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Shadowrun Preview

Joe_Dodson By:
Joe_Dodson
02/23/07
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE Action 
PLAYERS 1- 16 
PUBLISHER FASA 
DEVELOPER Microsoft Game Studios 
RELEASE DATE  
M Contains Blood, Intense Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Always bring a wand to a gunfight.

We’ve seen western shooters, zombie shooters, space shooters, World War II shooters, and far more tequila shooters than we can count, but they all feel and taste the same after a while. You’ve got pistols, grenades, machine guns and the ubiquitous rocket launcher at the bottom of the bottle, and after playing enough you’ll go from fighting on your feet, to kneeling, to lying prone. Or was that the tequila?

No matter, because we’re in the mood for a shot of something different. Something not as stiff, that tastes like more than burning. Something sweet, fun, and sneakily intoxicating. And I’m not talking about Jagermeister (unless you’re buying). No, I’m referring to Microsoft’s upcoming Shadowrun, of which I had some very sweet sips at a recent Microsoft event.
 
click to enlargeAdapted from the pen-and-paper RPG, and the popular 16-bit cartridge, Shadowrun is the shooter equivalent of a fruity cocktail, maybe a Surfer on Acid or a Mai Tai. At any rate, its unusual blend of magic, technology, weapons and races constitute a refreshing beverage with a little umbrella on top, and a virtual vacation from the humdrum monotony of your everyday shooter (I’m looking at you, World War II). Sure, there’s a rocket launcher here and a shotgun, but there’s also gliding, teleportation, racial traits, monster summoning, crystals and smoke magic (Siegfried and Roy approved). Is your inner nerd drooling yet?
 
Or are his feelings hurt because this incarnation of Shadowrun is not the cyber-punk RPG he’s been waiting for since the nineties? Fret not, nerd friend, because Shadowrun is true to its RPG roots. Hell, it even has backstab multipliers. But instead of attempting to resurrect a classic, developer Fasa has taken its imaginative source material and crafted the new, tangy concoction we recently sampled. 
 
The nose is a bit like Counter-Strike - not bad, but not that different. You begin a game with a small amount of money with which to purchase spells, tech and a weapon. Since everyone is relatively poor at this stage, you’ll mainly just run around shooting each other and capturing flags the old fashioned way. It’s after the first match that things take a turn for the different, because now players can afford a wide array of abilities.
 
click to enlargeRather than get into gritty gameplay details, allow me to share some of the awesome techniques and tactics employed in my many battles. I used the glider and teleportation to quickly fly across a map and then phase into the opponents’ flag chamber. A battle was raging, so I teleported through the floor into a basement, and turned on my cyber-vision, allowing me to see people running around through the ceiling. So I broke out my katana, tracked an enemy running around above me, and teleported up behind him for a lethal backstab.
 
At another point, one of our guys had the flag, and we bolted for our drop off point. With the enemy in hot pursuit, I cast a spell between us and our foes that made lethal crystal stalagmites sprout from the ground, snaring them in a pink and sparkling trap. I added a dash of hot sauce (in this case grenades), and served up some noobs on the rocks.
 
Finally, I was under assault by a sniper from a high ledge, and every time I’d shoot back he’d turn to smoke, causing my bullets to harmlessly pass through him. That’s when I remembered my gust spell (like a force push from Star Wars). Needless to say, his smoke magic was no match for my mighty wind, and he was literally blown away.
 
click to enlargeNot only that, he was playing on a PC, and I was playing on an Xbox 360. When Shadowrun ships, it will be the first game to allow PC and console gamers to duke it out. Will PC users dominate? Will the console crowd reign supreme? We’ll find out this summer.
 
As exciting as that sounds, Shadowrun comes with a steep learning curve (toggling between tech and magic is not easy in a fight), and little in the way of an offline campaign. Instead, the designers opted for Unreal-style bot matches, and put most of their effort into an exciting online multiplayer experience.
 
Whether this strategy leads to a beverage we’ll drink for months, or an unfortunate hangover, remains to be seen until the game ships this summer. But regardless of the end product, Shadowrun already resembles the most unorthodox shooter since Tribes. We look forward to playing ourselves into a collective stupor when this game ships, but until then, cheers!
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