Shadow Complex Review
When it comes to side-scrolling games, I don't really know anything, as the closest I've ever come to one is Metroid Prime. But I still enjoyed Shadow Complex immensely due to the exploration, experience system, and leaderboards.
You start the game off with a total bad*ss, who has practically every upgrade and weapon. After you complete an objective, the story is revealed to you. Sort of. You then cut to Jason, a guy going cave exploring with his girlfriend Claire who he met at the bar last night. In true Metroid Prime style (or original, I wouldn't know), you don't have anything except a flashlight. Then you discover an underground complex of a rebel group known as the Restoration, who has planned to start their plan to overthrow America the same day you come, Your girlfriend is captured, you need to save her, and it goes from there.
The entire pace of the game is quite linear in nature when going straight to your objectives and only picking up upgrades in the rooms on your path. The game is still fun this way, as it has a brisk pace that no other game I've played has. For every objective, you get a huge upgrade that impacts the way you deal with navigation and enemies. If you go off the path though, you'll find some incremental upgrades like ammo count, or if you're lucky, health and armor.
You'll also get upgrades every time you hit a new level on your XP (experience). Every level, your stamina or precision will increase, and every 10 levels you'll hit a substancial upgrade like more health or revealing the entire map. What's cool about the XP system in this game though, is that there are several ways to multiply how much XP you earn in combat. If you melee, or score an environmental kill (like a stray electrical cable), you will score a multiplier. For the more enemies you kill in a row in these ways, the multiplier will increase. XP is also earned through finding upgrades, items, and exploring the map. There is more XP to be earned in higher difficulty levels as well.
Speaking of combat, the combat in this game is awesome. At first, it's a simple matter of meleeing, enivornment KOs, and headshots, but as you upgrade your character, new strategies will arise. Take the rocket soldier, for example. he has a huge shield that will block your shots until he pops out and shoots you with a rocket. If you have the foam gun, which shoots adhesive growing globules that encase things for a while, you can foam his shield, making it stick to the ground. Then you can come up from behind, and kill him. Or if you have the hookshot, you can hookshot his shield off, and run up to him and unleash a can whoop*ss melee skills. If there's a bot above him, shoot the bot so it lands behind him, explodes, and kills him. There are just so many ways to play the game near the end.
The environment itself is expertly designed, with all your abilities in mind. It's pretty clever, really, as even the very first area you start in becomes extremely different once you have a high level character. It's pretty huge as well, and you have to go very specific ways to get to each area, and every area you go in changes, not just due to your upgrades, but the environment itself as well. This is also the perfect place to go searching for the countless upgrades in hopes of the 20G completionist achievement.
The graphics run on the Unreal 3 Engine, and it looks great for it. Technically speaking, there's some impressive textures, water effects, and lighting. Artistically as well, with this being set in the Orson Scott Card's book series Empire, as well as other setpiece moments I won't spoil. But the beauty of this game lies in the details. The game itself is 3D, but you run on a 2D plane, so there are some cool effects, like the 3D environments of whenever you go behind a turret, or the cinematic camera when you melee a guy. You can also shoot in 3 dimensions as well. It's not graphically perfect though, as there are EXTREME texture clipping issues, such as when you melee a guy and he flies through the wall (!?). Some textures are way low-res, as well as a couple janky animations. But so long as you don't look too closely in the cutscenes, you won't find anything wrong with the game graphically.
Shadow Complex should last you about 5 hours on your first playthrough, but unlimited replay value here, with all the achievements and experience and upgrades. There's also some practice rooms as well which can be fun for a while. So overall, for 1200 Microsft Points, which is what games like Trials HD are going for, this game is a steal.