icemael's Shadow Complex (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

A fresh take on an old genre.

Introduction:

Shadow Complex is a side-scrolling action-adventure in the vein of the Metroid and Castlevania games, and was developed by Chair Entertainment . The game was released on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft Points($15). Players take on the role of Jason Flemming, who stumbles upon a secret underground base -- a Shadow Complex, if you will -- while hiking with his girlfriend. The girl is taken captive, and it's up to Jason to infiltrate the base and save her.



Good Stuff  


Gotta Find 'Em All

Shadow Complex is all about exploration and intense combat, and excels at both. The titular complex is quite big, and is packed with hidden goodies for the player to uncover. Exploring for hidden upgrades is addictive and the game's environments, while thematically consistent, are varied enough to keep it interesting. The game's pacing is excellent, and you always feel like the next upgrade is just around the corner. Small details such as the ability crouch-walk, slide down ladders and, using a gun-mounted flashlight, instantly see what ability is needed to pass an obstacle is the icing on the cake, streamlining the experience and putting it above other games in the genre.  


Shadows of War

The combat is just as entertaining as the exploration, and seamlessly implements elements normally found in modern shooters into the side-scrolling gameplay. For example, aiming is done with the analogue stick allowing a great deal of precision, and taking cover is instrumental in avoiding death. While Jason only can move in two dimensions, enemies will frequently appear in both the background and foreground, adding a third dimension to the gameplay. One would think that aiming at these enemies would feel awkward, but it's actually really intuitive; for the most part, the game knows when you’re trying to shoot enemies in other planes. The game's boss battles are spectacular, and while you'll encounter the same bosses several times there are always quirks -- environmental or otherwise -- to make each encounter unique. 


What A Beautiful Shade

The gameworld, built using Unreal Engine 3, is fully three-dimensional and looks fantastic. The gritty environments sport a level of detail you don't expect from a downloadable title, as do the game's many enemies. Ragdoll physics, great-looking explosions and superb lighting also contribute to the game's visual flair ; Shadow Complex is doubtlessly one of the -- if not the -- most impressive-looking downloadable game to date. 


We're Making Progress

The sense of progress in Shadow Complex is nothing short of fantastic. At the beginning of the game you're just a regular dude with a flashlight and a handgun, and even small numbers of enemies can pose a serious threat. You'll find yourself taking cover and sneaking, trying to take out enemies as discreetly as possible. By the end of the game, however, Jason is a licensed badass, wielding all sorts of high-tech weaponry. Instead of trying to keep a low profile, you'll find yourself triple-jumping through the front door in hyperspeed, vaporizing soldiers left and right. Not once will you find yourself bored or unmotivated -- the game does an excellent job making you feel empowered, and the thrill of constantly gaining new abilities will have you hooked.

 

Bad Stuff:

 

Flickering Shadow

While they are greatly overshadowed by the positive aspects, there are some flaws. There's gonna be some nitpicking in this paragraph, so brace yourselves. One of the most noticeable flaws is the absence of quick-travel. The map is quite big, and getting from one end to the other takes a considerable amount of time. Getting around the complex is certainly fun, but at times it can become really tedious. Another noticeable flaw is that there's only one save file. In a title like this, you would expect to get at least three; the idea of deleting your old save every time you want to replay the game isn't particularly enticing. The game also suffers from occasional framerate hiccups, and Jason's girlfriend's face looks kinda weird...hey, I said there was going to be nitpicking. 

 

Final Verdict:

Shadow Complex is a fresh take on an old genre, and while it lacks the Castlevania and Metroid games' personality it makes up for that simply by being incredibly fun. One playthrough is enough to give you more than your money's worth, and you'll probably want to replay the game several times; if not for the achievements related to item collection, then just because it's so damn enjoyable. Shadow Complex is of a quality that few --  if any -- downloadable titles can match and at 1200 Microsoft Points, it's a steal.
2 Comments
Posted by Dudacles

Good review. I'm personally not a fan of cutting up review into titled sections, but they do serve their purpose. I can easily see what your take is on each individual part of the game, which is good. As for the review text itself, you've written it very well. It's concise and fluid.
 
Good job, and take my recommendation.

Edited by Icemael

Thanks. I've been a fan of the "sectioned" review style since I read my first Kotaku review, but I can see why some would dislike it.

Other reviews for Shadow Complex (Xbox 360 Games Store)

    Shadow Complex is one of the best XBLA games to come out yet 0

       Shadow Complex is awesome. If you've ever played a Metroid game, you should know what playing Chair Entertainment's creation is like. The gameplay focuses on exploring a huge complex and upgrading your character to unlock new areas. The constant sense and desire of progression, along with a pretty solid shooting engine make this game pretty addictive.   Jason comes across the complex by accident. Thankfully, he's been trained by his father to be a supersoldier! Shadow Complex has you t...

    9 out of 9 found this review helpful.

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