In terms of presentation, Shadowrun does very little wrong. The overall look and feel is slick and the game setup system works a treat. Visually, it’s not quite in the GRAW2/Gears of War league, but it’s on a par with Rainbow Six: Vegas, Perfect Dark and others, with fine art-design, some fabulous lighting, some fine displacement and particle effects for the magic, and distinctive, well-formed levels. The only major disappointment is the lack of character designs; it would have been nice to have has more than one look per race per team.
Sadly, just as this saga seems headed for a happy ending, we get to the most baffling decision of all. Shadowrun is thoroughly enjoyable, but it just doesn’t feel like a complete package. For £30 or £40 you have a right to expect more than three game modes, 12 maps (three of which are just cut-down variations) and no single-player mode bar six tutorials and a botmatch. What’s more, the big idea Microsoft is pushing with this one – the ability to play against Vista or 360 players regardless of which platform you’re playing on – simply doesn’t hold much water. In the end, do you really care whether your opponent is on a 360 or on a PC? Does it make the game better that some players have auto-aim and some have their reticule fudged to reduce the keyboard/mouse advantage? At the end of the day, don’t you just want enough players to make a decent game?
More worryingly, I can think of at least four games on the 360 – Call of Duty 3, GRAW2, Gears of War and BF2: Modern Combat – that have equally impressive multiplayer modes but come packaged with a more or less brilliant single player game. And that’s before we even start thinking about Prey, F.E.A.R. or the upcoming Half Life 2 and Halo 3. On the PC, Shadowrun has almost too many rivals to mention. With Battlefield 2142, Counter-Strike Source, Half-Life 2 Deathmatch, Call of Duty 2, Prey and Quake 4 to play right now, plus Unreal Tournament 3, Crysis, Quake Wars: Enemy Territory and Team Fortress 2 on the horizon, you have to wonder why Microsoft feel £30 for Shadowrun and £40 for the Live service sounds like a good deal.
It’s a shame. Shadowrun is a unique, compelling and well-balanced online FPS, but it’s one that desperately needs new and – importantly – free content to make it a real ongoing concern. Overall, you can’t help but feel that Microsoft has royally shafted its own game. As a cheap release given away with a Games for Windows Live subscription or as a bargain-priced 2700 point Xbox Live download, most people would have lapped it up. As it is, Shadowrun deserves a bigger audience than it will likely attract.
A fine, superbly balanced FPS that mixes action, magic and Sci-Fi tech with real skill. But why pay £40 for a Vista only multiplayer game when other single-player games throw one just as good in gratis?