Developer: ChAIR Entertainment
Publisher: Epic Games
Release Date: May 3, 2016 (on Steam)
Platform: PC via Steam
Disclaimer: The following review was conducted on PC via Steam. A code was provided by the developer for review purposes.
Shadow Complex Remastered is a remake of the critically acclaimed Shadow Complex which originally released on the Xbox LIVE Arcade back in August 2009. The remake launched on Steam in May 2016 following a kickoff on console in March. The Microsoft Windows store offered the game for free back in December for a brief amount of time. Even with all of the platform releases, I had no previous exposure to the title. The only assumption that I went into Shadow Complex with was that it was one of the better games of its time on the Xbox LIVE Arcade.
You might think that Shadow Complex is your run-of-the-mill platforming shooter title. While the design puts heavy emphasis on platforming and combat, there is an additional layer where you can explore between most levels of buildings, water and land. This is aside from the mechanic that allows you to fire shots at enemies in a given depth within those environments. If an enemy enters in the background and moves to the middle-ground, you can fire upon them there. This is done while managing your platforming in the foreground, paying tribute to traditional games in the genre.
The story of Shadow Complex easily becomes as meaty as its gameplay. Even at the game’s start, you find yourself in the middle of a huge spy plot that only thickens as you explore the underground base which is holding an entire army ready to overthrow the American government.
Plot-wise, the plot is fairly interesting, but it follows a fairly predictable turn of events. The opening prologue of the game bares no relevance to the actual story itself, so I was a bit confused as to why it was included. The main protagonist is Jason Flemming, who happens to be on a weekend away with his new girlfriend, Claire. Your new girlfriend gets kidnapped and you are tasked with bringing her back to safety. Although a lot of it is largely predictable, I still found myself interested in finding out what happens at the end.
The dialog between Jason and Claire can be quite cringeworthy at times, sophomoric at best. Thankfully you don’t need to follow the story too much in order to get the most out of Shadow Complex. The voice acting across the game is nothing special, and you may even be better off turning it off because it did make me wince with awkwardness at times. There are even moments where you really should be hearing a sound effect, such as background noise when you are on a factory floor, but you don’t hear anything. This can really knock you out of the immersion of any game, and sadly it happened all too frequently throughout this one.
Shadow Complex comes with a variety of different difficulty settings. Most players will be sufficiently challenged on the normal mode, however you can change the settings on the fly, so I would advise starting as high as you can to see how well you handle the intensity. The easy mode is no challenge at all and you may find yourself getting bored of the combat system if you aren’t being challenged.
Throughout this underground complex you are faced with plenty of different puzzles to solve. The puzzles aren’t massively complicated, usually involving some sort of jumping mechanic. Other puzzles will require the use of different pieces of equipment which you will discover throughout the course of the story. These pieces of equipment include many familiar weapon types, such as rocket launchers, grenades, and, curiously enough–foam guns. The gameplay becomes more complex with the inclusion of grappling hooks, not to mention a powered suit. Some augmentations to the suit include supersonic speed for running through walls and boosted jumps for scaling walls.
I have to say, using all of the above weapons and abilities did work out nicely as they all serve some sort of purpose to progressing in the game. The weapons do gradually get upgraded and you aren’t able to use previously picked up weapons, at least I couldn’t work out how to do it anyway. Although you don’t really have a need to since each new weapon you get is better than the previous in every way.
No action-platformer is complete without a vast number of enemies to destroy. The gunplay in Shadow Complex is a little tricky to get a hang of. The game uses twin-stick controls for aiming, meaning you don’t always get a huge amount of accuracy. If you found comfort in the console controls, you might continue to play in true PC form with the use of mouse/keyboard. This is particularly important as the 2.5D environment can cause a lot of confusion and hassle.
There are many instances that you will find yourself guessing how to take out an enemy in a given confrontation. Most times, it’s a straight forward emptying of your machine gun clip. But, when trying to aim at enemies in the distance, you will find that you have to locate somewhat of a sweet spot in order to shoot at enemies in the rear of the scene. And, in terms of enemy types, there are many to challenge you whilst exploring. These can be dispatched in a number of ways, using range combat, or an easy to use melee combat system which changes style depending on where you are attacking.
For example, if you are jumping from above, you’ll land on top of the enemy to knock them out, whereas attacking from behind will result in you being a little stealthier. You can expect more of a challenge from larger enemies, such as mechs that fire off damaging artillery. These are the same challenges you will face when encountering the number of boss fights that enact during the game.
Boss fights throughout the story mode differ a fair amount between them. None are really your A-typical fight where you just volley a ton of ammo in their general direction. A lot will take into consideration the environment you are fighting in, such as needing to throw grenades underneath a tank to hit its weak spot. I found the boss battles to be a nice challenge which you wouldn’t otherwise get from the regular enemies you’ll come across. As you unlock new abilities and pieces of equipment, you’ll often find yourself utilizing this equipment on that given boss, not to mention to backtrack to previously visited locations unreachable prior to your new duds.
While the story is somewhat compelling, and the gameplay itself is attention grabbing, I felt there was something still missing from the remastered experience. I was a little disappointed with the graphical fidelity of this title being that game runs on the Unreal Engine 4. Environments are poorly translated into higher resolutions as they are often muddy, pixelated textures that start to work against the feeling that this is indeed a remastered game. The character models look on average sad, having nothing special to them. Adding to this sense of poor development, if you pay close enough attention to character animations during voice sequences they start to become really off-putting. The mis-choreographed mouthing becomes more of a focus point than what’s actually being said.
Aside from missteps in animation and controls being a bit of a pain in the 2.5D environments, the only other technical issue I had was that even when playing in full screen mode. When playing, your mouse does not get locked into the game window. Anyone playing with more than one screen will find themselves minimizing their game more times than you could imagine. To alleviate this, I moved away from my preferred control method of keyboard and mouse to use an Xbox controller. Granted, it halted the annoying technical problem, but it also brought along its own problems with the lower accuracy when shooting.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Shadow Complex Remastered shouldn’t really be classified as a remastered edition. This is the first time the game has come to the PC platform, and it doesn’t really do much to showcase the graphical prowess, let alone accuracy of being able to use a mouse and keyboard during combat.
The game play itself is enjoyable with a lot of interesting and unique abilities at your fingertips, but there is so much room for a potentially amazing game here that I was left feeling disappointed at the end. The dialogue showcases the miscues in animation, which tacks on another negative attribute to the game as textures are muddy and displeasing to the eye in many cases.
The $14.99 price tag is probably nudging the boundaries of what you would normally pay for a game of this nature. You might want to wait for a sale or discount in price before picking it up.