Few of you would put Bill Gates on your Christmas card list, but you’ve got to thank Microsoft for bringing online gaming to the masses.
Latest stats show around half of all Xbox 360 owners log on to Microsoft’s Xbox Live service on a regular basis. These days there’s always someone to play against and you may even meet the odd Mansized reader on your travels.
Shadowrun pushes online just that little bit harder. First, there’s little point buying it if you can’t get online as there’s precious little going on off it. Second, you won’t just be playing against Xbox owners as a technical sleight of hand lets you blast PC owners of the game too.
Yes, cross platform fragging. It sounds great on paper, but is this a war worth fighting?
If you’re on stuck on a 56k modem (remember them?) at home then you may as well skip this review. Offline Shadowrun is a pale, err, shadow of its online counterpart with a couple of tutorials and a version where you blast computer controlled bots. Saying it’s fun for five minutes is being kind to be honest.
Once you get online you’ll find blasting action that’s a lot like Valve Software’s Counter Strike. There’s one added extra though. Magic.
OK, so you’re thinking that spells are only for pre-pubescent Harry Potter fans, but they actually work pretty well here. You buy them at the start of the game in the same way you would an Uzi or an AK-47 and they pack, if anything, more of a punch than your traditional weaponry.
You also need to choose a character. The speed of an Elf would help you sidestep some of the bigger hitters, while a Troll lets you cause an insane amount of damage to any poor sod that gets in your way. It adds a smidgen of strategy and keeps things interesting.
Finally, the battle proper. After the array of game types online gamers will be used to, the three you’re given here seem a tad paltry by comparison. Two focus on nabbing a certain artefact and getting it back to base, while the last tasks you with visiting as much vengeance and furious anger as you can muster on your opponents.
And that’s about it really. There’s talk of downloadable game modes in future and PC gamers will no doubt find third party mods popping up everywhere. Right now though, Shadowrun seems shallow.
It’s also been rushed too. Granted the odd section is up there with the greats, but you’ll soon forget that when you see a fellow gamer suddenly jolt from one spot to another. Commodore 64 gamers wouldn’t mind, but that was nearly twenty years ago.
Another minor oversight is the fact that all players of the same species look pretty much identical. The odd longer ear here and third leg there would have made Shadowrun so much more appealing visually. As it is, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
In magic terms, Shadowrun is more Paul Daniels than David Blaine. We’ll keep an eye out for the promised downloads, but this is one act we’ll be leaving half way through.