Since its release early last year, Shadowrun has been on the receiving end of a lot of flack, and to be honest, it’s mostly deserved. The single player mode is almost non-existent – you can only play against bots with less intelligence than a ’80s calculator – and there are no options to speak of. You can’t even fiddle with weapon sets to get a â€˜swords only’ match going. It doesn’t look much prettier than an original Xbox game, and the art style is laughable. I promise the first time you lay eyes on a dwarf kitted out in full riot gear you’ll, well, laugh.
Despite its flaws, though, for the past two months Shadowrun has been in my Xbox 360 more than any other game. It may lack Halo’s controllable vehicles, custom matches and whatnot, but multiplayer is pleasingly balanced with a good sense of teamwork. Plenty of people still play online too: usually there’s a good 30-odd games going, a fact no doubt helped by Shadowrun’s cheap price tag. I got my copy in Gamestation’s infamous â€˜4 for Â£20’ deal alongside Fatal Intera, The Darkness and Monster Madness.
Like Counter Strike, at the start of a round you can purchase weapons (sniper rifles, katanas, shotguns – nothing too exciting, really), and also magic and technical abilities. The better your team is doing, the more money you earn. If you’re on the losing team, your magic attacks use up less essence and dead bodies take longer to dispose of, which increases the chances of another playing being able to resurrect you.
Resurrecting is a funny old thing, because when your resurrector snuffs it your health-bar rapidly starts to fall – so you feel inclined to protect them. Magic attacks are good fun too: the â€˜tree of life’ will provide health for anybody that stands under it, you can also make spikes pop up out of the floor to block exits, and summon monsters to protect areas. Then there’s the ability to teleport, turn into a cloud of smoke, and glide through the air. Using a gust of wind to send grenades flying back to where they came from is just one of the little tricks to learn.
There aren’t that many maps, but they all have their own unique features, amongst them a shanty town with plenty of small corridors, a power station with a sniper tower, and a temple with an underground maze. The character each have unique skills too: humans start off with more money than anybody else, elves are fast and regain health but are weak, trolls are strong but slow, and dwarfs can withstand a head shot and drain the magic power of those around them. Trolls are good for newcomers, but more experienced players tend to go for elves. Troll players tend to get a little bit of stick for some reason, but with a mini-gun in their claws they’re something to fear.