'Shadow Complex' XBLA Review

September 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 4 out of 5

Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy and girl go spelunking together. Girl gets kidnapped by an evil terrorist organisation planning to take over the world. Boy just happens to have secret service training because his father is a spy. Boy is forced to go after girl and stop said evil terrorist organisation.

Personally, I think it could be this year’s Titanic.

Shadow Complex is a 2.5D action/platformer game in the vein of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid. The gameplay consists of exploration and running and gunning your way through a large military facility. While you are presented with objectives that, upon completion, progress you through the story, Shadow Complex plays in a fairly non-linear fashion and actively encourages the player to scout around for hidden items and areas.

Shadow Complex is a really well designed, well crafted game. Its presentation is excellent; it looks great and it sounds great. The controls, for the most part, are perfectly adequate. This is all by the by, though, because Shadow Complex’s greatest strength is in its level design, presenting you with a large, interesting environment to navigate and explore, with loads of stuff to collect. Ultimately, the game comes together – not just as something paying homage, but as an improvement and evolution on the standard formula.

There are, however, about three minor issues that disturb the waters.

Firstly, the story is absolute tripe; the plot is clichéd and the twist at the end is predictable but, also, stupid. The implementation of the story – via cutscenes, mostly – could also have been more smoothly integrated into the gameplay.

Secondly, while the graphics and special effects are well above average for an XBLA title, the art style lacks a certain imagination and the game world feels a little generic, sort of like a Metal Gear Solid knock-off.

Finally, there’s the issue of the auto-aim controls. The right stick on the joypad controls your aiming and where you’re facing, and this works well when you’re just fighting enemies on the horizontal axis; however, it’s not so hot on picking up enemies on the Z-axis, i.e. in the background. (There’s actually a bug that exists where you are unable to target an adversary if he’s standing directly behind in you in the background, and that’s not so good.) Despite this slight setback with the controls, though, it’s still much better to have an interactive, animated background than none at all, and it does help convey a much greater sense of depth and liveliness to the game world.

These smaller quibbles not withstanding, Shadow Complex is a really enjoyable game and absolutely worth the 1200 MS points (around ten pounds) being asked for it. On a technical level the game is exceptional, though I do think it lacks the character of its fellow luminaries.


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