Giant Bomb Review

144 Comments

Shadow Complex Review

5
  • XBGS

Shadow Complex is amazing from start to finish... and after you finish it, you'll probably feel like diving right back in for another run.


Given the right equipment, you'll even be able to run on water. 
Given the right equipment, you'll even be able to run on water. 
Upon completing Shadow Complex--a task that took me close to five hours--the first thing I did was reload my final save so I could go back and collect all of the items I missed. Three hours later, I had cleared the game with 100 percent of the items collected. With that out of the way, I started over on a harder difficulty setting. That's the nature of Chair Entertainment's side-scrolling action-adventure. There's enough to it to probably satisfy people who only like to complete single-player games once, but it's set up in a way that really inspires you to play it again and again.

The game itself is an updated take on the great side-scrolling adventures of the past, like Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Much like those games, you're presented with a large world that's sectioned off into areas that can't be accessed without specific items. So the game progresses as you fight your way through an underground facility, collecting new items and getting closer to figuring out what the heck is going on around there.

The reason this facility is such a mystery is because you're not some super-secret mega spy. You're just some dude, enticed to go cave exploring in the Pacific Northwest because of some girl you met the night before. She's immediately captured, leaving you with nothing but a flashlight. As it turns out, you've stumbled upon a base for the Progressive Restoration, some sort of secret terrorist force that's in the final stages planning an attack on San Francisco, with designs to take over the entire country. As it turns out, they've teched the hell up, too, because the facility is churning out big mechanized units and some kind of super armor that you'll slowly piece together over the course of the game. The game's story is only really a factor in a few specific spots, as there's a real focus on the action. You'll only learn about your foes by overhearing conversations between enemy soldiers. It does, however, wrap up just fine at the end, both providing a touch of closure while giving you the impression that this budding conflict is far from over.

Though you won't start with much, by the end of the game you'll amass quite the arsenal. Your weapon will upgrade from a simple pistol to some kind of killer auto- shotgun. You'll get a jet pack that lets you double and triple jump. You'll get grenades, missiles, and a foam gun, each of which is used to open specific passages. The foam gun is cool because you can also use it to incapacitate enemies or attach it to walls to create walkways or platforms. 

Jason's just this guy, you know? 
Jason's just this guy, you know? 
By default, the map screen in Shadow Complex provides you with a bright blue line that shows you exactly where to go next, along with a line of text detailing what you're supposed to be doing next. Playing this way makes the game feel pretty linear, but along the way it's easy to get curious about what's off in some other direction and start exploring. Exploring every little corner of the map is what gets you a ton of additional items. Most of it's just extra ammo capacity for your secondary weapons, but health tanks and armor upgrades become pretty vital, especially on the higher difficulty settings. You'll also find gold bars (which unlock a special little something if you get them all) and pass-key components that... well, it should suffice to say that every item in the game serves a pretty meaningful purpose.

Unlike most other games of this sort, Shadow Complex utilizes the right stick for analog aiming. This lets you pick off head shots from a distance, nail guys from behind cover, and really makes the combat satisfying. The melee attacks, which cut away to up-close animations of enemies getting jacked, are also a lot of fun. You'll encounter a few larger enemies along the way, too. While most of them aren't involved enough to be considered full-on boss battles, things like spider-like walkers or little two-legged mechs get their own lifebars and take a bit more work to bring down. I found that just hammering on the grenade button until everything around you is dead is a good way to go for most of these bigger fights. 
 
Fighting enemies also has another benefit--you earn experience points as you go, both for destroying enemies and simply exploring the facility. You'll also earn an experience bonus for behaving in a more tactical manner, like getting headshots or using melee attacks. Every time you gain a level, you either earn a quick statistical boost, but every 10 levels you get something bigger, like a health increase, or infinite ammo for one of your secondary weapons, or something like that. The highest level is 50, and that's not a number that you're likely to hit on your first playthrough, but your level carries through from one session to the next. I finished the game at level 23, and after playing for another eight or so hours, I'm now in the mid-30s. Higher difficulty levels get your more experience, too, giving you a reason to pump things up to one of the harder settings. 
 
If you're looking to get away from the campaign, there are a series of challenge rooms to play through, as well. Each has its own leaderboard, letting you compete against friends for the best score. There are also leaderboards for things like melee attacks and head shots. Sort of like Burnout Paradise or Shatter, Shadow Complex gives you leaderboard updates on the fly, so when you pass a friend's headshot count, a little pop-up lets you know. Seeing that pop-up made me go on an all-melee killing spree for an hour or so, just to distance myself from the pack. It's a terrific implementation of what's an otherwise standard feature in today's games.

