun apart from the pack, as they add an enormous amount to the typical run-and-gun multiplayer action. When just guns are in play, there's honestly not a lot that separates Shadowrun from any other FPS you care to name; the counterterrorists just have pointy ears this time. It is emphatically not a big deal.

Once you learn what you're doing with a few spells, though, all bets are off. The spells include enhanced vision, a tree of life that heals teammates within its effect radius, summoned elementals that can guard an area or attack an enemy, a short-ranged teleport that carries you several yards in the direction you were already going in, a sudden wall of damaging crystalline vines that block off access to an area, a long-distance glide that lets you jump amazing distances, and resurrection, letting you tie up part of your Essence in order to let one of your teammates keep sucking air. If you die, though, anyone you've resurrected will start to bleed out.

Shadowrun's public beta just closed, and the overwhelming impression it left me with is that the game is crazy. It has about as much resemblance to its tabletop source material as, say, The Joy Luck Club would, but if you have no particular interest in that, you'll find this to be one of the most frenetic shooters on PC or the 360 in a long, long time, with fewer balance issues than you'd think it would have. With Live Anywhere thrown in, there's a lot riding on Shadowrun, and it'll be interesting to see how it turns out.


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