Giant Bomb Review


Shadow Complex Review

  • 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 calidan777
Posted By calidan777

Nice review Jeff,I can't freaking wait until Wednesday to play this.

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Posted By V_Ben

awesome review, looking forward to this game!

Avatar image for copycatzen
Posted By copycatzen
@John1912 said:
"i want a video review!!! NOW!!! "

I agree,, wait I dont care.... I dont have an X360... fuck!
Avatar image for mattysen
Posted By mattysen

Been waiting for a modern Super Metriod since, err when it first came out. Man this is gonna kick soo much ass cant wait

Avatar image for eschatonik
Edited By eschatonik

Will be getting this on one day one for sure.  Can't wait.

Avatar image for ugalde
Posted By Ugalde
@Willy105 said:
" @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. "

I'm not trying to say it's a bad game. I'm just saying Brad said you he completed the whole game(including finding items) in 8 hours. I'm pretty sure other single player only games would at least lose some points for the game being that short.
Avatar image for president_evil
Edited By President_Evil
@Ugalde: true, but this is a $15 digital download, as opposed to a full-price $60 retail release.
Great review Jeff, there NEEDS to be more games like this.  I'm sick of grimdark FPS's staring homoerotic space marines.
Avatar image for ghostnpc
Posted By ghostNPC

Awesome review Jeff! May you never run out of steam!

Avatar image for tactis
Posted By tactis

could definitely be a contender for GOTY with ign and teamxbox giving it 9.4s thats pretty amazing

Avatar image for vaderbreath
Posted By vaderbreath

Great review can't wait for this game to be released, seems almost like a full-fledged game... almost.

Avatar image for beardedferret
Posted By BeardedFerret
@Ugalde said:
" @Willy105 said:
" @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. "
I'm not trying to say it's a bad game. I'm just saying Brad said you he completed the whole game(including finding items) in 8 hours. I'm pretty sure other single player only games would at least lose some points for the game being that short. "
I wasn't aware that 8 hours is supposed to be short. I finished Twilight Princess and Halo 2 quicker than that. Portal is shorter than that and has gotten rave reviews. Besides, one of the major points in the review is the game's re-playability.
Avatar image for d
Posted By D

I can't wait for tuesday @ 3:00 in the morning for this badass lookin game.

Avatar image for marting
Posted By MartinG

Great review. This might actually convince me to buy the game.

Avatar image for blackhole82
Posted By blackhole82

I've already wanted to download this for about a week now.

Avatar image for cb1115
Posted By cb1115
@mnzy: No because you have to aim with the right analog stick and move with the left.
Avatar image for godlyawesomeguy
Posted By Godlyawesomeguy

Great review, but I still want to save my MS points for ballad of gay tony.
Avatar image for bahimiron
Posted By bahimiron

Awesome game that is a tie-in to a right-wing screed written by a crazed homophobic Mormon.
I'll have to really think about whether or not a great gaming experience is worth selling a little piece of my soul by supporting a man who has called gay marriage a 'potentially devastating social experiment'.

Avatar image for arjuna
Posted By Arjuna

Does anyone know if I'll be able to dwnld this game tonight?  It's release date is on the "19th".  So will I technically be able to dwnld it shortly after the clock strikes midnight?

Avatar image for wickedcestus
Posted By WickedCestus

I think they usually put them up around 1am.

Avatar image for crukid
Posted By crukid
@bahimiron: word.  The man can write and I love love love Ender's Game...but yeah.  I hear you.
Avatar image for vanek
Posted By Vanek

Bleh, I've been awake all night and reading up on this game made me really want it.  I have some spare points left anyway and I'll be damned if I'm gonna waste them on something like avatar clothes.

Avatar image for vilhelmnielsen
Posted By VilhelmNielsen

Great, wanted to try this, then m 360 red rings while donwloading the trail... Fuck you Microsoft.
Not even sure wether the warranty is still in effect.

Avatar image for coldbrand
Posted By Coldbrand

I have a foam gun.

Avatar image for joeltgm
Posted By JoelTGM


Avatar image for alexb
Posted By AlexB

Oh My God I want it soooo bad. Too bad my 360 red ringed, again, and Microsoft just flat out sucks with its 54% failure rate.

Avatar image for three0nefive
Posted By Three0neFive

Oh man this game is fucking sweet. So glad I haven't sold my 360... yet.
If this comes to Steam I'll have to buy it a second time.

Avatar image for hawkse
Posted By HawkSE

Nice. I like the Luchadeer's prescence

Avatar image for thewonderwaffle
Posted By thewonderwaffle

lucha deer!

Avatar image for mordukai
Posted By mordukai

I love the way he says "Bright Blue Line"

Avatar image for beanzfury
Edited By beanZfury

How did Lucha Deer get in there? Was he the mastermind behind the whole thing? As DLC, they should make Lucha Deer a final boss.

Avatar image for davin
Posted By Davin

So does this mean that Luchadeer can be added as an object at this point? Heheh :D

Avatar image for royale
Posted By Royale

ROFL at the Luchadeer. 
... and great review.  getting it.

Avatar image for mebs
Posted By MEBs

  Great review.  And also...LUCHA DEER!

Avatar image for bshirk
Posted By bshirk

Nice video review.  What an excellent way to top off the Summer of Arcade.

Avatar image for ahomelesshomie
Posted By AHomelessHomie

Looks amazing, unfortunately i already have other games on the XBLA i plan to buy but this is on my list
Avatar image for lind_l_taylor
Posted By Lind_L_Taylor

Good video review. Thanks.  I think I'm sold on this game already.

Avatar image for sublime90
Posted By sublime90

Luchadeer!!! i love this game, its a very surreal moment when you get the scuba gear and have to backtrack in the big underwater section, the music is perfect and its really mellow just swimming around all the dead bodies and debris.

Avatar image for dylanmmc
Posted By DylanMMc

I thought you got to keep your weapons/ suit on a second playthrough, you dont, damn.

Avatar image for momentarylogic
Posted By momentarylogic

dood, the lunchadeer (sp) is AWESOME omfg. saw that in the 2nd time around, is that really in the game?!?!? wow

Avatar image for kohe321
Posted By Kohe321

Playing through it now, and I completely agree with the review!

Avatar image for mezmero
Posted By Mezmero

I finally downloaded this game the other night........then my 360 red ringed.
Avatar image for media_master
Posted By Media_Master

I wonder when the PSN version will come out?

Avatar image for bionicicide
Edited By Bionicicide

Never finished it since the game repsawned enemies in the exact same routine when backtracking and hated how the "hit in background" was dynamic and not user controlled - I would of liked a button to tell this Nathan Drake ripoff (lazy devs) when to shoot the background (ideally with the left trigger).
Overall, don't get how someone could say this could've been a standard MSRP retail release.

Avatar image for ford_prefect
Posted By Ford_Prefect

Just started playing this, holy s it is awesome! Well worth the $, a must play.