You'll see a lot of different areas as you explore the facility. 
You'll see a lot of different areas as you explore the facility. 
Visually, the only time Shadow Complex reminds you that it's not a full retail product is in some of the cutscenes. Specifically, when your lady friend is shown up close, her face... doesn't look so great. You'll also occasionally see that trademark Unreal Engine 3 graphical quirk, where the low-res graphics load in and sit there for awhile before being replaced with the detailed visuals. But all in all, the game looks great. The base is large and detailed, and it makes great use of lighting to help set the mood. There's one spot where you're walking through a room that's lit in red, and you're backlit, so you just see Jason's silhouette walking through a red room. It's pretty striking, and it certainly helps set Shadow Complex apart from the pack when it comes to digitally-distributed console games. The music, also, exists to set the mood. It doesn't get all action hero cheesy on you. Instead, it comes in during meaningful sequences and sort of stays out of your way. One scene where you're swimming through a flooded section of the base triggers a quiet, mostly piano piece that fits incredibly well. There's also a little musical sting that lets you know when you've cleared a room of enemy soldiers, which is handy in cases where you can't see the entire room on-screen at once.

Shadow Complex is an incredibly well-made game that finally grabs the " Metroidvania" subgenre and drags it into the modern era instead of relegating it to a land of remakes or portable games. Players that obsess over speed runs and 100 percent completion will certainly find a lot of replayability, but even players who just want to play a game start to finish and move on will find that the quality of Shadow Complex makes it well worth its $15 price tag.    
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
145 CommentsRefresh
Avatar image for hairymike87
Posted By HairyMike87
@FlipperDesert: Just get Shadow Complex.
Avatar image for dr_feelgood38
Posted By Dr_Feelgood38

I CAN"T WAIT. Come out now please.

Avatar image for garnsr
Posted By garnsr

I thought I'd heard that this was coming to PSN, but I can't wait, I'll have to get it Wednesday, even if I have to use that huge 360 controller.  
Castlevania:SOTN and Super Metroid are the games I've played through the most times, and it sounds like this should give me that same urge to just dash through over and over, but the new game+ sure sounds even better.  I just finished up BC Rearmed, and I'm ready for more old-school goodness.

Avatar image for rhaknar
Posted By Rhaknar
@garnsr said:
" I thought I'd heard that this was coming to PSN, but I can't wait, I'll have to get it Wednesday, even if I have to use that huge 360 controller.   Castlevania:SOTN and Super Metroid are the games I've played through the most times, and it sounds like this should give me that same urge to just dash through over and over, but the new game+ sure sounds even better.  I just finished up BC Rearmed, and I'm ready for more old-school goodness. "
huge controler? i'll give you the original xbox controler, but the 360 one? jesus...
Avatar image for damian
Posted By Damian

Never got into Metroid or Castlevania. But I loved Flashback and Blackthorn. Bring on wednesday!

Avatar image for izick
Posted By Izick

Great review!
 
I can't wait to play the game!!!

Avatar image for azteck
Posted By Azteck

FFFFFFF I want it now I want it now I want it now.

Avatar image for cloneslayer
Posted By Cloneslayer

Awesome, this may be my most looked forward to game of the year

Avatar image for brydello
Posted By Brydello

Must buy.

Avatar image for drbreen
Posted By drbreen

I've been on a Metroid kick lately and this release couldn't have come at a better time!

Avatar image for joeltgm
Posted By JoelTGM
@garnsr said:
" I thought I'd heard that this was coming to PSN, but I can't wait, I'll have to get it Wednesday, even if I have to use that huge 360 controller.   Castlevania:SOTN and Super Metroid are the games I've played through the most times, and it sounds like this should give me that same urge to just dash through over and over, but the new game+ sure sounds even better.  I just finished up BC Rearmed, and I'm ready for more old-school goodness. "
No I highly doubt that, it's published by Microsoft.  The most you can hope for is a PC version.
Avatar image for jonathanmoore
Posted By JonathanMoore

Ah man this looks epic, can't wait to check this out.

Avatar image for chewii101
Posted By chewii101

Jeff has convinced to slosh my way over to the Futureshop to get another Microsoft Points card. Curse you Gerstmann!

Avatar image for druminator
Posted By Druminator

Must have.

Avatar image for killdave
Posted By killdave

Game of the Summer - FACT
Game of the Year ? - maybe

Avatar image for toadstule
Posted By toadstule

Great review Jeff, can't wait to pick this up.

Avatar image for yummylee
Posted By Yummylee

Totally wins against the other arcade summer scorchers, its a fatality to even have them compared >8P
Avatar image for ben_h
Posted By Ben_H

Why do the graphics remind me of Company of Heroes?  Especially the picture of the dude's face...  Weird...

Avatar image for jjor64
Posted By JJOR64

Awesome.  I a huge fan of the Metriodvania style gameplay.  I would probably love this game.

Avatar image for dethfish
Posted By Dethfish

Hmm, I didn't know this game takes place in the Pacific Northwest. That's cool. I also didn't know it was 15 bucks, I thought it was 20. Now I want it even more.
 
I hope you do a video review of this too.

