Once upon a time, the world breathed magic. Some believed this magic should belong only to the powerful, while others felt it was for everyone. So all the worlds beings went to war. The first battle took place in Brazil, where a lone elf with a sniper rifle notched an amazing 28 kills by
Eh? Did I lose you?
Welcome to Shadowrun, a Tolkienesque fantasy in a sci-fi setting. Fairy-tale staples like trolls and spells occupy a near-future where magic has been rediscovered. The security forces of RNA Globalwhich hopes to control the resourceopenly wage war with the The Lineage, a sect that wants magic to be as free as the air we breathe. Santos, Brazil, is ground zero, where rivals battle in the streets using a mix of modern and ancient weapons.
Gaming old-timers might recall Shadowrun for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo in the early 90s, or maybe even the pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons-style game. Those fans may want to brace themselves: This isnt the story-driven adventure you remember. This Shadowrun is a first-person shooter à la Halosomething gamers werent exactly begging for more of.
Yet it does manage to bring something new to the table, even beyond the novelty of seeing a dwarf jog by you with a machine gun. Each race of metahuman has unique characteristics that must be kept in mind when picking a character. Elves, for example, are the quickest and most adept at magic, while trolls boast skin that can turn to stone, making them slow but very difficult to hurt.
Of course, it wouldnt be the future without sci-fi technology. Take Smartlink, a chip that connects a weapon directly to your brain to not only nail targets more effectively, but to prevent your weapon from firing at a friendly. Install it on a troll with a minigun, and you can spray bullets into a mixed crowd of friends and foes, killing only your enemy. Add magic to the mix, and you have a highly complex war zone where players can float in on gliders, resurrect dead allies, and teleport through walls to safety.
Its a welcome spin on a genre thats being crushed under a glut of generic WW2 and alien-invasion games, but thats not to say there arent missteps. While there are some simple single-player features, Shadowrun is meant to be played against (and with) real people online. And its tough to justify 60 bucks for what is essentially an online-only experience.
But theres a broader concern. Shadowrun is very much a team-oriented game, requiring a great deal of strategy to play well; a winning team should consist of a variety of races, weapons, and skills. Also, the game is only as good as the people youre playing withand Shadowrun demands good players. Its not cynical to wonder if the audience that makes this game fun to play exists in the numbers needed to recommend it.
Now consider the migratory nature of the Xbox Live audience, which plays the latest online game obsessively for a few weeks or months, then moves en masse to the next big title, leaving the last one a virtual ghost town. What if they threw a war and nobody came? Wait for Shadowrun to hit the bargain bin, and you might find out firsthand.
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