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Xbox Live Arcade Review - Shadow Complex

cboxshadowncomplexI downloaded this game at launch, and played a little at a time until I beat it. While this game doesn't bring anything new (with the exception of a few things) that Super Metroid didn't do better in 1994, it's still a damned impressive Xbox Live Arcade title. Without giving away too much, you play as an individual named Jason who pretty much gets sucked into this terrorist plot to take out San Fransisco (hmm ... nope. Not getting into that shit.). The game is in 3D, but is played from a side scrolling perspective that mostly works. But it uses the Unreal Engine which really helps bring everything to life, albeit in a lot of greys that the engine is known for.

For old Metroid fans like me, there's nothing new in this game though ... and playing it and going through the first half of it, it made me dig out my Super Nintendo and play Metroid again. And I'll probably end up buying Castlevania : Symphony of the Night on Xbox Live Arcade as well eventually.


Graphically, the game is near perfect and probably the best looking downloadable title for any system. The Unreal Engine really shows it's strengths with this one and, for the most part, makes the side scrolling perspective in a 3D environment work perfectly. There are some quirks with aiming at things in the background, and with aiming PERIOD ... they aren't glaring, but they do tend to get annoying. The attention to detail is top notch, except that during the cutscenes the characters have a really creepy video game look to them most of the time. But the detail of the various enemies that you have to deal with are something else entirely. The robots and death machines and whatnot almost look like they could pop out of the screen. The environments look outstanding, the animation is near perfect. And the closeups of when you decide to melee an enemy to take him out look great. Even though it tends to repeat the same ones over and over again, it never bothered me in the least. There is the occasional instances of the ragdoll physics getting hilariously bad though, something that plagues ALL the games that use them it seems. The enemies you take down never seem to actually fall realistically, hence the term "rag doll". And seeing them under water is ... weird. Oh, and the explsions of the boss enemies were particularly satisfying.

The only real complaint I have in the graphics department is that everything seems to be in that typical Unreal Engine grey. Even the outdoor areas that TRY to look lush and green don't look it at all. Blue skies don't look like blue skies, the entire game has a pretty muted color palette. What the hell is wrong with making green look green, and making clear blue skies blue?


The gameplay, as I've mentioned before is nothing new if you're familiar with the 2D Metroid or Castlevania games. It's tight, responsive, near perfect. Except for the cumbersome aiming. There are hidden powerups all over the place that you'll unlock as you get new abilities, the swimming isn't painful like it is with most games. And the level design is superb. While the complex isn't all that big, it SEEMS huge because you get to all these new areas as you obtain various items throughout the game. And it helps with the fact that you're unrealistically armed to the teeth with your normal weapon being that you can only carry one type of gun at a time with addons like a missile launcher, grenades, a foam gun that'll either freeze an enemy in their tracks or expand certain places to the point they explode and a hook shot. And there are other things you'll collect throughout the course of the game like an addon that makes you run REAL fast, another one that lets you do double and triple jumps with the aid of thrusters, a mask that lets you breathe indefinitely under water, and a helmet that'll help you stay invincible against enemy fire.

And for people who are into that kind of thing, the game has a ton of replay value in the way of achievements and whatnot. Like completing the game with a certain percentage of the items, or completing the game in this or that amount of time on whatever difficulty. In game you'll see a little popup in the lower corner that tells you how many headshots for example you have compared to someone else on your list. And if you're like me and have someone on their list who lives and breathes these achievements, you'll see some pretty high numbers in there. The proving grounds lets you try out the things that you'll eventually get in the game, and are timed where you can compete against other people's times. I'm not an achievement guy, though.


The sound is as good as everything else in the game, especially if you've got good speakers or a surround sound setup on your 360. The guns have a great sound to them which add to the overall powerful feeling of them. The explosions are as loud soundwise as they are graphically and add to the satisfaction, the music is ... hardly noticeable at all to be honest and might as well not even be there. I honestly don't remember ANY of it other than the subdued title screen music. While the story is kinda just shoved into the game, the voice acting in it is pretty damn good.

And the story ... it's a pretty short game, so there really isn't much story to it. And it's all pretty typical stuff. I didn't really care about any of the characters and the story wasn't all that impressive to me at all. While I've never read the book that this game is a prequel to, from what I understand you don't need to. And it's too bad, because a great story would've helped this game out even more.


8.0 - Is this the greatest game ever made? God no. Is it even the best game of this generation like I've heard some people say? Hell no, Biochock has it beat. Mostly because it doesn't really bring anything new to the table in terms of gameplay, and quite honestly Super Metroid did it better back in the day. But it is the best downloadable title to be released on Xbox Live Arcade thus far, a great game on it's own merits, and at only 15 bucks, it's hard not to buy this. If this were stretched out into a full length game it could easily be a full priced release. On my first playthrough, I got through it in a little over 7 hours ... and the game didn't really get going for me until about hour 2 or 3, so it's not that long at all.

I'm sure if I go through and play it again it'd drop, and I may play through it again. And now that I've finished it, I'm going to go see how I do in the Proving Grounds. But as of now, I got my 15 bucks out of it, and since I'm not much of an achievement guy I don't care enough to go through and beat it with only a certain percentage of whatever items. But for people who are into it, that will add even more replayability to an already great game.

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Comments (1) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I’m putting off playing it because I know Defense Grid will be taking all my spare time the next few weeks, but it will be fun to go back and play Shadow Complex in a few weeks (or months)

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