Avatar image for dan_citi
Posted By Dan_CiTi

The only problem I find is that the characters look a bit ugly up close, but during gameplay it all looks great. If only they cel-shaded it.

Avatar image for dryker
Posted By Dryker

Can't wait! I wonder if Chair have any plans for DLC. Come to think of it, has any Live Arcade game had DLC?
Avatar image for sjschmidt93
Posted By SJSchmidt93

 Oh, how I wish I had a 360.

Avatar image for themasterds
Posted By TheMasterDS
@Dryker: I'm sure there's been some Arcade DLC going around, like the deleted scene from Maw of the top of my head.
Online
Avatar image for cstrang
Posted By cstrang

Super, super excited for this game now.

Avatar image for emkeighcameron
Posted By emkeighcameron

I'm glad to see a HHGTTG reference in here.

Avatar image for earthborn
Posted By Earthborn
@Dethfish77 said:
" Hmm, I didn't know this game takes place in the Pacific Northwest. That's cool. I also didn't know it was 15 bucks, I thought it was 20. Now I want it even more. I hope you do a video review of this too. "
Hmm. I also didn't know that, but as a northwesterner I feel I somehow knew it, deep in the core of my being, which, at the moment, is filled with Dr. Pepper and chips.
Avatar image for ugalde
Posted By Ugalde

A five for that short of a game? Wow is this because the developer stopped by.
Avatar image for dethfish
Posted By Dethfish
@Earthborn said:
" @Dethfish77 said:
" Hmm, I didn't know this game takes place in the Pacific Northwest. That's cool. I also didn't know it was 15 bucks, I thought it was 20. Now I want it even more. I hope you do a video review of this too. "
Hmm. I also didn't know that, but as a northwesterner I feel I somehow knew it, deep in the core of my being, which, at the moment, is filled with Dr. Pepper and chips. "
Northwesterner pride! Also, Dr. Pepper pride!
Avatar image for rhaknar
Posted By Rhaknar
@Ugalde said:
" A five for that short of a game? Wow is this because the developer stopped by. "
i was going to explain why its worth the score, but then I realised since you wrote it, im sure you already have some "clever" reply ready for when people call you a fucking retard, so I won't even bother
Avatar image for mordukai
Posted By mordukai

Yeah, pretty much what I expected the review to be. 

Avatar image for liquid306
Posted By Liquid306

I want this game!

Avatar image for derekdanahy
Posted By DerekDanahy

That's cool. Good review Jeff.

Avatar image for endrzgame
Posted By EndrzGame

This will be the first time that I stay up late and wait to download an XBLA title. I sooo want to play this game I'm rearranging my sleep schedule. Can't wait!!!

Avatar image for carlos1408
Posted By Carlos1408

Sounds great i wouldn't mind picking this up! I'll definatly check it out, but i also still need to get 'splosion man!

Avatar image for insanepotato
Posted By InsanePotato

I want it now. Stupid lack of Delorean....

Avatar image for jjweatherman
Posted By JJWeatherman

Great. I planned on buying this on day one anyways so I'm glad to hear how great it is.

Avatar image for pukingben
Posted By PukingBen

been following this game since E3, cant wait till wednesday. im trying to get off work  that day.

Avatar image for john1912
Posted By John1912

Cool, glad its good.  Would like to see it around the 10$ price point, but hey, looks to have good production values/graphics, and 5-8 hours is pretty damn good.  just always feel like DLC should be cheaper then it is.  Esp chincy shit like costumes packs.

Avatar image for quirkwood
Posted By quirkwood

Do i really have to wait two more days!?... I've got too much homework anyway.

Avatar image for vinsanity09
Posted By vinsanity09

It's going to be second XBLA game that I'm going to buy (1st one was The Dishwasher)

Avatar image for wright
Posted By Wright

that is good to hear.

Avatar image for the8man
Posted By The8Man

God, I can't wait for this game!  I am gonna buy it so hard!

Avatar image for willy105
Posted By Willy105
@Ugalde said:
" A five for that short of a game? Wow is this because the developer stopped by. "
The best games are not the ones that last the longest, but the ones you want to keep playing over and over again.
Avatar image for peepingtommy
Posted By PeepingTommy

Black silhouette on a red background. This separates it from other downloadable games? I thought you played bionic commando rearmed, Jeff?

Avatar image for metiphis
Posted By Metiphis

Certainly buying this.

Avatar image for nate
Posted By Nate

Read the first couple paragraphs of this review, but then decided that I'm going to have to buy this and I kind of want to go into it knowing as little as possible. SO, I'm sure Jeff wrote an amazing review, which I will go ahead and read after I've played it. Two more days!

Avatar image for john1912
Posted By John1912

i want a video review!!! NOW!!!

Avatar image for coleslaw893
Posted By Coleslaw893

AWESOME. Can't wait to play this.

Avatar image for fleafa
Posted By Fleafa

Consider it bought. Now I'm going to wait for the sequel featuring co-op, Probotector-style. ^_^